Mayor requests federal transit aid

Hoping to prevent cuts to mass transit service because of the economic downturn, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein for federal intervention to help 31 transit agencies, including the Metropolitan Transportation Agency.

The MTA over the past 20 years has sold much of its equipment to investors and then leased it back.

American International Group provided financing and insurance for many of the deals, but AIG’s slipping credit rating threatens those deals and could leave the MTA with hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and repayment costs.

In his letter to Feinstein, Villaraigosa didn’t ask for money to help the agency.


Press secretary Matt Szabo said the mayor hopes that the federal government could take a range of actions to satisfy the banks and investors that lease the MTA’s equipment.

“The mayor’s view is that if we’re going to invest all this money building up the banks that have failed, we certainly shouldn’t leave commuters holding the bag,” Szabo said.

-- Steve Hymon