The Bus Bench


“Despite a growing population and a booming economy, the number of trips taken on Los Angeles County’s bus and rail network last year fell to the lowest level in more than a decade.

Passengers on Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses and trains took 397.5 million trips in 2017, a decline of 15% over five years. Metro’s workhorse bus system, which carries about three-quarters of the system’s passengers, has seen a drop of nearly 21%.”- Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25, 2018.

 


Let’s imagine a 62-year-old woman, Berta Gonzales, who lives in Van Nuys, near Victory and Sepulveda, who still works, as she has for the last 55 years, doing whatever she can to bring in cash for herself, her husband,  her two adult children and six grandchildren.

She works as a housekeeper, and she takes the #164 bus, every morning, at 7am, from Victory/Sepulveda to her job near Warner Center, a commute of 33 minutes.

When she gets off the bus in Woodland Hills, the temperature these days is around 80, but when she leaves her job, after cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming floors, doing laundry and dusting, around 2pm, the thermometer might be 110.

Last year she twisted her ankle when she slipped on a freshly mopped floor.  She hobbled around on a special shoe, using a crutch to walk, and she tried to stay off her feet if she could. She has no medical insurance, of course.

In the morning, when she waits for the bus, next to the bench without any sun protection, she is made to stand. Because there is a drunken, sick, filthy man sleeping on the bench, with all of his dirty clothes, his smell of urine, feces, body odor and beer, as well as half eaten and discarded food such as spaghetti, pizza, and empty alcoholic cans.

This is his spot. All the legitimate and necessary uses of the bus bench must be thrown out because his sickness and his selfishness, whether deliberate or accidental, is the most important thing catered to.

He has been here for months, if not years. Last year he fell down on the sidewalk and paramedics came to gurney him away. Then he came back for good.

This homeless person, multiplied by thousands, living on bus benches, is not an inducement for increasing bus ridership. Thousands of potential riders will see this lawless, unsanitary and unsafe barbarism all over LA and make up their minds to do anything to NOT TAKE A BUS.

Berta is like dozens, if not thousands of people who encounter this situation every single day. They are hard-workers, struggling to earn money, riding public transit as their well-meaning, liberal political servants wish them to do.

But put yourself in Berta Gonzales’s shoes and ask yourself: if you had a choice would you want to ride a Metro bus when this is the first sight you see every single morning?

Because Los Angeles does not enforce quality of life laws, there is a cascading affect impacting every other activity: traffic, air pollution, and longer commutes.

It is surprising that the plight of bus riders, many of whom are Latino, has not seized the identity politic podiums of those in city government who are always screaming loudest about injustices suffered by whatever is trending on Twitter that day.

Does grotesque, citywide neglect of sick people and working people and commuting people merit no outrage?

Who is responsible for keeping mentally ill people in dire need of treatment off bus benches and getting them into permanent hospitalization and shelter?

Who?

I know it’s not this blog.

 

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