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Foothill Transit Asks County for Funds to Purchase 30 Buses

February 12, 1989|CRAIG QUINTANA | Times Staff Writer

The governing board of the fledgling Foothill Transit Zone, which lacks the $5 million needed to buy 30 more buses, has asked the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission to pick up the tab.

But the commission's staff has recommended against the request, citing the uncertainty surrounding the zone's future.

On April 10, a trial is set to begin in Los Angeles Superior Court on a lawsuit brought by Southern California Rapid Transit District drivers and mechanics challenging Foothill Transit's existence. The drivers and mechanics contend that Foothill Transit, which is slated to take over 20 former RTD lines over a three-year period, threatens their jobs and represents an illegal breakup of the massive transit operator.

Since late last year, 26 Foothill Transit buses have been doing standing-room-only service on two former RTD express routes from the eastern San Gabriel Valley to downtown Los Angeles. The zone contracts with Embree Bus Lines to operate the service, and will soon select a bus operator to assume service on six local lines beginning in July, for which they need the new buses.

Officials Confident

Foothill and commission officials say they are confident that the zone will prevail in court. But the commission staff said the agency should not commit to providing the $5 million and then be placed in the position of owning an unneeded fleet if the RTD unions win and the transit zone is ruled illegal.

"We can be stopped cold," Jim Sims, the commission's director of programs and analysis, told Foothill's executive board at its meeting last week.

Without the commission's financial support, Foothill Transit lacks funding to purchase the buses, said William P. Forsythe, the zone's interim executive director. Although the charter linking 19 San Gabriel Valley cities into the transit agency allows for bond issues, the five mayors making up Foothill's executive board indicated that is not a viable option at this time.

The commission staff recommended that the cities use Proposition A tax funds, which are spent by the cities on a discretionary basis for transportation needs, to help pay for the buses. Monrovia Mayor Robert Bartlett, however, said the cities have already committed those funds.

Claremont Mayor Judy Wright suggested that Foothill make a direct appeal to the transportation commissioners to ignore the staff report and provide the $5 million. The commission's transit committee will consider Foothill's request at its Monday meeting and send a recommendation to the full commission.

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