Advocates Make the Case for More Federal Funding for Southern California Transit and Bikeways

2_19_10_zane.jpgFlanked by advocates, Denny Zane of Move L.A. leads this morning’s rally. For more photos, visit LA Streetsblog/Flickr

Before the kickoff of the "Transportation Reauthorization Outreach Tour," this morning at the Metro Board Room in Downtown Los Angeles, a diverse collection of advocates made the case that the federal dollars that have recently alluded clean transportation projects in Southern California should start flowing here now.

The press conference was hosted by Denny Zane, the longtime transit advocate and the architect of the successful campaign to pass Measure R, the half cent sales tax for transit projects that passed in November of 2008.  Joining Zane at the podium were the leaders of two labor groups, with nearly a dozen more represented in the audience, the Clean Air Coalition, Smart Growth America, the American Lung Association, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and CALPIRG.  Despite the visible presence of cyclists, the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition wasn’t included at the podium.  At least the needs of cyclists were mentioned by most of the speakers.

At one point, Zane rhetorically asked when was the last time "you saw labor, business and environmental interests working together," referencing the coalition that managed to secure a two-thirds vote of support for Measure R in 2008.  More important than Zane’s ability to bring his friends from a year and a half ago back together was the presence of the BRU, who opposed Measure R, and Bike Coalition,  who did not take an official position on supporting or opposing
Measure R, but have been active in efforts in getting bicycle and
pedestrian set-aside funding for Los Angeles from Measure R.

The bulk of the statements focused on the "30 in 10" plan, that would see the construction of all thirty years worth of Measure R transit projects in the next decade.  To see this plan to fruition, there would need to be changes to federal law and new federal programs, such as the creation of an infrastructure bank, that would allow Metro to borrow against future tax revenues to fund rail and Bus Rapid Transit projects in the short term.

Richard Slawson, of the LA/OC Building and Trades Council, referenced a map, prepared by Metro, showing that the agency is receiving $0 in the 2011 federal budget.   "We need to turn this trend around!…With Washington’s help, we can build thirty years of projects in ten."  Zane added, "We have the people, we have the plan, and we have forty billion in sales tax dollars in the next thirty years."

Of course, other groups brought different interests.  Speaking on behalf of CALPIRG, Erin Steva made the pitch for better funding for California’s High Speed Rail, a position that makes sense not just for Californians, but for all Americans."High Speed Rail is critical to California’s future…We need commitment from our leaders to get this project on track after years of falling behind other countries in developing working High Speed Rail."

Francisca Porchas, of the Bus Rider’s Union made the case that the federal government needs to step up as state’s step back when it comes to funding transit operations.  Porchas pointed not just to local problems, but deficits in Chicago and New York that are leading to cuts and hikes across the country.  Porchas’ presence and testimony was interesting because for too long the battle between advocates seeking a more robust rail network and those seeking a more affordable bus network have been at odds in Los Angeles; and the BRU’s presence at what was billed as a "30 in 10" event could be a major moment in local transportation history.  I filmed Porchas’ comments and when YouTube is done downloading the video, we’ll link to it here and at the twitter feed.

Now that the advocacy community has stated its case, it’s up to the elected leaders and VIP’s at the meeting to state there’s in the meeting.  Also, Senator Boxer and Secretary LaHood will be holding their own press conference in fifteen minutes, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the advocates concerns expressed earlier.

  • “… BRU’s presence at what was billed as a “30 in 10″ event could be major moment in local transportation history”

    It is startling. On the other hand at one point under some pressure from various left interests Eric Mann puiblicly said Metro has complied with the initial requirements of the consent decree. Only to disavow/deny the following day having said what he had just said. And having cameras present sometimes trumps all else. For the moment.

    Hey, politics sometimes means today’s foe is tomorrow’s ally. SO.CA.TA and the BRU have cooperated in a few instances (like the Rapid on San Fernando Road debacle). If they want to help in getting a public restroom for the Artesia Transit Center we’d welcome their assistance.

  • S.S. Sam Taylor

    It is great to see everyone at the Dog and Pony Show. Meanwhile in Sacramento, the Senate and the Governor are working on a plan that will remove huge amounts of transit operating support. The problem: with the new federal regulations, a transit property must show that they can operate the service before getting a grant. The way the state proposal is set up, most transit operators will not be able to show that they can run what they have. So the Governor and the Senate have screwed up the chance to get grants to build system expansions.

    Meantime, while Rome burns, the masses are duped into believing that there will be Federal Funds, but there is the catch 22. Sad.

  • S.S. Sam Taylor, the federal requirements that you describe are nothing new and in fact quite sensible. I rather think you are overstating the situation and in any case nothing is a set in 95814. Yeah, they likely will rob us blind but the scenario you outline is the least of our problems as fare increases and service cuts roil the transit landscape (and have for the past few years).

  • Aww come on, sidelines? Bicyclists get screwed on every level, even with federal projects, so it’s hard to have anything substantial that’s ready to go to stump about. But that didn’t stop us from being an essential part of the question and answer dialogue inside this meeting.

  • Hank

    did anyone from the LACBC speak? I thought they organized this.

  • How did you guys get inside the meeting? The Bus Bench RSVPd we didn’t get in. I’m not sure what criteria was used for who got in and who didn’t get in. Does anyone know?


  • Browne,

    I just asked where the press sign in was and filled out a form at the table. Didn’t even bother with the RSVP process.

  • Aww come on, sidelines? Bicyclists get screwed on every level, even with federal projects, so it’s hard to have anything substantial that’s ready to go to stump about. But that didn’t stop us from being an essential part of the question and answer dialogue inside this meeting.

    I was just referring to the Measure R debate, and I believe, because the Metro Board wouldn’t put a set-aside for bike-ped projects, that the LACBC didn’t take a position either formally or informally. Not that I blame them, I was pretty annoyed at Metro for that also.

  • It’s definitely something that bicyclists have to push for as this conversation for billions of dollars in rail and transit starts to really catch on–we need to effectively make the case that transit will never take off in this country if it doesn’t abandon it’s reliance on automobile access and begin to embrace bike and ped convenience. That’s the bit we need to run with, that’s how we can finally start to see set asides and the higher ups involved in all this starting to take bikes seriously. None of this big money project stuff is set in stone, none of it is a given success yet and we need to make it clear to these people that if they aren’t building a coalition of bikes, peds, community advocates, livability interests, these things aren’t going to be able to beat out the auto-lobby. In the past it seems transit has been happy to park-and-ride themselves to insignificance, or build stations and stops that make people feel like their in somekind of horror flick. Those days have to end and they begin with more money for bikes and peds built into each and every major, minor, past, present and future transit project.

    LACBC didn’t put this event together, though I believe every bicyclist there was rallied by the Bike Coalition.

  • Samantha

    Wow. Those are some nice posters.

  • LACBC has taken a formal and informal position that we want the 10% for bike/ped from Measure R and have been pushing for it for months now with the Mayor and with Councilmembers. Not sure where you get the notion that we have not taken a stance on this.

  • To clarify…LACBC organized the bicycle rally, not the press conference, to highlight the need to prioritize funding for bike projects in the Transportation Bill.

    Based on comments I received from the Secretary for Transportation Policy of USDOT, our strong presence, both visibly and vocally at the press conference and during the hearing made a big impact on them.

    Thanks to ALL who showed up to rally and who spoke up at the hearing. time we get a voice at the podium, as we deserve!

  • Ok, here’s the sentence again:
    More important than Zane’s ability to bring his friends from a year and a half ago back together was the presence of the BRU, who opposed Measure R, and Bike Coalition, who sat on the sidelines.

    The point…that two groups who were not vocally supporting the passage of Measure R were at the press conference yesterday, the stated purpose of which from the person running the press conference was to support the “30 in 10” plan. To the best of my knowledge, the LACBC didn’t support the passage of Measure R or fight against its passage. Thus “on the sidelines.” If this is unclear on reading it, I’ll happily change the sentence a little.

    Originally, the “bike ped set aside” battle was started here, but that was just to get it as part of the ballot measure and it ultimately failed. However, the LACBC has taken a leadership role in getting the city to follow through with the Mayor’s promise to set aside part of the Local Return from Measure R and has gotten a lot of very positive coverage from Streetsblog for their efforts which look as though they’re going to ultimately be successful.

  • Rail isn’t racist anymore or what?

  • Te amo Spokker.

  • Damien, thanks for the blog and the mention of Francisca’s comments. I wanted to clarify that the BRU is NOT supportive of the 30-10 acceleration plan. We did see this as an opportunity to raise concerns and pose questions to US DOT around transit operations.

    Aurisha, LACBC presence was felt and seen both in side and outside of the boardroom, great comment during the hearing!

  • Both the BRU and Transit Riders for Public Transportation are allies of Transportation 4 America and have been working together to create more flexibility around operations which is a strong point of unity.

  • So rail is still racist?

  • francisca porchas

    No BRU person has said that MTA has complied with Consent Decree. I participated in the press conference, which was specifically on the Federal Surface Transportation Act and our particular point of Unity with T4A and other allies was increasing funds to operate the system.

    Thanks Denny and T4A for working together to push this particular conversation on operations forward locally and nationally.



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