LOS ANGELES (June 26, 2007) – A coalition of bus riders, labor/community and conservation groups is taking the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to court today to challenge major fare hikes approved recently by the agency.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Bus Riders Union (BRU) and the Labor/Community Strategy Center (LCSC), MTA violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving massive bus fare increases without considering the environmental impacts of its decision. By turning riders into drivers, groups say the fare increases – as high as 140 percent – will result in even more air pollution, global warming emissions and traffic congestion. Indeed, MTA’s own projections and analyses confirm that the increases will cause more pollution.
“The MTA is forcing many thousands of riders off the system and back into cars,” says David Pettit, director of NRDC’s Southern California Air Program. “This will bring into our streets, roads and highways an enormous number of cars, trucks and other vehicles, increasing pollution and exacerbating traffic congestion.”
Hundreds of bus riders – the majority of whom are persons of color with an annual median income of $12,000 – testified at the May 24th MTA board hearing, saying they cannot afford the fare increases and that they will be forced to seek inexpensive, higher-polluting vehicles, which will cost less than public transportation.
MTA’s budget for fiscal year 2008 estimates that bus and rail operating expenses will increase by slightly more than $30 million over the previous year. While the bus fare increases would bring in an additional $32 million, other sources are already slated to bring in more than $100 million for the bus system alone, making the revenue from the fare increases unnecessary.
“MTA’s fare increase is really about building grotesquely expensive and inefficient new rail projects on the backs of bus riders,” said Francisca Porchas, a BRU organizer. “This exposes how anti-civil rights and anti-environmental this rail expansion truly is.”
The transportation agency claims it is exempt from environmental reviews under state law because the fare increases are going to cover operating expenses. But the groups say the agency actually intends to spend the funds on rail and highway projects, initiatives that, under CEQA, do require an environmental impact study.
“If the bus fares go up, I will have less money to spend on food and clothes for my children,” says Rosa Miranda, a daily bus rider and member of the Bus Riders Union. “We’ve already tightened our belts far more than we can bear, and now we’ll have to tighten even more, as MTA squeezes every last penny out of us.”