L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa talks jobs, America Fast Forward at Mobility 21 conference

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addresses a packed house at Mobility 21

We’re blogging this morning live from the Mobility 21 Conference in downtown Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 public and private sector people in the transportation industry have gathered.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa took center stage during the morning’s events with a speech and subsequent news conference calling on President Obama and Congress to invest in the nation’s infrastructure and, specifically, to enact the America Fast Forward legislation to accelerate the construction of Measure R projects through federal loans and other financing.

“Let’s make this as clear as we possibly can,” Villaraigosa said. “Transportation investment equals jobs. It’s a sad commentary on our public debate that such an obvious fact is met with skepticism in Congress.”

The full text of Villaraigosa’s speech is available here [PDF] and following are some highlights:

  • Villaraigosa was pleased to see the expansion of the TIFIA loan program — a pillar of America Fast Forward — make it into both the House and Senate transportation bills. But he didn’t mince words in his support for Senator Barbara Boxer’s bill. Her Senate bill would maintain current levels of funding, whereas the House bill would cut grants by nearly one-third. Above all, it’s imperative that Congress not let the gas tax expire with the current transportation bill on September 30th — millions of jobs are at stake.
  • The mayor emphasized America’s trillions of dollars in unmet infrastructure needs that must be addressed to keep the U.S. competitive on the world economic stage. He noted that China and other developing countries are spending a far greater percentage of GDP on infrastructure than the U.S., which has been coasting along on investments made by our grandparents’ and parents’ generations.
  • Villaraigosa urged President Obama to take the money that was dedicated to building democracy in Iraq and use it to build the schools, roads and infrastructure in the U.S.
  • For those wondering about what kind of sway the Mayor has in Washington, he noted that he spoke to President Obama by phone last week and will be seated with First Lady Michelle Obama at the speech in Washington on Thursday in which the President will detail his latest job plan.
  • The mayor also noted some of his accomplishments locally, including helping get public transit investment back on the map with Measure R and having all the traffic lights in Los Angeles synchronized by the time he leaves office.

4 replies

  1. I am with the Mayor on these issues.
    Stop funding Iraq and get out of Afganistan and take the moneys and invest in America. Rebuild our infrastructure; put people back to work.

  2. True! I very much agree. By the United States supporting Iraq and Afganastan the US has suffred. Why have the American people struggle for another to careless about democracy? Reinvest in our infrastructre we badly need it!

  3. How is public transit ever going to create jobs when it’s forever burdened with taxes under the existing fare structure?

    Plus, public transit projects in the US don’t really create long term jobs either. It’s not like we rent out empty spaces at rail stations to retailers.

    In order to make public transit more appealing, it has to stop being tax dependent and make up its own revenue with less taxes.

    All one needs to do is look at Japan and Taiwan to see how they get them right and why their (conservative) politicians are supportive of such projects; they make money, not waste them.

    In order to “sell” public transit to a conservative Congress, local politicians needs to “sell” the following:

    1. Promise to end flat rate and move on to distance based fares to “even out” fares that are paid by shorter riders and longer riders. Flat rate just burdens taxpayers forever.

    2. Direct retail space at train stations. A vending machine, a kiosk, a Starbucks, anything that brings in an extra cent in revenue is better than nothing. Instead of short term “construction” job creation, they need to focus on long term job creation like creating shops at the train station. If there is a red-tape that says “train stations can only be used as train stations,” they need to strike that non-sense down.

    3. Ad revenue. Art is wasteful use of taxes and it brings in no revenue. Sell ad space like the airport terminals. Thousands of people using PT are potential consumers for corporations. They will pay top dollar for ad space.