Tag Archives: LA Bus Riders Union

Buses on film

While we’re on the subject of transit and class, here’s a quick report on that Bus Riders Union documentary I went to see a few weeks ago:

The film basically focuses on the BRU‘s struggle to make the LA MTA more responsive to the needs of the poor and disabled, people who don’t have a choice about whether to ride. I am supportive of the organization’s goals (if not all of their tactics), but I found it unfortunate that they seemed to dwell on a (in my view, artificial) distinction between bus and rail. Apparently, the vast majority of the MTA’s resources are spent on rail, which tends to be used by middle-class commuters, and according to the 10-year-old documentary, not very many, at that. A small fraction of its resources are spent on buses, which tend to be used by poor people, and a much larger proportion of MTA’s customer base. In the film, the BRU reps argued for a drastic reduction in the amount of money being spent on rail.

This distinction seems to me to be less a function of the mode of transportation and more a function of its implementation. Rail transit can and does serve the poor in many major cities, and it could certainly do so in LA. It is true that rail costs more than buses initially, so, if we’re talking about getting bang for limited bucks, it might make sense to invest in a BRT system like the one in Bogota. But if you’ve ever been to New York or Chicago (or, for that matter, Paris), you know that everybody–and I do mean everybody–rides the train.

Saulty on the subway
New York City subway riders: Beware of this man.

Upcoming events for transit types

Thursday, January 24th

Metro is hosting a class to help employers lower employee commuting costs.

The law allows employees to set aside up to $115 per month in pre-tax income for purchase of a transit pass or ticket book. Because pre-tax benefits lower an employee’s taxable income, the employee saves federal withholding and FICA payroll taxes on the amount deducted. The employer also saves paying FICA on the amount deducted. Employers can also choose to contribute to the cost of their employees’ public transportation fare and still allow employees to use pre-tax dollars for the employee share.

Metro staff offers free training classes for employers – the next one is Jan. 24 in Seattle – tool kits to start the program at individual worksites, and assistance in carrying out the program.

If you don’t work for a company cool enough to buy your bus pass, you should encourage your boss (or HR rep) to go.


Time: 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: Mezza Cafe Conference Room, Third Floor, Starbucks Center, 2401 Utah Ave. S.

Register here.

Tuesday, January 29th

The Transportation Choices Coalition is hosting Transportation Advocacy Day.

We’re heading down to Olympia on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 to advocate for action on climate change, better transportation choices, and healthier transportation. Last year more than 150 citizens like you advocated for better transportation alternatives. At Advocacy Day you’ll have the chance to learn more about transportation issues, meet with legislators, attend hearings, and be a professional lobbyist for a day!

Last year this event was extremely successful. If you can make the time, it’s worth it to attend–if only to be part of the bike/Flexcar caravan.


Times: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Meet at: The United Churches of Olympia, 110 11th Avenue SE, Olympia

Register here.

Friday, February 1st

As part of their First Friday Earth Forum series, the Rainier Valley Unitarian Universalists will show the documentary Bus Riders Union .

This film by Academy Award winner Haskell Wexler traces three years in the life of Los Angeles’ Bus Riders Union as it forges a powerful multiracial movement to fight transit racism, clean up LA’s lethal auto pollution, and win billion-dollar victories for real mass transit for the masses.

Does the Seattle area need its own union to fight for more transit to better serve both the needy and the environment? Come and be part of this conversation.

I’ve been wanting to see this film, so I’ll be there.


Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Rainier Unitarian Universalist Center, 835 Yesler Way (Yesler and Broadway)