Bus Rider’s Union Launches Attack on 30/10 in Effort to Fight Fare Hikes

Screen_shot_2010_08_26_at_2.11.18_PM.pngGabriel Stratchota of Los Angeles, from the Bus Riders Union, is
arrested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff when protesting the upcoming
fare increases at the MTA Board Room in Downtown Los Angeles, Thursday,
May 27, 2010. Photo: Photoimageswest/Flickr

For months, the Bus Rider’s Union and their allies have held their powder when it comes to the 30/10 proposal which would accelerate 12 transit projects funded in the Measure R
transit tax so that they would be built in the next decade instead of
the next thirty years.  However, now the BRU and their ally Transit Riders for Public Transit (TRPT) are airing their concerns over the transit proposal.  Their chief concerns, that by accelerating these rail projects that Metro would be forced to raise fares even more quickly than currently planned in the Long Range Transportation Plan and that by spending Measure R funds quickly they will lose the ability to use those funds towards bus expansion.

Let’s put aside the issue of repurposing Measure R funds, because it would require an enormous political lift that is unlikely to happen and focus on the discussion of whether 30/10, and Measure R itself, are a bad deal for bus riders and the transit dependent.

In a letter addressed to Congress Woman Grace Napolitano posted on its website, the BRU and TRPT urge Congress to reject the 30/10 proposal for several reasons, including that 30/10 will increase Metro’s operating deficit.

The BRU and TRPT write:

30/10 will gut the bus system, the backbone of public transit in LA: With 80% of MTA’s total boardings, the bus system is the backbone of the transit system. Yet 30/10 promises no concrete improvements to bus riders. This year, MTA has already implemented the second 20% fare increase in three years and plans to eliminate 388,000 hours of bus service — amounting to an attack on bus riders whose average annual household income is $12,000. MTA’s 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan calls for continued bus service cuts and 14 fare increases over the next 30 years, supposedly necessitated by ongoing deficits in the their bus operations budget.

Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern responded to Napolitano and other members of the Southern California Congressional delegation with a letter of his own.  The Transit Coalition argues that the operating subsidy for rail riders is actually lower than the subsidy for bus riders in Metro’s system.  By focusing on operations instead of "total subsidy" which includes construction cost as the BRU does, the Transit Coalition paints a different picture of the yearly costs of operating Metro’s transit system.  And The Transit Coalition responds:

During the 2010 fiscal year, Metro will spend $1.3 billion on bus and $264 million on rail operations. This means that for every $1 spent on rail operations, Metro will spend about $5 on bus service.

In July 2010, there were 29.6 million bus boardings and 8.3 million rail boardings.8 This means that for every 1 rail boarding, there were 3.5 bus boardings. Rail offers better bang for the buck per passenger. On a per passenger mile basis, bus operations cost 64 cents per passenger mile while rail operations cost 45 cents per passenger mile. Our most efficient rail lines are the Blue and Red Lines, which cost 36 and 38 cents per passenger mile, respectively.

BRU’s Francisca Porchas speaks at transportation rally organized by Move L.A. before "town hall" meeting with Mayor Villaraigosa, Sentaor Boxer and Secretary LaHood last winter.

However, it’s slightly more complicated than just comparing the overall operations subsidy for rail riders versus that for bus riders.  The average subsidy for newer rail lines is higher than that for some of the older ones.  For example, the average subsidy for riders on the Gold Line was over $23 per passenger in 2007.  For the Red Line it was almost $16 and the Green Line just over $12.  We can expect that, at least in the short term, every new rail project will increase Metro’s needs to raise fares because of the increased defecit created by running rail lines that, in their early years, aren’t attracting full ridership.

As for Measure R’s impact on Metro’s bus fleet, in the early years of the tax the increase in operating funds has proven a lifeboat as surrounding agencies see draconian cuts compared to the still-large cuts being proposed by Metro.  For Example, OCTA has cut nearly one-fifth of its bus fleet in the past couple of years.  Over the same span, Metro has "only" cut 5% of its bus service hours.

A couple of months ago, I referred to the BRU and their allies as people that push for convenient and affordable transit and was taken to task in the comments section by rail advocates because who doesn’t want cheap quality transit?  If that’s truly the case, we should start seeing all transit groups starting to organize in favor of Proposition 22 on the Ballot this November which would make it harder for the state government to continue raiding funds set aside for transit operations.  We’ll have more on Proposition 22 next week.

  • The difference is that in the rail debate up north, many of the opponents are rich and white, so the way they are spoken about tends to not fade over into ‘babbling loons’ territory.


    The NIMBY’s trying to thwart High Speed Rail and sabotage the Purple Line and Expo Lines are definitely “babbling loons” too.


    The BRU are idiots for their transportation planning policies alone. It has nothing to do with anyone’s “race”. But you’ll keep insisting it does to try and distract people from the BRU’s actual idiotic transportation policies. The BRU’s transportation policies would be idiotic if they were an all-white organization or all-plaid for that matter.

  • Vancouverplanner

    It seems to me the best way to support quality and efficient transit for poor people and minorities is to make transit more than a tool for social welfare and offer services that will attract everyone. Unless you have a transit rider profile that is as diverse and representative of the city itself you will always be fighting an uphill battle against people resisting spending for social justice. It’s much easier to convince people to ride transit when it is comfortable and convenient and is marketed for people of all incomes. With rail you will build a bigger coalition of people willing to pay and support that system, INCLUDING improving bus services. My opinion is based on the experience of Canadian cities where we have higher ridership than just about any American city except NYC, transit is not viewed as a tool for welfare redistribution, and where no one is talking about drastic service cuts. Make transit a tool for economic growth and a vital public service for everyone, then no one will tolerate it being taken away…

  • The interesting aspect is we are essentially in a post-BRU era. Heck labor with its big showing at the recent 30/10 rally shows many progressive elements no longer agree with the BRU rhetoric. “They probably could have killed 30/10 outright” That is laughable. Bluntly the BRU’s influence is fading–all their antics and protests against the recent fare increase fell flat and got little media play.

    Some of us activists are working through what this paradigm shift means. But empty slogans, perpetual protests, etc. look to mark the BRU as antiquated and increasingly out of touch. And they have brought it on themselves.

  • Fallopia Simms

    And interestingly enough Dana at the City Hall rally that engaged LABOR with 30/10 supporters the BRU were NO SHOWS. What’s unbelievable is that at a labor rally the BRU don’t show up? What’s even more unbelievable is that at a labor rally that engaged itself with transit the BRU DIDN”T SHOW UP.
    The BRU has a very specific agenda that could include the poor or even labor when its convenient but it doesn’t have to. This is not about justice for the poor this is about suppressing a transit system. This is similar to what the AFP did in the 60’s under the Kennedy Adm. and later LBJ to Latin America. None of this is a particularly new concept but it being applied to transit is and I would have to say during its heyday it gained some footing. But over time these type of covert organizations begin to show their lining. So the question must be asked (and I will do this as objectively as I can) what exactly has the BRU done for poor people in LA County over the past 15 years?

  • “So the question must be asked (and I will do this as objectively as I can) what exactly has the BRU done for poor people in LA County over the past 15 years?”


    And if the BRU’s reprehensible campaign to sabtoage Measure R had been successful, the people they claim to represent would be facing Orange County level bus service cuts.

    They are not only not helping the people they claim to represent, they are taking actions which will actually harm them if the BRU was successful.

    There are a lot of people who would like to join an organization that advocates for quality transit, including a comprehensive quality bus system. Bypass the discredited BRU and check out the following RESPONSIBLE transit advocacy organizations:

    Southern California Transit Advocates:

    The Transit Coalition:

  • Spokker

    The Metrolink holiday service trial run you saw on the Fourth (Fifth) of July was the result of real transit advocacy. Because those trains did so well they are going to try it again on Labor Day.

    The resumption of bus service to the West LA College campus was the result of real transit advocacy. The BRU was a no-show on that one.

    No crazy antics, just showing the decision makers that there is a need and a way.


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