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Riders worry as MTA discusses line cuts

April 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
MTA'S plan to change and eliminate certain bus lines has angered bus riders who say this is their only way to get around.The MTA board met Thursday to talk about cuts in service and hear more public comment on the proposal.

The MTA board has been struggling with this issue for quite some time now. Since last year, they have been trying to streamline the bus routes, and at the same time, cut costs.

Now they are getting closer to a decision, and riders are worried.

There are 29 bus routes that are being targeted for partial or total elimination: 17 routes are in neighborhoods where there is a high crime rate, 25 are in areas where residents are reportedly transit dependent and 20 are close to hospitals. Some say eliminating service during overnight hours could put people at risk.

MTA says some of these lines are not profitable to run. They're too expensive and only get about 19 passengers per hour compared to the system-wide average of 51 passengers per hour.

"There's tens of thousands of people living in South L.A. that depend completely on public transportation to get to and from work. They don't have cars. To eliminate certain lines or reduce the availability of service on some of these lines is also a safety problem," said one frustrated local resident. Riders are worried that in places where services are scaled back, they will be stranded or forced to walk further to get another route -- and do it at night time.

"But a number of these lines, where the subsidy for passenger is close to $4 per person compared to the average, it's like a little over $1.50, $1.65, something like that, when you're facing a $1 billion deficit over the next 10 years, you gotta look at the bottom line. Can we afford to operate this service?" said MTA spokesman Marc Littman The MTA board wants to see if there are better alternatives but at the same time, they need to cut 200,000 hours of bus service.

"It's a tough situation because a lot of people depend on the lines, and you know, they're talking about the cutbacks, and that's going to affect a lot of people," said bus driver Victor Barajas, whose line is one that may be cut.

Barajas said there are as few as 20 people on the bus sometimes and two-thirds of the seats go empty. Still, those riders tell him they need that bus.

"A lot of people that really really depend on the bus services. They maybe can't afford a car, and they rely on transportation. Plus, gas prices are so expensive, Barajas said.

MTA board has already held seven public hearings.

The board will look at all of the lines. It might change all of them, it might change only a few or it might not make any changes at all.

However, if the board opts to not make any changes, they have to come up with $25 million a year somehow in a budget that's already $1 billion in deficit over the next 10 years.

Eyewitness News Reporter Miriam Hernandez contributed to this story.

 

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