Bus Riders Union
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).
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.
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.
History and Future Goals
1996 MTA/BRU Consent Decree
The decree mandated several changes:
- Reinstating a monthly and biweekly bus pass and creation of weekly bus pass
- Bus fare reduction
- Established the Joint Working Group (joint BRU and MTA policy making body that oversees the implementation of the Consent Decree)
- Reduction of bus overcrowding
- New Service lines to major centers of employment, education and healthcare throughout the county
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 were 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, 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.
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 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..
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.