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Valley Bus System May Face Deficits

Transit: MTA report questions viability of an independent entity. Transportation agency officials propose instead creation of zones with some autonomy.

January 29, 2002|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority consultant said Monday that an independent bus system proposed for the San Fernando Valley would be hobbled by long-term deficits.

But supporters of the breakaway network dismissed that forecast as too dire.

An MTA report by the consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton estimated the Valley bus operations would run a $6-million annual deficit for the next 10 years.

MTA officials oppose the plan for a separate bus system in the Valley, which would cost about $110 million a year. Instead, they want to designate the Valley one of five transit sectors that would have limited autonomy within the MTA.

Members of a joint powers authority pushing for the independent network said they would press on despite the consultant's report.

"The report is just not credible," said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who chairs the authority board. The group also includes representatives of the city of Los Angeles and eight other municipalities, including Burbank and Glendale.

"We believe a [Valley transit] zone is financially viable," he said.

The board heard a presentation Monday by MTA Chief Executive Roger Snoble, who outlined his plan to reorganize and decentralize the regional agency.

Snoble said the proposed Valley sector and a similar one in the San Gabriel Valley would begin operating by July 1, with those in the South Bay, Westside/Central Los Angeles and South Los Angeles to follow.

He said the MTA intends to hire general managers for the Valley and San Gabriel sectors as early as next week, even though the MTA's board has not approved the reorganization plan.

"He's moving ahead as if it's a done deal," Yaroslavsky said. "We're moving ahead as if the [independent Valley] zone's a done deal."

The MTA board also must approve the Valley breakaway plan. No vote on either proposal has been scheduled.

If the board signs off on the Valley network, the system would be entirely independent. Snoble's alternative would give the five sectors their own staffs and budgets for local bus lines, and let them keep fare revenues generated within their boundaries. Each sector also would have a community council to oversee operations, but the MTA would maintain overall control.

The other cities represented by the joint powers authority are Calabasas, Hidden Hills, La Canada Flintridge, San Fernando and Westlake Village.

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