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Shooting Prompts Review of MTA Policy

September 16, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Prompted by concerns over a bus driver's refusal to pick up students shortly before three were injured in a drive-by shooting near Taft High School, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said Monday that he has put together a panel of public officials to assess the MTA policy that permits drivers to pass up passengers.

"The public deserves an independent look at this," said Yaroslavsky, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "I'm not satisfied with what I've heard so far."

The panel will include participants from the offices of Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Long Beach Transit Chief Executive Larry Jackson and Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Roy Romer, Yaroslavsky said.

MTA Deputy Chief John Catoe will oversee the group, which will review the rule that gives bus drivers the discretion to bypass stops when they feel unsafe, and recommend any necessary changes.

Last week, a nearly empty bus rolled up to the Woodland Hills bus stop on Ventura Boulevard at Winnetka Avenue, where dozens of teenagers were waiting, but the driver left without taking on passengers. Moments later, an alleged gang member drove up and fired shots, injuring three students.

Some students and parents have criticized the driver, saying the victims might have been spared had they been allowed to board the bus.

According to transit advocates and students, MTA drivers typically pass up people waiting at a stop only if a bus is full. In this case, the driver told MTA officials that he drove away out of safety concerns because 20 to 30 teens were standing in the street and appeared unruly. The MTA is investigating the incident.

Pete Ferry, Taft's interim principal, called the independent review "a great idea."

The panel will provide a written report to the MTA board at its October meeting, Yaroslavsky said.

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