State Avoids Blame As Metro Prepares Service Cuts

The public process is over, and now the cuts can begin.

Tonight marks the first meeting of Metro’s Regional Service Sector Council where local boards are expected to endorse the staff recommended service cuts. State Senators, advocacy groups and Metro’s riders have all panned the service cuts, calling them everything from "inconvenient" to "racist." However, the heated comments at the public hearings haven’t reached the ears of those most responsible for the cuts: Governor Schwarzenegger and other state leaders.

The average passenger wonders why Metro is cutting routes less than a year after raising fares. While there is plenty of blame to pass around for the sad state of Metro’s operating budget, much of the blame can be placed at the feet of the governor, who’s budgets routinely under fund transit. The final FY08 budget raided of $1.3 billion of funds generated by the gas tax for transportation to balance the general fund. The LA Times estimated that transfer cost Metro almost $250 million.

At the regional meetings on service cuts, most comments and criticisms were directed at the volunteers serving on the regional service sectors or the Metro staff and board instead of at the leaders who control Metro’s subsidy and a large portion of its budget. Almost three quarters of Metro’s operating budget comes from state and federal subsidies.

State leadership has been so isolated from criticism, that State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, delivered a statement to Metro Board last week saying:

A large number of my constituents depend on public transportation and any reduction in services will have a far reaching effect in my district. I urge the board to carefully examine the implications of these proposed cuts and to exhaust every available option before considering a reduction of services.

Ridley-Thomas seems unaware that as a State Senator he has more control over Metro’s operating budget than members of the board he was addressing. The statement would have been much more powerful if it contained a promise of more help from Sacramento, but the State Senate’s role in Metro’s plight wasn’t mentioned. Instead, he placed blame on Metro, who is being asked to expand its service while receiving less aid every year.

Granted, Metro doesn’t do itself any favors by awarding a lavish contract to install turnstiles while deciding what bus lines to cut. Even though money allocated for capital improvements, including the turnstile plan, cannot be spent on operating projects, awarding the turnstile contract created the impression that Metro is flush with funds. However, it’s Metro’s operating budget that is in a state of chaos, and without more help from state leadership, Metro’s riders can expect higher fares and more cuts in the near future.

For more on the cuts, read Sue Doyle’s article in today’s Daily News.

  • Thank you! Southern California Transit Advocates fought the good fight these past few years against this kind of diversion. It is frustrating that state officials extoll mass transit and talk of its role in reducing greenhouse gases while syphoning off vitally needed funded to serve short-term political purposes (better to rob transit than confront the dysfunctional state budget process). Maybe the rumored iniaitive to end diversion the California Transit Association is contemplating leading the drive to place on the ballot will end this nonsense.

    And by the way, despite their cries against the cuts etc. the BRU never lifted a finger to fight the robbery in Sacramento. They were asked but demurred being involved. I know, I talked to the person who talked w/them and got the runaround (“We’ll get back to you”). Sad.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Cal Transit Association on State Budget: Armageddon Is Here

|
Yesterday, transit advocates from around the state strove to grapple with the new reality that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature’s "compromise" on the state budget completely abolished the State Transit Assistance (STA) and the $536 million that it dedicated to subsidizing transit operations. There are multiple villains in this story, but the blackest […]

Metro Proposes More Changes to Bus Routes and Schedules

|
One year ago, during Metro’s bi-annual revision of its bus schedule, Metro released a schedule of proposed cuts, that was universally panned by pretty much every transit advocate in town, from Bart Reed, to Kymberleigh Richards to Damien Goodmon to the Bus Rider’s Union.  After a nearly universal bad reception, Mayor and Board-Chair-In-Waiting cut a […]

What Metro and Its Riders Will Lose in State Budget “Deal”

|
Two articles written over the weekend highlight just how grim the new state budget is to transit riders, especially those in Los Angeles County.  For those of you that took off early on Friday, the Governor and legislature’s compromise budget, the one that continaully falls one vote away from passing, would completely eliminate the state’s […]

Metro in 2010: More Rail, BRT and Highways. Less Bus Service

|
Photo: Marco Siguenza/Flickr Even with Measure R, not even Metro is immune to bus service cuts. At 2:30 this afternoon, Metro will hold its public hearing on the staff-proposed 2010 budget.  The budget will also be heard at next week’s Full Board Meeting before being voted on.  The budget doesn’t contain a lot of surprises, […]

Today, Metro Talks Cuts. Tomorrow, Metrolink Talks Hikes

|
The next two days will see two different board meetings, by two different local transit agencies, dealing with the same budget crunch almost every transit agency across the country is facing. At 9:30 this morning, the Metro Board will vote on whether or not to cut over 200,000 hours of service to its Class 1 […]