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

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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 transit operating subsidy for transit agencies.

The first piece was written by Kymberleigh Richards of the Southern California Transit Advocates and a Board Member of Metro’s San Fernando Valley Service Sector for the Daily News.  Richards points out that California voters, especially those in Southern California, have voted repeatedly to fund transit expansion and that the Governor’s frequent raids, enabled by the State Assembly and Senate, are a slap in the face to every voter that has ever voted for transit.  Especially those that supported Measure R.

Guess what will be tapped to backfill that loss?
That’s right – the Measure R funds that the voters approved to increase
service but will now be used just to maintain the status quo.

Making matters worse, the Measure R operating subsidy won’t be enough to replace all of
the lost state funds, so Metro may still have to cut as much as 160,000
hours of bus service next year to bridge the gap. So, even though the
voters of Los Angeles County voted for an increase in service, the
lawmakers in Sacramento will make it necessary for Metro to reduce
service instead.

Making matters worse, we can now see the impressive planned bus service increases that Metro would be proposing if the state wasn’t destroying the ability of transit agencies to expand.  At Metro Rider, Wad published the list of bus expansions that Metro was planning before the state budget crisis threatened to withhold over $230 million of transit subsidies.  If you’re a masochist and want a more complete picture of what Sacramento’s posturing is costing us, head over to Metro Rider and have yourself a good cry.

Photo: Wad/Flickr

  • So, all the naysayers before the election were right? The measure R funding is not going to go to what it’s meant for? IE: no gold line extension, no subway to the sea, no green line extension, no orange line extension. . . that money will just go to maintain service levels?

  • Too early to say, but I’m 99% certain that only the bus expansion is going to put off.

  • Ah, so this will probably be a bus-service-only issue. Whew. (still bad, but not what I was thinking.)

  • Wad

    The taxes have always kept capital and operations funding separate. What will likely happen is that the bus list I published would be put on hold or axed in favor of upholding what we currently have.

    We have a very extensive bus system to maintain — more than 2,100 in peak service. We should preserve this, and Measure R puts on in somewhat of a better footing than most other areas.

    The bad news: All branches of the government, not just the judiciary, operate under the principle of stare decisis. This gives Metro a chance — and a very bad one — to breech the distinction between capital and operating expenditures.

    Capital is for building up a future need. Operating expenses is for services already rendered. Or, in another way, capital is like a bank CD whereas operating is like a checking account.

    The moment you breech capital to pay for operating expenses, this sets a precedent that will allow the government to drain its capital account to pay off recurring operating deficits.

    We see the consequences of this at the state level every year. Remember when we passed Proposition 42, which says transportation taxes must go to transportation purposes only? Well, there was an “emergency brake” provision in there that would allow the state to use the funds in a fiscal emergency. Well, the legislature pulled it once and then realized that they can run a recurring fiscal emergency every year and hence, tap into the transportation funds to pay off recurring expenses.

    Metro will be put in the very same predicament if it taps bus capital for bus operating expenditures. There’s a lot in the list that I liked (the 405 express services) and I would hate to see these plans foreclosed.

  • As the author of the op-ed in Monday’s Daily News, let me say how sad it is that the very first comment was “So, all the naysayers before the election were right? The measure R funding is not going to go to what it’s meant for?”

    Even if it will turn out to be partially true (the money that will backfill the STA was supposed to be for expansion of service operations), the naysayers made those statements because they distrust Metro.

    It is not Metro that is to blame here. It is the state legislature and the governor. If anything, Metro is trying to do the right thing and preserve as much service as possible despite the curtailment of the one source of state funding that can be used to operate service.

    The naysayers are still wrong, because their statements were based on a different presumption than what happened.

  • @Kymberleigh: Well, I read comments from lots of naysayers, and while the majority did mistrust metro, there were those who made the argument that the city or the state would raid the transit funds to pay for other projects. True, the Measure R funds are un-raidable, and I’d counter with that argument, but I hadn’t thought about the fact that Metro relies on other sources of funding that COULD be raided, and the R funding might not make up the difference.

    Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean to say that I wished I hadn’t voted for R. I realize the situation would be much much worse if we didn’t have R funding to cover some of the state funding loss. And trying to get enough funding to continually expand service is far better than not trying and just assuming it won’t work.

    Still, you can SAY that the naysayers are wrong because not all of them predicted exactly WHY the funding wouldn’t be used to expand service (as advertised); but I doubt they will see it that way. I was on the defending side of Measure R in a lot of discussions before the election, where those attacking would say “Just you wait. Something will happen and the money will not go to what they say it will. The city or state will need money and they’ll raid the transportation funds.” And, for the case of bus operating costs (thank goodness this doesn’t affect the capital projects that largely sold this Measure to the voters), they were at least partially right.

  • Of course, the nutty thing is that MTA staff actually decided it would be a good idea to loan the state MORE money… $200 million worth in Prop C funds, the money that would have gone towards this summer’s Call for Projects, which funds many bike and pedestrian projects. It’s not like the State has a non-zero chance of completely screwing over its bondholders. Yesterday, Zev rightly ripped Metro staff a new one over this idea.

    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2009/02_February/20090218F&BItem16Rev.pdf

  • K stated: “Guess what will be tapped to backfill that loss? That’s right – the Measure R funds that the voters approved to increase service but will now be used just to maintain the status quo.”

    I made it very clear many months ago that this would happen: http://flyingpigeon-la.com/2008/10/we-ought-to-debate-measure-r-more-often/

    Is this not the same person who stated, “In my not-so-humble opinion, anyone who voted “no” on Measure R has forfeited his or her right to make any comments on how the money is spent over the next 30 years.

    Since Umberto changed his mind, I guess that leaves Randall BusTard (and possibly alex, I can’t tell how he finally voted), so anything posted on the Bus Bench about project funding must be ignored now.”

    http://la.streetsblog.org/2008/10/10/dana-gabbar-more-reasons-to-vote-for-measure-r/

    Cheers for the ignorance.

  • Some months ago, SoCaTa-arsekiser CalWatch stated: “As long as LA is not losing anything SOLELY because of Measure R, you can’t blame the state removing transit funds on Measure R.”

    I am waiting to hear him open his festering gob again.

  • Galvan stated: “till, you can SAY that the naysayers are wrong because not all of them predicted exactly WHY the funding wouldn’t be used to expand service (as advertised)”

    D, if you think that ANY pol will EVER state WHY funds were raided, then you are certainly the sucker that helps a democracy—like a turd—stay afloat.

    Being a naysayer to which you allude, lemme state that I made it clear months ago WHY Measure R WOULD be raided, and now it has happened.

    In other words, it is not about WHY, but what will BE. Perhaps you can stop tossing red herrings, and listen to folk who have not only a damn good idea of Metro’s problems but have divined a number of the fiascoes unfolding currently.

  • Wow. Randall, you are taking my quote out of context. If you included the next sentence, it was clear I was, in a sense, DEFENDING the naysayer prediction that the R funding would be used for purposes other than its original intention. You completely took the quoted portion of my post out of context.

    Even so, don’t assume that I am going so far as to say I should have listened to the naysayers and voted no. As I also stated in my post, I would have voted for Measure R even if I had been convinced that some of the R funding would go for things other than its original intent.

    Are you actually implying that transit users of L.A. would be better off if Measure R hadn’t passed? If so, that’s an impossible platform to stand on. If R had not passed, we would be worse off, because we wouldn’t even have this extra local source of funding to backfill what we’re losing from the state and STILL provide funding for the extra capital and infrastructure we want to expand the L.A. transit system. You can be as pessimistic about the system as you want, but don’t think you’re helping public transit conditions by trying to convince people to avoid bringing in new public transit funding.

    If you want to be pissed (you seem to love being pissed), be pissed at the state’s decision to raid public transit, not the local county’s decision to vote for a measure that would actually INSULATE us from poor planning on the state level.

  • I still fail to understand the insistence on something being black or white; can there not be shades of gray? In other words, my voting “no” on Measure R does not mean I think “transit users of L.A. would be better off if Measure R hadn’t passed.” As I made clear in the debate on measure R, the funds would be mismanaged—as they always have been by RTD/MTA/Metro. Just as the AIG fiasco was being publicised, Measure R was a bone thrown to the public after very little deliberation. That alone should have been a clear warning: $40 BILLION promised with no clear picture, let alone the consequences. And Measure R has yet to even be instituted, yet the raided transit funds—which I stated would happen exactly as it has come to pass (I mentioned it months ago; click on my previous comments’ links to read it as well as observe the date)—are already gone, the reason being that Roger Snoble (whose early retirement I have made clear is most likely based on this multi-faceted problem as well as the extortion fiasco regarding Gold Line) and Tony V are either incompetent, insincere or both. They are well paid but failed to get the funding required, but the cobbled together the Measure R crap.

    As I have stated too many times previously, we at The Bus Bench stated that exactly what is happening, would happen, many months ago. No one listened, and now those who said we should be ignored (and I do not mean you, but kym) are nicking our words as if they are announcing something new. Between the hypocrites at the BRU and the Valley neighbourhood council/Metro arse-kissing SoCaTa/Transit Coalition cretins, I find very little useful advocacy despite all the resources being wasted to maintain such ineffective groups, and when someone comes along who has neither the resources (i.e., time and money) nor the patience (i.e., arse-kissing the pols) who has a track record such as ours (we have divined a number of things regarding Metro that have come to pass despite folk saying we were wrong: busses running red lights and wrecking, death on the rails, LASD abusing their contract, Roger Snoble, AIG, the TAP card, Measure R and more), we are talked down by folk such as kym richards and Bart Reed. Yet what have these two or the BRU done for transit advocacy in Los Angeles? Not a god-damned thing. Even that lawsuit the BRU claims responsibility was not so much their victory as it were MTA doing what was fiscally responsible. (And the BRU has yet to stfu about that “victory” from a decade ago.)

    As for our cross-purposes, David, I have re-read your post and I still find it rather ambiguous. I suppose I tend to get indignant (or “pissed,” as you put it, which is not entirely clear owing to its multiple connotations and definitions within the English language) when folk refuse to get off the fence, talk shit but do naught, or simply fail to communicate clearly what they mean. That is at the base of much of this discourse, I would add.

  • I’m going to say yeah voters would have been better off without Measure R. As with the lottery the funding that would have been provided is now taken away AND we get another tax (not that I hate taxes, but I hate taxes that go to line some rich jerks pocket) and the people who use public transit the most get screwed.

    But I’m glad that it passed, so people can see how LA works and why the BRU needed to sue the MTA.

    I bet the BRU doesn’t look to extreme now.

    Seriously though issues arent so black and white, but if you put a gun to my head and forced me into a black or white answer there it is.

    Oh yeah in regards to Measure R funding are they using the projections of the revenue before the economy went to hell or after. With 20 percent of people in LA on some kind of public assistance and the other 20 percent needing it, but being ineligible owing to being “consultants” and everyone losing their job how much money will there be to fund Measure R anyway. Is this me being negative…I don’t know, but lots of my friends have lost their jobs. They can’t buy anything. They are tapped out.

    Measure R isn’t extra, that’s the point. It should have been extra, it was billed as extra, but it’s not going to be extra.

    Browne

  • “Ah, so this will probably be a bus-service-only issue. Whew.” David

    That is so insanely cruel. There are people who need the bus to get to the train and to work and you think it’s ok, because you only care about the rail, wow. Just a bus issue.

    I hope this stimulus package works, because if not I predict serious problems in LA, problems of the burn and destroy variety. How much more horrible things can the working poor take happening to them, I’m on the ground floor and I’m going to say not that much more.

    What if they closed the freeways for the middle class on Mondays to save money I wonder how the middle class would feel. I bet they would feel very angry.

    Browne

  • @ Randall:
    Yes, I get it. You foresaw all this was going to happen and it has happened. If you’ll notice, the very first comment in this thread was me essentially acknowledging that you had made such predictions, but worried that it was going to impact the new capital projects (ie: the rail expansion).

    That said, don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. Calwatch (who you refer to as an “arse-kisser” and posessing of a “festering gob”. . . Classy.) warned that the structural deficit might cause Measure R to just let us break even on operating costs back on October 8 on the Metrorider blog:
    http://metroriderla.com/2008/10/08/measure-r-or-massive-service-cuts/

    I suppose it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that other sources of funding for MTA should draw some of R’s funds away.

    I was just trying to clarify in this thread what parts of Measure R would be used to backfill the loss from the state funding that we’ll now have to deal with. I was worried that some of the new capital would be in jeopardy, but it sounds like most of the “cuts” will come in the form of simply not expanding bus service in the way we had hoped.

    From your most recent post, it sounds like you won’t go so far as to say that transit users are worse off since Measure R has passed. You think the funding will be mismanaged, and the only real solution I’ve heard you advocate (elsewhere) is to clear out the entire MTA board and replace everyone. Good luck with that quest. But short of that happening, you are essentially saying that the system is broken, and therefore we should resist giving MTA any more funds. So you are a transit advocate who resists transit getting more funding. Or, perhaps more accurately, you are unwilling to support MTA moving forward with more funding and projects until the board and all the politics of the body have alligned with your views. All due respect to your passion and your cause (I certainly respect your efforts to expose the imperfections of MTA and try to hold them and the sheriffs accountable), but absolutism on funding sources is unlikely to get your causes very far, in my opinion.

    What you are leaving out is the fact that if Measure R had not passed, we would be much worse off: fare hikes would probably be immediately required, service cuts would definitely be happening to an even greater extent than is now possible, and we STILL would be no closer to funding for the green and gold line extensions and the purple line extension. Can you at least admit that? The managers may not be perfect, but they are trying to do the right thing.

    Everything does not have to be black and white. But when it comes time to step into the voting booth, you have to sum up all the gray and decide whether it’s closer to black or closer to white, and you DO have to choose: YES or NO. You chose no. That tells me that you surmised that, when adding up all the gray, you thought that this county would be better off if R did not pass.

    @Browne:
    Ok, now I have to deal with YOU taking a quote of mine out of context. You quoted my response that I was glad the damage would be limited to bus service operations, and called me “insanely cruel” for it. You conveniently left out the parenthetical I included immediately afterward, which stated that it was still bad that bus operations could be limited or cut, but that what I had been worried about was the capital expansion.

    And yes, Measure R funds ARE still extra. Without measure R, the system would not be expanding. With Measure R, it will be expanding. Operations costs are a significant problem, I agree.

    Do the two of you ever engage in calm, reasonable discussions, devoid of ad hominem attacks and taking quotes out of context? Or is it always a political diatribe? Yeesh. It is possible to actually discuss things in a civil manner, you know. If you want my advice (which I presume you don’t, but here it is anyway) I’d say that you’d have a better chance of drawing people to your cause if you toned down the rhetoric.

  • “It is possible to actually discuss things in a civil manner, you know. If you want my advice (which I presume you don’t, but here it is anyway) I’d say that you’d have a better chance of drawing people to your cause if you toned down the rhetoric.”

    What is civil? I mean is civil being nice and polite and letting the economy go to hell. Was it nice that the rich made a run on our money and no one said anything, because they were too busy being civil? Is pulling back on comments just in case in the future if you want to run for office or go to a party nothing that you said can be googled as offensive to the wrong people?

    You know the New Deal wasn’t brought about because the people were polite and Roosevelt took notice, the New Deal was brought about because thosands of unemployed veterans got on the front lawn of the White House with pitchforks. For some reason that part of the story always gets left out though, weird.

    And we don’t have a cause or a political stance. We don’t work with anyone and don’t want to work with anyone, we simply want to give a view that is not being presented from a place that isn’t owing to us being paid by some pr person or we hate taxes platform or some political party stance or some other crap that forces others to be bias.

    We in fact make it a point to not be involved in any political group or cause at all, because what we try to do is take what we see from the groundfloor and report on that. In LA transportation is an excellent tool to look at LA via economics and class.

    I’m not trying to get anyone on my side. I’m not so cocky to believe that my side is always right and the other side whatever or whoever that might be is always wrong, but I am trying to get people to understand Los Angeles. To understand that in LA there are lots of people out there who have absolutely no problem lying to you, exploiting you and using you under the guise of politics, concern for others or advocacy.

    There are a lot of liars out there and their point of talking is rarely as alturistic as it may seem.

    Browne

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