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VOICES / A Forum for Community Issues | Essay

City Should Subsidize Staff Transit

August 05, 2000|ALICE BRILL | Alice Brill commutes from Sylmar to downtown Los Angeles

We know that there are too many people trying to get to the same place at the same time every weekday, and they're all on my freeway, or maybe yours. We know that they're frustrated, aggravated and worn out by the commute. Road rage is real; we've all felt it at some time, even if we haven't acted on the feeling. We know that when we get to work in the morning we need a few minutes to decompress from the commute and that when we get home at the end of the evening commute we're cranky and need a few minutes to calm down.

The smog is bad, and too often we can't see the mountains through the brown haze. We know that all those cars on the freeway aren't helping, even with cleaner gas.

For many of us, there's a potential solution. We can take the train or subway or commuter bus downtown, connect to a DASH bus or the City Hall shuttle and get to and from work without the hassle of driving. Many employers in the private sector fully subsidize the cost of Metrolink for their employees; others subsidize 50% of the cost.

The city of Los Angeles subsidizes its employees just $15 per month, no matter how much a monthly pass costs. Many employees find it cheaper to drive and pay for parking than to buy a monthly pass.

Years ago, Councilman Hal Bernson introduced a motion to increase the transit subsidy for city employees. He's done nothing since. We haven't heard from Mayor Richard Riordan or other council members. The City Council is giving $4 million to the Democrats for the quadrennial bore fest of a convention. The council managed to get that brought up, approved and funds turned over in two or three weeks, but a proposal to increase the transit subsidy for city employees has languished for years. I know the city fathers are concerned about the protesters who will only be here for a few days, and that's fine, but what about those of us who work for the city every day. What about a little concern for us?

We are the employees who make the city work, who interpret and implement the decisions the mayor and the council make; the clerk typists, auditors, mechanics, programmers, police dispatchers, legislative and management analysts, engineers, gardeners, custodians, architects, paralegals and personnel analysts, among others.

Never mind the national elections in November. There's a municipal election next year. When you would-be mayors and would-be council members and would-be-returning council members come asking for my vote, I'm going to want specifics on this issue.

I don't want to hear "I'll do everything in my power." I don't want to hear "that's in the Personnel Committee, or the Transportation Committee, and I really can't do anything about legislation that's pending there." I don't want to be patronized, and I'm tired of being put off. Do something for the city's employees by increasing the subsidy to at least 50% of the cost. At the same time you'll be helping everyone in Los Angeles by getting some of us off the road.

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