Metro Board Live Blog: “Park Mesa Tunnel” Fails, Day Pass Reduced from $6 to $5, At-Grade Leimert Station Approved

Stay tuned to this link for more on the Metro Board Meeting.

9:38 – The Metro Board meeting is already in full swing, and they came out hot with Supervisor Mark RMetidley-Thomas introducing his motion to grade separate the Crenshaw Line from 48th Street to 59th Street and to include a station at Leimert Park.  You can read Ridley-Thomas’ motion here.

“In the view of many, Leimert Park is the premier cultural destination on the Crenshaw Line,” Ridley-Thomas began.  “It is the center of a historic and unique neighborhood.”

Ridley-Thomas compared constructing the line without a Leimert Park Station to a Gold LIne without Mariachi Plaza or Little Tokyo stops.

The Board agreed to a half-hour of public testimony in favor of the project from Crenshaw residents and leaders.  That testimony has just kicked off.

10:00 – While public testimony in favor of the grade separated Crenshaw Subway and Leimert Park is overwhelmingly in favor, this letter by Jerard Wright shows that its possible to disagree with the Ridley-Thomas motion and not be anti-Crenshaw.

10:30 – Public comment is completed.  Staff explaining why they didn’t have station or “subway” in original proposal to board.  Basically, it doesn’t meet the grade-crossing policy standards and would cost $500 million that they don’t have without taking from other projects.

11:02 – A half hour later, we’ve heard from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, opposing the motion, staff, opposing the motion, and Supervisor Gloria Molina, opposing Yaroslavsky.  We’re two hours in to the meeting.

Some key quotes in the debate,

Zev: “There is no money that is hanging out there that is unobligated.”

Molina, responding to a Zev’s claim that the “consistent” vote is to vote against the Ridley-Thomas motion: “I’m at the mercy of inconsistency of this Board for projects for the Eastside.”

11:43 – It’s beginning to look as though the Leimert Park Station will be approved and the grade separation won’t.  In the past half hour, John Fasana stated his intention to split his vote and Mel Wilson hinted he might.  In between Diane Dubois basically stated that she wouldn’t vote for either part of the split motion.

12:20 – Metro Board rejects “Park Mesa Tunnel” for Crenshaw Line.  Vote on Leimert Park Station, coming up.  Ridley-Thomas, Antonovich and Molina voted yes.  The rest opposed.

12:36 – Metro Board taking a pause on Ridley-Thomas motions to vote on other stuff while Board staff works on amendments to Leimert Station motion.  Items #2 and #2 pass in moments with almost no debate.  See the full agenda here.

1:18 – A whole bunch of stuff has passed while they try and get the motions and amendments in order for the Leimert Park Station notice.  The highlight is the day pass was just reduced from $6 to $5, returning to 2009 levels.  Now they’ve moved on to the Wilshire BOL?  Woah.

1:48 – It’s nearly time to start making dinner.  The Wilshire Bus Only Lane Debate is still in public comment.  The Brentwood Community Council has a new wrinkle: the project needs a new environmental review because it will shrink sidewalks near the V.A.

2:05 – Board passes the 7.7 mile route from Downtown to Beverly Hills and Brentwood surrounding the 405 entrance.  If City Council doesn’t pass the same route, the two bodies will go in to negotiation.  Vote breakdown: L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar abstained, Molina was absent, everyone else was present and voted “yeah.”

2:23 – “Katz motion” passes allowing Leimert Park Station to be built at-grade.  Below grade if it falls in the budget.  I’m a little confused, but we’ll publish motion when we get a copy.

3:05 – I’m sure it will be available on the Metro website soon, but here is the “Katz motion” on the Leimert Park Station.  Thanks to Rick Jaeger at Metro.

3:09 – The press release that the Board passed the budget without amendments just came through the wires.  Since I didn’t follow the budget debate, the text is available after the jump.

Metro directors today adopted a $4.145 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011.

The budget will keep Metro fares at current levels, however, the Metro Board today approved lowering the cost of the Metro day pass from $6 down to $5 for a one year test starting Aug. 1 to help attract commuters and others squeezed by rising gas prices.

In FY 12 Metro will trim some unproductive bus lines that were either underutilized or that duplicate service operated by Metro, the municipal bus operators or by the expanding Metro Rail system. Trains are being tested for the first phase of the Expo light rail line that will run from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City past USC. An opening date has not yet been announced but it should be soon.

Metro CEO Art Leahy stressed that Metro is not skimping on maintenance or on street supervision and is focused on improving on time performance, equipment reliability and cleanliness. He also said he is positioning the agency to strategically add service where it’s needed and to give commuters and others more incentives to beat the high price of gas. Service is being added to the Silver Line express bus service from the South Bay into downtown Los Angeles, the Metro Gold Line and the Metro Red Line subway. In addition, Metro will be adding service on selected bus lines to ease overcrowding.

For the third year in a row, the budget assumes no wage increase for employees. However, Metro is negotiating new contracts with its major labor unions representing operators, maintenance employees and clerks.

The FY 12 budget is $247 million or 6.3 percent more than the current $3.898 billion Metro budget. This reflects a significant expansion of the Measure R program in the next fiscal year. In 2008 more than 2 million Los Angeles County voters approved the Measure R half cent sales tax to advance a dozen major transit projects and 15 highway projects. In the new fiscal year Metro will be spending $1.164 billion on Measure R projects and programs compared to $889 million this fiscal year.

In addition, Metro will be spending $22 million to operate the new Expo light rail line in FY 12.

Sixty percent of the budget will be spent on enhancing the Metro bus and rail system, including tackling deferred maintenance that, in past years, helped plug spiraling operating deficits. Metro also will be purchasing hundreds of new buses and light rail vehicles, and it is investing in such major bus improvements as an extension of the Metro Orange Line busway to Chatsworth now under construction.

Metro also has purchased Union Station to ensure that this historic facility is both preserved and developed to usher in a new transportation future for Los Angeles County including room for bus and rail expansion and a hub for high speed rail.

Another 35 percent of the budget will deliver the rail and highway capital program, which will create more than 500,000 jobs and galvanize the sluggish economy. Trains on the new Expo light rail line to Culver City are being tested, and the second phase of Expo to Santa Monica is about to break ground. Construction of the Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line to Azusa is in the construction phase. Within a year construction should begin for the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line with other rail projects in the immediate queue.

Moreover, a spate of highway projects is underway from adding a northbound carpool lane on the I-405 between the Westside and San Fernando Valley to widening the I-5 freeway from the Orange County Line to the I-605.

And the remaining 5 percent of the budget will be for developing real time customer information such as Nextrip that uses GPS technology to track when buses will arrive, preparing the Metro workforce for the next generation, ensuring financial sustainability and advancing Metro’s environmental efforts.

There are risk factors for the budget. Metro is not immune to the state and federal budget woes that could cut transportation funding. The economy is still shaky, and collective bargaining agreements with Metro unions are still being negotiated.

Metro funding comes largely from local transportation sales tax revenue along with transit assistance and grants from the state and federal governments, farebox revenue, and other revenue sources such as advertising, land leases and commercial filming.

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  • As Joel C. noted in a comment at The Source you can listen in by calling (213) 922-6045

    http://thesource.metro.net/2011/05/26/metro-board-meeting-underway-2/

  • Alex

    I hope both get approved. This would show that at least Metro cares about the poorer communities that they have so often undeniably ignored. Before my comment turns into the catalyst for a shitstorm, let me point out that I am not calling Metro racist or anything like that. All I am saying is that it is pretty clear that Metro is assuming that people will ride in the poorer communities no matter the quality of the rail system, and by assuming so aren’t trying so hard to attract them with higher quality rail systems. This isn’t really fair, and should change.

  • Matt

    Putting a subway here is silly and will have lasting consequences.  Every community will want one, and that $400M is going to have to come from some place.  That means less of a chance of a future extension to the Purple Line that would actually make this marginal line pretty useful.  I can live with Leimert Park station as I think there probably should be one there, but Crenshaw is already over its budget and it is pretty sad that the Regional Connector had to lose a major station in the heart of the financial district but this gets approved and yet this community feels it is getting the short end of the stick.  If anything it is the opposite.

  • Darrell

    Zev Yaroslavsky emphasized how he opposed undergrounding Expo phase 2 to keep within its budget, but now another project is asking for special treatment.

    Mel Wilson focused in great detail on the impacts of where the money would be taken from, suggesting the Mayor’s people will oppose.
    Richard Katz: “I’m probably the only board member who attended Audubon Jr. High.” “The raid on the money” relating to Metrolink safety. “In the Valley … the place over the hill … we have BRT … we’d love to have a ‘substandard’ LRT line.” Moving 24,000 people a day on BRT (much more than Eastside or Crenshaw). “We don’t have enough [$] anywhere in L.A. County.” “I have been stunned by inability … to look beyond their own areas.”
    Both favor a station at Leimert Park without taking money from other projects.
    Najerian: “What we have here is a dangerous step toward parochialism.” “… risk breaking the bond of consensus.” Except could offer “… the tens of billions of dollars that would be wasted on a 710 tunnel.”
    Re talk about voter support for Measure R in the Crenshaw area, how about West Hollywood that are getting nothing from the Wilshire subway extension? But could be served by extension of Crenshaw?

  • Darrell

    Anyone know the vote #s on undergrounding?

  • Darrell

    More from listing to the Metro phone feed:

    Vote first on undergrounding Park Mesa Heights, then on Leimert Park station.
    Undergrounding vote: Failed.
    Katz substitute motion on Leimert Park station: 1. Include Leimert Park Vernon station as a bid option (baseline; unfinished box; finished station)2. Design-build contract … if less Leimert Park station can be included for less than the adopted $1.7B budget3. If cannot be built be built for less than $1.7B, initiate SEIS for an at-grade 48th Street station … seek other non-New Starts funding.

    MRT: does not interpret amendment as “friendly”. Proceed with include Leimert Park station in baseline project … bidders include prices for options.

    According to Streetsblog Twitter, voting for undergrounding were only Ridley-Thomas, Molina, and Antonovich.

    Will table 30 minutes or so for MRT to discuss motion.

  • Anonymous

    This claim seems to be made frequently, but I don’t really see how it reflects the Metro rail system as it exists.  Leaving aside the fact that Leimert Park, while being very culturally important, is not actually a poor neighborhood, let’s look at the existing rail system:

    The Red and Purple lines are the only fully underground routes and they both serve some very poor (and very very dense) communities.  Were Hollywood, Downtown and Koreatown wealthy when those lines were conceived/built?  Can they really be considered wealthy now?  Are the other communities they serve (e.g. Westlake, East Hollywood, …) not poor enough by some standard?  The Purple line will eventually extend into some objectively not-poor communities, but that line is undeniably underground by necessity, not because of class issues.

    The only underground portion of the Gold Line is in Boyle Heights.  The wealthy areas served by the Gold line are all served at-grade, except where it runs on the freeway (perhaps the worst of all possible options for riders).The Orange line runs through some pretty not-poor neighborhoods and has high ridership (much higher than Crenshaw line projections), but that corridor apparently didn’t merit rail of any quality.  It was decided long ago that Orange line style BRT wasn’t good enough for the Crenshaw line.

    There are no underground sections on Expo II (despite the relatively wealthy communities it serves), and the grade separations on the route are predominantly existing features of the right of way.  The grade separations on Expo I are mostly in lower income communities.  The regional connector will literally benefit the entire region by connecting disparate lines that serve a tremendous diversity of neighborhoods.  It’s a real struggle to find examples of bias/inequity within the rail system itself.

    This is an entirely different matter from the BRU argument that building rail at the expense of bus service is inherently discriminatory, but that argument isn’t really relevant to Crenshaw line design, is it?

  • Anonymous

    Woohoo for cheaper passes.  Now if only they added TAP fare capping so that we could make use of them without hassling with the TVMs.

  • Anonymous

    The part where they would narrow sidewalks isn’t in the City of L.A. Not sure how/if that changes anything, but it’s an interesting wrinkle, given that the BCC members live in L.A.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-3ckEgnPgOwI/TbD1lFGZtzI/AAAAAAAA5o4/9u_EULsR3Rw/s1600/Los-Angeles-Neighborhood-Map-2.jpg

  • I would hazard what will happen is the open trench station Metro staff say is a viable option, as I noted in comments to a previous post…

    http://la.streetsblog.org/2011/05/05/overwhelming-enthusiasm-for-leimert-park-station/

  • Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was rocked by major defeats today at the Metro Board meeting.  This despite all the supporters that he and FixExpo bussed in (via charter buses) to the board meeting. 

    After hours of discussion, his motion was divided in two, and then the ridiculous, costly Park Mesa tunnel was defeated. And in the end, his confusion about parliamentary procedure (you cannot legally make backroom deals, as Pam O’Connor pointed out) gave his opponents a chance to get the upper hand, and this resulted in passage of Leimert Park station with more strict language for cost-containment.

  • Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was rocked by major defeats today at the Metro Board meeting.  This despite all the supporters that he and FixExpo bussed in (via charter buses) to the board meeting. 

    After hours of discussion, his motion was divided in two, and then the ridiculous, costly Park Mesa tunnel was defeated. And in the end, his confusion about parliamentary procedure (you cannot legally make backroom deals, as Pam O’Connor pointed out) gave his opponents a chance to get the upper hand, and this resulted in passage of Leimert Park station with more strict language for cost-containment.

  • The Park-Mesa tunnel was defeated because it was fundamentally unfair, and no amount of demands and threats from MRT’s constituents can make it fair.  The Crenshaw Line already has more than its share of grade separation, and already costs far more per mile than any other light rail line in Los Angeles, present or future.  Add to that the abysmal ridership projections, and Crenshaw should be thankful it’s getting anything at all (unlike the Valley, which only gets BRT.)

    Moreover, passage of MRT’s motion would have created a very bad precedent, where anyone claiming privilege, past discrimination or other special circumstances could demand a grade separation. This would become a never-ending battle, leading to more and more projects being gold-plated, like this one, and constant fights for the money which was supposedly already allocated to specific projects by the language of Measure R.

    The Metro Board did the right thing to defeat this wasteful proposal.

  • Anonymous

    Glad to see the bus only lane project get approval. Wasn’t Rosendhal only going to vote for the 5.4 mile route? Did he actually vote Yes for the 7.7 mile route?

  • Marcotico

    He who shall not be named –  lest a digressive flame war erupt – made an interesting point on the presentation he prepared, and was linked to on the Streetsblog news.  If and when the Crenshaw Line connects Hollywood to San Pedro, most of the line will be grade separated, except for a speed bump in the middle where it is at-grade, and crossing ungated intersections.  Luckily this will be 100 years from now, and most of us will be dead, so we won’t be around to hear people say, Why on earth did they design it this way? 

    Then again they’ll be saying that about all kinds of pieces of the ad hoc LA rail system. 

  • Anonymous

    This was the Metro Board vote. Rosendahl is is on the LA City Council, who will be taking up the issue next. 

  • Anonymous

    With full MR-T implementation, The Source is saying the cost would be $2.2 billion for a projected ridership of 20,000.

    That’s $110,000 per rider. There’s gotta be a better way to move people around.

  • Quite a day. Thanks for the link to the motion, Damien.

  • Anonymous

    Three cheers for Damien for the excellent coverage!

  • Juan Matute

    Damien – thank you for covering this on your day off.

  • Have you ever ridden the San Diego trolley between downtown and old town? It goes over a street and then immediately plunges under one, giving you a roller coaster like ride. Because various neighborhoods demanded grade separations. Just another aspect of that this is a dynamic public process…

  • Anonymous

    Right Damien, Only IIRC the San Diego Trolley dips under the street(s) while the Coaster/Surfliner tracks remain at grade.  Oh well!

  • Anonymous

    @AlecMitchell:disqus :  The technology chosen for the Red/Purple Line (high-platform and third-rail power) dictates that it must be grade-seperated throughout.  It can run and was planned to be built elevated in addition to subway, but if it runs at grade, it would need to be fenced off and have no grade-crossings, lest anyone wander onto the tracks and make contact with 750 Volts (IIRC) Direct Current.

  • The dude abides

    WIth all the mentions of MRT I thought the board came up with a new type of transit system called Money Rail Transit, where it goes anywhere they want because they spend other project monies. In the end I am glad MRT got shot down. We need to stop politicians from making poor transit decisions a la Waxman and Zevie.

  • Darrell

    First, Los Angeles will never have an extensive rail network that includes a Hollywood-South Bay line if every piece must be in subway.

    Second, although pieces of Crenshaw-Hollywood will be in subway where there’s no surface right-of-way, others likely will be at-grade in the median of San Vicente Blvd.

  • I’m glad the wasteful subway was defeated. I’m for the station at Leimart Park but MRT should have worked to find money from another source and then come to the table for the station, rather than stick his hand out and demand other parts of the county pay for his pet project from Measure R funds. 

  • Anonymous

    Darrell Good luck getting Carthay Circle residents on board with tearing out those mature trees in the median. Maybe you could run the train in the middle two lanes straddling the median and limit some left turn movements.

    I’m in favor of sending it underground at Fairfax and turning north there, with stops at Wilshire, Beverly, Santa Monica, Sunset and then Hollywood & Highland.

  • Can’t complain about a single decision made in this meeting. Thank you Damien for your excellent coverage.

  • Jerard Wright

    The speed bump won’t affect the capacity and demand for this line in this section because of the stop station, provided there’s no competitive freeway between Hollywood and South Bay, this line even with a 1.0mile at-grade section in the middle will have good speed. 

    The only way you’d need to place this underground or grade separated is for capcity purposes at Crenshaw/Saluson, untill then… build it as designed.

  • “he technology chosen for the Red/Purple Line (high-platform and third-rail power) dictates that it must be grade-seperated throughout. ”

    There are some systems with a third-rail that do include at-grade crossings.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/capwell/5636482573/

  • Dennis Hindman

    Great job in your reporting on this Damien.

    I was rather shocked to see every Metro board member in attendence for the first item, which was the Crenshaw Line. The talking, snack or bathroom breaks for them seemed to come when people would testify. Director Molina bailed sometime after item 1 was finished.

    I was one of perhaps two speaking against the increased funding for the Crenshaw Line to add more tunneling to this project. A finite amount of money will be available for funding Measure R projects and this item would increase spending by 30% over the already allocated $1.7 billion for the Crenshaw transit line to about $2.2 billion. I pointed out that this is almost 5 times more per mile than the Orange Line extension that includes a bridge over Lassen St. This increased funding over the Orange Line BRT extension per mile could build about 39 miles of BRT, including a bridge built every four miles and the ridership would likely be well over four times what the rail line will generate. Yet even with this increased funding, the projected ridership for the Crenshaw Line is no more than the Orange Line per mile.

     It seemed odd to me that the project had to be rail and yet there was enough fear from board members Thomas-Ridley and Molina about the safety of rail they believed it should only be elevated or put under ground. It’s much more likely someone would get hit by a car rather than a train along this corridor and yet there was no complaints coming forth about this. Train crashes are much more spectacular though and generate more attention in the press.

    Judging from the Orange Line, the street changes that are likely to be made to prevent car collisons with the train will translate into increased crosswalk safety for pedestrians or bicyclists when it comes to autos.

  • WKC

    I’m somewhat confused by the passion of the same few people who argue for at-grade crossings and appear offended by those who argue for grade separation.

    Any person who regularly crosses the Slauson/Crenshaw intersection knows that an at-grade crossing there is what is insane.

    It should be no mystery as to why the people who live in the community and cross the intersection want it grade separated.  Getting through that intersection can be as bad as getting through most intersections on the Westside.  It should have been from the beginning, because it’s a traffic nightmare today.

    I’m also confused by those who are offended by the project cost.  This project has become costly not because community groups have demanded changes, because grade separation has become required at several intersections along the way because traffic is pretty insane in this city.  Does this really surprise people?

    If we want train lines that are cheap, then we should just build them on the outskirts of the county like the San Gabriel Valley and Chatsworth.  But if you’re trying to build them in the middle of urban areas, unless you’re planning on using abandoned right-of-ways like Expo, which is an embarrassment in itself with at-grade crossings at Vermont, Western and Crenshaw, you have to invest in grade separation.

  • Anonymous

    We need the Crenshaw Line to be rail because it will eventually be the north-south rail line between Hollywood, West Hollywood, Wilshire, Crenshaw, South LA, LAX/Century and South Bay. Ridership will rival and possibly exceed the Blue Line. The initial segment is projected to be 20,000, but future extensions will make this line significantly useful.

  • “Any person who regularly crosses the Slauson/Crenshaw intersection knows that an at-grade crossing there is what is insane.”
    Then your bone of contention should be with Metro’s grade separation policy.

    http://www.buildexpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/13_ExpoFarmdale_FinalEA_Appdx_M.pdf

  • “Any person who regularly crosses the Slauson/Crenshaw intersection knows that an at-grade crossing there is what is insane.”
    Then your bone of contention should be with Metro’s grade separation policy.

    http://www.buildexpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/13_ExpoFarmdale_FinalEA_Appdx_M.pdf

  • GB

    I am quite familiar with Crensaw/Slauson and I have to say a light rail station will do wonders for that intersection.  If your goal is to keep cars moving through the intersection as fast as possible, taking insanely tight and fast right turns *while people are trying to cross,* (seriously, nearly been hit by an inattentive right-turning driver more than once at this intersection) then of course an at-grade station seems wrong.
     
    Crenshaw is a horrible street to cross because the street is too wide and the pedestrian signal is way too short.  Even with the existing pedestrian bulb-outs it’s still a very long intersection with a whole lot of people (in particular kids from nearby schools) crossing it.  If there was a station in the median there would be a pedestrian island, a narrower street (slower cars), and other such improvements which would actually make the intersection MUCH SAFER for all those kids.
      
    As for the cost, it’s hard for people to stomach since the line has such low ridership projections.  Most people seem to support a Leimert Park Station since it’s clearly the cultural heart of the community even though adding the station costs more.  In that case the cost is seen as justified by the intangible values of community and pedestrian connectivity.  The proposed Park Mesa Heights Tunnel, though, is less supported.  With other subway projects like the Purple Line extension or a possible Vermont Ave subway showing far greater potential for ridership, it seems illogical to spend so much excess money to tunnel on a corridor like Crenshaw which clearly doesn’t need it and will initially offer low ridership and limited connectivity for the rest of the region.
     
    Finally, just have to point out that the streetcar used to run right down the middle of Crenshaw so there’s a clear precedent for at-grade rail in the area.

  • Dan W.

    I do hope they come up with the money for the Leimert Park station.

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