The Metro Board of Directors will consider this month the above motion that asks for study of a number of upgrades to the Orange Line, including better traffic signal synchronization by the city of Los Angeles, using more articulated buses, building grade separations, the possibility of extending or connecting the line to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena and an assessment of converting the line to light rail.
The key word in the above paragraph: “study.” This is NOT a funded project, nor is it in Metro’s long-range plan. The motion comes on the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill earlier this month lifting the restriction on building rail along the Orange Line right-of-way (which, ironically, was once a Southern Pacific rail corridor).
An amendment by Board Member Pam O’Connor asked a broader — and crucial — question: what kind of process could be created to evaluate new projects to see if they merit being added to the agency’s long-range plan?
The Board’s Planning Committee forwarded the motion and amendment without recommendation to the full Board of Directors to consider (the full Board meets next Thursday, July 24). As Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky said, the agency needs to figure out the best path forward for evaluating new transit projects so that the ones with the greatest impact are the ones that get built.
Metro CEO Art Leahy explained why that is important. Metro will soon be receiving a list of potential transportation projects from sub-regions in the county for inclusion in a possible ballot measure in 2016 to accelerate and/or build new transit projects by extending Measure R and/or some type of new tax (Measure R was a half-cent sales tax increase for 30 years and expires in mid-2039). Leahy said that it’s very likely that the list of projects will exceed what could be funded. And, thus, the list of projects will ultimately have to be narrowed.
In short, this motion is really about two things. The first is obviously seeking ways to improve the Orange Line, which has enjoyed very strong ridership since the first segment opened in 2005. The second is about the possible 2016 ballot measure and the Board trying to find a way to evaluate projects beyond a metric commonly used: political support.