Welcome to The Source

Dear Reader:

Welcome aboard Metro’s newest creation, The Source.

As many of you are probably keenly aware, taxpayers and Metro passengers spend a lot of money each year – more than $3 billion — to keep this agency running. That’s a big pile of dough by any measure.

To put it another way, each weekday Metro is charged with providing more than one million bus and train rides, making it the third largest transit agency in the nation. The agency also spends millions of dollars each year improving roads across Los Angeles County. If you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B in the county, Metro is likely involved in your journey.

As a former newspaper reporter who covered this agency, my vision is to use The Source as a way to better explain and illuminate what’s happening here and to do so in a way that isn’t boring. I’ll be editing The Source and mostly writing about policy and planning — i.e. projects that the agency is building, preparing to build and is dreaming of building.

In addition, my colleague Fred Dennstedt will be writing frequently about his life without a car in Los Angeles County and how he relies on public transit to get around. Some of you may already know Fred who blogs as Fred Camino at MetroRiderLA.com. For the record, I admire his altruism. And, for the record, I do not intend to get rid of my Subaru Outback. Ever. [UPDATE]  Fred moved to NYC in November 2011 and will occasionally contribute to The Source.

The Source will regularly feature a roundup of transportation across the region and nation, memos from Metro CEO Art Leahy and press releases about many of the agency’s programs. We will also feature videos and other materials produced by the agency — and do our best to put all that stuff in the proper context.

As for subjects to write about, there is no shortage at the moment. Here are a few:

•The $899-million Eastside Gold Line looks to be on track to debut in November. It will be the fifth rail line the agency has opened since 1990, in addition to the Orange Line busway in the San Fernando Valley.

•Metro is lobbying the Obama Administration and Congress for billions of dollars in federal aid to build the Westside subway extension, downtown regional connector light rail line and high-speed rail tracks from Los Angeles to Anaheim. But is anyone in Washington listening?

•After many, many months of debate, the Metro Board is scheduled to vote Thursday on a long-range plan that details which big road and transit projects the agency intends to build in the coming years.

And then there’s Measure R, the transportation sales tax increase that 68 percent of the voters in the county approved last November. Among the Measure R projects are some biggies, and there’s a measure of controversy attached to some: the subway to Westwood, widening of the 5 freeway in the southeastern portion of the county, linking the Green Line to LAX, bringing the Orange Line busway to Chatsworth and extending the Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa.

Explaining what’s happening at Metro hasn’t always been easy. In the past, it was largely the job of a once vibrant media. But things have rapidly changed.

Local media has taken more than a few hits (I was one casualty although I prefer to look at it as the long-awaited liberation of my soul ). At the same time, the Internet has provided government a way to directly speak to taxpayers without having to go through the media. No longer can government complain the middleman got it wrong or wasn’t interested in doing a story.

Readers will naturally wonder if an agency can honestly write about itself. Here’s what I can tell you: The agency still very much wants and needs press coverage and invites and needs outside scrutiny. As for the Source,  I’m not here to invent some new form of propaganda, nor am I the agency’s new inspector general. The goal is to honestly and fairly explain how Metro works.

The Source will not be accepting reader comments. I don’t want Metro to be liable for erroneous information that may end up in comments and I want those of us involved with The Source spending our time providing content, not fact-checking the comments. The Source will regularly be taking questions from readers and we’ll try to share the best and most relevant of those with you. We can be emailed at thesource@metro.net. Regular run-of-the-mill questions about service should be sent to customerrelations@metro.net.

And so the adventure begins. Please let us know how we’re doing and thanks for reading.