Court Upholds Expiration of MTA/BRU Consent Decree

5_6_09_bus.jpgPhoto: LA Wad/Flickr

Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled in the case of the Bus Rider’s Union (BRU) v. MTA over the matter of whether or not to extend the 1996 "Consent Decree."  At issue was whether or not Metro was in "substantial compliance" with the standards set out in the decree: i.e. whether Metro had expanded bus service, held down fares, and reduced overcrowding in poorer areas of the city where people were reliant on transit and service was sub-par. 

In a split decision, the court ruled that Metro did sufficient work to meet the Decree’s goals and that the decree has expired.  The ruling was carefully written not to say that Metro did a bang-up job of meeting all of its targets, but that the BRU couldn’t prove that Metro was grossly negligent.

[10] We hold that BRU has failed to demonstrate that the district court abused its discretion in finding that MTA had substantially complied with the consent decree. The evidence presented supported the district court’s finding that the imperfections with respect to load factor targets were de minimis in LABOR/COMMUNITY v. L.A. COUNTY MTA 5221 relation to the overall scheme of things. Because the first prong of the Rufo test fails, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to extend the decree.

Basically, the court is stating that the MTA wasn’t in full compliance, but that they were close enough.  While I’m certain that Metro is happy with the decision both because they don’t have to negotiate plans with the BRU and because it means that the agency has done a better job of serving its most vulnerable users.  It is doubtful the BRU will view the ruling in the same light.

Just like any court challenge, this one isn’t over until all appeals are exhausted, and because there was some dissent on the judicial challenge, an appeal is likely to be heard.

If you’re interested in reading through the entire decision, it can be found here.

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