LA transportation plan delayed after public protest

Public protest greeted the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) recent special board meeting to pass the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

The LRTP is a plan that spans over 30 years at a cost of $271 million and will determine the future of transportation in Los Angeles County.

The Bus Riders Union (BRU), an organization that fights for the rights of bus riders, organized a contingent of riders and supporters to attend and protest the vote. The BRU charged the vote was neither democratic nor transparent citing an email went out two days prior stating that at a MTA special vote would be taken on the proposal. This was news to the public who had not seen the proposal since its last discussion in July of 2008.

The vote in July of 2008 was postponed pending the passage of Measure R in the November elections, which allocated an increase in funds for major MTA projects. This long-range plan includes scores of highway and transit projects that would be built using state and federal money as well as proceeds from county sales taxes for transportation such as Measure R.

At the start of the special MTA board meeting, a request from Mayor Villaraigosa was heard that the vote be postponed until July 23rd. The Mayor stated that insufficient time was given to the public and local governments to study the plan and comment.

After much debate the MTA board bowed to public pressure ceding to the Mayor’s request.The postponement was a relief to the BRU as well as other community organizations and local governments that were in attendance. Trade unionists from several locals were in opposition and reminded the board that they were ready to start work on the Gold Line Rail.

The Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and Green L A demanded more bike lanes making it safer for those who choose bicycles as their mode of transportation. Various local governments also sent their representatives, each urging the board to pass a plan that includes transportation to their communities. Students from the UCLA stated that they needed public transportation from Westwood to LA that would afford them the ability to obtain cheaper housing.

The BRU wants a commitment from the MTA that over the next 30 years, $8 billion be slated for buses from Measure R, plus an additional $700 million from President Barack Obama's stimulus package. The would result in more funds designated for buses and more local money freed up that could potentially be used to improve and expand the bus system. This would be a great benefit to communities that need public transportation the most. According to the BRU, the fear is that certain forces at MTA want a vague 20 percent Measure R bus fund that might ultimately raided in order to meet rail and highway expansion plans earmarked in Measure R.

The MTA Board was supposed to discuss and potentially approving a bus improvement plan at its March 26th meeting. Unfortunately, the MTA staff is seen as trying to subvert the process by burying discussion in a subcommittee by filing a 'receive and file' agenda item, virtually ending the discussion with a flimsy report that has no commitments and no timelines