Metro Board Preview: Long Range Transportation Plan, Federal Funding, Measure R and One More Time with AnsaldoBreda

10_21_09_map.jpgImage: Metro via I Will Ride

Tomorrow the Metro Board will meet and is widely expected to finally pass the Long Range Transportation Plan, which just like the city’s Draft Bike Plan, was the subject of public hearings in the early winter of 2008 and hasn’t been subject to much public scrutiny since.  Many Board Members are already offering amendments to the plan to protect and advance their preferred local projects.  The goal of moving projects in the plan is to better position them to receive federal funds to hopefully get them off the design table and on the ground, or under the ground, as quickly as possible.

And, we have a chance to say goodbye to AnsaldoBreda’s monthly appearance on the Board Schedule.  Last month the Board approved an extension to the exclusive contract for building rail cars to the Italian company, so they’ll never truly be gone; but an update on the contract is on the agenda providing gadflys and opponents one more chance to blast Board and AnsaldoBreda, for now.  To read the full Board Agenda, click here.

But the big ticket item will be the Long Range Transportation Plan and the battle to advance local projects.  At The Source, Steve Hymon has a handy F.A.Q. that answers some of the basic questions but only covers the politics in general terms.  For a breakdown on some of the issues the Board will discuss tomorrow, read on after the jump.  To just dive in to the 54 page Draft Long Range Plan, click here.

But first, let’s speak to the issues that don’t seem to have a champion on the Board.  It’s something of a surprise that the LRTP document doesn’t include the words "bicycle" or "pedestrian" so we’re back to having no firm number for how much funding is included for "non-motorized transportation."  I’ve got a call into Metro to make sure that’s just an oversight and that the funding remains at the increased level of $324 million for each mode over 30 years.

10_21_09_bru.jpgMore photoes at BRU/Flickr

Second, our friends at the Bus Riders Union programmed some street theater outside of Metro Headquarters yesterday to demonstrate their argument that the LRTP, if passed as is, will cause future fare hikes as the agency struggles to reach the stated goal of 33% "fare recovery ratio."  From their press release:

The Long Range Transit Plan calls for 14 fare increases
over 35 years, a reduction of the overall bus fleet, a draconian "33%
fare recovery ratio" that cuts public subsidies for bus riders of
color.
The LRTP will also undermine the environmental
sustainability of the region, as car use in the region cannot
significantly be reduced with it recommendations to: 1) significantly
expand highways in the region, 2) expand subway and rails: LA’s failed
rail experiment has meant that the region has the same amount of
transit riders since the early 1980’s, and 3) provoke reduce transit
riders rider ship, as service deteriorates and increased transit fares
will drive more people out of public transit and into autos (as shown
by the 2007 fare increase).

The BRU has been hard at work lobbying three Board Members in particular, South L.A. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Downtown Councilman Jose Huizar and Mayor Villaraigosa.  We’ll see if their efforts pay off tomorrow.

Speaking of Ridley-Thomas, he offered the first amendment to the LRTP which is designed to protect the funding for the Crenshaw Corridor, be the final project BRT or LRT.  Given the political pressure from Mayor Villaraigosa to push up the opening date for the Subway to the Sea, he again mentioned opening the line in ten years instead of 27 earlier this week, and the push for the Gold Line Foothill Extension, Ridley Thomas wants to protect his turf.

And speaking of Huizar, he could present the second motion.  It’s no secret that the Downtown Streetcar has been a favorite project of the Councilman and he is seeking to get the project added to the "unfunded" portion of the LRTP.  While the streetcar wouldn’t fight for any currently allocated funds, its presence in the LRTP might qualify it for additional federal and state funds that it doesn’t qualify for today.

But the biggest debate will be a motion put forward by Board Members Dubois and O’Connor that would instruct staff to create a list of all projects available for a variety of federal funds.  The long-term purpose of this motion is to get the Board to advance projects for immediate federal funds besides the Downtown Connector and Westside Subway, both of which the Board forwarded last night.  The Foothill Extension advocacy blog I Will Ride explains the logic and politics behind this motion.

Also up for debate tomorrow are two motions having to deal with how Measure R Local Return and bus funds are allocated.  Currently, my link to these documents aren’t working, but Streetsblog will provide full coverage of these motions later this week.

  • I wrote my comments on my blog:
    Honorable Metro Board Members:
    Last night while waiting for the 720 bus at the busiest intersection in Los Angeles (Wilshire & Westwood), I conducted an informal study of vehicles passing in the curb lane. First, the roadway was so congested that over the 5-minute period I surveyed an average of 14 people per minute passed through that curb lane. Second, about a third of the vehicles with identifiable dealer plates came from Burbank or points east along the I-210 corridor (Longo in El Monte, Claremont Toyota, etc). Third, I then boarded a bus, which was much delayed due to the congestion, and counted 55 people aboard that bus. One slow, delayed 60-foot bus carried as many people as 4 minutes of traffic. Public transportation is essential to getting Los Angeles moving again and recouping some of the $10 billion lost annually due to traffic congestion.
    The transportation reauthorization bill is likely to expand funding opportunities for transit, but future projects will be continue to be evaluated based on cost-benefit criteria. Two proposed projects serve as significant system-wide ridership multipliers to all projects connected to the network. These projects will increase the potential benefits of all future transit projects in Los Angeles County more than any project, proposed or conceived. These projects are the downtown regional connector and the subway. These projects will create a robust core transit network by providing quick reliable access to job centers and areas of dense population. All peripheral projects will benefit, and jump well ahead in the competition for federal funds as a result.
    The benefits of both the Wilshire subway and regional connector will be both substantial and regional. To focus substantial efforts on building other projects before making substantial progress on these core projects is akin to building the second floor before the frame (it’s an important part of the house, but there is nothing yet to support it) and appears parochial and short sighted. I urge you to pass a Long Range Transportation Plan that reflects this reality.
    Juan Matute

  • Great write-up. I’ll link to this during my tweets tomorrow. I’m assuming I’ll see you there?

  • Erik G.

    Can someone ask the folks from AnsaldoBreda who might be there how the merger talks with Bombardier are going?

  • I heard that the Bus Riders Union had a guy dressed up as the Grim Reaper or something who was “slashing” bus service. Are we seeing huge cuts at Metro? I thought LA County was spared from massive cuts.

  • David Galvan

    We’re not seeing massive cuts in bus support (at least not as massive as other places, like the OC) thanks to Measure R. . . which the BRU opposed.

  • Sad to hear how racist the long range plan is though. Perhaps I should bring it up with the Hispanics, Asians, whites and blacks I ride the subway with every morning. Maybe I’ll ask the dude in the business suit and the blue collar Joe what they think of it as well.

  • Yeah I saw the BRU at Wilshire/Western yesterday. Their point was that basically MTA wants to build new things and that’s somehow racist because I guess people of non-white ethnicities are only able to ride non-express surface buses or something and in order to build trains they will have to raise monthly TAP prices to $90 and slash bus routes and also this is all tied to the Goldman-Sachs bailout or something.

    How these people say any of this crap with a straight face is beyond me.

  • “How these people say any of this crap with a straight face is beyond me.”

    They recruit from college campuses–lots of kids from UCLA etc. Young and idealistic, and given a sales pitch that they are fighting for the people against “The Man”. The main conduit of cheap labor for the BRU is the LCSC’s National School for Organizing

    http://www.thestrategycenter.org/project/national-school-strategic-organizing

    Eric Mann is nothing if not clever. And in some circles still has a reputation as a tenacious leftist champion of working class people. The truth is more complicated plus Mann has burned many bridges over the years with his strident approach.

    I by chance was at Wilshire/Western last night and witnessed the street theater. Seeing a guy dressed like the devil and three prop coffins labled global warming etc. was surreal.

  • In response to Juan’s post – that is a great point! If the MTA’s Call For Projects staff would focus on the number of people moved through an area (as opposed to vehicles/hour – which currently puts a 60-person bus and a single occupant car on the same footing), we’d have a whole different ball game.

    That technical change would force the sort of people-moving-equity that transit advocates have long fought for.

  • I would have “debated” with one of the BRU guys I saw if he was more interested in talking about his cause than hitting on a couple of girls. :)

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