Metro Board Passes Long Range Transportation Plan

10_22_09_gold_lineA good day for the Gold Line Foothill Extension who’s future Monrovia Station is depicted in this image from the Bottleneck Blog.

(editor’s note: For more of a blow-by-blow from today’s meeting visit the twitter feeds for LA Streetsblog, Soap Box and I Will Ride)

When the process to get from public meetings to a final vote takes over a year and a half, you can’t expect the final vote to come without a fight and without some theatrics.  With people in costume actually outshining uber-gadfly John Walsh, Board-Member-for-a-Day Tom LaBonge pinch hitting for his colleague on the City Council Jose Huizar and perhaps strangest of all a short, supportive completely non-snarky comment by Stephen Box the meeting took over five hours but ended with a result most were happy with: a finalized Long Range Transportation Plan.

But the stars of today’s hearing were not the people in the audience and those testifying, but a pair of County Supervisors from opposite ends of the County: Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas.  Each found an effective way to advocate for their favored local project.  Per their styles, Molina used a "woe-is-me" strategy combined with a level of histrionics while Ridley-Thomas refused to back off his amendment to the plan which, while hardly earth shattering, could lead to accelerated time-lines for two of Metro’s more controversial projects.

The key provision of the Ridley-Thomas ammendment mostly are aimed at protecting funding for buses, require staff to aggressively pursue federal funds for the Gold Line Foothill Extension and Crenshaw Corridor Project, require Metro to provide operations dollars for the Foothill Extension whenever it is completed and required quarterly updates on three highway widenings.  The aptly named The Source has the original wording of the amendment or you can find it on the Metro Board Agenda if you feel the urge to scroll through it.  However, you need to go to the Supervisor’s website to get the final wording of the amendment that passed.

So what does this mean?  It means that the highway and rail projects that were approved in Measure R are now officially part of Metro’s plans for the future.  A time-line was adopted, that you can read here, but as Metro earns federal funds and projects complete their environmental phases those time-lines can be amended.   You can find a quick outline of those time-lines here.  Also passed today were rules protecting the 20% of Measure R dedicated to buses and a $324 million projected budget for bicycle and pedestrian projects over the next 30 years.  And, as the Bus Riders Union tried just about every way imaginable to warn us, it means future fare hikes.

Now that the plan is approved, Metro can officially lobby the state and federal governments for the money to build the highway and transit projects within the plan.  If the plan had not been passed, supporters argued that it would be a disaster for Metro and Los Angeles County.  That bold declaration makes me wonder why they didn’t pass it any other time in the past twenty months since they held public hearings.

On its twitter feed, I Will Ride announced that the Gold Line Foothill Extension and Crenshaw Corridor were placed as a priority ahead of the Westside Subway for "New Starts" funding, but given the unanimous passage of the LRTP and the Mayor’s fixation on the Subway to the Sea, I’ll believe that those projects get dollars ahead of the Subway when I see it.  (editor’s note: In the comments section Dan Wentzel explains that Crenshaw and Foothill were moved ahead of only Phases IV and V of the Subway to the Sea.  The Subway extension from Wilshire-Western to Westwood remain ahead of Foothill and Crenshaw.)

As for Molina’s part, she took the floor for the better part of a half hour with other local stakeholders concerned with the safety for the Eastside Extension, due to open in November.  In an angry rant in which she accused the Metro staff of favrotism and outright lieing to her, Molina channeled both Damien Goodmon and the Bus Rider’s Union as she went on the warpath against just about everyone on the dais except Metro CEO Art Leahy who she felt was trying to help make the line safe as best he could.  The strangest part of her rant was where she said she would be at the opening, assuring her constituents the line was safe, even though she wasn’t sure that it would be.

While I give Molina a hard time, her criticisms sound similar to those voiced by former Board Member and City Council Transportation Committee Member Richard Alarcon, who has also been vocal that he doesn’t trust Metro staff.  That makes two prominent Latino officials who have intimate knowledge of the Board expressing district and concerns.  I can’t help but wonder if maybe Metro has a Latino problem.

  • Rich

    I’m interested in what the “moves funds for two highway widening projects” means. Does that mean certain widening projects were de-funded? Moved around? Were rail transpo funds removed for this?

  • I wish the SGV politicos would put half as much enthusiasm into double tracking the San Bernadino Metrolink line as the Gold Line extensions.

    Does anyone know if the Harbor Subdivision Transit Corridor is wide enough to run both heavy rail Metrolink and light rail Metrorail trains? If Metrolink went to LAX, maybe that would get the attention of politicos on this service. Most world class cities that have world class transportation systems have dynamic local rail and regional rail (as well as a comprehensive bus system too).

  • The amendment on the board agenda is not the same as the one that passed. Neither does Hymon’s post encompass its wording verbatim.

    I’m too tired and busy to scan it, but may get around to typing it. Check out the Supervisor’s blog later today I’m sure it will be up.

  • Here is the link via Ridley-Thomas’ blog to exact wording of the amendment passed:

    http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/PDFs/Misc/LongRangePlanAmendment102209.pdf

  • I indeed was using old text. Here is the highway wording now:

    4. EVALUATE THE POTENTIAL FOR FUNDING IN THE 2009 LRTP TO CLOSE THE GAP IN THE I-5 FREEWAY FROM THE I-605 TO I-710, AND REPORT BACK IN JANUARY AND QUARTERLY TO THE BOARD. STAFF SHOULD CONSULT WITH THE GATEWAY CITIES COG, THE I-5 JPA, CALTRANS AND OCTA

  • Erik G.

    Damien,

    Any news about our favorite Pistola-based company??

  • One correction.

    The Regional Connector and the first 3 of 5 phases of the Purple Line (to Westwood) still are the “New Start” applicants for federal funding.

    The Gold Line and Crenshaw Line get priority over the last two phases of the westside subway for Non-“New Start” federal funding (e.g. Climate Change legislation).

    It is a good compromise for Westside subway supporters because it still allows non-“New Start” Federal funds to be sought for the final two phases. How much non-“New Start” Federal funding can be found for anything, if any, remains to be seen.

  • Meanwhile the business columnist at la observed sneers at the idea the subway will ever be extended.

    http://www.laobserved.com/biz/2009/10/subways_well_never_s.php

  • Erik G.

    Electrify the Metrolink San Bernardino Line!

    Scrap the I-10 HOT lanes; Double Track Metrolink from LAUS to San Bernardino!

    Increase service on the Riverside Line to hourly, and add a spur to ONT!!

  • Erik G.

    Transportation improvements on the Westside since 1965:

    The Red (now Purple) Line from Metro Center/7th to Wilshire/Western.

    The Marina Freeway

    One Southbound-only HOV lane on the San Diego Freeway (I-405)

    Transportation Improvements in the San Gabriel Valley since 1965:

    The El Monte Busway

    Interstate/SR 210 (The Foothill Freeway)

    The Metrolink San Bernardino Line

    The Metrolink Riverside Line

    Gold Line to Sierra Madre

    State Route 57 (The Orange Freeway)

    State Route 60 (The Pomona Freeway)

    Interstate 605 (The San Gabriel River Freeway) from I-10 to I-210

    Am I missing anything?

    Are you seeing a pattern here?

  • As far as the Breda cars, Art Leahy negotiated a deal to get 2 free cars for the price of 100 in their option. Antonovich tried to get them to cancel the contract, because they could not get the cars to be below the weight limit (after all the engineering and replacement of parts, the “base cars” that have been delivered or are being delivered are roughly 2000 pounds overweight, down from 7000 or so pounds overweight), and so they were technically in violation of last month’s Board order. Knabe said that, as long as the extra weight wouldn’t cause braking problems or structural issues with the bridges, that if 2,000 was as far as they could go, it would be good enough and the order for 102 rail cars should be exercised. The board ended up going along with this, with Antonovich voting no and Dubois and Molina abstaining.

  • Brad

    What about the Harbor Subdivision?

  • Erik G.

    Calwatch, Thanks.

    I suppose we’ll get to read the details when the negotiations are subpoenaed after the first collision, derailment or aerial structure collapse.

    But they got a good deal and the cars will be built in L.A., right??

    (Don’t bet the farm on the “built in L.A.” part)

    Brad,

    The Harbor Subdivision does not have any improvements on it at this time, save for the bit of the Green Line down in Redondo Beach, which most would not consider to be “The Westside”

  • So Leahy got a 1.8% discount and Breda can’t get the cars to be the proper weight.

    In other words, no news :)

    Seriously, thanks Calwatch.

  • http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/Cqkppczlxkp2ijyrYI4qes5Po1_1280.png?AWSAccessKeyId=0RYTHV9YYQ4W5Q3HQMG2&Expires=1256404810&Signature=2y3kWOP1WAMM9Y44fNd9GiJhPkk%3D

    Here is a link to an amazing map of what Los Angeles County would look like if everything in the LRTP, inlcuding the Tier 1 unfunded transit projects, were built. I love the London style graphics.

  • The revised jobs estimate that Antonovich mentioned from the dais on the Breda cars was 600 new jobs created, not thousands. I don’t recall if this came from a Breda document or was his estimate of how many jobs he thought would be produced, since he was conflating it with the Siemens discussion and how many people Siemens hired for their California light rail plant.

    As far as the Harbor Subdivision, it is on the Strategic Plan, and was not identified as a New Starts application or as a “second tier” project to obtain external funding, like the Gold Line Foothill Extension or Crenshaw. This is the correct location for the project, since a commuter rail line down Slauson Avenue would make the complaints of the Expo or Eastside Gold Line communities look like peanuts. There are serious concerns about using the Harbor Subdivision for any form of medium or high speed rail service given the density, interaction with traffic, and language barriers present.

    One of the least noted things, though, is how Mark Ridley Thomas snuck in a carpool lane from SR-14 all the way to Kern County on I-5. I don’t know where this idea came from, but it is an incredible boondoggle. There is little to no traffic north of SR-126, and will not be for some time, even if they drop 100,000 people in Centennial like they claim. In addition, since people on I-5 are going on trips, you have a much greater concentration of “carpoolers” than daily commuters. This is literally the 60 mile carpool lane to nowhere.

    Since someone asked, here is the text of the original Ridley Thomas motion: http://img132.yfrog.com/img132/3569/ecn.jpg and http://img33.yfrog.com/img33/8302/xs1o.jpg “Regional Rationality” is a classic MRT phrase. MRT is a very erudite person, but sometimes substitutes those five dollar words when something like “Fairness” would work just as well.

  • If anybody’s wondering where the non-New Starts funding could come from, Ara Najarian mentioned in a speech a few weeks ago that departments like HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and the EPA could provide some of it.

  • I’m getting this horrible image of HUD giving money to build the stations as long as there is housing on top of them.

    Wasn”t there a possibility of some HSR funds for connecting services?
    Well, maybe some of that could be used to speed up the regional connector or doubletrack parts of Metrolink

  • Here’s the actual terms of the Breda agreement:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/21544494/Bred-a-Memo

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