Roundup of today's meeting of the Metro Board of Directors; here's what the agency's deciders decided

A long meeting today clocking in at four hours and five minutes — about 1 1/4 Hobbit movies by my estimation or enough time to watch the new Captain America trailer 180 times or so.

In the order the items were tackled, here are some of the votes and discussion by the Board (full agenda here)

•The Board approved a motion by five Board Members that would have Metro be the lead agency in developing a countywide bike share plan. Here’s a recent Source post about the motion.

•Votes on items 16, 68 and 69 were postponed so the Board could receive more information. The items concern Metro’s ability to issue a series of small contracts for technical work.

•The Board approved a contract modification for the Airport Metro Connector for more work on one project alternative: a rail connection with the airport’s planned Intermodal Transportation Facility (ITF).

As part of that item, the Board also approved a motion by Board Chair Diane DuBois for Metro to perform a feasability study of locating the ITF near the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s maintenance yard at 96th Street and Aviation.

The Board also approved a second motion by Supervisor Don Knabe, L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin and Santa Monica Councilwoman Pam O’Connor asking for monthly updates at Metro Board Committee meetings on Los Angeles World Airport’s and Metro’s ongoing work to connect the LAX terminals to Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line.

Speaking in favor of that motion, both Ridley-Thomas and Bonin said the Airport Metro Connector should be one of the Board’s highest priorities and that more attention needs to paid to it.

Here’s a recent Source post explaining the many issues involved with the Airport Connector.

•With no discussion, the Board approved the concept of an east-west concourse and north-south bus terminal as part of the ongoing Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan. Here’s a recent Source post explaining the concept.

•The Board also voted to approve a $7.8-million price increase for a pedestrian bridge over Lankershim Boulevard which would connect the Metro Red Line Universal station to Universal City. NBC Universal is paying half the cost of the increase. STAFF REPORT

Public testimony ran strongly in favor of the bridge, with several residents of the area saying that the crosswalk on Lankershim is dangerous because it’s very busy and many users cross against the ‘walk’ signal, thereby almost getting hit by cars.

Board Member and L.A. Councilman Paul Krekorian raised the possibility of removing crosswalks so that people had to use the bridge. The Board discussed the bridge and how it would comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act; it will have elevators.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich raised the question: what if the elevators were broken? How would a disabled person get across the street? Metro officials said that there would be every effort to keep the elevators working and to quickly repair them; the agency also plans to consult with consultants on making the bridge as disabled-friendly as possible.

•The Board voted to approve including the SR-710 North project in the acceleration framework the Board approved in June on a 10 to 3 vote with the no votes from Board Members Eric Garcetti, Ara Najarian and Zev Yaroslavsky. Here’s the motion by five Metro Board members.

Najarian told the Board that he would not have voted for the strategy in June — which excluded the 710 North project — if he had known the Board would later add it.

Please keep in mind these three things: 1) the Board in June only changed Measure R to make funds available sooner for five projects; it was not an officially binding acceleration plan; 2) the SR-710 project is in the midst of its draft environmental study and is yet to be defined, and; 3) Metro would need to find additional funding to build some of the options under study.

The five alternatives under study: a freeway tunnel, light rail between East L.A. and Pasadena, bus rapid transit between East L.A. and Pasadena, intersection and road improvements and the required no-build option.

Bottom line: there are quite a few balls that have to line up before any project gets accelerated.

•In a long and winding discussion, the Board voted to extend the waiver of the account maintenance fee for ExpressLane customers through February. The $3 fee was initially waived for six months by the Board in April; the fee only applied to those who used the ExpressLanes three times or less each month. STAFF REPORT

The Board also decided to discuss permanently getting rid of the fee after the ExpressLane pilot program ends near the end of February. Of course, the Board will also have to first discuss and decide whether it wants to continue with the ExpressLanes.

In the meantime, it appears the fee waiver has helped attract new customers. About 225,000 transponders have been issued for the ExpressLanes, greatly exceeding the expectation that 100,000 would be issued during the pilot program. In addition, about $18 million to $20 million of revenue from the ExpressLanes was expected to be generated during the pilot program; Metro staff now estimates that number will exceed $20 million, creating funds that can be invested back in the 10 and 110 freeway corridors. STAFF REPORT

•The Board agreed to postpone implementing new public testimony rules for Metro Board meetings to do more research on the issues involved. STAFF REPORT

•The Board voted to place a monument for Sen. Alfred Hoyun Song on the plaza for the Purple Line’s Wilshire/Western plaza. STAFF REPORT

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

10 replies

  1. So when will the Metro ExpressLanes webpage will reflect the new maintenance fee waiver expiration date of February of next year?

    The expiration runs out tomorrow, the webpage needs to be updated ASAP.

    • Hi Damien;

      Yep, that woke me up, too. It was more a symbolic vote than anything — at this point there’s only an acceleration strategy — but interesting nonetheless.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. The ExpressLanes website seems to be updated to read “the monthly account maintenance fee is waived for the remainder of the pilot period.”

    https://www.metroexpresslanes.net/en/home/index.shtml

    When exactly does the “remainder of the pilot period” end? I want to know the exact date of when to cancel my transponder if it’s not going to be a permanent waiver.

    I don’t understand why the Metro Board would not want to make this a permanent waiver. They’re clearly seeing all the facts and data laid out in front of them that they are making more money without the junk fees, so why would they want to just extend it instead of making it permanent? Is it because they want more useless government studies?

  3. Regarding the public testimony item, the gist of it is to reduce a speaker’s time from 5 minutes to a range of 1–3 minutes (one minute per agenda item, three minutes total) to “maximize public input” (page 2 of staff report). Cutting 80% of a speaker’s time is a great way to increase public input! Up is down and black is white!

    Unless I’m missing some huge backstory not in the report, this seems designed to get those pesky citizens to just sit down and shut up. Am I wrong?

  4. In the staff report about the FT fee waiver it says (bottom of page 4):
    “Expand the transit routes eligible for waiver of the monthly account maintenance fee to all routes that are TAP enabled; and”

    What does this mean? How does TAP figure into this?

  5. Here’s my 2 cents regarding public input.

    Going to a public townhall meeting and speaking on the podium is so 18th century. We’re living in 2013, for crying outloud. We have Twitter, e-mail, and BBS systems where people can type in their comments and issues straight from their smartphone, tablet, or computer without ever asking the boss for a vacation day just to go to a meeting where you get one shot at the podium to talk for 3 short minutes. Total waste of everyone’s time and highly inefficient.

    In Japan for example, politicians go on air on Nico Nico Douga and everyone watching the program can type in short messages on what they feel about issues the politicians say and everyone can also view the comments directly on screen in real time, with an option to turn them on or off.

    So why not just put in a computer with at the Metro Board meetings, hook it up to a projector, create a Twitter account called @MetroBoard_LA or something, and make everyone listening to Metro Board meetings to live tweet what they have to say, so that politicians can read the comments in real time without disrupting everyone? Or use a secondary screen with a BBS system and e-mail so that Metro Board members can read in real time what everyone has to say?

    Typing and reading is a lot more efficient than talking, and a lot more quieter too than loud-mouths who keep disrupting the meetings.

    Politicians talks, a listener live tweets with short messages, politicians can read the comments in real time to change or stay with their positions, without anyone actually talking or speaking, disrupting the flow of the meetings.

  6. The transponder fee issue is now on Supervisor Zev’s blog with a recap on what took place:

    http://zev.lacounty.gov/news/transportation/top-story-transportation/as-toll-roads-thrive-fee-still-nixed

    “However, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said it was too soon to tinker with the program, and Supervisor Gloria Molina said there shouldn’t be a “rush to judgment” on dropping the fee before there’s a fuller study of how that might affect revenue available to reinvest in transit improvements in communities along the ExpressLanes corridors. “I don’t think we should make it permanent,” she said.”

    For those who don’t like the fees, these two should be your next priority to vote them out of office for being so out of touch with the public sentiment. I can already see it in the next election: “Ridley-Thomas and Molina: the two politicians who were against eliminating the transponder fee.”

  7. When will the board vote to extend the Expresslanes past February 2014? What is the likelihood of not extending?

    • Hi Kristin;

      I believe the Board will vote on whether to continue the ExpressLanes pilot program in February. I don’t have any real sense on how they’ll vote — it probably largely depends on how their constituents feel about the ExpressLanes.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source