South L.A. residents voiced concern about proposed changes to bus prices and routes throughout the city at a Los Angeles Department of Public Transportation public hearing Wednesday.
The event, attended by about 15 community members, was held at the South Los Angeles Activity Center on South Figueroa Street. LADOT officials gave a presentation on service cuts and fare increases, and members of the audience shared their thoughts and concerns.
Phil Aker, an LADOT hearings officer, said, although this is the second public hearing out of four scheduled, LADOT has already received valuable input.
LADOT will soon need to make a decision on how to deal with its growing deficit. In July, it will be $23 million, and it is projected to grow to $350 million in the next decade.
“The bottom line is we’re operating more service right now than we can afford to pay for,” Aker said. “Ask yourself, if you have a number of bills to pay, do you cut back on services, do you decide what you can live without or do you just call up everyone and say, ‘Sorry, I can’t pay’?”
Aker said allowing community members to attend public hearings or submit comments and suggestions to LADOT through e-mail, telephone or mail is the department’s attempt to deal with this situation responsibly.
Community members who spoke out at the event were mainly concerned with using the LADOT system, like the Commuter Express, to commute to work and get their children to and from school.
One community member who rides the Commuter Express 422 to the San Fernando Valley from South Los Angeles discussed the impact the proposed service cuts will have on individuals.
“We worry about the future. If LADOT and Commuter Express were to stop now … we have a big, bad situation. I recommend you think about our futures,” she said at the hearing.
Some community members, including John Young, also brought up the policy process and asked how receptive the city council will be to LADOT’s recommendations.
“What’s your personal feeling — that [city council] will do your recommendations the way you are requesting?” Young said.
An LADOT official responded by saying they are optimistic the city council will consider recommendations for public transportation funding but can’t be sure.
David Roberston, another community member, asked if LADOT had considered that some areas might have a greater need for public transportation.
“There’s affluent areas, then there’s areas like South Los Angeles, where you have more demands,” Robertson said. “When you look at the 15 council districts, do you see a greater demand for South L.A. … versus other parts of the city?”
An LADOT moderator responded that many communities have different circumstances and needs, implying that South Los Angeles is evaluated just like the other 14 districts.
Aker said LADOT has been working with a consulting firm to compile a transit service analysis by looking at how many people use specific services and routes, how much they pay and to what extent LADOT services are duplicate by other transportation services.
The transit analysis is proposing to cut a number of routes, including the Downtown Route C and Downtown Route DD. Aker said Dash Route F, which runs through North University Park, would not be eliminated or changed because of its popularity.
“We used to operate it every 15 minutes, we went to every 10 minutes because of increased ridership,” Aker said. “As L.A. Live came into being, we began to see more service [and activity] in that corridor.”
Any changes LADOT decides to make will go into effect July 1.