30/10 Survives the Metro Board of Directors

4_6_10_transport.jpgThe Measure R map. For a full sized version, check out The Transport Politic

Today, the Metro Board of Directors voted to endorse the 30/10 proposal, but for a long-time it didn’t look good.  All of the signs were there for a disaster…a highway sellout of "30/10," the proposal to use federal loans to front-load construction of twelve transit projects funded in Measure R.

The forces of the status quo, AAA, a pair of CoG’s and various chambers of commerce, were speaking of the needs of including highway projects in Measure R.  Heck, even some transit advocates were willing to compromise some highway projects on the list in the name of the "greater good."  Meanwhile, the Metro Board wasn’t talking about pushing the best list of projects it could to get federal funds flowing quickly to L.A.  And while the Mayor was trying to frame 30/10 debate in environmental terms on twitter, the idea that highways cause pollution was completely absent from the debate put forth by our elected leadership.

Sure, there were plenty of pro-30/10 comments, most notably from other transit advocates and the environmental movement.  NRDC and the Clean Air Coalition published a pair of blog posts and letter to the Metro Board arguing that wasting time and focus on highways undermines the spirit of Measure R.  Even the Bus Rider’s Union spoke up against the amendments, noting that it was "unfortunate the Board was aligning with highways to build more trains."

A pair of pro-highway amendments were added to the proposal to formally endorse "30 in 10."  One by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas required Metro to also be pushing funds for "public-private partnership" projects in Washington, D.C.  Another, by Supervisors Diane DuBois and Pam O’Connor, just flatly requires that highway project acceleration be made equally important to transit project acceleration in Washington, D.C.

Finally, Director Richard Katz, holding one of the Board positions appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa and the author of the resolution calling on Metro to back 30/10 spoke.  After accepting these amendments as "friendly," he took the turn to speak about the proposal.  First, he made clear that he considered these motions to be in addition to 30/10 not part of it.  In other words, the project list being touted by the Mayor and other 30/10 supporters would remain in-tact, and not be polluted by those favored by the highway lobby.  Second, he noted that if they were to be added to 30/10 list, it would make everything much more difficult and could delay the whole thing.

You see, transit projects are funded differently than highway projects in D.C., and Katz pointed out that, "the support in Washington is clearly on transit projects."  If they change horses and add a new list, they could find themselves back at square one.

Despite the concerns by some that the highway projects would get left by the wayside, the Metro Board ultimately voted unanimously, minus the absent Don Knabe, to accept the proposal as amended.  It will be interesting to see how much energy is put into advancing the highway project timeline and how much of today’s debate was just verbiage.

There were two interesting comments from the debate that deserve a little extra attention.

First, the lobbyist for the Automobile Club of Southern California, aka AAA, actually tried to couch the inclusion of highway projects in environmental terms.  Basically, they argue that L.A. County deserves a multi-modal 30/10 not just one focused on "transit."  Of course, a plan that involves light rail, heavy rail, bus and bus rapid transit is multi-modal, but I guess when you’re the car-culture lobbyist, there are two modes: "cars" and "all that other stuff."

The second is that one of the best arguments against cluttering 30/10 with highway projects came from one of the Board Members who authored the motion to make certain they were accelerated also: Santa Monica Council Woman Pam O’Connor.  O’Connor noted that "We’re not building eight projects. We’re building a system."  Why one would want to take projects off the list that would create the system and replace them with highway projects, which is what many people including myself, AAA, and all the pro-highway forces thought her amendment would do, is beyond me.  To hazard a guess: the personally car-free O’Connor was at war with the politician who wants to do what her constituency felt they needed in the South Bay.

But at the end of the day, the Board voted with one voice.  Boar Chair Ara Najarian boasted that when the Board is unified, "when we’re going to Washington, they’re scared of us." Whether they’re scared enough to help L.A. County build the transit system it deserves remains to be seen.

  • Anyone else get the urge to dress up like a pirate, eat a bowl of pasta, and celebrate the Flying Spaghetti Monster after looking at the map above?

    May his noodly appendages touch all of LA County!

  • This is INSANE. Crazy. Within ten years. All of this. Right now I take Metro daily from the LBC downtown, but few people are lucky enough to be an easy bike ride from a Metro rail station. If half this stuff happens in ten years… wow.

    I mean look at it! Expo to the sea. Gold line to San Bernardino County. Santa Ana to downtown. The frigging Green Line extension to LAX. Being able to get to and from UCLA via Metro rail. It’s mindbogglingly beautiful. It’s weird. Are we in a parallel universe or something?

    I don’t get how dense the car lobby people are. If HALF of this happens in ten years, there just HAS to be a major impact on traffic, even if we account for population growth adding some traffic.

    I have long thought Umberto’s Flying Spaghetti Monster to be a silly story told by superstitious parents to their gullible children. But seeing His tentacles, his ‘noodly appendages’ spread all over the map, I want so badly to Believe.

  • LAofAnaheim

    There will be no impact to traffic…just the ability to build denser and grow taller. Which is all great by me!!! Accelerating transit projects may get people to start promoting public transportation in everyday talk, that’s my hope with this. Not the hope that “traffic is reduced”, because that doesn’t happen.

    Imagine, you go to work, and people complain about the lack of space in the Purple Line, or more needed frequencies on the Expo Line, more bike parking, etc…. Instead of the usual ‘can’t find parking’, ‘parking is expensive’, ‘too much traffic’, etc… 30/10 can do a cultural shift in the way people talk about LA transportation. That’s what we need…not “traffic reduction”.

  • Carter R

    It’s really hard to imagine how far we’ve come. Time to bring it home. No letting up till there’s a bike rack at every station.

  • Joel C

    I hope this 30-10 plan gets put into place before the political winds (in L.A. and in Washington) change.

  • Alek F

    Congratulations with passing the 30/10!
    Let’s just hope that now the 30/10 transit funds don’t get diverted to highways… (and no one tries to copycat our governor!)

  • Spokker

    You still want people to drive so you can collect gas taxes that fund transit.

    Just saying…

  • S.S. Sam Taylor

    Spokker: At the meeting to make the Republicans happy, the Board moved to take all the road money from The OC, and we’re gonna build a freeway out on the high desert along the 138. With all the new jobs that LA is gonna have, we should induce billions in gas taxes from all those San Diego, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, OC and Orange residents driving into LA County to build the projects. You’re not gonna see any reduction in vehicle miles traveled for a long time, as all the construction guys live in the boondocks and construction jobs start at 6:30 or 7 a.m. This stuff is all been figured out.

  • Joseph E

    Spokker, seeing that the federal “Highway Fund” is bankrupt and getting infusions from the General Fund to keep things working, and Obama has nixed a gas tax increase, Transit will and highways will soon by funded by general income tax revenues.

    Now, the State gas tax was supposed to support transit, but we all know how the State has been stealing that voter-approved funding for the past few years. So, I’m not worried about people driving less or buying electic cars.

    Once we have a VMT tax and congestion pricing, traffic will be much better for everyone, and there will be a more secure source of money for transportation.

  • This will mean we leap ahead of Washington, and Chicago, and the Bay area, to have the largest rail-based mass transit system in the USA, after New York. Number two baby! Not sure of the total mileage with this, but I believe that it will be something approaching 200 miles. Only New York has more. (We’re already ahead of Boston and Philadelphia.)

    (If you throw in the commuter rail, New York has a lot more, but, this is WITHOUT putting in our own commuter rail system, Metrolink, which has over 400 miles of routes…)

    And to think that in 1990 we had nothing (Never mind that in 1950 we had the largest system in the world…which was torn out by idiots.) It’s enough to bring a tear to a railfan’s eye.

  • earth rider

    It appears by your comments about Director O’Connor that you fail to understand what she is about and who she represents, the Westside and South Bay cities. You in essence accuse her of being a “highway shill” when she has been at the forefront of Measure R transit projects and the godmother of Sustainability and SB375 efforts at MTA. Did it ever occur to you she was trying to bring balance to the 30-10 efforts so that both the So Bay (with 3rd decade transit project and relatively far off highway projects) and Gateway (devoid of Measure R transit projects) could join in support of 30-10. After all both COGS have been complaining they got the short end of the Measure R “stick” (notwithstanding that they themselves contributed to the situation through non-support of Measure R). You talk about “highway” projects as being mutually exclusive of contributing to sustainability efforts; you might look at what Gateway has been bringing forth in terms of developing highway projects that help reduce GHGs….

    Remember: “if you want that Flag to waive; these 18 wheels gotta roll” (the late John Stewart)

  • earth rider,

    Remember: “if you want that Flag to waive; these 18 wheels gotta roll” (the late John Stewart)

    Subsidized over consumption wrapped in a flag is how you defend highway expansion?!

    Bleah. I’m glad the 20th century is over. Your vision of what makes our flag wave is disgusting to me. The dominance of interstate trucking in moving goods to market is due to a system of statw subsidy so vile it would have made Stalin blush.

  • earth rider,

    I’m pretty sure my opinion of O’Connor is the same as yours, and I even made clear I was pretty sure that she was holding her nose and representing what her constituents think they need.

    I’d love to hear more about highway projects that reduce GHG’s. Tell me, do they take into account induced demand or is this part of the myth that faster moving highways produce less GHG’s?

  • Jack Stephonovic

    I’m trying to understand… Were highway projects actually added to the 30 in 10?

  • James

    Im confused as well…

    What impact will these highway ammendments have on the 12 transit projects?

    Could funds for the projects be compromised/delayed in order to make room for the highway projects?

    Could, in a worst case scenario, some of the transit projects be cut?

    This is all very vague. One thing I do know is if Washington sees this as largely being a ‘highway expansion’ program with some transit as well, they’ll never agree.

    The transit projects must remain front and center as the goal here. If some highway projects make it along for the ride, so be it. Just as long as they don’t in any way jeopardize out ability to secure the funds, and more importantly, just as long as they don’t jeopardize the integrity of the transit system being put in place.

  • James Fujita

    Yarrr! All hail the Noodly FSM!

    *cough* Seriously though, what intrigues me more than the rainbow colored spaghetti noodles on the map are all of those gray noodles waiting in the wings for the next big 40/20 or the 50/30 plan.

    We’ve just set into motion a snowball that is going to keep rolling (and we all know from cartoons what happens to rolling snowballs, right?)

    I can’t wait for that Torrance Green extension… combine that with Crenshaw, and you have the potential for a huge cross-town connection.

    And that Regional Connector has never looked more important than it does now! Heck, by the time this is all done, might we be looking at two connectors?

    How about a southwest/ South Bay link for Metrolink? The future is now…

  • The map shown for the Eastside Gold Line extenstion Phase II is completely wrong in terms of dispalying the correct information. For one thing there are two alignments being considered at this time in the Draft Environmental process. One along the SR-60 to the I-605 at Peck Rd and one along Garfield and Washginton Blvd ending at the PIH in Whittier. Metro.net is a great and correct resource for this kind of information. We need to make sure we are fully informed. See links to Metro maps of the two alignments below. There are only 4 proposed stations on the SR-60 route and 6 proposed stations on the Washington Blvd route.

    http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/eastside_phase2/images/map_Corridor_Eastside2_WashB.pdf
    http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/eastside_phase2/images/map_Corridor_Eastside2_StateRt60.pdf

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