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Council Tells Agency to Spend More on Bus Security

March 07, 1993|ROBERT J. LOPEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The City Council has unanimously approved a resolution calling on the new Metropolitan Transit Authority to increase spending for bus security.

The resolution was introduced last week in response to a recent City Times article reporting that far less is spent for security on buses than on rail lines, although crime on buses in Central Los Angeles has increased 350% since 1988.

Only 3 cents is spent on security for each bus passenger, compared to $1.25 for each Blue Line rider and 29 cents per Red Line passenger based on current ridership, according to the RTD. About 500,000 people ride the buses daily in Central Los Angeles.

The City Council's action came Tuesday, one day after seven youths robbed three passengers of $655 on the No. 206 bus line at Normandie Avenue and 49th Street. The unarmed youths, who were riding the bus, "started grabbing wallets and purses" about 6:30 p.m. and beat one of the victims when he tried to resist, said Capt. Dennis Conte of the Southern California Rapid Transit District Police Department.

The attackers fled after the driver stopped the bus and started pulling them off a 25-year-old man who was being beaten. The passenger's face and head were cut and bruised, Conte said. No arrests have been made.

Although the resolution has no binding authority, it is the first step to increase political pressure on the MTA to spend more money for police protection, said Councilman Mike Hernandez, who introduced the measure. He said he will lobby the 87-city member Southern California Assn. of Governments to pass a similar measure.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilman Richard Alatorre, who is also the chairman of the MTA. He said the MTA would come up with the money for more bus security, perhaps from funds that are set aside for general purposes.

"It's going to happen, come hell or high water," Alatorre said.

The MTA was created by state legislation that ordered the merger of the RTD and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. The two organizations have feuded for nearly two decades over how money should be divided between the bus system and the rail lines. The merger will be completed by April 1.

RTD officials blame the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, which controls about 60% of the funding for the buses, for giving priority to developing rail transportation. And LACTC officials fault the RTD for not managing its finances better.

But while transit officials blame each other, bus riders have been forced to endure inadequate security.

"More than 150,000 households in the inner city have no automobile and rely on the bus as their sole mode of transportation," Hernandez said. "These people deserve the same safety and security as those riding rail lines."

The prospect of increased security was welcomed by advocates for bus riders and by RTD police.

"People are beginning to realize that the bus system, as a whole, is severely underfunded," said Lisa Hoyos-Tweeten, spokeswoman for the Labor/Community Strategy Center, which has argued at public hearings that buses have taken a back seat to rail transportation. "We hope this is the first step for more comprehensive funding for bus riders."

Said Conte of the RTD police: "We're encouraged. That means we can provide a higher level of service to the bus patrons."

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