On Transportation column: August 1 edition

MEASURE R 2: The proposed ballot measure to extend the Measure R sales tax for 30 years — from 2039 to 2069 — in order to try to accelerate transit and road will be back in the news soon. First, the Metro Board is scheduled Aug. 6 to debate a motion by Director John Fasana, the mayor of Duarte, that would allow money to be moved from highway projects to transit projects within Measure R subregions in the county. The motion is being closely watched by state lawmakers, who still must approve a bill, AB 1446, that would allow Metro to put Measure R on the ballot.

On Aug. 7, the very next day, the County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote whether to allow Measure R+ on the November ballot. In other words, two things need to happen for Measure R+ to go to voters: The Board of Supervisors must vote to put it on the ballot and the state bill must be approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

ME AND MEASURE R2: Whatever happens with Measure R, I think this is a good time to remind readers that state law prohibits Metro and other government agencies from campaigning for ballot measures and candidates. In addition, at the June Board meeting, Director Zev Yaroslavsky offered a friendly motion would prohibit Metro from spending money on a public information campaign in support of the extension.

I think this is entirely appropriate. Metro is fueled by your tax dollars and I don’t think that money is best spent telling you how to vote.

So I’m not going to be on the stump one way or the other when it comes to Measure R+. What I will try to do is answer basic questions regarding facts about the extension funding plan. I’ll also ensure that readers have easy online access to staff reports outlining the funding plan that is at the root of Measure R+.

CARMAGEDDON II: It doesn’t appear that free rides during Carmageddon weekend on Sept. 29-30 are going to happen.

Here are the issues as best as I can explain. Metro does not believe it can only offer free rides in only parts of town nearest the 405 freeway because the agency could run afoul of requirements by the Federal Transit Administration that it do an equity analysis on fare or service changes — even temporary ones.

By the same token, it appears that offering free rides across the system poses another problem: The complexity and high cost of offering free rides on all lines that weekend and reimbursing pass holders for the free days — days that they paid for — made the effort untenable.

My own two cents: I understand equity rules are well intended to project those who depend on transit. But I think it may serve the region better if rules could occasionally be relaxed to accommodate special circumstances — such as a major road closure.

EXPO LINE SPEED: We continue to receive persistent emails, tweets, etc., that the Expo Line is slow-going between 7th/Metro Center and USC. The train runs along Flower Street in this stretch and gets held up at red traffic signals.

Here’s what I can tell you: Metro and city of Los Angeles traffic officials have been discussing the problem and potential solutions. The bottom line is that the signals need to be better timed to accommodate the train — the issue is not solely related to pedestrian signals, as some have written.

In addition, trains on the Expo and Blue line are running slow through the junction of the two lines at Washington and Flower due to issues there involving the tracks. The tracks are safe and allegations otherwise are unwarranted. But trains do have to go slow for now and that’s impacting Expo train speeds.

I’ll let you know how the issue proceeds. My own two cents is that, broadly speaking, transit should get priority over private vehicles (not just on the Expo Line).

TAP CARDS: Ticket machines are being converted to TAP only (we’ll post about this soon). If you don’t have a TAP card, now is a good time to get one, even if you’re just an occasional user of the Metro system. Yes, some readers here complain about them a lot. I’ve found mine useful. Tip: register it at taptogo.net but you may find it easier — as I have — to load the card at ticket machines, which accept credit cards or cash.

NATIVE PLANTS AND THE EXPO LINE: I know there’s been a movement afoot to ensure that landscaping along the Expo Line consists of only native plants.

It’s great that there will be landscaping along the second phase of the Expo Line because, let’s face it, many rail lines have little or no landscaping. But I don’t expect a relatively narrow strip of landscaping along parts of the route to have any impact on this area’s native ecology or wildlife. This is not pristine wilderness. The train will be running through a landscape that was heavily altered by people long ago.

I, too, want the landscaping along the Expo Line to look good and use a minimal amount of water. My two cents: If natives can be part of the mix at minimal expense and effort, then great. However, I want the Expo Line Construction Authority staff to concentrate on building the best possible transit system that appeals to the most people.

To suggest — as some have — that not having native plants would undermine the environmental credentials of the project strikes me as a bit of an overstatement. If the electric-powered train gives thousands of people each day an alternative to sitting in traffic alone in private vehicles, it will be a very good thing for the environment.

And if the electric-powered train is one day powered only by renewable energy sources, it will be even better.

SPEAKING OF ALTERNATIVES TO TRAFFIC: Metro in the next few weeks will be making a big push to make everyone aware of its game day service to USC football games on the Expo Line and Silver Line. There are three Expo stations near the Coliseum (Expo Park and Vermont are the two closest; Jefferson is in the neighborhood also).
If you go to USC football, please consider taking the train! The Expo service has the potential to greatly reduce the number of cars idling in traffic in the Expo Park area.

And what about tailgating, you ask? Small coolers are welcome on both the Expo Line and Silver Line. And there are plenty of places to picnic in Expo Park. If you can survive leaving the grill at home, service to games should make your life a lot easier.

GONE FISHING: I’m taking some time off here and there this summer and am about to disappear into the wi-fi free Sierra backcountry for a few days. There will be some posting while I’m gone and I’ll be back at the wheel of The Source on Wednesday, Aug. 7.

Thanks again for reading and riding!

NEW IMAGE: Backpackers approaching Kearsarge Pass, the boundary between the John Muir Wilderness and Kings Canyon National Park.

Photo copyright Steve Hymon


2 replies

  1. I cannot wait for USC Football season and Expo service there! It will not only make for a great way to get to the games… but also a great way to head down to USC and do some tailgating before the game, and then head home and watch on TV for those few games I won’t be attending. Get the gameday experience with no hassle even if you’re not going to the game!

  2. Allowing voter approved money to be shifted from one project to another seems like a poor plan, even if I agree with the end result here. How can we expect voters to trust government in the future to pass needed ballot measures when the projects they are voting for are subject to revision once the money has been secured? Whether I think more money should be spent on transit projects (I do) is immaterial. It is a bait and switch to allow voters to pass a ballot measure funding certain projects, and then the money raised ends up being diverted to different projects. It’s dishonest, it kills public trust in government, and it will make future ballot measures more difficult to pass.

    The other obvious concern with Director Fasana’s proposal is how it may be used tomorrow. Today it is being proposed to shift measure R money from highways to transit. If it is that easy to shift money in that direction, it will be just as easy for different leaders in the future to shift voter approved money in the other direction: from transit to highways. Don’t tinker with ballot measures after the voters have passed them.