A federal judge has upheld a January court order that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority purchase 145 new buses to comply with a 1996 consent decree.
Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. was the latest development in the 10-year battle between the countywide transportation agency and advocates for bus riders. In January, Special Master Donald T. Bliss, a court-appointed monitor of the consent decree, ordered the agency to add 290,000 operating hours of bus service and buy 145 new buses.
The MTA appealed the bus purchase order, estimating that the vehicles could cost $40 million to buy and another $40 million per year to operate.
On Thursday, Hatter rejected the appeal and called for a status conference July 12.
The Bus Riders Union, whose lawsuit alleging inadequate bus service in minority communities led to the consent decree, cheered Hatter’s ruling.
“It’s a great day for upholding civil rights and massive improvements in people’s lives, reducing overcrowding and expanding the fleet,” said Manuel Criollo, a spokesman for the group.
“The MTA organization has from the very get-go wanted to get rid of the consent decree in one form or another,” he said. “The court is basically upholding the rights of bus riders.”
MTA spokesman Ed Scannell said the agency has always abided by the courts’ decisions about bus service.
“We have added more and more service hours over the years, made schedule changes every six months, created many new lines, including nearly 500 more peak hour buses on the streets than five years ago,” Scannell said.
The most recent appeal, the agency said, stemmed from “the position that the service could be provided with fewer than the 145 buses ordered by the special master through more efficient management. With the denial of its appeal, Metro not only will provide all of the service ordered by the special master, but will utilize all of the 145 buses identified in the Remedial Service Plan.”
Scannell said MTA staff will meet today to discuss the ruling. The MTA is considering delaying the retirement of some buses until new ones arrive, he said.