[T]he NAACP [Legal Defense Fund], the Bus Riders’ Union and others took Metro to federal court to protect bus service in 1994. Their argument was that the expansion of rail was coming at the expense of bus routes, bus frequency and bus riders, and it was disproportionately harming minorities, the elderly and the young. Metro settled, and the deal was enshrined in a 10-year consent decree starting in 1996.
The settlement allowed Metro to build all the rail it could afford, so long as specific bus service improvements were made too. Those improvements included reducing fares, increasing service on existing lines, establishing new lines, replacing old buses and keeping the fleet clean. Lo and behold, while the decree was in force L.A.’s transit ridership rose by 36%. When Metro was no longer bound by the settlement, it refocused its efforts almost exclusively on new rail projects. The quality of bus service began declining in almost every way measurable, and overall ridership again fell.
With the funds generated by the Measure R sales tax increases, voted on in 2008, and last year’s Measure M increases — which will provide $121 billion over the next 40 years — Metro has more than enough money to reinvigorate bus service. At a minimum, it should return to the program under the consent decree: building all the new rail it wants, as long as bus service is improved as well.
Read the complete Op/Ed in the L.A. Times. James E. Moore II is a professor in USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and Price School of Public Policy and director of USC’s Transportation Engineering Program. Thomas A. Rubin is a consultant based in Oakland; he was the chief financial officer of the Southern California Rapid Transit District before it was merged into Metro. Both served as experts on behalf of the plaintiff class of all bus riders in the MTA class action.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund civil rights attorneys Bill Lann Lee, Constance L. Rice, Robert García, and Richard Larson celebrate the historic community victory in the MTA case 1997
The MTA victory is “a remarkable moment in American urban history.” UCLA Prof. Ed Soja.
“In terms of the dollar value of the settlement, it was the largest civil rights case in American history.” California State Librarian and USC Prof. Kevin Starr.
Richard Larson, Civil Rights Hero.