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Thoughts on a Future BRT: An open letter to Tom Wait

Posted by Talia on Sunday, July 28, 2019

Metro is proposing a new 18-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) line from North Hollywood to Pasadena, with 10 minute frequencies between Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood. With dedicated lanes to facilitate better bus service, Metro expects the BRT to travel at speeds 30 percent faster and attract 30,000 daily boardings. Metro staff hosted a series of community engagement meetings in each of the affected communities this past month, evoking impassioned responses from residents.

We need to ask ourselves whose voices are missing because of the way input is collected.

When we think about community engagement, however, we need to ask ourselves whose voices are missing because of the way input is collected. Often underrepresented in Pasadena’s transportation-related community meetings are English-language learners, people of color, people with disabilities, working-class and lower-income people, and those younger than 18.

Similarly, when media outlets report on the results of community meetings, we should ask: Are some voices amplified because of the way the story is framed?

CBS’s report on the July 10, 2019 Metro meeting held in Pasadena is a good example of how this happens, and how the media plays a role in exacerbating community conflict. By our count, twelve people spoke in favor of the BRT project, five spoke against, and three gave mixed input (@ActiveSGV live-tweeted a selection here.) While CBS could have honestly reported that BRT supporters outnumbered transit antagonists in delivering public comments by a wide margin, they chose to maintain the status quo by playing up a narrative of conflict and framing the story around the antagonists.

We think it is important to name this dynamic when we see it. Below is a letter sent by a CSC member to Tom Wait of CBS.

Dear Tom Wait,

We met briefly at Metro’s scoping meeting in Pasadena on the NoHo to Pasadena BRT, and I am writing in response to your coverage.

Your story overstates the opposition to the BRT while downplaying its support. Jeff Michael begins by stating that “a lot of residents were upset” about the proposed BRT. Since you sat next to me for the entirety of the meeting, I know you know that the overwhelming majority of people who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting support the project. Limited transportation options impeded transit-dependent Eagle Rock residents from attending a meeting in Pasadena about public transit, underscoring the need for the BRT.

Most of us take cataclysmic climate change seriously and applaud any opportunity to transition away from auto-dependency to a sustainable and equitable future by investing in public transit along with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Furthermore, over 1075 people (updated) have signed a petition to demand a sustainable transportation future by endorsing the BRT through Eagle Rock with dedicated lanes on Colorado Boulevard. This is where the story lies.

Selectively amplifying a NIMBY message undermines journalistic independence and integrity. I sincerely hope that you, a reporter who cares deeply about accuracy and the journalistic craft, will correct the story.

Talia C.

The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 7, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Samuelson Pavilion at Occidental College in Eagle Rock. Visit our Action page to learn more about the project and ways to participate.

Tags: BRT, Eagle Rock, media, Pasadena, transit

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