Metro Board Preview: LRTP, AnsaldoBreda, Silver Line and Tolls

This week’s Metro Board Meeting, the meeting where much of the transportation related news for the entire month comes to a conclusion, has a lot of interesting items.  Highlighted by the potential passage of the "2009" Long Range Transportation Plan and the potential extension of the AnsaldoBreda light rail car contract.  However, some smaller items, such as a discussion of Asm. Lieu’s proposal to extend HOV access to cars with the magic "fuel efficient" sticker, a setting of the fares for the Silver Line and setting the prices for Metro’s Express Lanes will also be discussed.

7_21_09_imagine.jpgI never imagined it would take this long to pass the plan.

Highlighting the agenda is an expected vote on the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan.  Technically, the LRTP is a document required by the federal government before agencies can request federal funds, but traditionally it is also a visionary document where an agency spells out its priorities and its vision for the growth or transit and transportation in its area.

You may remember that Metro delayed a vote on the 2008 LRTP until this year so that it could take into account whether or not Measure R had passed when creating its project timeline.  Over eight months after the transit tax’s passage, the Board is finally ready to vote on the LRTP.

Or are they?  At a "workshop" on the LRTP last month, then Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa moved to hold off passing the 2009 LRTP until July so that Metro could do more outreach.  Tt had been eighteen months since Imagine campaign had kicked off and the Mayor claimed he wanted to make Metro’s vision clear to county residents before its passage.  If there’s been any new outreach in the last six weeks, I’m not aware of it. Based on email conversations; neither is the Bus Rider’s Union or the Southern California Transit Advocates.  So.CA.TA’s  Dana Gabbard took a humorous look at the lack of any new outreach efforts on behalf of the LRTP.

…previous Plan preparation included convening stakeholder groups to
provide input while the draft plan was being formulated and a round of
public meetings in the region (held in the evenings) on the draft plan
were conducted seeking input.

This current plan has had minimal to no substantive means by which to
comment. A poorly publicized hearing held during a weekday in downtown
L.A. falls far short of what used to be common practice.

That said, I should note the old way of doing things still mostly
resulted in what you would expect they planned to do anyway, so I am
not claiming it was paradise or some such. But at least the niceties
were observed.

As best I can tell, with the exception of the addition of some clarifying language on bicycle and pedestrian funding; the current draft plan is no different than what was presented at last month’s workshop.  So if they weren’t going to change anything, or do more outreach, than what was the point of the delay?  I’m pretty sure they didn’t just hold-up the process so that they could release the new bicycle and pedestrian funding numbers.

7_21_09_ansladobreda.jpgImage: AnsaldoBreda

For the fifth meeting in a row, the fate of Contract No. P2550, the one granting an exclusive right to manufacture light rail cars to the Italian company AnsaldoBreda, will certainly bring fireworks to the meeting.  Because Breda is years behind schedule on its current contract and the cars are too heavy for the tracks, most rail advocates want the contract for new cars to go out to bid.  However, AnsaldoBreda counters that it’s Metro’s fault the cars aren’t built to their specifications and has amassed an army of union workers to press their case.  You see, AnsaldoBreda is promising to build a new rail car factory in L.A. County.  Even though the Board of Directors can’t legally take that into account when awarding a contract, the presence of scores of union workers demanding that the Board "vote for jobs" is too big for any politician to feasibly ignore.

However, hope that the Board might cancel the exclusive arrangement and put future cars construction out to bid received new hope.  An article in today’s Times reports that, Metro CEO Art Leahy sent a letter to the Metro Board asking them to not re-new the contract with AnsaldoBreda.  The LA County Federation of Labor sent a memorandum countering Leahy’s, but it again stresses jobs creation, something that the Metro Board is not legally allowed to consider.

Other items of note include a discussion of whether or not Metro should support efforts to allow more hybrids and other "clean" vehicles to use HOV and HOT Lanes throughout California and whether or not to extend the January 2011 sunset for the hybrid access law.  There is now precedent for allowing "hybrid benefit" laws such as these to retire, as the City of Los Angeles voted last year to end its "free parking for hybrids" program.  You would think with the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis that legislators would be looking for ways to raise money, not ways to hand out more discounts.

Speaking of HOT Lanes, there is also an agenda item on the consent calendar to set the "toll costs" for single passenger vehicles to access the coming "Express Lanes" on the I-10 and I-110.  The fees would be set at a minimum of twenty-five cents a mile and a maximum of $1.40.  Streetsblog will follow-up on this story a little later this week or sometime next week.

And speaking of user fees, the Board will also approve a hearing plan needed to set the fares for the Silver Line Bus Service during the September 24 Board of Directors meeting.  Does anyone want to bet on whether the hearing is held before or after a debate on AnsaldoBreda?

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