Transit Policy and Local Democracy: Between Participation and Fragmentation

Special Report: Public Action in Montreal and Los Angeles
By Claire Bénit-Gbaffou

Los Angeles, the fragmented city par excellence, is paradoxically witnessing the emergence of a metropolitan-wide public debate on transit policy. This emergence can be explained by the existence of a metropolitan transportation authority (MTA), by the labeling of a bus riders union (BRU) as the legal official representative for transit users, and by the way transit projects are financed – requiring a two third majority of the voters of the entire metropolitan area. However, this public debate is being blurred by several factors. Firstly, community participation at a more local scale, as in particular by home owners associations, appear to have a much bigger say and lobbying power in the way transit policies are shaped and implemented. Secondly, transit service restructuring – though the privatization and the municipalization of bus service and through the decentralization of MTA whose administration is now split into different sectors – leads to an institutional fragmentation, whose maybe desired consequence is the disempowerment of the Bus Riders Union to negotiate with a centralized body over transit policies.


  • transit policy
  • local democracy
  • participation
  • fragmentation
  • MTA
  • BRU
  • Los Angeles
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