Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Bad idea: Bus Riders Union

It looks like there are people here in Salt Lake City with the help of Utah Jobs with Justice trying to form a Bus Riders Union. They are using the example of the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles.

Well here is everything that is wrong with that. The BRU in Los Angeles got early publicity by using the race card saying how bad bus riders are treated (the irony is that the executive director of the BRU is white and makes a six figure income). They filed a discriminate lawsuit against the LACMTA that runs LA's transit system and MTA settled instead of fighting creating the consent decree.

The BRU was an interesting organization. It was part of an extreme left wing "social justice" organization. They started by trying to force General Motors to keep their San Fernando Valley manufacturing plants open. While they kept them open for a while the plant eventually did close.
While the BRU was an extreme left wing organization it was often help by anti-transit right wing extremist organizations in order to stop rail transit. This included a former employee of the Southern California Rapid Transit District (that became the LACMTA with the merger with the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission) and another LA County Transportation Commission member that became a highway lobbyist. There was also a connection with the Heartland Institute right wing think tank that gets most of its funding from Wal-Mart, CITGO, and Exxon.

With the consent decree the BRU kept LACMTA from raising fares, buy a large number of new buses, and add routes some of which made no economic sense. They also tried to demean rail transit as being racist and other race card attempts.

The consent decree has finally expired and but not before a lot of damage was done. Over the 10 years of the consent decree the BRU lost its credibility especially after supporting the bus drivers instead of its "riders of color" who had no alternative during the strike. While the people the BRU was supposed to be helping couldn't get to work Eric Mann drove to work in his brand new BMW.

While I think that UTA has made mistakes and is too typical of transit systems across the country that operate themselves as government monopolies and treat their riders as so, the BRU is a bad idea. After 10 years the LACMTA is worse off than it was before. Service is having to be cut in many areas. We could end up with a system that covers only West Valley and Salt Lake and other areas loose service and that's that last thing we need.

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