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U.S. to investigate MTA over alleged bias

The Federal Transit Administration reacts to complaints made by the Bus Riders Union, which alleged that bus service cuts discriminated against minority and low-income transit riders. The MTA says the cuts are in compliance with regulations.

March 16, 2011|By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times

Spurred by complaints about cuts in local bus service, federal officials said Tuesday they would investigate whether the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority had discriminated against minority and low-income transit riders.

As part of a planned compliance review, the Federal Transit Administration will look into allegations leveled last fall by the Bus Riders Union, a nonprofit organization that alleges that MTA service reductions during the last three years violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

MTA officials say they plan to cut 300,000 to 305,000 hours, or about 4%, of total bus service in June — an amount that was reduced from 395,000 hours after weighing public comments. From December 2009 to December 2010, the authority reduced service by almost 600,000 hours, or 8%, largely due to the economic recession.

"We are glad that our complaints are being taken seriously," said Esperanza Martinez, an organizer for the union, which represents minority and low-income transit riders.

Federal officials sent the Bus Riders Union a letter last week stating that the compliance review, which is scheduled for this year, was prompted, in part, by the organization's complaints. Paul Griffo, an administration spokesman, said the allegations would be addressed as part of a broader review of the MTA's adherence to civil rights regulations.

MTA officials contend that all the service cuts have complied with federal requirements. Proposed reductions, they said, are analyzed and adjusted if necessary to avoid disproportionate effects on minority groups.

"In no way does the FTA letter or the scheduling of a review pass judgment on anything Metro has done or is doing," said Marc Littman, an MTA spokesman. "On the June service changes, we believe we are in compliance, and we plan to bring that out when we meet with the feds."

MTA officials said that for two years the authority had concentrated on improving the quality and efficiency of its bus routes to better serve riders and save money due to the effects of a severe economic downturn. They added that the MTA also has been adding subway and light rail lines that replace existing bus service and eventually compensate for the service cuts.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

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