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

5_20_09_metro_cuts.jpgPhoto: 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, but tucked in the middle of the budget is news that Metro is planning on 120,000 hours of bus service cuts.

But first, the good news.  Metro still plans on opening the Eastside Extension of the Gold Line later this calendar year and work on the Orange Line Canoga Extension is also going according to plan.  As for the bad news, Metro lists construction of the I-405 Widening as it’s top construction accomplishment and of course there are the service cuts.

Metro claims the bus cuts are really just "creating greater efficiency" in their bus operations.  In Metro’s defense, 120,000 hours is a small fraction of the nearly 7.6 million hours of bus service that will remain.  The budget doesn’t spell out what lines will see cuts.  Given the battle over 200,000 hours of planned cuts that was rejected by the Metro Board and Mayor Villaraigosa in 2008; next Thursday won’t be the last time these cuts are debated in public.

But why are their cuts at all?  Didn’t L.A. County pass a huge transit tax last year, at least part of what is going to bus service?  Anyone following Streetsblog or Sacramento politics regularly already knows the answer, but if you don’t believe me, consider this email from So.CA.TA’s Kymberleigh Richards.

I blame that
completely on the state Legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger, for
canceling the State Transit Assistance account payments.

Given the rejection last night of a series of ballot propositions that would have helped the state balance its budget, it is wildly unlikely that the movement to restore state transit cuts is going to be successful anytime in the near future.  While Metro is looking at ways to tighten its belt in the coming months, and elected leaders call on them to reject cuts as they did last year; let’s remember that these same Assemblymen and Senators are complicit in the budget deals that robbed Metro of its operating subsidy in the first place.

  • So now we face financial Armageddon.

    The governor and the legislature are to blame, but so are the voters who approve themselves low taxes and high spending and hamstring the legislature.

    The entire structure of California needs an overhaul.

    It doesn’t work to have a 2/3 vote rule to pass a simple budget.

    It doesn’t work to have voters deciding tax and fiscal policy for which they have no understand of its implication.

    It doesn’t work to have these strict term limits.

    It doesn’t work to have only 80 Assemblymembers for 36,000,000 people (only one for every 450,000 persons, over ten times the median ratio).

    Why wasn’t the 2/3 budget rule on the ballot?

    I want to vote for a measure that repeals the 2/3 budget vote rule, and repeals Prop. 13 AND Prop. 98 and every other initiative mandate on tax and spending over the last 40 years, and repeals term limits, and increases the number of Assemblymembers to 160, thus reducing the size of electoral districts and the need to depend on special interest money to get elected.

    Professional politicians are to blame for this for sure. But so are the voters who want the impossible, and want to get angry at politicians who dare to tell them they can’t have the impossible. The 2/3 budget rules ensures that militant minorities can always get away with telling their supporters that the impossible can happen.

  • WRT transportation spending, I think the time is ripe to end automobile subsidies. One freeway resurfacing could pay for multiple arterial street reconfigurations to speed up bus travel and allow multi-modal access to be improved. Our oil-fueled, high capital input, economy is basically dead or dying – yet our state subsidies are attempting to prop up its corpse and animate it with “stimulus” funds.

    Once our freeways have reached their ends of life, we should tear them down and spend the money elsewhere. Freight movement on rails and passenger rail, street cars, and better amenities for intra-urban bike and pedestrian travel should be where the money goes.

  • Spokker

    When the cuts are enacted the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

  • Spokker

    To clarify, the cuts coming to California in general, not just bus service.

  • I don’t blame the voters, I blame a political culture unwilling to take the steps necessary to reduce the capital requirements to run a modern civilization.

    The Dutch and Danish, and others, have tried very hard to reduce the capital inputs required to maintain a relatively high quality of life. In the U.S., we’ve allowed the worst sort of profligate waste of natural resources to become the status quo, and presumed (on faith alone) that such actions could continue into the future indefinitely.

    Our politicians have the power, the advisors, and the science to understand where we sit – they lack the foresight and political vision to get us from where we are to where we need to be. It is no surprise the voters rejected this b.s. set of propositions.

    Our entire society is attempting to spend what little wealth and good credit it has to prop up a failing economic model and lifestyle. Where are our leaders on this? Is the next election victory so important to them that they can’t imagine a world without the status quo of suburban expansion and big box retail?

  • Dan is right. It’s time to stop beating around the bush and start demanding real structural reforms California. This video by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans lays out exactly why California has become insolvent and ungovernable. (h/t Calitics)

  • J

    Oh god, I hope the 2/3 budget requirement doesn’t go away. That’s the only thing that’s kept the state afloat in recent years. Otherwise, it’d be tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend.

  • “Oh god, I hope the 2/3 budget requirement doesn’t go away. That’s the only thing that’s kept the state afloat in recent years. Otherwise, it’d be tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend.”

    ——————

    Unfortuantely, that’s not the way it works. The minority party uses the 2/3 vote rule as a bludgeon to get other non-budetary polices as well.

    This ballot box budgeting has to stop too. Repeal Prop. 13, Prop. 98, and every other proposition over the last 30 years that’s hamstrung the legislature from sanely balancing the budget.

    The 2/3 vote budget rule is just plain undemocratic. 47 states believe that if a budget passes by the majority of each house of the state legislature and is signed by the governor, that this is enough checks and balances.

    If the minority party wants to hold the state hostage and inflict their policies on the majority who did not vote for them, then they should focus on winning elections. Of course, they might have to reach beyond their base to become a majority, and that’s inconceivable to them right now.

  • LAofAnaheim

    Prop 13 has done significant damage to California. Imagine, some of your friends are paying property taxes on a house that has a taxable assessed value of $50K??? Does that make sense? No! But, imagine your neighbor could be paying peanuts for property taxes, while you, who bought your house in the last 5 years is paying true market rates. Thanks Howard Jarvis foundation for f’ing this up.

  • It should illegal to “run” for State Assembly.

    Members be should picked at random from members of the public, like jury duty.

    They should be vetted by an anonymous committee to avoid conflicts of interest and make sure they are mentally competent and are not convicted felons.

  • Pedal Me This

    The 2/3 rule has been on the books for 70 years. It didn’t keep Pat Brown from building our superhighways or expanding the UC system. The 2/3 rule is not the problem. It enforces consensus.

    The sky is not falling. The people are just expecting the legislature to be responsible and do the job they were elected to do. The budget has grown out of control since Davis’ first election, most of the overage going to pensions, prisons, illegal aliens and overfunding of schools. If we reign in some of that, there will be a surplus which truly can be put aside for a “rainy day”.

    Prop 13 is not the enemy. It allows people to put down roots and buy a house, and be able to predict their ridiculous tax burden, not lose their house to the tax man. Stop hating on private property owners. We ride the bus too.

    There is adequate funding for legit transit projects, just not everyone’s fantasy system. The voters just approved Prop R. Be happy.

  • Agreed completely. My folks are still in the same house that they purchased 20 years ago thanks to Prop 13. They’re lucky that they can count on their property tax amount to be consistent year after year… and that government can count on that revenue to be there too, because Prop 13 smooths out the amount of tax dollars received so that local government doesn’t blow it on unsustainable continuing expenses. BUT, although Prop 13 is sold as a benefit to homeowners, commercial property owners are the ones who fund Howard Harvis and the rest so that their property taxes can be kept low as well. That needs to be taken into account, and the multiplier for non-owner occupied property could be raised to CPI, rather than an unrealistic 2%, to account for changes in the cost of providing services, while not requiring an army of government assessors to be hired to check property values every year.

    The solution will ultimately be local control for local needs. Some counties, like Orange County, are going to spend their local money on freeways and neglect the bus system. Expect the OC to jump to $2.00 fares to try to preserve some of the service levels. Others are going to go for public transit. To counter the global carbon emission issue, there should be a national carbon tax, but that is for a global issue. Transportation is still primarily a local issue.

  • “The 2/3 rule has been on the books for 70 years. It didn’t keep Pat Brown from building our superhighways or expanding the UC system. The 2/3 rule is not the problem. It enforces consensus.”

    —————-

    There is a difference between tax policy and the budget as a whole. There is a lot more going into the budget than just the level of taxation. Spending priorities are policy choices. Giving the right of the superminority to inflict its policy choices on the whole budget just by crossing their arms is not democracy. At least 47 other states do not operate that way. Our Federal Government doesn’t operate that way.

    We’ve come a long way from the days of Pat Brown and Jess Unruh. If the 2/3 vote to pass a budget wasn’t a problem then, it IS a problem now, and it is fundamentally undemocratic. One Republican Assemblywomn stated she would have no problem having the budget as a whole be a majority vote provided a supermajority was required to raise taxes within that budget. That seems the fairest compromise.

    If a minority party wants to control where the whole budget is going and the spending priorities within that budget, then should have to earn that power by winning at the ballot box. Of course, they would have to reach out beyond their base to moderates in order to do that, so no wonder they would find that objectionable.

  • The other thing that Pat Brown and Jess Unruh didn’t have to deal with were all the ballot proposition which have locked in spending and boxed in the legilsature so that they have very little room to work with.

    So, remove the 2/3 vote budget rule on spending, term limits and all of the ballot box budgeting and let the legislature and governor do their jobs. I have yet to see any proof that the 2/3 budget vote or term limits has helped California governance in any way.

  • Pedal Me This

    A democracy is not mob rule. Democracy (with a capital D) is supposed to protect minorities (property owners, wage earners, taxpayers) from the tyranny of the majority.

    In my interpretation, the 2/3 requirement for taxes and budgeting serves this.

    I’ve heard arguments that a lower threshold might actually result in smaller budgets (no need to buy off with earmarks, for instance), but I haven’t seen any evidence in the last 10 years that suggests our current legislature would be able to refrain from overspending on entitlements, social welfare programs, and other union/contractor feeding frenzies.

    I am and have always been willing to pay, temporarily, higher taxes, to overcome short-term adversity. And I’m willing/consenting to pay those approved by AND PAID BY the vast majority of the public, even if I disagreed with the tax (Prop R, for its deceit, not its general purpose).

    But the trend, in government at ALL levels, has been to create new, permanent programs (Healthy Families, Medicare Part D, LAUSD’s Contractor Full Employment Program, LA County’s vast anchor-baby money laundering system, Workers’ Comp, LA City’s numerous scams), to be paid for by “someone else” (that’s me).

    Every year, with the ever-increasing hand of government reaching in my back pocket, I am more and more inclined NOT to participate in the economy. My payroll and transactions may not be substantial, but as I’ve scaled back over the past few years, directly in proportion to the meddling and interference, I’ve seen my former workers and contractors lose everything, and I don’t believe any of them had liar-loans.

    Dan W, we simply don’t have “low taxes”, even if you want to count the few oldsters who have property from 1975. The fact that corporations hold property longer and with C shells can pass the tax level along on sale, is of little consequence. Lower commercial taxes means lower commercial rents, so your job might not just disappear.

  • Pedal Me This,

    It is funny that you would choose education and healthcare as programs that have increased spending, while failing to mention programs that have increased beyond their typical per-capita rate of increase: PRISONS.

    We have very harsh sentencing laws in this state, and as a result we have roughly 250,000+ people in prisons statewide on any given day. These people are kept in a constant downward spiral that keeps thousands of prison guards, parole officers, counselors, court clerks, lawyers, etc. employed – while systematically draining our state resources at a rate exceeding both healthcare and education.

    The ability to avoid majority rule, as I was taught it, extends to LAW MAKING. When it comes to fixing a state budget, clearly 2/3 is an insane level of approval, and that has led us down a pretty crappy path.

  • Having a majority decide what the spending priorities are is not “mob rule”. There is no reason to give a minority the ability to hijack the budget process if they cannot win a majority at the polls, if they have the protection of a supermajority on raising taxes.

    If the Republicans were to win a legislative majority, I highly doubt they’d be defending the 2/3 budget requirement that wouldn’t allow them to make their priorities happen.

    Ubrayj,

    Thank you for mentioning the prison-industrial complex. The three-strikes law put a tremendous strain on the state budget. The irony is that conservative budget policies will result in early release for many of these prisoners.

  • Spokker

    Legalize marijuana already and allow it to be smoked on the bus. All problems solved right there :)

  • Pedal Me This

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with “harsh sentencing” or three strikes, so long as we’re putting truly bad guys away for a long time. We could do well to outsource the prisons to private operation, re-examine our drug laws even further, and remand 15-20% of the inmates who are illegal over to federal custody.

    There is a mistaken belief that poverty results in crime. It doesn’t – the poor can be very moral, just as the rich can be immoral. Poverty does affect sentences, and that should be scrutinized.

    But many on the left use this as some form of justification to release violent criminals from detention. That’s ridiculous.

    I’ve been around for a while. I can attest that Los Angeles is a much nicer place post-three strikes, than it was in the before-time. I have been assaulted, beaten, robbed, and shot at numerous times – but never by a white person, never in “no nonsense” (“racist”) jurisdictions, and excluding the new trend of drive-bys, never since 3-strikes started making a dent.

    I may be less of a target, a little wiser, or maybe three strikes works.
    I won’t claim to know, but it sure seems to be the latter.

  • cph

    It would be fun (maybe not practical) to start over from a blank slate, and try to determine
    a. what should the State be doing and,
    b. how much it costs, and
    c. who should be paying for it.

    The way services are delivered also needs to come under scrutiny as well. Can/should we privatize certain things? Would that save us money, or cause other problems?

    Are they alternative means of service delivery that may be cheaper, or even more effective? (For example, more online education, rather than classrooms, or community service, instead of jail/prison?)

    A lot of businesses have left the state over the past few years, moving to places like Nevada, Utah, etc. Should we find out what’s chasing them out of California. It’s probably not just taxes alone.

    How about more accountability with our institutions. Schools that don’t teach, cops who brutalize, etc. … all these things tend to make people turn off to paying more taxes, or otherwise being engaged in civic life.

    Hard questions we need to be asking ourselves now.

  • “A lot of businesses have left the state over the past few years, moving to places like Nevada, Utah, etc. Should we find out what’s chasing them out of California. It’s probably not just taxes alone.”

    Actually a 2005 Public Policy Institute report found this is not true.

    http://www.ppic.org/main/pressrelease.asp?p=590

    People forget the imbalance of having a 2/3 requirement to raise taxes while a simple majority can cut them. Over the years the Republicans have used this to leverage big revenue reductions as part of budget deals. The credibility of many of the folks who decry government spending abuses etc. is ZIP since they said nothing while the recent Performance Review vanished.

    Personally I want a thorough evaluation and study of best practices etc. before we undertake any major changes in the structure of state government (like the recent talk of a constitutional convention). We need some basis other than opinions to guide us if reform is needed.

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