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Bus Riders Union

Introduction

The Bus Riders Union (BRU) is a civil rights advocate group started in 1992 in Los Angeles, CA. The BRU is a part of the Labor/Community Strategy Center (LCSC), a think tank and advocacy group. The BRU formed in opposition to the policies of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA or MTA)[1].

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 class action civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for its 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, to bring subways and new buses to typically white suburbs at the expense of immmigrant and minority urban areas[1].

The matter was settled before the and resulted in the 1996 MTA/BRU Consent Decree Compliance. This 10-year agreement obligated the LACMTA to make the bus system and the transit-dependent a funding priority by several means: [2]

  • Fare Reduction
  • Reduction of bus overcrowding
  • New Service lines to major centers of employment, education and healthcare throughout the county
  • Establishement of a Joint Working Group (joint BRU and MTA policy making body that oversees the implementation of the Consent Decree)

Accomplishments, Strategies and Goals

Accomplishments

The BRU claims several results of their campaigns[1]:

  • Blocked the elimination of the monthly bus pass and reduced its fares from $49 to $42.
  • Establishment of the first $11 weekly bus pass which resulted in millions of dollar saved for transit users and increased ridership.
  • 2,000 new CNG-powered buses, replacing aging deisel-powered buses. Addition of 300 more buses.
  • Establishment of Bus Rapid Transit lines on major surface streets. Bus Only Lane on the 20-mile Wilshire Blvd. from downtown to the ocean.
  • Over $2.5 Billion of funds redirected to bus systems .
  • 1 Million+ Annual Bus Service Hours Added and 12% Increase in Bus Ridership.
  • Created 800+ New Public Sector, Green, Union Jobs.
  • Eliminated the Student Pass Application Process (increasing its use by 64%).

Campaigns

The BRU claims to represent over 400,000 bus riders in Los Angeles County, the bus drivers, and the transit dependent including minorities, immigrants, students and low income workers. The BRU often cooperates with related civil rights groups to spread awareness, raise funds and bring class action lawsuits such as in the 1994 case against LACMTA. Finally, the BRU organizes public speaking events and attends rallies, marches,and protests through the Drum and Chant Corps [3].

Stop the Transit Cuts

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 [4].

No Fare Hike

In response to public pressure and the 1996 Consent Degree, the LACMTA bus fare was stable for 10 years. The BRU opposed plans for LACMTA's 1997 fare increases proposal that increased a daily pass from $3 to $5. The BRU claims the increases hurt minorities and leads to an increase of automobile users, carbon emissions from the automobile usage and ulitmately climate change and lung disease. The LACTMA admitted that ridersip decreased by 5% within a year after the fare increases. In addition, ridership increased by 41% between 19882-1985 when fares were reduced[5].

Clean Air and Economic Justice Plan for Measure R

The BRU reaches out the city and LACMTA leaders. In the past, the BRU has effectively 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 as planned and not redirect funds to highway and rail. The BRU has help rallies with community members speaking about their experiences of transit. Speakers describe the current state of overcrowded and often late work they miss from highly congested areas and the need for LACMTA to provide for minorities and low income workers who have hours outside the parameters of a traditional 9am-5pm job[6].

Goals

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[1]:

  • $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)

Opposing Views

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."[7]

The BRU and transportation scholars do not always agree on how transit fare structures should change.[7]

Further Reading

References