Cost to Abolish RTD Just $1 Million, State Report Says

Times Staff Writer

A new report by nonpartisan state financial analysts contradicts figures that the RTD has used in hopes of sidetracking legislation to abolish the district.

Proposed legislation to consolidate Los Angeles County's transit agencies could cost about $1 million over the next four years, the legislative analyst's office reported Monday.

The figure is just a fraction of the $100 million that RTD General Manager John Dyer and other RTD officials estimate would be spent over five years, if the Legislature approves a bill creating a transit super-agency.

RTD officials raised the cost issue--and a suggestion that fares might have to be increased from 85 cents to $1 next year to pay for the transition--in hopes that lawmakers would postpone the bill until next year. The transit reorganization measure is among hundreds of bills that legislators are rushing to complete before the end of the current session next month.

The legislation would merge the Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. It calls for a new panel of local elected officials, including Mayor Tom Bradley and county supervisors, to assume control of a new Metropolitan Transit Authority in January. The authority would oversee three subsidiary transit agencies: one to build commuter rail systems, another to operate bus and rail systems, and a third to plan transit and highway projects.

Monday's report by the nonpartisan legislative analyst is the first independent analysis of the measure's costs. In countering the RTD's recent warnings, it could help the measure's authors, Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) and Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), move the bill to the governor's desk in the next few weeks.

RTD President Jan Hall, who was lobbying in the Capitol on Monday, defended Dyer's cost estimates. She said the state analysis probably does not include all local costs of reorganization. But Katz said the report shows that Dyer's figures were the work of a "hysterical bureaucrat."

The bill was drafted in response to reports of RTD mismanagement and interagency conflicts in Los Angeles transit planning. It has been advancing despite opposition from many Los Angeles city and county elected officials, who claim that it would not produce needed reforms.

The legislative analyst's report says that actual costs of the reorganization are unknown, but it estimates one-time costs "in the range" of $500,000 to $750,000 to consolidate the agencies and an additional $345,000 for management audits required in the bill.

There are potential cost savings from the consolidation of functions currently performed in both agencies, the report says.

Hadley Johnson, who supervised preparation of the report for the legislative analyst's office, took issue with some of Dyer's figures. For example, he said in an interview, there is nothing in the bill to support Dyer's contention that $15 million would have to be spent immediately to repaint 2,700 buses with new colors and logos.

He added that Dyer's estimate of $80 million in additional costs to pay for more staff, including substantially more lobbyists and public relations employees, is not supported by data showing any increased workloads.

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