In November 1980, voters in Los Angeles County, California, approved Proposition A, which stipulated a one-time, three-year rollback of bus fares to 50¢. Afterwards, at least 35 percent of the revenues had to be used for rail construction and operation (with a stated emphasis on construction). The program moved forward as called for, and by the early 1990s the Blue Line to Long Beach was in operation. The subway and an additional light rail line would both open by 1995. In the early 1990s, however, opponents of rail began a campaign to discredit the program using premature, distorted, and sometimes simply false information about rails effectiveness. Embarrassed by construction problems and confused by internal issues, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) found it difficult to defend the new rail system. In 1994, a suit was filed by the Bus Riders Union, a small group of bus riders. In 1996, even though most of the basic assertions of the suit were proven to have been either premature or false, the MTA agreed to a settlement it is now trying to live up to. In truth, the MTA fully supported the bus system well after falling ridership would have called for service cutbacks. The number of buses in service stayed high, the bus-miles of service dropped far less than ridership, and the number of empty bus seats actually rose. The bus system lacked for neither operating funds nor subsidies. Even the average fare paid by the transit user (in constant 1999 dollars) changed very little since the early 1980s. Whatever the reasons for the slide in bus ridership, the rail system cannot be blamed. The new rail system continues to grow in importance. Less than 10 years after the Blue Line was inaugurated, the two light rail lines, the still incomplete subway, and the Los Angeles portion of the regional Metrolink commuter rail system together carry 11 percent of all MTA transit riders and 22 percent of its passenger-miles. Rail is also proving to be faster than the bus option even including a bus-to-rail transfer. And rails operating cost effectiveness, already better than that of the bus, keeps improving.
Influence of the Rail Program on Bus Transit in Los Angeles.
Journal of Public Transportation, 3 (2): 1-17.
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jpt/vol3/iss2/1