Are recent cuts to MTA bus service a violation of civil rights laws?

Ruxandra Guidi/KPCC

Protesters from the Bus Riders Union hold signs and bullhorns outside Metropolitan Transit Authority Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

Protestors are calling on the Federal Transit Administration to find MTA in violation of civil rights laws for reductions in bus hours and various lines during a recent rash of transit cutbacks.

By cutting more than 800,000 hours of bus service around Los Angeles, the agency knowingly discriminated against bus riders from ethnic communities, say protesters.

“Did ten years of civil rights oversight not teach the MTA how to perform civil rights analysis?," Barbara Lott-Holland of the Bus Rider Union asked rhetorically. "The MTA did exactly what they promised the courts they would not do -- they went back to their old habits of stealing from bus riders.”

Lott-Holland says she’s ridden city buses for 35 years, and that she’s one of the half a million low-income minority bus riders most hurt by the cutbacks.

The MTA, which responded that it had to make the cuts after the economy spiralled downward, received a letter from the Federal Transit Administration, asking them to review changes and cutbacks, while simultaneously blaming them for failing to properly analyze the impact of their cuts.

MTA Director of Civil Rights Programs Compliance, Daniel Levy, lays the blame squarely at the feet of an outside consultant, hired by the Feds, to prepare the analysis last November.

According to Levy, MTA was "just about to get going on doing the analysis of the service changes...but we were concerned that the findings of the consultant were not exactly correct in all areas.”

The MTA says it’s not an issue of civil rights but of methodology.

The agency will meet with federal officials in early May to review its methods. No word was given on whether the MTA will restore bus hours.

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