Uncertainty About Federal and State Funds Tempers Measure R Enthusiasm

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Anyone worried that the Metro Board of Directors, with an estimated $40 billion in hand to spend over the next 30 years, was going to break the bank right out of the bank can breathe a sigh of relief.  Concerns over federal and state funding measures, and how it impacts our plans for Measure R funds locally, dominated the debate at today’s Board Meeting.

On the federal level, both organizations and the Board pledged to work towards a re-authorization of the Federal Transportation Trust Fund that would pledge more funds towards transit and projects that encourage alternative transportation as opposed to just highway projects with a small set-aside for transit.  Even the Bus Rider’s Union was on board.

Mayor Villaraigosa also led a discussion on how a true stimulus package, if the Obama administration is serious about stimulating hte economy be investing a lot of money in infrastructure, should focus on projects that alrady have a local match available.  Villaraigosa argues that then the federal dollars would actually multiply if they were allocated for projects in areas where people actually have money to spend on transit projects.  In other words, because LA County has the highest tax dedicated towards transportation, the federal government should reward us by finally investing in Los Angeles as we deserve.

The Board’s concerns with the state are less, "are we going to get the new funds we deserve" and more the "is Schwarzenegger going to rob transit to balance the budget…again…" variety.  With the state budget crisis constantly looming, and the Governor’s history of robbing funds "dedicated" to transit to balance the budget; the Board has decided to move cautiously on it’s bus expansion plans so that if the governor robs transit operating subsidies…again…they will be able to cover the backlog without hiking fares.  So, for now, the dreams of bus-only lanes running throughout the city have to be put on hold while we wait for the state to figure out their budget mess.

In the meantime, Metro is going to focus on creating a new bus plan to spend the $8 billion in Measure R funds provided they don’t need to cover any shortfalls in state allocations.  The text of the Mayor’s initial resolution to make a new bus plan can be found after the jump.

VILLARAIGOSA MOTION that the MTA Board of Directors:
A. Direct the CEO to solicit feedback through the Service Sectors on what type of bus service improvements are wanted by the public by February 2009
B. Provide to the MTA Board and municipal operators by March 2009 with an estimate of the MTA and municipal operator portions of Measure R 20% using the formula allocation procedure (FAP)
C. Direct the CEO to coordinate with the municipal operators to avoid service duplication or other inefficiencies, including requesting information on how each municipal operator intends to spend its portion of Measure R 20% funds
D. Direct the CEO to report back during the March 2009 Board cycle with recommendations for a new “Bus System Improvement Plan” for MTA’s portion of Measure R 20% funding that considers, but is not limited to:
1. New clean fuel bus purchases
2. Additional fare freeze or fare reduction
3. Added bus lines
4. More frequent service
5. Longer hours of operation

Photo: StuckinSuburbia4/Flickr

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