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'Transit Reorganization --Road Turns Bumpy'

March 14, 1987

A big thank you and a free ride on the Metro Rail to Times City-County Bureau Chief Bill Boyarsky for his story (March 2), "Transit Reorganization--Road Turns Bumpy."

Boyarsky revealed some of the political subplots at the county and state level that are involved in current efforts to "reorganize Los Angeles County's much criticized public transit system."

In doing so, Boyarsky illustrated what I see as the major flaw in the whole picture--that is, all the reformers are focused on the political power struggle and nobody's doing anything to handle the immediate problems in the transit mess.

Certainly reorganization may be urgently needed as a long-range transit reform, especially if it means complete elimination of redundant agencies. Today, as in the past, however, reorganization is being used by politicians as an excuse for avoiding the more difficult, immediate actions that are called for. These include the termination of John Dyer as RTD general manager and a takeover of the the Southern California Rapid Transit District operation with the goal not of making political hay, but of reducing costs and improving bus service.

These reforms could be accomplished virtually overnight if only the county supervisors and the mayor of Los Angeles would personally assume their seats on the boards of the RTD and Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. In the past, these elected officials demanded and received this legal power from the Legislature, but chose to delegate it to others. Now they have a responsibility personally to get the job done.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been collected since Proposition A, the half-cent sales tax for "improved public transit," was approved by voters in 1980, yet we have little to show for it.

People dependent on public transit in Los Angeles County can't afford to wait, as much of that money lies idle, while Democrats and Republicans debate the big picture in Sacramento.

If history repeats itself, as it often does, the resulting legislative solution will prove no real solution at all. After all, it was Sacramento that gave us the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (1958), the RTD (1964), and the LACTC (1976).

The top priority today must be on the RTD's operation and mismanagement ills. Dyer's third-rate job performance suggests a preoccupation with the Metro Rail that overshadowed the less glamorous but nevertheless vital task of efficient RTD operation and management.

Imagine what transit miracles might occur here were the RTD to be operated with the goal of improving service and cutting costs. The chief responsibility of the newly constituted board, once Dyer is dismissed, would be to do just that, coordinating its efforts with the other public and private transit operators in the county.

A third transit reform that requires immediate attention is a modification of the LACTC's guidelines to permit use of Proposition A revenues for a broader spectrum of transit purposes. As it stands now, use of these funds is limited to little more than Metro Rail and light rail. As a result, millions of "public transit" dollars stand idle, while needed street improvement and traffic control projects go unfunded and undone.

Taxpayers of Los Angeles County have paid millions of dollars for improved mobility in good faith, only to be betrayed by the political bureaucracy that controls how those dollars are spent.

The reforms I suggest are long overdue and require no special legislation, only the commitment and courage of our local elected officials.

ERNANI BERNARDI

Councilman

Seventh District

Los Angeles

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