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More maps are at the bottom of this article

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Metro's "service modification" hearings which will cut 200,000 hours of service from bus routes across the region. The agency has made some effort to get the word out posting flyers in buses and sending out a press release back in Mid-January. The release says, "Additional details about these proposals can be accessed at www.metro.net," but I'll be darned if I can find any additional details.

Thus far, the media really has been silent on the planned cuts. Last week City Beat printed the bombastic interview with Bart Reed, and today the Daily News talked to some commuters planning on buying cars to they can go to work. Other than those two stories, the media backlash has been on hold.

And, it's not hard to figure out that Metro wants to keep it that way.

First, the period for public comment extends to only February 14 (which just happens to be a holiday) and the first public hearings are tomorrow (which just happens to be a religious holiday for most Christians). The only time Metro has a hearing scheduled for their headquarters is on a weekend, when most top officials and board members won't be in the building.

Metro is also to be trying to hide the severity of the cuts, and their efforts will affect the quality of the testimony they receive. Thanks to the Transit Coalition, we have maps that explain the scopes of the cuts/expansions (mostly cuts) that Metro routes will see system wide, but the best Metro did was to provide a list in text format that is attached to the press release. While most people who choose to testify will complain about their individual routes being cut, it would be nearly impossible to give suggestions on ways to tinker with Metro's plan without being able to see the changes graphically...which is what these hearings are supposed to be about.

In short, Metro doesn't seem to be serious about solicitating public input. The hearing schedule is designed to limit turnout and the public materials are designed to obscure the scope of the service cuts. Hopefully, this gambit won't succeed and the next week of hearings will be full of commuters who can't afford to lose their transit service.

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