Regarding the current travail over public transit in Los Angeles: The RTD was created in 1964 by the state Legislature because the several private bus companies providing service to Los Angeles could not cut the mustard. Carving up the RTD is a regressive step. An integrated transit system is the way to go. The RTD currently has the buses and can quickly hire the personnel to do the job.
The district has an extensive training facility in El Monte, where prospective bus drivers go through intensive training, stressing safety and defensive driving. RTD has upgraded its hiring practices, cut the accident rate, made a significant dent in absenteeism and instituted a drug-testing program that is considered a model for transit agencies across the country. Just as the patient is recovering, people like county Supervisor Pete Schabarum would advise giving the patient a quick kick.
Any student of public transit will acknowledge that the most efficient transportation systems are heavily subsidized and government run. Their main motivation is not profit--it is getting people where they are going quickly and with a minimum of confusing transfers from one system to another.
Currently, some private operators are running express routes and suburban lines. Make no mistake, the RTD is and will continue to service the vast majority of Los Angeles because the privates could not in the past and cannot now cut the mustard in the “real” world. They may be clean and polite on the gravy runs, but when the going gets tough (graffiti, gang violence, unprovoked attacks on personnel) they aren’t geared for survival. They have no transit police, no sophisticated communications systems, and no successful track records in Los Angeles. The RTD has been in the trenches, and all things considered, it is a pretty tough customer and has the potential of being a model transit agency if people like Schabarum will realize that the RTD isn’t some grandma to be run over at home plate because that’s the only way he knows how to play.