EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the letter the LA Times described as “scathing” from the Federal Transit Administration to LA’s MTA over its contempt for civil rights laws. Then, read the MTA’s response as reported by Steve Hymon, the former LA Times transportation reporter who wrote the tepid analysis of Measure R a week before the 2008 election and a year before he joined the MTA as blogger for the transit agency’s self-promoting website The Source. MTA characterizes the FTA’s complaints as old news, says 2 of the 5 failings have been “resolved” and promises total obedience to all demands so that funds are not withheld.
Hell-bent on building the subway-far-short-of-the-sea and ready to open the long-delayed and over-budget Expo Line far short of its planned Culver City destination, the MTA is facing scrutiny from the same Federal Transit officials it hopes will lend it billions against 30 years of future local sales tax revenue.
The problem called “disturbing” by he Feds is that MTA slashed bus services by 650,000 hours to fund rail projects, a problem under civil rights laws since bus riders are mostly minorities and the rail lines that are planned will mostly serve the remnants of the region’s white communities.
Despite the political hot air you hear all the time about how much they care, the actual policies have long been to punish the poor as federal officials noted — a problem that surely puts the nail in the coffin of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s ingenious 30-10 plan for rail construction.
It explains why he now wants to extend the MTA tax indefinitely so he can borrow against 100 years of revenue, not just 30. What else can he show as his legacy — that Jimmy Hahn hired the right guy in Bill Bratton to fix the LAPD so his own Charlie Beck can ruin it?
It also explains why he became so hysterical at last week’s MTA meeting when County Supervisor Mike Antonovich compared how the mayor steamrolled over all opposition to Measure R’s half-cent sales tax hike to “gang rape” — a crude but not inapt choice of words. (Listen here gangrape)
Clearly, Antonovich is not going to let that the mayor’s Measure R II get through with the virtual lack of scrutiny it got four years ago.
The real problem with LA County’s transit system — ridership has been virtually stagnant for years — is that it isn’t a system at all.
It doesn’t go to the places people go like LAX, Dodger Stadium or hundreds of other popular destinations and the connections between lines is poor and getting worse because bus frequency has been reduced over and over along with elimination of many lines.
Connectivity and frequency — no mystery those are what make a successful transit system.
It’s why the lousy Orange Line Busway is dollar for dollar the most successful MTA line even though it only saves seven minutes crossing between North Hollywood and Warner Center. Buses run frequently and for many transit-dependent people, it means one less transfer to get to work.
If you listened to the gangrape audio from the last MTA meeting, you heard board member, transit expert and lobbyist-consultant Richard Katz, the former Democratic Assembly member, take charge and break up the fight between Antonio and Antonovich before it got really interesting.
At one point in recent years, Katz was on the board of the MTA, Metrolink and the High-Speed Rail Authority — something that eventually became a controversy over the obvious conflict of interest.
In a recent Round Table with Dave Bryan on the city propaganda station, Channel 35, Katz was defending the idiotic $100 billion high-speed rail boondoggle against criticism from the Reason Foundation’s Adrian Moore and came to admit just what a mess the transit system is.
You can take Katz’s word for it. He got the public to buy a state gas tax 20 years ago with the now oft-broken promise that it would always go for transportation and has been the mayor’s key adviser and strategist on all things transit-related.
What he can never concede as a principal architect of Measure R II — if projects are delivered on time and on budget would connect LAX and more importantly the various lines that don’t even meet now in downtown — is that it still won’t be a transit system 10 or 20 or 30 years from now.
There still won’t be a system with buses running with the frequency needed for connectivity and it still won’t take people to where they want to go quickly and efficiently.
Measure R — whether it’s 30-10 or 100-10 or whatever — isn’t about gang rape.
It’s about MTA’s fraud against the public in building costly rail projects while bus services are being cut, fares are being raised and maintenance of the system being put off to the point that there is a $1.3 billion backlog and breakdowns are becoming dangerously frequent.