Five things I’m thinking about transportation, Jan. 11 edition

MEASURE R SEQUEL?: I think 2012 got a little more interesting with the news last week that Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill that could allow voters in L.A. County to decide to extend the half-cent Measure R sales tax past its June 30, 2039 expiration date.

The idea is to raise the money needed to accelerate Measure R projects.

Will it happen? I have no idea and I don’t think it’s my place to advocate one way or the other. If the state Legislature signs the bill, it would next be up to the Metro Board of Directors, who will discuss the issue with agency staff at their monthly meeting on Jan. 26.

Having watched Measure R unfold in 2008, my best guess is the Board will want more information about projected revenues from a Measure R extension, a funding plan (i.e. which projects will receive money) and the cost of borrowing against future revenues to build projects now.

The natural question this raises is this: was it a good idea to include a sunset provision in the original Measure R in 2008?

It’s a hard decision to second-guess. There was a lot of polling in the run-up to Measure R with backers trying to construct a ballot measure that would pass muster with two-thirds of voters in sprawling Los Angeles County. The idea was to include projects across the county’s vast geography and to also show voters that Measure R was a plan and not an open-ended tax.

Even without widespread political support, Measure R was approved (the irony, of course, is that some who fought it are now profiting from Measure R). The biggest problem with Measure R is that it has been difficult — with the sour national economy, a deadlocked Congress and California’s budget woes — to secure outside funding to complement the funding dollars created by Measure R.

Stay tuned. It could be nothing, it could be one of the bigger stories of the year — and a year that will include a major rail opening (Expo Line), the Orange Line Extension and the ExpressLanes debut on the 110 freeway.

TWITTER VS FACEBOOK: Interesting little tidbit this week — the number of people following Metro’s Twitter feed is now about the same as those who ‘like’ Metro on Facebook. By coincidence, Talking Transit blog ran this interesting post the other day saying Twitter was a better tool for transit agencies to reach riders because it’s perfectly suited for people on the go.

I agree. I tend to use Facebook to connect with friends and acquaintances, whereas Twitter is better for me to follow things I’m interested in. Any preference, readers?

EXPO LINE: I think the news that the Expo Line is now testing trains at 7th/Metro Center pretty much guarantees I’ll be getting even more emails and tweets about when the light rail line will open.

Quick answer: I don’t know yet. Don’t believe guesstimates from our friends in the media. Yes, some of it is informed speculation — but it’s still speculation.

I think it’s safe to say that anticipation for the line is sky-high — far higher than I recall for other Metro projects that opened in the past decade. Some of it, I expect, is because the Expo Line is headed toward the Land of No Rail, i.e. the Westside Territories.

Expo will also be the big rail opening in town for a while. The next two openings on the schedule are in 2015 for Expo Phase II between Culver City and Santa Monica and the Gold Line Foothill Extension between Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border.

MITT ROMNEY: I think all that can safely be said about the Presidential campaign at this time is that Mitt Romney is in the lead for the Republican nomination. Gazing into the crystal ball is a surefire way of altering the time-space continuum, and often not for the better; I predicted my hockey team would win the other night. In response, the Hockey Gods ensured that a slapshot from the other team was deposited in our net with eight seconds left in the game for a 6-5 loss. Lesson learned. My apologies to the Puckalolos.

If Romney gets the nod — if, I repeat — I think it’s interesting because he was governor of Massachusetts, a state with a significant transit presence in the Greater Boston area That said, transit and transportation continues to be pretty much a non-issue in the presidential campaign thus far. We’ve certainly heard far more about marriage.

Hopefully the candidates will use the T-word early and often this summer and fall as I continue to believe most Americans are keenly interested in how they’ll get to work each day. And, besides, it was transportation that got Americans to the West Coast. Not sure if marriage helped or hurt on that score.

NICE CAMEO: By the Stockholm Metro in the American version of “The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo.” The movie was pretty good, too — although it felt to me like a lot of story and characters were being crammed into too little space. I hadn’t read the book, but now I must — just to understand the movie.

And, by the way, feel free to email us if you know who was sending Henrik the botanical prints on his birthday. To avoid being a spoiler, I know it was either (blank) or (blank) — but I don’t believe the movie ever said which. For $13 at the Pasadena ArcLight (Gold Line Memorial Park station or 780 Rapid), the movie should have said which!

As for the Stockholm Metro, we’ve featured it several times on The Source because of its stylish appearance and the all-around cleverness of the Swedes who run it. My favorite piece of cleverness:



3 replies

  1. Steve,

    A thought about presidential campaigns and transit: I’ve heard it suggested that because the primaries start in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — fairly rural states — that urban mass transit tends not to get as much political love as other issues. Corn ethanol subsidies, conversely, seemed to benefit from Iowa’s place at the front of the primary campaign line.

    Carter Rubin
    Contributor, The Source

  2. It seems we just can’t get a tax hike passed unless there is a sunset. However, what usually happens is when one sunsets, we pass another. Agreed. a permanent tax should be the case and work from there. However, I think it should be a full one-cent.