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Board Votes to Beef Up Bus Security : Transportation: RTD asks Metropolitan Transit Authority for 132 new police officers. Since 1988, bus-related crime has increased 350%, according to a City Times report.

March 14, 1993|ROBERT J. LOPEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The RTD Board of Directors has unanimously approved a resolution asking the new Metropolitan Transit Authority to provide at least 132 additional police officers for the bus lines during the next three years.

In passing the resolution Thursday, board members said safety was key to increasing ridership in the financially strapped transit district, which faces a $20-million shortfall in its operating budget. Average weekday ridership from 1988 through the first half of 1992 fell about 11% to 1.2 million, according to the RTD.

"If we don't start getting folks to believe that this bus system is a safe enterprise, we'll never get the patronage," said board member Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who introduced the resolution.

About half of the four-county transit district's daily riders are in Central Los Angeles. Since 1988, crime on buses and at bus stops in the central city has increased 350%, according to a recent City Times analysis of RTD crime logs.

Despite the skyrocketing crime rate, far less is spent for security on the buses than on the new Metro Red Line subway or the Blue Line light rail. Only 3 cents is spent on security for each bus passenger, compared to $1.25 per Blue Line rider and 29 cents per Red Line passenger based on current ridership, according to the RTD.

The RTD resolution has no binding authority, but it adds to the growing pressure on the MTA to beef up bus security.

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a similar measure that called for more police protection aboard buses. The resolution's author, Councilman Mike Hernandez, said he would lobby the 87-city member Southern California Assn. of Governments to approve a similar measure.

RTD Police Department officials say the current 245-officer force is stretched thin trying to protect the Red Line and the approximately 2,000 buses that crisscross 4,519 miles in the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange and San Bernardino.

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre, who is also chairman of the MTA, has called for increased security on the buses but has not committed to a specific number of officers.

The MTA was created by state legislation that ordered the merger of the RTD and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, which have feuded over how money should be divided between bus service and the rail lines. They will merge by April 1.

RTD board member Robert Ryan said the 132 additional officers would still not be enough in the war on crime.

"President Bush had to use whatever (force) he had available in Desert Storm," Ryan told board members. "We have to use whatever force we can get in Urban Storm."

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