ART OF TRANSIT: Happy one-year Earth time anniversary on Mars, Curiosity Rover. Photo by NASA.
Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Transportation Headlines online newspaper, which you can also access via email subscription (visit the newspaper site) or RSS feed.
Pension reform holds up $2.2 billion in grants to Metro (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)
Good story by Steve Scauzillo, who manages to deftly explain a complicated issue. Here's the top of the story:
The federal government is withholding more than $2.2 billion in grants from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority due to complaints filed by labor unions over the state Public Employee Pension Reform Act.
If funding remains frozen in the fall, Metro's board will consider cuts to train and bus service and/or raising fares to make up shortfalls from undelivered operating grants, according to a July memo from Terry Matsumoto, Metro's chief financial services officer.
“The federal monies have been withheld since December. There is only so long we can cover this delay in both business and in capital,” said Marc Littman, Metro spokesman.
As the story goes on to explain, there are other transit agencies in a similar predicament, including OCTA. At Metro, the grants include money to help build two projects, the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector, and money for equipment maintenance. Just to clarify, it's not clear that the Board would have to take action this fall to cover the loss of operating funds.
Unions have alleged to the U.S. Department of Labor that California's pension reform act violates their collective bargaining rights under the Federal Transit Act.
That's left agencies such as Metro caught in the middle of the dispute. I've been aware of the issue but never thought it would reach this point — we'll see how it plays out. One possible solution would involve a state bill exempting transit workers from pension reform.
In split decision, California Supreme Court gives Expo Line the OK (L.A. Streetsblog)
Coverage of yesterdays' ruling that upheld the environmental study for the Expo Line's second phase between Culver City and Santa Monica; the majority opinion found that Expo should have used 2015 conditions as a baseline to study traffic impacts but that no harm was done to the public or the process.
As Damien Newton notes in the comments, it's unlikely that federal courts will intervene because Expo II is a locally-funded project (Measue R is paying for most of it). In a very interesting tidbit, the L.A. Times' story also notes that three justices in a separate opinion said that the environmental study fully complied with the law and the majority opinion is likely to increase the time and money it takes to prepare EIRs. Good grief!
Garcetti invites mayors from across L.A. County to share thoughts (L.A. Times)
File this nugget from the story:
The region's mayors had a lot to say. Several expressed concern about the state requiring local governments to take over responsibility for housing low-level criminal offenders. Others talked about ways to increase voter support for an extension of local transportation taxes, similar to the Measure J ballot question that narrowly failed to gain a required two-thirds majority in November.
The project acceleration plan approved by the Metro Board in June asked for a staff report about the possibility of going to the ballot in 2014 or 2016 to raise acceleration funds. If that happens, it will be mighty interesting to see what it will take to get different cities on board.
In Vancouver, traffic declines as population rises (D.C. Streetsblog)
The city's population has increased by 4.5 percent since 2006 but city officials say traffic has dropped 20 to 30 percent in that time. How so? The city doesn't widen roads, promotes density along transit corridors and pushes cycling, walking and transit. Excerpt:
Price Tags’ Gordon Price, a former city legislator in Vancouver, says every time a project is proposed for bikes or transit that reduces space for cars, there’s an outcry. “They keep predicting intolerable gridlock,” he said. “And it never happens. You can be in downtown Vancouver and it’s not congested.”