In the sixth hour of their monthly meeting on Thursday, the Metro Board just approved a $4.145 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
It’s the largest budget in the agency’s history, mostly due to money being spent on the construction and planning of Measure R transit and road projects approved as part of the half-penny sales tax increase in 2008.
Here is the press release from Metro:
The budget will keep Metro fares at current levels, however, the Metro Board today approved lowering the cost of the Metro day pass from $6 down to $5 for a one year test starting Aug. 1 to help attract commuters and others squeezed by rising gas prices.
In FY 12 Metro will trim some unproductive bus lines that were either underutilized or that duplicate service operated by Metro, the municipal bus operators or by the expanding Metro Rail system. Trains are being tested for the first phase of the Expo light rail line that will run from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City past USC. An opening date has not yet been announced but it should be soon.
Metro CEO Art Leahy stressed that Metro is not skimping on maintenance or on street supervision and is focused on improving on time performance, equipment reliability and cleanliness. He also said he is positioning the agency to strategically add service where it’s needed and to give commuters and others more incentives to beat the high price of gas. Service is being added to the Silver Line express bus service from the South Bay into downtown Los Angeles, the Metro Gold Line and the Metro Red Line subway. In addition, Metro will be adding service on selected bus lines to ease overcrowding.
For the third year in a row, the budget assumes no wage increase for employees. However, Metro is negotiating new contracts with its major labor unions representing operators, maintenance employees and clerks.
The FY 12 budget is $247 million or 6.3 percent more than the current $3.898 billion Metro budget. This reflects a significant expansion of the Measure R program in the next fiscal year. In 2008 more than 2 million Los Angeles County voters approved the Measure R half cent sales tax to advance a dozen major transit projects and 15 highway projects. In the new fiscal year Metro will be spending $1.164 billion on Measure R projects and programs compared to $889 million this fiscal year.
In addition, Metro will be spending $22 million to operate the new Expo light rail line in FY 12.
Sixty percent of the budget will be spent on enhancing the Metro bus and rail system, including tackling deferred maintenance that, in past years, helped plug spiraling operating deficits. Metro also will be purchasing hundreds of new buses and light rail vehicles, and it is investing in such major bus improvements as an extension of the Metro Orange Line busway to Chatsworth now under construction.
Metro also has purchased Union Station to ensure that this historic facility is both preserved and developed to usher in a new transportation future for Los Angeles County including room for bus and rail expansion and a hub for high speed rail.
Another 35 percent of the budget will deliver the rail and highway capital program, which will create more than 500,000 jobs and galvanize the sluggish economy. Trains on the new Expo light rail line to Culver City are being tested, and the second phase of Expo to Santa Monica is about to break ground. Construction of the Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line to Azusa is in the construction phase. Within a year construction should begin for the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line with other rail projects in the immediate queue.
Moreover, a spate of highway projects is underway from adding a northbound carpool lane on the I-405 between the Westside and San Fernando Valley to widening the I-5 freeway from the Orange County Line to the I-605.
And the remaining 5 percent of the budget will be for developing real time customer information such as Nextrip that uses GPS technology to track when buses will arrive, preparing the Metro workforce for the next generation, ensuring financial sustainability and advancing Metro’s environmental efforts.
There are risk factors for the budget. Metro is not immune to the state and federal budget woes that could cut transportation funding. The economy is still shaky, and collective bargaining agreements with Metro unions are still being negotiated.
Metro funding comes largely from local transportation sales tax revenue along with transit assistance and grants from the state and federal governments, farebox revenue, and other revenue sources such as advertising, land leases and commercial filming.