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County’s 2 Major Transit Agencies Adopt Plan to Start Merger : Government: A joint panel will solicit employee advice on combining the organizations.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After wrangling for years over control of local mass-transit services, the county’s two big public transportation agencies on Wednesday amicably adopted a plan by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley to start a state-mandated merger.

At stake is the future of a vital urban service, transportation, as well as control of the $184 billion committed to improve that service over the next 30 years. The merged agency will make such basic decisions as how many buses are on the streets and where train lines run, and will greatly influence how highways are improved and perhaps whether freeways remain free.

The merger legislation by Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) sought to save money and end feuding, but it left several critical details of the new Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s structure--such as who hires top executives--for local officials to work out.

Bradley’s plan calls for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Rapid Transit District to fold their two merger-planning committees into one joint panel, which will solicit employee advice on combining the agencies department by department.

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“What happens is (the employees) come back with something that is better than anything a consultant could do--they know the system cold,” said LACTC Executive Director Neil Peterson, who helped work out the plan with Bradley’s transportation adviser, Jane Ellison.

“And this brings people from both agencies together in a cooperative way, instead of just slamming them together, cold, when we merge.”

With the new MTA birthday set for Feb. 1, 1993, the two existing transit boards, meeting jointly, decided that work on the merger process should begin as soon as possible.

That seven-member steering committee, according to Bradley’s plan, will be selected by RTD President Marvin Holen and LACTC Chairman Mike Antonovich. Each will pick one representative of the county supervisors, another of the city of Los Angeles, and another of the county’s 83 other cities. They will jointly select the seventh member.

The careful balance of power between the two agencies grows out of a mutual distrust born shortly after the LACTC was created by the Legislature in 1976 to coordinate a hodgepodge of transportation improvement programs.

Historically, the RTD, which was created by the Legislature in 1964 to consolidate public bus services in the county, feared that the LACTC was shortchanging current public-transit users by starving the bus system to pay for the rail lines now under construction.

Meanwhile, the LACTC, which doles out federal, state and local transportation funds to the RTD and a host of other agencies, tended to treat the Rapid Transit District as just another transit program, one of many in the county--and not a particularly efficient one.

Complicating their relationship was an urgent need for more extensive and more attractive bus service in the mushrooming suburbs--an LACTC priority that, at a time of tighter budgets, left less money for expanded service in the inner city, the RTD’s primary constituency.

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Lingering distrust from such conflicts has employees of both agencies, especially the RTD, worrying about the future of their jobs after the merger. They ask, for instance, if that one new body will need all of the personnel from the two old agencies.

If layoffs are needed, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre, a member of both the LACTC and RTD boards, wants to ensure they do not disproportionately affect either sex or any ethnic group. He persuaded his colleagues to create an Equal Opportunity Subcommittee to work with the merger committee in drafting affirmative action goals and timetables.


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