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MTA VOTES TO APPEAL COURT ORDER; DECISION ANGERS RIDERS.

Byline: Douglas Haberman Daily News Staff Writer

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted Monday to launch its strongest legal opposition to a major bus fleet expansion recently ordered by a court-appointed official to reduce overcrowding.

The board voted behind closed doors to go to U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter to appeal the May 14 order by Special Master Donald Bliss - and to go to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals if necessary.

Further angering bus riders, the board then adopted a $2.5 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that includes no money for complying with Bliss' order.

``There's nothing in there for the public you serve,'' Bus Riders Union member Norma Henry told the board.

MTA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Allan Lipsky said the budget includes $44 million for measures to reduce overcrowding as well as funds for the purchase of new buses. The MTA plans to put 160 ``peak hour'' buses on the streets in fiscal year 1999-2000.

But Bliss' order made it clear he didn't believe that was enough. He ordered the agency to buy 481 buses to expand its fleet and to lease 248 buses immediately while the agency awaits delivery of the 481 buses, and to hire the drivers and mechanics needed to operate the buses. The order is meant to reduce passenger crowding.

Appointed by Hatter, Bliss oversees the MTA's compliance with a 1996 court-sanctioned agreement with civil rights groups, including the Bus Riders Union, to reduce overcrowding and improve bus service.

In a statement released after the board's 75-minute closed-session discussion of the matter, Mayor Richard Riordan said Bliss' May 14 order ``would waste taxpayer money that could more effectively be used to help the transit dependent. . . . The order also fails to adequately consider the huge financial commitments already made toward improving MTA bus service and ignores the financial realities of the MTA.''

In a separate statement, MTA Chief Executive Officer Julian Burke noted that the agency is already committed to buying 2,095 buses by June 2004.

Carrying out Bliss' order, Burke said, would siphon funds away from other programs, including street and highway improvements that serve 6 million motorists, the county's 16 non-MTA municipal bus operators, the MTA's light rail and subway systems and even transit-related services for the disabled.

Bus riders were displeased at the vote to seek judicial review.

``Sardine cans are OK for sardines, but we are human beings,'' June Walker of Hollywood told the board. ``Show us that you really are for us and not against us.''

Other Bus Riders Union members were irate that the budget anticipates board approval of a 7 percent fare increase, which would up the standard $1.35 one-way fare for bus and rail to $1.45. The fare hike would raise an estimated $10.3 million in revenues, helping balance the MTA budget.

A July 10 public hearing is scheduled on the proposed fare hike, after which the board will vote on it. If approved, it would go into effect in November.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 25, 1999
Words:507
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