Times Calls for Metro Service Cuts

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Last Year, Bus Rider’s Fought for Late Night Service

An editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times calls for Metro to cut bus lines with low ridership so it can avoid raising fares or spending too much of it’s Measure R windfall on operations:

The MTA is projecting a $134-million deficit for the fiscal year that
starts in July. Though Measure R will bring in additional money for
operations, it won’t take care of the agency’s fundamental structural
deficit, which exists mainly because transit fares are so low that they
cover only 28% of operating expenses. There’s a way to fix the deficit
without raising fares, but it requires the MTA board to cut
inefficiencies — such as bus lines that are used by only a handful of
riders. So far, it has lacked the political courage to do so. Unless
that changes, voters will see less bang for their sales-tax buck.

Despite the Times’ editorial, it seems unlikely that the Metro Board is going to work on service cuts anytime soon.  Last year, after a public process that took the entire winter and a lot of the Spring, Mayor Villaraigosa led a group of Board Members to reject the cuts submitted by the staff.  During the hearings on the cuts, bus riders poured their hearts out begging for their favorite local lines that were heading to the chopping block. 

Instead of aiming their slings at a Metro Board who acted to defend the rights of late night bus riders; perhaps the Times could aim it’s arrows at state legislators who look at state transit taxes as just another pot to help them balance their budgets.

  • What a surprise that the Times [BROUGHT TO YOU BY HONDA!] supports increasing fares for MTA riders [NEW GM CARS AND TRUCKS ON SALE NOW!] but doesn’t even pass over a scheme to charge car drivers [HOT NEW L.A. AUTO SHOW PICS CLICK HERE!] a direct fee for the roads that MTA money goes to pave, maintain, and service motorists on [BUY A CAR! THE TIME IS NOW!][BROUGHT TO YOU BY HONDA!]

  • And? If the auto industry goes down, sales tax drops, since the greatest taxable purchase most people have is their automobile and the taxes that go into maintaining and fueling it. That means less money for Measure R, A, and C, which means less transit provided. It ultimately ends up being perverse in a way, since the fewer people that drive, the crappier our roads become, and the less money our transit system has.

  • So the Metro cheerleaders are at it again. The reason why Metro will f*ck us with Measure R is because of the economy, so it’s not their fault at all that they are incompetent. Metro must have the best PR firm ever, are you a member of their PR team Calwatch?

    I’m sorry, but I already see how this Measure R bs is playing out.

  • So how would you make Metro more competent and cost effective? Contract service (as I have advocated on an ongoing basis with Rapid Bus for years)? Break up the agency? Yes, the security system is screwed up, and Randall should not have been detained. But security is but a blip in the agency’s budget. Most of it comes from running service – buying buses and rail cars, paying mechanics, operators, and supervisors.

    If Metro is so incompetent, why can they post on blogs to defend themselves (as you allege that I am doing)? They can’t be competent enough to defend themselves online, yet incompetent enough to manage a budget.

  • How? How?

    I would put a proposition on the ballot to remove massive amounts of money for new highway expansion and automobile-only projects with Prop A and C money.

    I would reform the standards that the MTA uses to distribute Local Returns money.

    I would also implement direct user fees on car drivers for the roads they use. This indirect “cars send us x% sales tax and gas tax” are baloney. Cars get more than they give. I don’t own a car, I don’t buy gas, I don’t ride the train or the bus – and yet my sales tax and income tax is going to make all the jerks driving everywhere (and regularly putting my life in danger) have a good time?

    Nah, let’s not do any of that, because t would require us to abandon the inane dreams of pre-WWII Americans trapped in cities: “Country Living” for everyone in a cartoon of a neighborhood, and energy consumption that tracks precisely with the wealth of our nation.

    Let’s jut raise bus fares some more, because God forbid we make car drivers pay a more equitable share for what they use.
    [BROUGHT TO YOU BY HONDA]

  • And I’m GM, and the SoCal Honda Dealers, and the construction industry. I take away transit funding to fix the interchanges at the 101 and 405, the 101 and 170, and the 605 at the 10; build the 710 tunnel and the Palmdale tunnel, and complete our backlog of resurfacing projects. For good measure, we’ll eliminate carpool lanes too. I have tons of money from auto dealer advertising and construction industry contributions. I have the ear of three of the top rated hosts on local talk radio who will talk up my initiative every day. My competition, which consists of bike shop owners, hand-wringing editorial writers at newspapers, and granola-chewing environmentalists, have no money, not that it matters since I’ve bought all the slate mailers and redirected TV advertising for cars to my Measure F (for freeway). See how this works?

  • Yes, you are GM and you’re busy begging for money in congress so you really have no time to focus on the type of lobbying effort required to force freeways to get built. The three top-rated ENGLISH LANGUAGE radio hosts communicate with an ever-shrinking demographic group: white baby boomers living in suburban tract homes. The auto dealers have already ditched us, their cars stacking up at the ports for months on end with few prospects of moving them any time soon.

    The bike shop owners, journalists, local business interest groups, neighborhood councils, and previously muzzled minority populations sense an opportunity. They form a small coalition around diverting the focus from cars to streets for people and local business and enterprise.

    Every project they alter turns into a retail boon, a true improvement to local quality of life, and a groundswell of support for whatever politicians hung along for the ride and voted “Yes” on stuff this tiny coalition suggested.

  • I doubt MTA is going to cut bus service. And, they shouldn’t, especially after the mandate that came from people interested in public transit as was demonstrated in the Measure R vote. Measure R will freeze fares for a year, but after that I suppose it’s time to raise the fares slightly.

    And ubrayj, I admire you idealism, but the vast majority of people in this city/county don’t use public transit. They drive. And, if you think you could pass a ballot initiative that would convince all those drivers they should be paying more than they currently are on auto-related costs, well good luck. I predict it won’t happen. Not within the next ten years or so, at least.

    Measure R passed. Let’s not get greedy and think that it’s politically viable to get anti-car now. The fact of the matter is, even with the improvements that will come out of Measure R, there are still going to be plenty of neighborhoods in this county where public transit is not a practical option. You’re not going to save the world by trying to convince everyone to take the bus or ride their bikes. It works in the denser part of the city, yes, but there are plenty of places where people will always need to drive. That’s where carpools and more fuel-efficient cars come in. And those are part of the solution. Hybrids and electric cars are good things; they are not bad just because they are cars.

  • One problem with trying to get state legislators to not rob transit to fix the budget is a long history of robbing and gimmicks have created pushback from those able to errect barriers to protect themselves and their funding. Transit is one of the last pots of money that can be stolen so you can imagine the resistance is very high to giving that up and having to deal with the reality of the state’s budget situation. Advocates from around the state have been trying to fight this the past few years but have so far fallen short partly for the reasons I outlined above.

    Frankly Metro needs to do some sort of restructuring with possible eventual cuts of low produtive service. Even the Bus Riders Union conceded it made no sense to run empty buses (albeit they always opposed any specific cuts). Metro Connections is dead and good riddance, as it was never all that focussed and seem more of a empty phrase than an actual strategy. Yet now we instead have two disconnected tracks regarding bus service:

    Mayor Villaiargoa has made a motion to begin work on a bus improvement plan –
    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2008/12_December/20081204RBMItem46.pdf

    Meanwhile Metro staff are looking at bus service fundamentals via what they call a Service Performance Monitoring Process –
    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2008/10_October/20081015OPSItem27Handout.pdf

    I hope at some point we could have a coherent process that balance coverage and need. BTW, we won’t even start collecting the Measure R monies until next summer and yet already we have endless drama over how to spend it? Unreal!

  • Wad

    Threats to cut bus service are going to be with us regardless of Measure R. Metro has a performance standard — I think 30 passengers/hour per bus — that is very hard to meet for the infrequent services.

    The problem is that Metro can’t just fob off these services to the munis. The munis must agree to a takeover plan.

    The EZ Pass may be the best win-win tool for bus service. Now that there is a countywide pass, Metro can turn over low-productivity lines to munis, who have lower service costs and lower productivity thresholds. Besides, riders would prefer a muni over Metro service if they have the chance.

  • “And ubrayj, I admire you idealism, but the vast majority of people in this city/county don’t use public transit. They drive. And, if you think you could pass a ballot initiative that would convince all those drivers they should be paying more than they currently are on auto-related costs, well good luck. I predict it won’t happen. Not within the next ten years or so, at least.” -davidagalvan

    10 years to shoulder a little more proportionate costs? What happened to dreaming we could get to the moon in a decade? Why does everything have to be so slow. If computer technology advanced like our transportation policy we’d still be waiting for the internet to be invented. If we all prescribed to the safely not offending anyone nudges for change, then our planet is f*cked. I’d like to think I have some things to look forward to in my future and that if I decide to have kids someday they will have a world worth living in.

    Screw this “don’t get all anti-car mentality”, it’s time to start dreaming big, enough is enough. I’m sure cars will always be around in some capacity, but come on we have less than 1% of trips going by bike and most trips under 5 miles and a large numbers of under 2 mile trips. We have a long way to go, and if we all sit around and quietly wait for change, it will be the year 2100 and we’ll still be living in a car dependent society.

  • Not quite sure what about my post you’re attacking, but I stand by what I said: People are not going to approve any sort of ballot initiative that will increase their auto-related costs in favor of keeping public transit fares down. I’d love to be proven wrong, but frankly it’s all about time and money. Those of us who are pro-transit enough to come on here and post do not represent the majority of the population. If you want the rest of the county to be willing to pay more to drive their cars without seeing any real additional personal benefit (which is essentially what is being talked about when you say that drivers should “shoulder a little more proportionate costs”), you’re going to have to convince them it’s worth it. And the fact of the matter is that long term benefits like sustainable living and living green have payoffs that are a generation or so away. In the mean time, people need to get from their homes to work, and there are plenty of places throughout the county where taking public transit (the bus) will take them at least twice as long as driving. You try to convince someone that they should lose an hour of sleep or an hour of productive work time by taking the bus instead of driving, and see how far you get into their good graces when you add that you also want to charge them more to drive.

    I’m not saying drivers SHOULDN’T be paying more. I’m saying that, if you were to put it to the voters, they wouldn’t approve it.

  • You try to convince someone that they should lose an hour of sleep or an hour of productive work time by taking the bus instead of driving, and see how far you get into their good graces when you add that you also want to charge them more to drive.

    Why do you self-proclaimed transit advocates “advocate” for transit if you don’t believe it can actually move more people, faster, and cheaper than private automobiles?

    Do you think that our system of entitlements to induce sprawl, automobile use, and consumption ought to last forever? I don’t think that is a sustainable way for our government to operate, so I am concerned with convincing policy makers and the public to do something different.

    What, exactly, is your position on all of this? Buses will always be worse than cars – so let’s just grovel and wallow in self pity until we retire bitter old washouts? If you don’t think transit will move people faster and more efficiently than private automobiles, what the hell are you doing advocating for transit?

    I don’t care about what your hypothetical voters think now. I care about convincing people to think something a bit different. Are you that afraid of working towards what you believe in? Sack up, and quit this annoying whining and cringing. Political solutions already exist to some of our worst transit funding problems – but you guys are quibbling over buses backing each other up on streets and right wing radio show hosts instead of doing the political math and gaming the system to get the outcome you desire.

  • You are throwing around a lot of generalizations here, and attacking positions I don’t hold, but I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

    1. “Why do you self-proclaimed transit advocates “advocate” for transit if you don’t believe it can actually move more people, faster, and cheaper than private automobiles?”

    Do I believe that public transit can move more people than cars? yes. Faster? no for buses and at-grade light rail, yes for subways (This isn’t an opinion or a “belief”. You can look at the bus and metro rail time-tables and compare them to drive times for yourself). Cheaper? yes. I advocate for transit because, even if it can’t move individuals from one place to another as fast as cars can, I think it is the most sustainable and useful way to move lots of people around major metropolitan areas. The benefits to urban society outweigh the

    One of my main points in this thread, however, has been that it’s not the solution everywhere, because there are many non-metropolitan parts of L.A. county where the population density is not high enough to warrant building subways or sending rapid bus service. In these areas, public transit won’t be a viable solution for many people, since the bus service that does serve these areas is slow and infrequent, and doesn’t provide them with a good cost/benefit tradeoff. Also a substantial investment in roads to non-metropolitan areas has already been nurtured for a long time, and provides quicker and easier access for people with cars than for people without cars. For these reasons, we shouldn’t be taking a whole-hearted anti-car stance. We should be advocating ways to improve fuel efficiency and emission standards for cars (something this state has championed for quite some time, rightfully so) just as we advocate more public transit in metropolitan areas.

    2. “Do you think that our system of entitlements to induce sprawl, automobile use, and consumption ought to last forever?”

    Nope.

    3. “I don’t think that is a sustainable way for our government to operate, so I am concerned with convincing policy makers and the public to do something different.”

    I agree completely. But bikes and trains are not the only solutions. More fuel efficient cars, congestion-based pricing, and toll roads have a role to play here as well. Those types of strategies still require funding to be implemented along roads and highways. And a ballot initiative that takes funding away from highway and road expansion to give it to bus/bike/rail projects, as you have suggested, would fail if presented to the voters, I predict. I AGREE WITH YOU that I wish such an initiative would pass. I’m just saying that I don’t think it would in reality. Just trying to be realistic, bro.

    3. “What, exactly, is your position on all of this? Buses will always be worse than cars – so let’s just grovel and wallow in self pity until we retire bitter old washouts?”

    No. My position is that it is not a politically viable path to try to ask the voters of L.A. county to take funding away from highways and put it toward transit. I’m trying to point out that the strategy you are espousing will not work. Instead, we should be advocating things like congestion pricing, toll lanes, and funneling funding from car drivers toward transit items through non-ballot means, like increasing registration fees, etc.

    4. “I don’t care about what your hypothetical voters think now.”

    Fair enough. But I’ll point out that if you’re espousing ideas like putting ballot initiative to the voters, as you’ve said you do, you probably should care about what the voters think, as it will likely affect your plans.

    5. “Are you that afraid of working towards what you believe in?”

    The fact that I don’t think your suggested methods are the right way to go about advocating for transit doesn’t mean mean I’m afraid of working toward what I believe in. I’ll thank you not to accuse me of cowardice simply because we have different opinions on the best ways to advocate transit.

    “Sack up, and quit this annoying whining and cringing. Political solutions already exist to some of our worst transit funding problems – but you guys are quibbling over buses backing each other up on streets and right wing radio show hosts instead of doing the political math and gaming the system to get the outcome you desire.”

    I really have no idea what you are talking about here. What have I whined about? What am I cringing from? Where did I say anything about “buses backing each other up on streets and right wing radio show hosts”? I challenge you to use your copy+paste function and support this statement. You are saying I’m saying things I’m not.

    ——————-

    Yeesh.

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