Which way, LA?

In the 1980s, LA’s local policy makers began diverting funds from a successful bus ridership program, which serves the transit dependent poor, toward rail construction, designed for more affluent “choice” riders. That prompted a decade-long legal tug-o-war between the Bus Riders Union and the MTA.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been required to spend more than $1 billion to buy buses, add service and maintain low fares since 1996, when the agency entered into a consent decree to settle a civil rights lawsuit with bus riders.

That consent decree expires Sunday and won’t be extended:

While transit officials pledged Wednesday to maintain the improved service, advocates for bus riders said they would monitor the agency for any cuts in countywide operations. They had sought to extend the decree until the agency was in full compliance. “If MTA significantly guts its bus system, we will be back before Judge Hatter asking for an extension,” said E. Richard Larson, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represented bus riders. “We are not going away.”

Not surprisingly local officials were eager to yammer about their commitment to customers:

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky predicted the agency would stay “faithful to the principles that the customer comes first.”

But which customers come first? Those with two or three cars in the garage or those with no car at all?

Larson and others fear that, without the court’s watchful eye, transit officials will return to neglecting the county’s heavily used bus system to build and operate expensive subway and light-rail lines through more affluent neighborhoods.

Article here. Related: Transit’s Most Important Duty Related: Transit for the Richââ?¬â??Oakland edition Related: LA Story (pdf)