Bus Riders Union
The Bus Riders Union (BRU) is a transit civil rights activism group started in 1992 in Los Angeles, CA. The BRU is a part of the Labor/Community Strategy Center (LCSC). The BRU formed in opposition to the policies of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA or MTA).
In 1994, a coalition including the BRU, LSCS, Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a class action civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority based on allegedly racist and discriminatory policies. The suit charged that LACMTA used Federal funds in a discriminatory manner, which is prohibited by Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, by devoting a disproportionate amount of funding to subways and new buses to typically white suburbs at the expense of immigrant and minority urban areas.
The matter was settled before the trial and resulted in the 1996 MTA/BRU Consent Decree Compliance.
History and Future Goals
1996 MTA/BRU Consent Decree
The 10 year decree mandated several changes:
- Reinstating a monthly and biweekly bus pass and creation of weekly bus pass
- Reducing bus fares
- Establishing the Joint Working Group (joint BRU and MTA policy making body that oversees the implementation of the Consent Decree)
- Reducing of bus overcrowding
- Creating service lines to major centers of employment, education and healthcare throughout the county
- Prioritizing buses and rides for the transit-dependent
Stop the Transit Cuts Campaign
The BRU works to stop the elimination and reduction of bus service. As of 2011, they campaigned to stop the bus cuts of 11 lines and the reduction of 16 others .
No Fare Hike Campaign
The bus fare on MTA buses was stable for 10 years due to the 1996 Consent Decree. The BRU opposed plans for LACMTA's 1997 fare increases proposal that increased a daily pass from $3 to $5 claiming that the increases hurt minorities and leads to an increase of automobile users and carbon emissions. The LACTMA admitted that ridersip decreased by 5% within a year after the fare increases. In addition, ridership increased by 41% between 1982-1985 when fares were reduced.
Clean Air and Economic Justice Plan for Measure R Campaign
The BRU reaches out the city and LACMTA leaders. In the past, the BRU has brought pressure to Mayor Antonio Villagoirosa to support Measure R. After Measure R was passed, the BRU has continued to pressure the MTA to use the funds allocated by Measure R and not redirect funds to highway and rail..
The BRU's main goals are to provide transit users equal access with a clean, safe, and affordable user experience. Some of their specific goals include:
- $20 Monthly Bus Pass
- 50-cent Fare with Free Transfer
- Double the 2,500 Clean Fuel Bus Fleet to 5,000
- Freeze Rail Spending
- Full Implementation of civil rights Consent Decree
- $10 Student Bus Pass Sold at Schools (K-12, College, and Adult School)
Critics of the BRU argue for the need to consider other forms of transit in addition to buses.
Advocates of rail argue that rail is need to restrict sprawl, reduce air pollution by promoting mass transit, save energy, and reduce traffic congestion. In addition, the federal subsidies for rail construction were either used by the states or lost, "use it or lose it."
The BRU and transportation scholars do not always agree on how transit fare structures should change.
- Burgos, R., & Pulido, L. (1998). The politics of gender in the Los Angeles bus riders' union/Sindicato de Pasajeros. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 9(3), 75-82.
- http://www.thestrategycenter.org/campaign/mta-slashing-bus-service-attacking-civil-rights-bus-riders "MTA slashing bus service"
- Grengs, Joe (2002). Community-Based Planning as a Source of Political Change: The Transit Equity Movement of the Bus Rider's Union. Journal of the American Planning Association, 68(2), 165-175.