Move LA interviews new Metro CEO Phil Washington (Move LA)
The activist group has a long interview with Phil, who officially started yesterday. The interview covers a lot of ground and Washington is asked up front about the potential ballot measure that Metro is considering putting before voters in 2016. His answer:
As you know we are in the midst of discussions about whether to put another sales tax measure on the ballot next year, and a recent Metro poll suggests very strong public support. What’s your opinion?
One of my first orders of business is to sit down with each board member to understand their objectives and priorities and to develop a tactical plan based on what I hear. If the board supports the idea of a new sales tax measure I know how to do it: We did it in Denver in 2004 and our success was largely due to our ability to bring people together. One of the truly great things that happened is that the Metro Mayors Caucus — a nonpartisan group of 40 mayors who voluntarily come together to address complex regional issues like air pollution — unanimously supported the measure. The transit build-out has been a Metro Mayors Caucus priority since the very beginning, and they also worked with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority on issuing bonds to finance affordable multi-family housing at stations along the rail lines.
What are some of the key lessons learned about winning the ballot measure in Denver?
I believe the specificity of the plan was key — not just with the mayors but also the general public. A very detailed plan is a must. We tried going to the ballot in 1997 and failed partly because we weren’t specific about how the money would be spent, and it took us 7 years to get back to the ballot. It’s also critical to lay out the economic benefits, and to remember that these benefits are different for different stakeholders: For developers, for example, it’s about providing an opportunity to build next to what become thriving real estate markets around new stations, while to the unemployed or under-employed it’s the possibility of a job — or a career — in construction, operations or engineering. The mobility benefits are for everyone.
Phil also talks about funding and, in particular, the use of a public-private partnership in the Denver area to fund some transit projects. As many of you know, PPPs have been talked about in transit circles for many years now but actually pulling them off has proven difficult. There are certainly some projects here in need of extra funding so it will be interesting to see whether PPP turns out to be a viable option.
The editorial also covers a lot of ground and says that buses need to be more reliable, cleaner and their routes less confusing. They also urge him to “think like a rider” and focus on making the transit experience more pleasant. As for the ballot measure:
Stay focused on projects that deliver the greatest benefit. Metro’s board of directors is expected to put a new sales tax increase proposal on the 2016 ballot. The CEO will play a crucial role in the decisions about which projects are included in the proposal and in balancing regional and individual political demands to shape a modern, convenient public transit system.
Of course, the tension with ballot measures always involves building projects that make the most transit sense versus pursuing projects that may play well politically. The CEO, in many ways, is the bridge between Metro staff and Metro riders and the Metro Board of Directors, the 13 elected officials and their appointees who oversee the agency.
On the bus, just like mom taught me (Zocalo Public Square)
The latest in Zocalo’s ongoing profile of Metro riders.
LA Times completely botches story on high-speed rail fares (California High-Speed Rail Blog)
A long and detailed response to a story I listed here yesterday taking a look at possible high-speed rail fares if the system opens between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The blog feels that the LAT didn’t give enough creedence to the high cost of flying and, thus, the possible attractiveness of the train.
My three cents: sure, the price of bullet train tickets is important — no one wants to see tens of billions of dollars spent on something too expensive to ride. That said, I also kind of think worrying about fares in 2028 is a little premature given that the vast majority of the project — which involves a lot of bridges and tunnels and grade separation — between L.A. and S.F. is not yet funded but will supposedly be done in 13 years. Um, look how long it takes to build a few miles of light rail, people.
California transit funding fight spreads as layoffs, cutbacks loom (San Jose Mercury News)
Here’s a bureaucratic issue that won’t go away and could potentially impact Metro. The issue: the Department of Labor had ruled that California pension reform was getting in the way of bargaining rights of transit labor unions in the state — and, thus, some federal dollars should stop flowing to California transit agencies. A federal court seemingly rejected that position but the money hasn’t started to flow again, although it appears the Department of Labor won’t appeal the earlier ruling. The state of California is trying to free up the money and Metro — which could be impacted — has been involved in the battle.
Rail could make a comeback in O.C. (L.A. Times)
A look at two potential streetcar lines in the OC. One would connect downtown Santa Ana to a new regional transit center in Garden Grove and the other would connect the Anaheim Metrolink/Amtrak station to Disneyland. The Santa Ana project is further along in the planning stages and qualified for federal assistance — but still faces some hurdles.
Orange County has commuter rail (Metrolink) but no light rail. Streetcars are usually sold as a boon to developers but it’s unclear if either of these projects would serve riders better than current OCTA buses.
•Things to read on transit: I recently finished Bill Bryson’s fun and informative book “One Summer: America 1927.” I’m glad to pass along my somewhat worn paperback to any rider who agrees to read some of it on transit and, when finished, pay the book forward to another transit rider. Email me if you want the book and can arrange a pickup at Union Station. Bryson, btw, is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, “A Walk in the Woods,” an alarmingly funny tale of his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail with a college buddy. A movie version with Robert Redford (they aged the characters about 30 to 40 years apparently) will be released late this year.
•Go Metro to Clippers basketball: I’ve been remiss in not saying Go Metro to Clippers playoff games. I do have some excuses. For one, the phrase “Clippers” and “playoffs” was so rarely uttered for so long at this time of year, that I’m still not quite used to it.
The other issue is that I almost never watch pro basketball and probably won’t until they get rid of free throws and timeouts and standardize the traveling rule. That said, Go Clippers! It would be great to see them reach the finals.
Just as it’s not a horrible thing that the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (I refuse to acknowledge the corporate name change) will soon be playing for the chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Although this column has no good will toward Corey Perry, a So Cal team playing for the Cup for the third time in four years would reinforce the point that So Cal is a hockey hotbed, perhaps more so than the Edmontons and Torontos of the world.
As for our L.A. Kings, it’s perhaps not a horrible thing that they missed the playoffs this season. The NHL season is both brutally long and just plain brutal. The Kings went deep into the playoffs for the past three seasons and it’s inevitable that there would be a letdown or they would slip a little. My advice to them: have a fun summer, get away from the ice for a bit and come back refreshed, revived and ready to hip check some unsuspecting winger into the fifth row.
Categories: Transportation Headlines