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Measure R

Our Transit Advocate’s Take: Is Metro Ready for “30 in 10?”

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

Last week, Streetsblog dared ask the question to our city and Metro leadership, "Is Metro ready for '30 in 10?'"  The answer was a surprising, "maybe not, but the agency is working on making the changes it needs to make."  I have to be honest.  I expected a "yes."

But we didn't just ask Metro and City officials if Metro was ready, but also the activists that work with or advocate to Metro on a regular basis.  For the record, we did ask some of the more critical advocates, such as Damien Goodmon and the Bus Riders Union, as well as "30 in 10" architect Denny Zane but none of them chose to comment.

The range of responses from the community were varied.  Some expressed outright confidence.  Some worried about Metro's ability to attract federal loans without a plan for how the agency will fund operations or how to marshal the necessary resources.  In each case, I have their full responses linked to at Street Heat when I mention the activist's name within this piece.  I should note that when I asked the activists for their opinion, I made mention of a recent City Watch piece by Stephen Box claiming Metro didn't have a chance to complete the all the projects on time.  Some responded directly to the piece, and I removed a lot of that so that this became less about the personalities, and more about Metro.

Kymberleigh Richards, from the Southern California Transit Advocates and the San Fernando Valley Metro Governance Council, went through the timelines for every project on the "30 in 10 list".  Richards finds each of them doable in a ten year timeline, if we assume that money is not an issue because the federal government gives Los Angeles the support it craves.  When i look at the way she broke down the projects, it seems a longshot that all of these breaks will happen at the same time.  But, it is possible, if we assume that the I-405 Connector project is a rapid bus project and not a rail project.

But again, a lot of things have to break Metro's way to complete all this construction in a ten year timeline.  For example, her breakdown for the Green Line connection to LAX reads like this:

Green Line to LAX: While Metro is only in "early planning stages" onthis, a lot of work was done when the Green Line was originally builtand that created a database that can be drawn on for the engineering.That, plus the relatively short length, means that even if the EIR/EISdoesn't happen until 2015 or 2016 it could be operational by decade'send.

The most enthusiastic support for Metro came from Bart Reed, Executive Director of The Transit Coalition, who suggested that the issues with delayed construction is a thing of the past:

...the problems with projects such as the subway in the 1990's happenedbecause of political mistakes and machinations and lack of corporateconstruction experience. At this time with projects built under thecurrent two management teams (Snoble and Leahy), it is unlikely torepeat some of those mistakes from the 90's, as most have learned theirlessons.

Reed also thinks the separate authorities for some projects helps relieve some of the pressure off Metro:

In reality, all these projects are staggered in delivery. And Expo andFoothill Gold are under construction by different constructionauthorities. Metro is currently building the Orange Line extension,with the next project in queue being the Crenshaw Line. Crenshaw isvery much like the Eastside Gold Line, which Metro built on-time,safely and on-budget.

The big, complex Connector and Subwaywon't break ground for about 4 years. The same folks that did theEastside Gold Line can handle these two projects. The other projectssuch as the Green Line to LAX and to the Southbay will start after that.

Similarly, Ken Alpern, the Board Chair of the Transit Coalition, expresses optimism in Metro's overall competence, even though he later expresses that he doesn't think Metro can pull off completing "30 in 10":

Do I take issue with Metro on key points at times? Of course, butoverall I think that David Mieger and Renee Berlin and Jody Litvak andRoderick Diaz and Alan Patashnick and the bunch are doing a great job.I think that the Foothill Gold and Expo Authorities are carrying theirown from their end of things, and I think we've replaced one great CEOwith another great CEO.

But he raises the issue of whether or not Metro can afford to operate all of these new lines, and whether that issue will doom their efforts to earn loans in Washington, D.C.

A much greater and real threat is state underfunding of transitoperations...but at this time the folks at Metro are doing a prettygood job with the tools they've been given.

Jerard Wright, Vice-President the Transit Coalition and Chair of the Central-Westside Metro Metro Governance Council, takes Alpern's worry a big step farther.

No, that battle needs to be figured out or at the very least have apreliminary plan of attack at this early stage or the very least haveoptions on the table to make that possible because one of the piecesthat will make a difference in securing an infrastructure bank loan arewhere's the money to operate the service? This is no different thensecuring a business loan, they need to know where your revenue iscoming from and if you can afford to operate at the levels that areneeded.

Streetsblog contributer Dana Gabbard has a different concern:

There are structural limitations on massive infrastructure projectsthat may be a difficult hurdle to do the work in 10 years even if thefunding stream to do so is in place. Do we have supplies of aggregateand other materials in this state that we would need for the subwayetc., or can transport be arranged?

So summarizing last week's story and this week's there are some serious hurdles for Metro to over come, and that's assuming that the Mayor can pull a rabbit out of the hat in Washington, D.C.  Over the coming weeks, we'll take a more in-depth look at the issues outlined here and last week.

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