A settlement came after two years of litigation in 1996, with a Consent Decree signed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the LA MTA (originally filed in 1994). In the federal court-ordered consent decree, MTA made a commitment to: (1) reduce its bus overcrowding according to mathematically precise formulas and specific time lines, (2) expand its bus service countywide through a 2yr pilot project followed by a long-term plan to implement the expanded service countrywide, and (3) to maintain low bus fares during this period by reducing overcrowding and expanding countywide bus services. The federal court does have supervision over the implementation of this settlement and has been involved with making sure MTA is working towards compliance. Through the Consent Decree, MTA agreed to institute new monthly, biweekly, and weekly bus passes and agreed to purchase more buses to expand the already existing lines.
Immediately after Judge Terry Hatter signed the Consent Decree, the LCSC and LDF met with 4 officials from the MTA to convene the first meeting of the Joint Working group (a provision of the Decree). The group serves as a new, court-ordered deliberative body to resolve issues of fares, service, new bus-stop construction, budget, and virtually every other issue affecting the bus system for the next ten years. If issues cannot be resolved, then the special master, and if necessary, the federal judge become involved.
The MTA case is recognized by LDF and the Plaintiffs as a landmark victory as it was the first time that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was successfully used against a major transportation agency. The Court held: "Plaintiffs have presented the Court with more than sufficient evidence to meet their burden of preliminary showing that MTA's actions have adversely impacted minorities; that MTA's actions were not justified as a business necessity; and that the MTA had rejected less discriminatory alternatives." This decision was made based on LDF's argument that this fare increase and elimination of the monthly pass would "cause minority bus riders substantial losses of income and mobility that, for a significant number, will result in the loss of employment and housing, and the inability to reach medical care, food sources, educational opportunities, and other basic needs of life."
MTA's Current Status
However, MTA has widely violated its court-ordered promise and therefore the MTA is working diligently with the LDF and the Department of Transportation to continue working towards a more equitable service. There have been efforts to increase the number of buses that run at peak traffic times. In 2004, the LDF filed a motion in LA to extend the duration of its consent decree with the MTA, and was granted at least an additional six years to implement the consent decree. LDF states: "MTA's promised expansion of county-wide bus service has never been implemented. The two-year pilot project was agreed upon, and even approved by the MTA board, but it was never fully implemented. And the follow-up county-wide service has not happened at all." MTA is a chronically underfunded organization and therefore often is forced to resort to fare increases to fund any changes in the system.
While the particular lawsuit has been filed away, the issue at hand still remains. Because MTA has the backing of many of LA's politicians, including former mayor Richard Riordan, they will continue to act in an inequitable way until the federal government steps in and reshapes the entire Department of Transportation's environmental justice aims. Equity can be improved through better transportation planning, by making plans that specifically analyze distribution costs and benefits and by making sure that the plans are publicly available to allow communities to influence the impact of the transportation policies in their area. While there have not been any subsequent suits, there have been many threats by community groups such as the LCSC and the BRU, although none have actually been brought to court.
I also believe that there should be a system of "transportation welfare." I am not entirely sure how a program such as this could fully operate, but I believe that there should be a way to make public transportation readily available to those who cannot afford personal transportation. LDF has followed up on the initial LCSC v. MTA case by pushing for MTA to purchase more buses. In August 2001, Courts mandated it purchase 248 additional buses in order to reduce the number of bus riders who either cannot get on the agency's buses, or who at best have to stand for long periods of time when they can get on the buses because the bus fleet is so inadequate. This could also go hand in hand with an environmental welfare-like program, making carpooling and public transportation a primary goal for the LA metropolis area. Nearby California city San Francisco has recently raised bridge fees for entering the city to discourage more city drivers. There may be some way for Los Angeles to implement a similar strategy of charging drivers a fee to enter the city during key traffic times: say from 8-10am and 3-6pm. MTA is currently looking into a congestion pricing program that would charge drivers for the use of a transportation facility based on the level of traffic congestion. This program installs HOT, or high occupancy toll, lanes in which the driver pays a variable toll based on the number of passengers in the vehicle and the relative congestion level of the highway (maybe to be based off of usual high traffic times). Similar programs have already been applied in San Diego, Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Houston, and have successfully converted existing high occupancy vehicle lanes into HOT lanes with solid results. Cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Miami are considering implementing such congestion pricing projects. MTA is currently looking at putting HOT lanes on the I-1- (El Monte Busway), I-110 (Harbor Freeway Transitway), and the I-210 from various pricing formulas will be evaluated in the Metro study; various pricing formulas will be evaluated in MTA's study. In other metropolitan areas around the country tolls range from $4.00 to $10.00 during peak commute hours. Pricing will be determined as MTA develops its operating plan. MTA has also said that part of the funds from this program would be used to enhance transportation services in these high-traffic areas to include additional bus and rail services, roadway improvements, and other complementary services.
While this HOT program may appear to heavily benefit more wealthy commuters, MTA promises that it benefits all as it provides more options to commute. With these new revenues generated from tolls, MTA would be able to fund improvements in mass transit. Also, MTA states that buses and vanpools would be exempt from any HOT-lane charges, meaning that anyone commuting by these modes would travel without paying the toll.
Jerry Brown, former governor of California, has been in the state's news a lot recently as he is advocating for the litigation against cities and counties that do not account for climate change in their next general plan. He states that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires these local governments to consider how development could contribute to climate change. However, other state officials state that while Brown's strategy is pertinent, it might be better to use state legislation other than CEQA to address the issue. This may prove an essential tool for environmental justice advocates in LA County as it would make it mandatory for the county's officials to more specifically address the transportation and pollution problems that plague the city. Increased environmental education is also underway in California with Maria Solis' recent environmental justice bill. The Solis bill seeks to give EPA clear authority to regulate and live up to the expectations of the American people that protecting human health should be a primary objective of U.S. environment and health law. If actions such as these continue, it is likely that environmental justice will become even more of a hot topic in California and LA County, and therefore make it more likely for transportation inequalities to be addressed.
MTA currently receives its funds from a variety of areas, including local sales tax, a portion of the 18-cents per gallon state gasoline tax, a portion of the 18.4-cents per gallon federal gasoline tax, and the California sales tax on motor vehicle fuel. MTA is also authorized to administer the 2 voter-enacted local sales tax initiatives- Prop A and Prop C and receives federal transportation funding with the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act. To view more information regarding MTA's Funding Programs and a complete 2006 Metro Funding Services Guide, please access this information HERE.
Los Angeles County: MTA Metro Map
Los Angeles County: MTA Bus Map
(I tried to find a more simplified, and a map that just included the bus system, but was unable to find one. This map
shows both the metro rail-lines and the bus lines.)
With the help of the above maps, found at the MTA and the 1990 census home page, there can be seen a disparity in the railways positions and where minority communities for the most part live. I found this to be especially true for the Latin American people who live in the El Monte, Azusa, and Covina neighborhoods.
I do not believe that all attempts to raise bus fares would be challenged; if the fares were reasonable and there was a clear, county-wide consensus, then I believe that the minority and low-income communities in LA would comply and adjust.
To return to the Home Page.
To return to the WHO page.
To return to the WHAT page.
To return to the WHERE page.
To move forward to the SOURCES page.
To view related Colby College Courses.