The Los Angeles Times published a story last week that highlighted criticisms of Metro Rail but did not include any quotes from supporters of the program. Here is the letter Metro CEO Art Leahy has sent to the Times in response:
Letters to the Editor
Los Angeles Times
Times Mirror Square
Los Angeles, CA 90053
July 27, 2010
Contrary to critics, Metro has funded a massive expansion of bus service in Los Angeles County. Between 1985 and 2008, annual bus service hours operated by Metro and the municipal bus operators increased from 8.3 million to 11.8 million and the annual cost of operating this service has more than doubled from $572 million to $1.306 billion.
During this same period Metro began constructing a rail system that today carries 327,000 boarding passengers on an average weekday. Our light rail system alone is the nation’s third busiest behind Boston and San Francisco. We also help fund the Metrolink commuter rail network that removes more than 25,000 daily car trips from our congested freeways.
And it’s still not enough.
The reality is that there are a lot more people opting for public transit in the county. Ridership grew 11 percent from 1985 to 2008, according to nationally vetted statistics. But while that gain may have staved off total gridlock, Los Angeles still has the nation’s worst traffic congestion and that has spawned pollution and cost commuters and others dearly in terms of wasted time, energy and money.
Against that backdrop, voters in Los Angeles County have three times approved local transportation sales tax measures that call for bus improvements as well as rail investment because they recognize there’s no single solution to our traffic woes. We need a balanced approach.
The bus and rail systems complement each other. For example, without Metro Rail, the successful Metro Orange Line busway in the San Fernando Valley would not have been viable. In certain busy corridors like Wilshire Boulevard, rail can deliver the extra capacity we need to meet mounting demand, especially if the rail and bus systems are integrated. The Metro Orange Line, Metro Rapid buses and the Silver Line work well because they connect with Metro Rail stations. It is also cheaper to run trains because they are less labor intensive than bus operations so we can stretch scarce operating dollars.
The voters have given Metro a mandate to build an integrated multi-modal transportation system and we’re delivering it with no time to spare.
Metro CEO Art Leahy