BRU to Metro: Let Public in on Civil Rights Remedies

Yesterday, the Metro Board of Directors discussed the recently released FTA Report detailing Title VI Civil Rights violations at Metro.  The Source called the discussion “by far the liveliest part of the meeting,” but it also showed ongoing confusion about what the report means and what is the best way to meet the complaints.

Photo of yesterday's rally outside Metro Headquarters via the Bus Riders Union

Mayor Villaraigosa, whose plane from Asia had landed just over eight hours before the meeting began, spoke for the entire Board that they were “very concerned” about the report’s findings.  While other members expressed some particular issues with items raised in the report, the strongest complaints came from other non-white members of the Board.  City Councilman Jose Huizar complained about the lack of translated materials outside of English and Spanish and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was perhaps most blunt when he called the entire affair “rather embarrassing” in the Los Angeles Times.

Despite their concerns with Metro actions that led them to yesterday’s discussion, the Metro Board did back the basic plan to get the agency back on track.  While Metro staff has told anyone willing to listen that these are minor procedural complaints that will be addressed by March or April or June (depending who is speaking for Metro) of next year, critics with the Bus Riders Union and other civil rights groups protested Metro Headquarters throughout the afternoon.  Their message was simple, the FTA report is a big deal, and the BRU doesn’t trust Metro to do handle the complaints fairly without an empowered citizen oversight committee.

The Bus Riders Union has long argued that Metro should restore the over 1 million hours of service cuts from the past three years and restore fares to their 2007 levels.  They believe that the FTA’s report, coupled with strong civilian oversight of Metro’s response is the key to start making these positions a reality.

Pointing to the somewhat anemic response of Bay Area Rapid Transit to Civil Rights Complaints, the Bus Riders Union wants to be involved in creating the solutions to the problems revealed by the FTA report.  That the Board was presented with a 47 page action plan the day the FTA report became public doesn’t speak to a process that allows for a lot of community impact, even if the agency is promising a series of hearings after the report is near finalized.

“We don’t want a public input process after the decisions are made,” said Sunyoung Yang, a lead organizer with the Bus Riders Union.  At this point, there has been no signal from any Metro Board Member that they would support a different public process than the one outlined by staff, but the elected officials on the Board and their staff have had less than a week to process all of the information in the report.

Streetsblog will have more on the FTA report on Monday with comments from some of the other leading advocacy groups including The Transit Coalition, Southern California Transit Advocates, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club.

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