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Still Waiting : Studio City Resident's Long Quest for Bus Service Shows No Signs of Running Out of Gas

December 16, 1987|BOB POOL | Times Staff Writer

Peggy Schade stood up and gave a familiar report at a recent community meeting in Studio City. Then she made a familiar request.

Schade told the Studio City Residents Assn. that yet another politician was looking into bus problems in her neighborhood, but that the outlook for improved service was still dim.

And then she asked if anyone could give her a ride home.

Begging for better bus service has been Schade's life since the Southern California Rapid Transit District eliminated a neighborhood bus line 12 years ago. So has begging rides from friends and neighbors.

Schade charges that hundreds of people living in Studio City's oldest neighborhood are being hurt by RTD bus routes that bypass homes near the intersection of Whitsett Avenue and Moorpark Street.

Elderly Stranded

As a result, people who can't drive or don't have cars are isolated, she maintains. "I've talked to elderly people around here who haven't been to the shopping mall in eight years," Schade said.

RTD planners, however, say bus service is available to those with the patience to switch buses several times along a circuitous route. Transit officials say auxiliary transit service is also available from Valtrans, a 50-cent-per-ride van service for senior citizens and handicapped people. Valtrans requires a seven-day advance reservation, however.

Four feet eleven and feisty, Schade launched her crusade in 1975, when the RTD scrapped a bus line that zig-zagged across the southeastern San Fernando Valley and included stops along a portion of Whitsett. It was replaced with a grid system that sends buses along major east-west and north-south streets spaced about a mile apart.

Schade and others complain that the grid is useless because two flood-control channels cut off their access to Ventura Boulevard and Riverside Drive, where east-west buses run. They face a long, roundabout walk to bus stops, often followed by a long wait.

"You might as well pack a lunch if you're going to ride a bus," said Schade. "If you're going to the drugstore, it's an all-day trip."

Organizations Die

Schade said some senior citizen groups in the area have faded away because people could not get to meetings.

"I walk a mile to catch a bus and then if I miss it, I have an hour's wait," agreed Betty Josephson, who lives in an apartment near Whitsett and Moorpark. "It's very bad for people who don't have a car."

Schade, 66, said she cannot drive because of severe rheumatoid arthritis. The ailment prompted her and her husband, Bill, a carpenter, to buy their Landale Street home 22 years ago because it was a few steps from a Whitsett Avenue bus stop.

She said she is unable to walk four blocks to a bus stop where a Coldwater Canyon Avenue bus turns around. With five transfers, that bus could eventually take her to nearby shopping malls in North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, she said.

During the past dozen years, Schade has peppered the RTD and city and state officials with letters and petitions from neighbors and Studio City merchants that call for new bus service into the neighborhood.

Three months ago, aides to Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo became the most recent officials to call upon the RTD to reorganize routes in the area. They were unsuccessful.

"I think we've come to an impasse in trying to fine-tune a system that can't be tuned any further," said Eric Schockman, one of Woo's deputies.

Polly Ward, president of the Studio City Residents Assn., said her group failed to get the city to approve a $375,000-a-year mini-bus or jitney for the area.

"We offered to try to set up a nonprofit corporation, but we were unable to get funds for it," Ward said. "After having beaten our heads against the wall for two years, it was dropped."

Stephen Parry, manager of bus-route planning for the RTD, said his agency cannot afford a new bus route in Studio City. It would cost more than $400,000 a year, RTD manager John Dyer estimated in 1982.

Changing the grid system to put routes at half-mile intervals would require the RTD to double the size of its bus fleet, which now uses 2,000 buses at peak periods, Parry said.

"We talk to Mrs. Schade every year, and we wish we could do more. But I just don't have the ability to recommend that we put on a new bus line at this time," Parry said.

Schade acknowledged that her persistance may be irritating to some. But she said she won't ease up on her pressure.

"Even a witch needs a broom," she said.

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