Thursday, November 25, 2004

Bus riders don't want to play musical chairs - Opinion

IT'S looking good for mass transit in the east San Gabriel Valley. Congress is moving cash as we speak toward the Phase II extension of the Gold Line light-rail from east Pasadena to Montclair.

And the MTA received a big chunk of dough this week, about $60 million, as a down payment for its extension of the Gold Line from downtown Los Angeles into East Los Angeles.

But in focusing on the grand scheme of things, we may be unable to see the trees through the forest. Buses, including those run by the local Foothill Transit, are an important piece of the mass-transit puzzle. And lately, bus funding and bus riders have taken some hits.

After some cost-cutting moves and bus-route revamping, the agency stands to lose a 150- space park-and-ride lot at the Lakes shopping center at Lakes Drive and Vincent Avenue in West Covina. The West Covina Planning Commission refused to grant Foothill Transit a one- year extension on its park-and- ride stop. Instead, it granted only six months, which means, if not extended again, the bus riders will have to find somewhere else to park come March.

That will mean possibly shlepping over to West Covina City Hall or the West Covina (mall) Plaza.

Many who drive their single-occupancy cars to work don't understand how a small shift can shatter the fragile bus transit system. In this case, the commuters will have to catch a different bus to downtown. "I don't want to see my bus stop taken away. We are constantly getting shuffled around,' said Debbie Percy, 47, of West Covina.

Translation: Why does the city and Foothill Transit keep treating these commuters like dirt? They say they want people to ride mass transit, they want less freeway traffic and fewer emissions in the air, but they penalize those who are making this happen. That's plain hypocritical.

West Covina's reason for not granting the one-year extension was that the transit agency did not sufficiently keep the city up to date in their quest to locate a permanent park-and-ride site. So apparently they decided they would teach the transit agency a lesson and threaten to cancel the Lakes park-and-ride lot. Only, this strategy hurts their own residents more than it does Foothill Transit. We have to wonder, does the animosity directed toward Foothill Transit have something to do with the agency's just-announced decision to move its headquarters from West Covina to Glendora? We agree with Mayor Mike Miller, who said it's time the two sides sit down, go over the agency's needs and how West Covina can help out.

There is also talk that Foothill Transit can cut its bus route time by 24 minutes, making its park-and-riders drive farther to catch a shorter-route bus.

Squeezing the passenger will not get more people to leave their cars home and start taking the bus. Neither will playing musical chairs with park- and-ride lots.

Haven't these agencies ever heard that the customer is always right?

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