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MTA Is Full of Apologies, but That's Still No Excuse

October 18, 2003|Wendy C. Ortiz | Wendy C. Ortiz is a library paraprofessional and writer.

I've long been used to the constant apologies from the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Five days a week, the apologies -- most commonly, "We apologize for the inconvenience" -- slink by slowly on the digital signs in the bowels of each station.

I'm in those MTA stations at least 10 times a week, to get to work and for shopping. I've lost track of the days when there was no apology. I've also lost count of the days when I wished I could get a formal apology from the MTA, from its board, from its CEO for its poor service.

The elevator at Wilshire/Vermont is not working. The escalators at any one of the two stations I visit cannot be counted on to work. The station feels like a sauna, and sometimes the train itself could function as a place where I might be comfortable in only a towel.

More within my control are the occasionally freezing buses, though I tire of asking myself whether it's fair to ask the driver to turn the air off because it's after 8 p.m. and it's just not necessary to have cold air blowing on us. After all, I share this transport with countless others.

I do mean countless. Consent decree or not, there are still more than 15 people standing up on the buses most days and on the trains with all the seats full. This is just the way it is.

I feel this way until I remember that the MTA is bound by judicial authority to improve Los Angeles' bus system. This is just the way it is.

I feel this way until I am jostled enough to want to growl, or when I watch women with small children press even tighter against the metal poles because there is no place to sit. About 400,000 people ride the MTA every weekday. I have to believe that if the endless apologies to its riders are necessary every day, that the attitude of the MTA toward its nearly 10,000 workers can't be much better.

Navigating the gridlock of Los Angeles pays about $14 an hour, to start. Meanwhile, the MTA board calls this strike "a tragedy" for the transit riders of L.A. County without taking any responsibility for it.

The real tragedy is that the MTA has never, ever been able to live up to its functions.

One day after the strike began, I had to take DASH buses and the 603 MTA, which was still running at the time. I commute between Hollywood, where I live, and USC, where I work. I left my apartment at 10:30 a.m. and arrived at USC at 2 p.m. Under normal circumstances, the trip is just under one hour.

I may not get to work Monday or the day after or the day after that because the MTA, the third-largest transit system in the country, represents not its workers or its ridership but its ruthless goal of profit at the expense of the transit-dependent.

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