RACHEL FISCHER spoke with James Reichert, the new executive officer of operations for Los Angeles County's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, about why there are such difficulties involved in riding some MTA busses.
This is really no surprise. We do recognize that we have some operating problems; we have an old fleet with high mileage. We've had a lot of issues and we're in the process of modifying the engines from being alcohol-fueled to being diesel-fueled.
The division that operates Line 78/79 is presently getting up to 15 new buses per week. Most buses are older and they have some problems. Some are 17 years old with 800,000 to 900,000 miles on them. The federal guidelines are to get rid of buses more than 12 years old. Some 855 new and repowered busses will be added to the fleet in the next two years, with 1,313 new buses over six years.
There's been a lot of money put to the rail side of the MTA; frankly, the bus side has been neglected. But we're doing something about it. I've been here since June and I've made organizational changes and hired more mechanics. I've got double the number of supervisors on the street, so I'm attacking this problem on many fronts.
But it's going to take time to get this straightened out. We need to know what people's problems are and we'll look into them. We try to spread the [working] fleet out so that no one particular line has the problem--to spread the misery, if you will.
Mayor Riordan is very interested in rectifying this problem and has put emphasis on fixing the bus side of the MTA. Recognizing this problem, they brought me in. I'm a good fixer. I've hired a man named Richard Hunt as my deputy executive officer for maintenance and he's told division managers that if they get their full line out in the morning and working, he'll personally take them to dinner!
We're trying to build pride into our workers. We've got new management, new board members. Additional funds will be earmarked for buses in the next calendar year; how much, I don't know. I'm fighting for that now. A passenger advisory committee also reports about problems on their lines. But it's a political decision as to how city funds are going to be spent. It's competitive, and we're getting our bid in there with everyone else.