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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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