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Proposal to Create Valley Bus Agency Advances

Mass transit: City Council's Transportation Committee votes to establish separate zone.

April 28, 1998|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brushing aside warnings of a protracted political battle, the city Transportation Committee voted Monday to put the MTA on notice that the city will seek to establish a separate agency to run buses in the San Fernando Valley.

City Councilmen Richard Alarcon and Joel Wachs, two of the council committee's three members, voted to write a letter of intent to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority outlining the proposal--a precursor to filing an application to create a new agency. Councilman Rudy Svorinich, the third member, was absent.

But Wachs said he expects vigorous opposition from MTA management and from the county's transit unions, saying they have a vested interest in keeping the MTA in direct control of the bus lines.

Under the proposal, the new agency could pay private companies to manage and operate the Valley's lines with less overhead and lower salaries for drivers.

Speakers at the committee meeting cautioned that the city would face a legal battle with the unions if it applied to the MTA to establish the agency.

But Alarcon disagreed, saying "Rather than slow down and reflect, I'm going to move forward."

The City Council still must vote on the proposal and other recommendations, which include spending up to $100,000 to hire a labor attorney to defend against the expected lawsuits from the county's transit unions.

A consultant to the city Transportation Department has said that such an agency could slash fares, run buses more frequently and still operate 25% more cheaply than the MTA, but only if it breaks from the MTA's union contract and privatizes the bus service.

Meanwhile, the county transit agency is conducting its own analysis of the legal and financial issues involved in setting up a Valley bus agency, also known as a "transit zone."

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