A message to our customers and taxpayers from Metro CEO Art Leahy

Metro CEO Art Leahy.

Metro CEO Art Leahy is distributing the following message today to Metro customers and other interested parties. The statement concerns his views on the state of Metro’s transit operations and his views of the proposed service changes in June. A Spanish version follows the below English version:

Since becoming Metro CEO 22 months ago I have taken a hard look at Metro transit operations, ridership and recurring budget deficits. I rode many bus and rail lines, talked to passengers and operators, visited yards and pored over performance data, comparing it to other transit agencies. My experience working in transit for more than 40 years, starting out as a bus operator, helped with my assessment.

I realized we needed to improve service quality to ensure buses arrive on time, and that we cannot survive operating deficits that annually topped $100 million. And we had to recognize that the dynamics of transit in Los Angeles County have changed with the sharp growth of the two dozen municipal bus operators, Metro Rail and Metrolink, as well as voter approval of Measure R, a new half cent sales tax that funds a dozen new transit projects. The new and existing services have to be better integrated. We can’t afford to duplicate service, especially, against the backdrop of the worst economic downturn in 80 years.

So I’ve made organizational changes that emphasize quality over quantity. Today, we have leaner operations, cleaner buses, better on-time performance and fewer breakdowns. As a result, customer complaints in December hit an all time low. But we’re just beginning. We’re ordering new buses, dedicating more resources for major bus maintenance work, such as engine replacements and vehicle overhauls, and also increased road supervision.

We are committed to putting better service on the street in the most efficient manner possible, so all our customers benefit. This means we will move toward a more integrated bus and rail system that doesn’t duplicate service operated by Metro or the other carriers. In the end you will have a more productive bus/rail agency and lower overall costs.

Currently, Metro buses overall run less than half full. By boosting productivity we will make our system sustainable and enable us to improve reliability and performance for you, our customers, and dedicate resources where they are needed most.

This is not an issue of bus versus rail. Both serve the same customers. It is about being a good steward of public resources in managing the entire transportation system – including bus, rail, highways, ridesharing, bike and pedestrian programs.

Proposed bus service economies in June are designed to impact the fewest amount of customers possible. We targeted lines that have very poor ridership or duplicate Metro or municipal bus services. We took great pains to make sure that alternative service is available within a quarter mile if lines or route segments are discontinued.

Our passenger loads will still be less than what bus riders in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and other major cities experience, and Metro fares will remain among the lowest in the country. With this approach, we also will be in a better position to strategically add buses on individual lines if we detect overcrowding as ridership bounces back during the economic recovery.

Ultimately, we will have a great public transit system that draws riders from their cars, eases traffic and makes the air we breathe cleaner, but first we have to better manage today’s transit system. We need to do more with less. That’s why we’re putting a greater emphasis on quality and productivity and balanced budgets so we can deliver to you on that promise.

Here is the statement in Spanish:

Un mensaje para nuestros usuarios y contribuyentes de Art Leahy Presidente Ejecutivo de Metro

Desde que me convertí en el Presidente Ejecutivo hace 22 meses atrás he estado revisando cuidadosamente la operación del servicio de autobuses de Metro, el número de usuarios y los constante déficits del presupuesto. He viajado en muchas líneas de autobuses y trenes, hablado con los pasajeros y conductores, visitado las divisiones de autobuses y trenes y revisado minuciosamente la información del rendimiento, comparando esta información con otras agencias. Mi experiencia trabajando en la industria del transporte público por más de 40 años, comenzando como conductor autobús, me ha ayudado con mi evaluación.

Me he dado cuenta de que necesitamos mejorar la calidad del servicio para asegurar que los autobuses lleguen a tiempo y no podemos sobrevivir los   déficits de operación que anualmente llegan a los 100 millones de dólares. Y tenemos que reconocer que la dinámica del transporte público en el condado de Los Angeles ha cambiado con el agresivo crecimiento de dos docenas de operadores de autobuses municipales, Metro Rail y Metrolink, así como la aprobación por parte de los votantes de la Medida R, un nuevo impuesto a la ventas de medio centavo que financiará una docena de nuevos proyectos para el transporte público. Los nuevos y existentes servicios tienen que estar mejor integrados. No podemos darnos el lujo de duplicar servicios, especialmente, con el peor declive económico de los últimos 80 años.

Así que hice cambios en la organización que hace un énfasis en la calidad sobre la cantidad. Hoy tenemos una operación más ágil, autobuses más limpios, mejoró la llegada a tiempo de los autobuses y pocas descomposturas. Como resultado, las quejas de los usuarios en Diciembre llegaron a su nivel más bajo de todos los tiempos. Pero estamos comenzando. Estamos ordenando nuevos autobuses, dedicando más recursos para el mantenimiento aplazado de autobuses tal como el reemplazo de motores, reparaciones completas de vehículos y un incremento en la supervisión en el camino.

Estamos comprometidos a tener un mejor servicio en las calles de la manera más eficiente posible para beneficio de todos nuestros clientes. Esto significa que vamos a movernos hacia una mejor integración del sistema de autobuses y trenes para que no se duplique el servicio prestado por Metro y otros proveedores. Al final usted tendrá una agencia de autobuses y trenes mas productiva y con costos de operación mas bajos.

Actualmente ofrecemos servicio de autobuses a menos del 50 por ciento de su capacidad real. Al incrementar la productividad haremos nuestro sistema sostenible y nos permitirán mejorar la confiabilidad y desempeño para nuestros usuarios y dedicar recursos donde más se necesitan.

Esto no es un tema de autobús contra tren. Ambos sirven a los mismos pasajeros. Es acerca de ser un buen administrador de los recursos públicos al  administrar el sistema entero de transporte incluyendo autobuses, trenes, carreteras, programas para compartir el viaje, de bicicletas, y de peatones.

Los cambios de servicio propuestos en Junio están diseñados para afectarán posiblemente a la menor cantidad de usuarios. Nos enfocamos en líneas con un número de pasajeros muy bajo o con servicio duplicado por Metro o servicio de autobús municipal. Nos esforzamos en asegurarnos que el servicio alternativo este disponible dentro de un cuarto de milla si la línea o segmento de la ruta es descontinuado.

Nuestra carga de pasajeros serán menor que lo que los usuarios de autobús en Chicago, Filadelfia, Nueva York y otras ciudades importantes experimentan, y las tarifas de Metro permanecen entre las mas bajas del país. Con este enfoque, vamos a estar en una mejor posición para agregar estratégicamente autobuses en líneas individuales si detectamos abarrotamiento cuando el número de usuarios se incremente durante la recuperación económica.

Por último, tendremos un gran sistema de transporte público que atraiga mas pasajeros de sus vehículos, alivie el congestionamiento de tráfico y tengamos un aire más puro para respirar, pero primero tenemos que administra mejor el sistema de transporte público hoy en día. Necesitamos hacer más con menos. Es por eso que estamos poniendo un gran énfasis en la calidad, productividad y un presupuesto balanceado para poder cumplir con usted esa promesa.

Categories: Policy & Funding

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39 replies

  1. Trains did run until 3 AM a few years ago during the holidays and guess what, not too many people used them that late. Its a shame and I would love a 24/7 365 approach yet if its just a few people, not worth it.

    Living in downtown I love the subways, yet for most Southern California residents, it just always doesn’t make sense.

    Looking forward to reading your report.

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  2. Wilton – let them win the battle. In the end, the war will be won to those areas that want rail to their neighborhoods.

    When Tokyo was first laying its track decades ago in the pre-war era, they faced the same NIMBY issue in many neighborhoods. Waaah I don’t want tracks running back through my neighborhood, waaah it’ll split up the community, waaah think of the [insert any lame excuse to derail to project].

    Yet there were equal number of neighborhoods that said, “sure bring it to our neighborhood, it’ll be good for our local economy, it’ll bring lots more people into a concentrated area.”

    What did city planners in Tokyo do? They said “fine, you don’t want it, we won’t build it, but don’t come asking us several years later crying about why they don’t have a line, how their economy is degrading while the guy next station over is booming.”

    The NIMBYs think they won, but in the end those communities that saw the light years down the road saw their local economies boom while those that opposed wondered why they missed out on a terrific opportunity.

    So if BH doesn’t want a rail going through their “Exclusive community,” the heck with them. Let their businesses rot and see what happens when all of their businesses are usurped to 3rd Street Promenade. They don’t want it, no need to even negotiate with them. Less money spent that could be used to fund projects to where communities that support it.

    Why should rail need to go through places they don’t want it anyway? Much better to work together with communities and neighborhoods that are more friendly to rail. People will adjust and when BH wonders why they see less and less people shopping at Century City and more and more people shopping at 3rd Street Promenade, they’ll figure out they didn’t win the battle, they lost the war.

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  3. What LA Metro needs to do to speed up the process is not go step by step at each community meeting saying that rail is coming and hope they’ll go along for it. Seriously, this is what LA Metro lacks: a projection of public relations.

    Instead, they should just bring in all the community leaders in every neighborhood in LA into one big audience hall and give an explanation what the pros and cons of rail. Sure rail sounds good on paper and it may seem everyone wants it, but LA Metro also needs to explain the cons of bringing rail too. Stuff that people don’t think about until the dung hits the fan; right-of-ways, aerials, how it may split the community, what the challenges are to actually bring rail to the community.

    Being more open about the cons from the start is much better than just pitching the pros of rail and then coming up with the “hidden” cons of rail to communities which they backlash with litigation. I’m sure then LA Metro will find that the underlying reason of said litigations are not arrogance, it’s the public anger of a city that’s so automobile centric that they don’t know that running rail has cons that never crossed their mind.

    After that meeting, LA Metro should then take a tally of neighborhoods that still want it to those that don’t want it. Then build rail that links “rail friendly” neighborhoods that don’t pose much squandering over lame NIMBY issues.

    Walla! Much faster to build it that way than years and decades of quarreling with neighborhoods as you go along and trying to convince them that this is the right way to do it.

    I mean it works in everyday life. You don’t just build a nuclear power plant in your neighborhood like SimCity and assume most of the people there are gonna go for it. It gives an air of arrogance like “I know more than you, you guys are so stupid that you can’t figure out rail is good for the community.”

    It’d be much better to bring in all the neighborhoods from all over LA and pitch a sales strategy to them and take a tally of neighborhoods who see that the pros of bringing more economic activity to their communites outweigh the cons of splitting the neighborhood, etc. etc.

    It projects a better image than “oh BTW, we just planned to build a rail through your neighborhood because we decided it was good of LA. If you have any concerns, come to our meeting and we’ll try to convince you that this is the right way to do it.” And they wonder why they get caught up in litigation.

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  4. @Ken

    Adding infill stations later is much more expensive than building them right the first time.

    And BH has no problem with the station. They’re opposed to the tunnel alignment.

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  5. Ken – Mr. Leahy rides the Metrolink everyday from work. I see him hanging around Union Station, riding the Metro. Unlike past CEO, Leahy actually takes Metro to nearly all meetings he can attend via bus or rail. You are saying so many misinterpretations, I wonder why the moderators let you post.

    Beverly Hills is not disputing the station. They are disputing the tracks laid (totally against your Tokyo arguement). And Leahy DOES GO METRO nearly everyday. Every city in the USA is losing revenues due to the economy, is LA any different? We have expanded more local rail than any city in the last 20 years. Name one.

    If we go by your direction of just letting neighbors dictate our rail, you wouldn’t get a train to Century City. Isn’t that kinda stupid?

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  6. ds – does that account for the years of delays that are faced from litigation, cost of overruns from rising material prices from that same duration, the wasted money and time meeting after meeting conducting tests and surveys, going back to the drawing board, only to face litigation there, etc, etc?

    That’s another problem with LA Metro. All said costs are based on assumption that everyone would just shut up and agree with what they say and let the rail run through without any opposition.

    Reality is, it’s much more cheaper, faster, and efficient to just skip stations who don’t want it and come back later and say “well well well, look who’s come back begging through the door. Well you had your chance when it could’ve been built through city funds, but since you missed out, we’ll give to you…except now you pony up 80% of the cost! mwahahahaahaha!”

    Problem solved and it’ll serve as a lesson to NIMBYs.

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  7. For years, LA Metro has been running under the assumption of blaming the people on stalling the process even though they voted yes on it.

    Well that tactic may work in China where people don’t have any rights and have to do what the government has to say or face risk of being mysteriously disappeared to a gulag or tried for being a “anti-revolutionary against the State,” but that don’t fly in democratic USA.

    Reality is that here in America, people are distrustful of government and it was a nation founded upon those principles. People don’t like being told what to do, people don’t like to just “shut up and let the government do what it plans to do.”

    If there’s a government plan, they want to hear about it first. Straight-forwardly, no hidden cons. Lay it out the pros and cons, what benefit it has versus what the the consequences are. And we the people decide if that idea works or not, not the invisible hand of the government.

    That being said, there’s a democratic way to do this that is just as efficient as the Chinese way. It may not be the same, but it is simple as projecting a truthful image, tallying up the votes to areas that want rail and getting it to them first. Not everyone is gonna be for the huge piece of the pie in a city the size of LA.

    Breakdown the votes down to the neighborhood level and start linking from there.

    Whatever LA Metro’s cost analysis is, it sure doesn’t seem to account for all the consequences of litigation and cost overruns caused by delays over you know, a simple method of saying “heck with you then, you get no dessert!”

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  8. @LAofAnaheim

    No duh every US public transportation loses money! Because they run on a stupid flat rate model like when other, more efficient, and less tax dependent public transit in the world uses the distance/zone based model!

    I constantly hear whining and moaning by pro-transit people here in the States, boo-hoo why can’t we have public transportation like Tokyo, London, etc. yet at the same time go up and arms when there’s a rate hike.

    This is what you all are expecting: services like Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul and other transit oriented cities, but at the same flat rate fare no matter how far you ride. That doesn’t cut it. You want service and efficiency, pony up your fair share by paying for it and stop expecting other people to pay through it via taxes or state and federal grants.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out and list the one major difference between US and other successful transit oriented cities: flat fare versus distance/zone based.

    Name me one successful flat-fare based public transit. None. Name me successful transit based on the distance/zone based model. Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Hong Kong, London.

    Sure they still need taxes, but last time I checked, Japan only has a 5% tax rate and they still keep trains running on time like a Swiss clock and have gazillions or tracks and rail zipping through Tokyo without a need of a car. And look at us. 10% tax and this is the best we can do? Pitiful.

    Give me one good reason why one person going from SF Valley all the way to Downtown LA pays the exact same $1.50 fare as the guy who only rides the bus for three blocks makes any sense to you?

    Does hailing a cab for three blocks versus all the way from the Valley to Downtown LA cost the same? Duh.

    So long as this flat fare idea is stuck into LA Metro’s mindset, public transit will forever be on the dearth of taxpayers and still a “poor man’s way to get around town.”

    You want faster, efficient service with more buses running late at night? Then those that want for those services should pay for it.

    You want night owl service, charge passengers $2.00 for the privilege of riding night owl buses.

    You want to get from LB to LAX Aviation, tap in and tap out, and automatically deduct $5.00 with a daily price cap.

    How hard is this to do? If LA Metro can’t figure it out, bring in the cavalry from guys who figured out London’s Oyster system. If they can’t implement this on buses, bring in the team from Japan who used distance based fares on buses even before contactless or the years of computers.

    The longer you ride, the longer it takes and more fuel it takes to haul your rear-end. If you travel longer you has to ante up reasonable cost for the privilege of riding it longer.

    The guy riding the bus for three blocks should pay $0.50, the guy riding from SF Valley to Downtown LA should pay $5.00. BAM! $2.50 more revenue for LA Metro. This is the model that works everywhere but no public transit here in the US runs on that model. Gee, no wonder why every single public transit in the US makes no money and continuously ask taxpayers to fork over more money.

    The current flat rate model of LA Metro brings in only $3.00 revenue to LA Metro which surely as heck doesn’t make any sense to make up for the costs associated with maintaining a fleet of buses, paying for bus drivers, and getting profit which in turn helps put more money into investment. It’s all based on “tax, tax, tax, fare increase, fare increase, fare increase.”

    Enough of this BS, LA Metro needs to be more self-sufficient, more profit oriented, and run like a business. If it can’t figure it out, then it needs to be privatizing because I have had enough of being taxed for mediocre service. I want to see my taxes starting to decrease not increase!

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  9. Dang, mad drama on the Metro blog.

    I understand the need for criticism, but a lot of this is just hating on Metro. They want to be the most awesome as well, but you can only do what you can do.

    One thing Metro can do is cut a lot of the fat off. That’d probably be bad for PR though.

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  10. Building rail through an area without a stop is better than not building the rail at all or realigning the route and adjacent station because of opposition (like SM blvd. station instead of Constellation). People say just don’t build the rail through a neighborhood if they don’t want it, simple, but its not that simple. Many lines need to be routed through a certain area to be most efficient and if folks in an area put up a fuss, they can ruin a citywide transit connection just for one small area, so its not just as simple as not having a station or reconfigured route and/or mode just for that one area when there are so many other connecting areas at stake.

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