The Bus Riders Union (BRU) will host a community forum on civil rights and transit on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd.

The forum is designed to give the community an opportunity to discuss the impact of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) service policies and cuts. According to BRU activists, those who rely on the bus system to get back and forth from work and school, could find the service cuts a bit daunting.

The issues surrounding the bus system reach back to 1996, when BRU and other advocacy organizations filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming that the MTA had not made an effort to keep bus fares low and stop overcrowding. The result was a federal consent decree mandating changes.

According to BRU, The lawsuit charged the MTA with violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by establishing a discriminatory, separate, and unequal transportation system while using federal funds.

The consent degree signed by both the MTA and the BRU, was a 10-year contract in which MTA was obligated to improve L.A.’s bus system and make the transit-dependent a first priority for funding.

However, BRU maintains that once the consent decree expired, MTA began retrenching on improvements. Organizers add that MTA is straining to convince the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) that there is nothing wrong with the way the agency is cutting services from transit life-lines that communities of color rely on.

BRU plans to use testimony from the community, as well as expert panelists to help contribute to a report for submission to the FTA as part of its ongoing civil rights compliance review of MTA.

According to BRU, the MTA is currently proposing another round of steep cuts to bus service that will impose real hardship on bus riders. The current proposal to cut 355,000 hours of bus service, eliminate 11 bus lines completely and reduce or truncate 16 others, means there will be a total of 388,000 bus service hours lost between December 2009 and December 2010 as well as the imposition of and a 20 percent across-the-board fare increase in July 2010.