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Senate Panel OKs Valley Transit Legislation

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A board of San Fernando Valley residents could plan transit projects for the region but would still have to ask the MTA to pay for them, under a bill approved by a state Senate committee Tuesday.

The proposal is a watered-down version of a bill sponsored by state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) that would have divided the Metropolitan Transportation Authority into two agencies--one for the Valley and one for the rest of the county.

That bill received scant support from the members of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Hayden chose to amend it before bringing it to a vote Tuesday. With the amendment leaving financial control in the MTA’s hands, the bill passed 7 to 1, and is expected to face its next test today before the Senate Industrial Relations Committee, Hayden’s staff said.

Under the approved version, a 15-member board would assume responsibility for planning bus and rail projects for the Valley, but the MTA’s board would decide whether to fund the projects.

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“It cannot force the consummation of the projects,” said state Sen. Quentin L. Kopp (I-San Francisco), chairman of the transportation committee. “MTA retains the actual project approval authority. If it doesn’t have the funds, or it doesn’t want to spend the funds on a Valley transportation project, then it won’t.”

Hayden said the bill would provide Valley public transit users a louder “voice” in decision-making, but acknowledged the new body would be substantially less powerful than the one he envisioned.

“If this seems a modest step to anyone, I’d be the first to agree,” he said.

Nonetheless, Tuesday’s vote paved the way for a legislative showdown between two competing visions for transportation management in the Valley. A second bill, making its way through the state Assembly, would create a Valley “transit zone,” in which a local board, operating under the aegis of the MTA, would probably privatize bus service in the region.

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The MTA’s mechanics’ union is lobbying against that bill because it would probably allow the private bus company to pay mechanics lower salaries. The union had criticized Hayden’s bill as well, but dropped its opposition after the changes announced Tuesday.

“We certainly don’t want to see the system balkanized,” said Barry Broad, lobbyist for the Amalgamated Transit Union and other labor organizations. “But there has to be a kind of comprehensive change in the system.”


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