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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Getting Around : Are we creating a transit system that makes sense or simply a costly edifice that most Angelenos won't use? : Solutions : Hop on the Bus Bandwagon

July 17, 1994

FROM: Eric Mann, longtime community organizer, former auto worker and director of the nonprofit Labor, Community, Strategy Center.

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Existing bus service can be improved by lowering fares, beefing up security and doubling the capacity on overcrowded lines, Mann believes. He also would like to see electric buses added to the fleet.

Mann proposes setting aside $100 million a year for two years to build 10 bus depots and purchase 300 non-polluting electric buses.

An improved bus system should be designed to accommodate low-income urban riders as well as wealthier commuters, Mann says.

Transit officials "have made an implicit statement that they fund rail projects and whatever is left over can fund the bus. We say, 'Invest in the bus first,' " Mann said. Buses have long been the underfunded workhorses of the transit industry, serving 1.3 million passengers a day. Currently, the Metropolitan Transit Authority spends about $1.25 per passenger for security on rail but only 4 cents per bus rider.

REALITY CHECK:

This makes sense, but that's no guarantee of success. Implementing a program like this would require some rethinking of Los Angeles' ambitious endeavor to create an elaborate rail network. Powerful political forces would have to be convinced that bus passengers have not received their share of the transit pie.

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