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RTD Board Adopts Dyer’s Plan to Turn System Around

Times Staff Writer

RTD General Manager John A. Dyer’s 14-point “action plan” by which he pledges to eliminate many of the embattled district’s highly publicized travails was adopted unanimously Thursday by the Southern California Rapid Transit District’s board of directors.

The plan calls for a host of remedies to be implemented over the next six months. Among other things, the plan calls for driver absenteeism and alcohol and drug abuse to be cut and the number of bus accidents reduced.

Dyer said his plan would cost about $1.9 million to implement, a reduction of $500,000 from the price tag he placed on the reform package when he introduced it last month. At the same time, however, Dyer said that savings of nearly $1.4 million will accrue over the same six-month period.

Dyer said he needs the $567,000 net increase in operating costs to accomplish his goals. But it also was an amount that RTD directors--keenly aware of a growing credibility problem the district has with other government agencies--were unwilling to seek from their appointing authorities. Dyer said he will try to find the money within the district’s current operating budget by the time he reports back to the board next week.

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Dyer developed the action plan after a wave of critical news articles attacking the bus district’s operations, safety record, driver performance and drug abuse. At least one county supervisor, Mike Antonovich, has called for Dyer’s ouster if reforms do not produce results within the six months Dyer has sought.

The plan’s key points aim to reduce the number of bus accidents by improving driver safety, reduce illegal drug use, assure that all drivers have current licenses and cut absenteeism by 5%. Dyer also hopes to enhance the public’s willingness to ride the RTD by curbing bus crime, cleaning up graffiti and tightening driver-recruiting practices.

A number of the RTD board members said they thought that Dyer was trying to do too much too soon. Over a three-hour session Thursday, there were several attempts to pare down the program--particularly in areas where board members doubted that Dyer could be effective, such as drug abuse, absenteeism and crime.

But Dyer said that with the cooperation of the bus drivers’ union and the RTD staff, he expects not only to meet the goals, but also to set in motion a system so reformed it will save the district “an astounding” $6.6 million next year.

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Adoption of the action plan followed a lengthy debate over a Dyer-backed proposal to launch a new district advertising campaign, with the theme, “There’s a Lot Riding on What I Do” and featuring various RTD employees. The $158,000 campaign, Dyer argued, would improve employee morale and public confidence in the district.

The board approved the ad campaign on a 6-4 vote. Those opposed called it an attempt to camouflage the district’s problems, rather than to solve them. Director Leonard Panish said that such an expenditure, particularly the $110,000 earmarked for newspaper advertising, would be “totally ineffective,” especially if an ad were placed next to a news article critical of the district.

Also adopted by the board was most of a series of recommendations by an outside safety panel, including the hiring of more roving supervisors to respond to accidents and breakdowns.


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