Today, A missing bus bench on busy La Cienega Blvd. (Photo: iphone with Instagram)
Somebody is removing Los Angeles bus benches and residents are angry. Well, some residents are mad. Mainly those people who ride the buses and want to sit down with their groceries, their kids or their walkers while they wait for dirty, over-crowded buses that often run late.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the culprit responsible for this low blow to bus riders is the company that provides and manages the bus benches. According to the Times, Norman Bench Advertising has held the contract to maintain benches for 10 years in exchange for paying advertising revenue to the city. However, the company has come under scrutiny in recent days from city officials who are concerned that the city has no idea how many benches are out there—the estimate is 6,000- nor does the city know how much money it brings in from running ads on the benches. Now, allegedly angered that the city will award the contract to a new firm, Norman Bench Advertising is being accused of physically removing the benches. Financial records are missing and one member of the L.A. City Council has stated publically that the city may take legal action against Norman Bench Advertising.
(Today, another angle of missing bus bench on La Cienega Blvd. Photo: iphone with Instagram)
Meanwhile, bus riders must stand in 95 degree August heat in places where bus benches have been removed. This is an unquestionable hardship that must be remedied immediately. Sour grapes over the loss of an exclusive contract, missing records, slopping accounting --or worse-- call for a complete financial audit to trace the source of the problem. In the meantime, the city should install temporary bus benches to ease the already difficult burden of navigating the city’s bus system that now requires standing in some locations.
According to the Bus Riders Union in L.A., a non-profit group that advocates for bus riders, the situation is “horrible.” (Source: LA Times). Esperanza Martinez of the Bus Rider’s Union told Patt Morrison (host of NPR’s KPCC Radio) on Tuesday that the council must not forget this population, "You can imagine, right, if you’re an elderly person, if you’re a person different abilities, if you’re a mother with children, if you’re just an average worker that rides the bus, that depends on the bus you’re tired.”
I believe the L.A. City Council has a responsibility to the working poor, families, students and the elderly who must rely on buses to get to work, the grocery store, day care and other daily necessities. The Council must find a solution to replace the benches immediately, set politics aside, fire the oversight commissioner responsible for monitoring the bus bench contract and sort out the funny money. In that order.