* The Opinion articles by William Fulton and Kevin Starr ("Mass Transit in the City of Cars," July 31) provided perspectives that have generally been overlooked in the coverage given the MTA budget deficit, fare increases and labor disputes.
I have long believed that for bus advocates to attack rail transit is akin to "cutting off your nose to spite your face." While I accept Fulton's thesis of why this is so, I do believe that he understates the influence the MTA has over road building. For example the MTA does determine how two federal sources of funding are spent, surface transportation program (STP) and congestion management and air quality (CMAQ). These are sizable funding sources that are flexible; they can be spent on either transit or highways. Indeed the MTA has opted to spend the bulk of these funds on highway projects. Furthermore while the Southern California Assn. of Governments is officially designated as the agency that determines which projects will receive federal and state funds, it typically rubber-stamps decisions made by the MTA.
On Aug. 2, an article described how Foothill Transit operates former MTA routes for $38 per hour less than the MTA does. However another story needs to be told. In the chart comparing the cost per hour of providing transit service by the 13 largest transit operators in Los Angeles County, six systems have a lower cost per hour than Foothill. Of particular note are Long Beach and Santa Monica. Unlike Foothill Transit, these are older urban bus systems that do not contract out services, have longstanding union contracts, pay their drivers $5 per hour more than Foothill Transit and provide benefits comparable to the MTA.
Transit advocates need to stop attacking rail transit and start urging the MTA board to devote more flexible funds to transit. They also need to urge the MTA board to lower the cost per hour of providing bus service to be comparable to Santa Monica and Long Beach, reinvesting the savings into more and better bus service.
* Starr's article argues that "there is no such thing as a functioning city without mass transit" and that our "automobile culture" is actually dependent on public transportation, as shown by the freeway congestion caused by the MTA strike.
Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the MTA strike illustrated the fallacy of relying on mass transit systems to solve our area's transportation needs, and what we really need is to improve the highway system, which has been neglected in favor of Red Lines, Blue Lines, super-buses and strident government campaigns to get cars off the roads? It is hard to imagine a half-million commuters being stranded by the simultaneous breakdown of a half-million cars.
THOMAS A. SCHENACH
* I would like to "adopt" a supervisor or an MTA official to ride with me on my bus route as I go to work and shop. One invitation only should be enough to open their eyes. Has Supervisor Gloria Molina ever gotten wet while waiting for the bus in the rain?
I resent those rich VIPs who never use mass transit as they make decisions regarding my daily commute. As the MTA does away with the monthly bus passes, the word token(ism) takes on a new meaning.
LE BARON A. STEWART