Metro responds to Beverly Hills Courier story alleging large payment to developer

The Beverly Hills Courier on Friday published a story alleging that Metro is preparing to pay $38.7 million to JMB Realty for land to use as part of the Westside Subway Extension project. The Courier said the information came from a Metro report.

The Courier also alleged that the large payment is much more than the assessed value of the land and implied that the $38.7 million was a payment to a politically-connected developer.

Metro’s response: The story is completely erroneous. 

Metro documents and studies do not in any way detail a $38.7-million payment to JMB, nor is the agency planning a $38.7 million payment to JMB.

In fact, with the Century City station at the proposed Constellation and Avenue of the Stars location, the entire subway project with the station entrance and construction area using JMB property would cost $38.7 million less than another alternative not using JMB property.

Where does the $38.7 million number come from? It appears the Courier made an incorrect assumption and a math error.

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Yes, train tunnels exist under schools and school properties

Metro staff have recommended that the Westside Subway Extension tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School. An assertion repeatedly made by Beverly Hills officials in recent months is that there are no schools or school buildings with train tunnels under them (here are a pair of examples, one from the media, one from an elected official in the comments section).

This is not true but the assertion keeps getting made in various forms. It is a topic worth revisiting, given the Metro Board of Directors’ hearing requested by Beverly Hills that is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Metro headquarters. The hearing’s topic: the possibility of Metro tunneling parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus.

The following are four engineering schematics from Metro’s response to the latest report by Exponent, an engineering consultant hired by the city of Beverly Hills. As the schematics show, tunnels for electrically-powered trains go under or near school buildings and property — and they do so in Los Angeles.

 

Esperanza Public Elementary School and Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in the Westlake district of Los Angeles are above the Red/Purple Line subway.

West Portal Elementary School in San Francisco is over tracks for the San Francisco Muni L line.

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Update on effort to provide cell service in subway

We frequently hear from readers and riders who want to know if Metro will be providing cell phone service and/or wi-fi in the Red and Purple Line subway.

Answer: the agency is working on it and has recently received proposals from several firms. The hope is to choose a winning firm in late summer.

The Metro staff report to the Board of Directors is below (pdf here):

Cell service in subway report

Metro staff issues report on Measure R extension and recommends to Board adopting Measure R principles

As many of you know, there have been discussions underway to extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax past its expiration date of July 1, 2039, to accelerate transit and highway projects that are funded in part by Measure R.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa proposed such an extension in his State of the City speech last month. But the Metro Board of Directors hasn’t taken any action yet; their approval plus state legislation is needed to send the issue to Los Angeles County voters.

With a big election approaching in November, Metro staff have issued the following report on Measure R and are asking the Board to adopt a set of principles that, in essence, amounts to an agreement that Measure R should be extended. Staff are not asking the Board this month to decide whether to put the issue on the ballot. That is expected to happen in June.

The report discusses the financing options that a Measure R extension would make possible. The gist of it: a Measure R extension plus an expanded federal loan program known as TIFIA would make it possible to build the 12 Measure R transit projects in the next decade or so — instead of waiting until 2039. TIFIA loans could also add $3.7 billion in funding to the Measure R highway program, which is needed because many of the projects are only partially funded by Measure R.

The full staff report is below and here is the pdf version of the report. The staff report is scheduled to be discussed by the Board’s Executive Management committee on Thursday at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters. If you can’t attend, the meeting can be heard over the phone by calling 213-922-6045.

Measure R staff report

TOD Summit is June 7 at USC

Here’s the news release from the Urban Land Institute’s Los Angeles chapter, which is hosting the event:

TOD Summit 2012 Release

Metro to hold budget workshop and public hearing on May 16

Proposed Fiscal Year 2013 Budget

Here’s the news release from Metro — the most newsworthy item, I think, is that the $4.5-billion budget does not propose raising fares for the 2013 fiscal year:

Metro will conduct a budget workshop and public hearing on a proposed $4.5 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2013 on Wednesday, May 16, at 2:30 p.m. in the third floor Board room at Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Cesar Chavez & Vignes, next to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The budget can be viewed online by clicking here. The public can view a copy of the balanced budget proposal at Metro.net. Request copies via e-mail at rmc@metro.net or by calling Charlene Williams in Metro Records Services at 213.922.2342.

Metro’s Board could consider adopting the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012 at the board meeting that starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 24, at Metro headquarters.

Metro CEO Art Leahy’s budget proposal, which is balanced with no shortfall, does not propose raising fares, which already rank among the lowest in the nation. Metro’s farebox recovery will stay at 28 percent, again near the bottom of any major operator, and passenger loads also will be low compared to our peers.

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Metrolink CEO John Fenton resigns

The news broke Monday afternoon. Here is the news release issued this morning from Metrolink, the commuter rail agency that serves six counties and is funded in part by Metro:

Metrolink CEO John Fenton resigns for personal and professional reasons after leading the agency through critical period

LOS ANGELES – Metrolink Chief Executive Officer John Fenton has announced that he will step down from his post at Metrolink after leading a two-year comprehensive reorganization that has put in place new leadership, policies and standards that have increased ridership and enhanced safety in the region . Fenton has accepted a position as CEO of Patriot Rail Corp., a leading operator of short line and regional freight railroads in the United States.  Patriot has recently agreed to be acquired by an investment vehicle managed by SteelRiver Infrastructure Partners.

“John’s impact on Metrolink and our customers will be felt for many years to come and we thank him for his vision, dedication to safety and leadership,” said Richard Katz, chairman of Metrolink’s Board of Directors.  “Thanks to John, we have a strong blueprint for Metrolink’s future, and the Board is dedicated to ensuring that our high standards for safety and performance will continue well into the future.”

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