Suit Filed to Stop MTA Busway

The busway is back.

Opponents of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) East-West Transit Corridor, which was approved by the MTA in February, filed a lawsuit April 2 challenging the MTA’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), alleging that the report "understated the serious effects of the busway on Valley residents and ignored alternative transit projects that could have avoided these effects."

The controversial busway is slated to run along a 14-mile route through neighborhoods from Warner Center in Woodland Hills to the Metro Red Line subway station in North Hollywood. Supporters say it is a necessary and welcome means of improving mass transit. Opponents contend that the estimated $330 million project is too dangerous and expensive and that expanding the MTA’s popular Metro Rapid Bus service would provide almost as many buses at 10 percent of the cost and with far fewer safety concerns.

"What we are basically contending is that the alternative we proposed, the expansion of the rapid bus system, was not given proper consideration," said Diana Lipari, a local real estate agent and head of Citizens Organized for Smart Transit (COST), the group that brought the suit. "This busway is a very bad use of tax dollars, a very bad use for people along the busway and creates problems for people who have to drive through the busway."

In its legal challenge, COST also declares that "the EIR failed to fully analyze the potential of the busway’s physical impacts to severely disrupt an established Orthodox Jewish community along Chandler Boulevard." Members of the North Hollywood Jewish community, the second largest Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles, have long voiced their concerns about the effect of the busway, which they say would divide the community almost down the middle and make walking to and from the various synagogues and religious schools along Chandler difficult, and even dangerous.

However, according to sources, members of the Jewish community elected not to enter into the litigation as an organized entity in order to prevent any distractions from the main focus of the lawsuit. A community leader, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Journal there were concerns about anti-Semitic attitudes that arose at public hearings held last year prior to the MTA vote on the busway and that the community felt the mainstream media focused too much attention on the Orthodox community’s concerns, instead of general opposition to the project.

MTA spokesman Ed Scannell said the agency is reviewing the lawsuit and in the interim, has issued the following statement: "We were very careful in following all the environmental processes set down by the state of California during our environmental review of the San Fernando Valley East-West Busway Project and are confident that the lawsuit recently filed will not be successful."

A date for a hearing has not yet been set.