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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The proposed budget includes the following: $1.467 billion for transit operations, $278.5 million for deferred maintenance of Metro’s rolling stock of buses and trains, $1.084 billion for construction of Measure R transit projects, $134.5 million for other capital improvements, such as bus maintenance facilities, $236.5 million for a robust highway program; $339.5 million for debt service obligations and $974.7 million in subsidies distributed by Metro to fund Metrolink, regional operations and transit projects throughout Los Angeles County.
Against the backdrop of high gas prices, Metro will be offering commuters and others viable public transit alternatives with new light rail service on the Expo Line connecting downtown Los Angeles and Culver City and the Metro Orange Line busway extension to the Metrolink/Amtrak station in Chatsworth. Metro also will bolster express bus service on the Harbor Transitway and the I-10 between downtown and El Monte as the ExpressLanes congestion pricing demonstration project debuts
Highway projects include the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, the High Desert Corridor, the SR-710 north gap closure and the widening or other enhancements on various stretches of the I-5, I-605, I-710 south, and SR-138. Efforts will continue to construct sound walls and implement Metro’s freeway beautification program.
Metro CEO Art Leahy stressed a renewed focus on customer service with a strong emphasis on reliability, cleanliness and courtesy. Metro is purchasing hundreds of new buses and rail cars and catching up on years of deferred maintenance for Metro’s rolling stock. Stations will be cleaner, safer, and there will be better signage so that customers who speak a multitude of languages can better navigate the Metro system.
The proposed budget restricts hiring new employees except to fill positions needed to deliver Measure R projects and operate new services. Moreover, Metro has set in motion a program to recruit and train the next generation of managers and operations employees to allow for a smoother generational transition.
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.
The FY 13 budget is $337.3 million or 8.1 percent more than the current $4.178 billion Metro budget. This reflects a significant expansion of the Measure R program in the next fiscal year. In the new fiscal year Metro will be spending $1.560 billion on Measure R projects and programs compared to expenditures of $1.278 billion this fiscal year. In addition, Metro will be spending $35.2 million to operate the new Expo light rail line in FY 13.
Thanks to Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008, Metro is overseeing the largest public works program America has seen in decades. Projects underway and about to start construction are designed to stabilize and downsize the region’s worst traffic to manageable levels while generating hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, stimulating the economy, and improving air quality.
However, the reality is that Measure R does not include enough funds to support operations for all the new rail projects in the pipeline. A reduction in state or federal funding, or a dip in the local economy or ridership will endanger the balanced budget presented.
In terms of the proposed budget, Leahy said it’s prudent to flag these risks now so that Metro’s Board can avoid future roadblocks that could detour crucial progress in this decade. In that sense, FY 13 will be a pivotal period for Metro and Los Angeles County in more ways than one.