How We Roll, March 20: have you found what you’re looking for?

Dept. of Catching Up: I was away last week and am in catch-up mode. Looks like a wee bit of news occurred…

Art of Infrastructure: 

Water from the Eastern Sierra (at left) en route to Los Angeles via the L.A. Aqueduct in the Owens Valley. Some of this agua will be used washing down and mopping up your favorite transit appliances/stations. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

Art of Go Metro to See U2 perform ‘The Joshua Tree’ live at the Rose Bowl on May 20 & 21:

The Joshua Tree that appeared on the back cover of the album is only a 27 mile walk across the desert from the nearest bus stop, btw. If you’re going to the big show, take the Gold Line to Memorial Park Station in Old Pasadena and either walk to the free shuttle bus — at the nearby Parsons parking lot — or enjoy the pleasant 20-minute stroll to the stadium. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

Art of Transit Marketing — from our friends at the Denver RTD, who have a new campaign to promote courteousness among transit riders:

Things to read/listen to whilst transiting: On Morning Edition, U2 talks about ‘The Joshua Tree,” a lasting ode to a divided America.

Things to watch whilst transiting: John Oliver’s take on traffic zebras in Bolivia. Warning: potentially adult image of a zebra.

And let’s dive into some recent news…

 Here are 16 big transit projects that could be out of luck under the Trump budget (Washington Post)

Trump’s budget hits transit hard (The Transport Politic)

Trump Administration’s ‘skinny budget’ cuts infrastructure investment (American Public Transit Assn.)

An initial budget proposal by the Trump Administration that was released last week would, among other things, cut funding for the federal New Starts program for transit projects that are not already getting funding.

Metro already has ‘full funding grant agreements’ in place with the feds for the first and second sections of the Purple Line Extension ($1.25 billion and $1.187 billion, respectively) and the Regional Connector ($670 million) — but Metro and the FTA haven’t yet inked the deal for the third section of the PLE between Century City and Westwood. So that’s the big thing at risk.

The hope for that section was to pair federal funds with Measure M money in order to accelerate it and complete it by summer 2024 — in time for a potential Summer Olympic games.

Of course, the key words above are ‘initial’ and ‘proposal.’ Congress has a huge say in the annual federal budget and it remains to be seen how this passes muster across the US of A. There remains, too, the possibility that transit projects could get funding from an infrastructure funding bill that President Trump has said is in the works.

APTA — the transit advocacy group of which Metro is a member — notes in their press release that:

According to a recent APTA poll, most Americans, including President Trump supporters, would not support these cuts to public transportation.  A 2016 poll showed that 3 out of 4 Americans support increased public transportation investment.  Additionally, a November election poll found that 81 percent of Americans who voted for Donald Trump oppose any cuts to the current levels of public transportation investment.

Metro, too, issued a statement last week:

This morning, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget released the blueprint outline of the President’s Federal Fiscal Year 2018 budget request to Congress. As outlined, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s budget would be cut by 13 percent. Currently, Metro assumes substantial federal funding in its financial plan. A lack of federal funds at current levels would potentially impact Metro’s ability to deliver some projects in the Measure M transportation plan. Metro will continue to evaluate the budget released today to understand its potential fiscal impact on our agency.

Metro traditionally receives approximately $600 million annually in federal formula funding and has, over the past several years, secured approximately $300 million in federal New Starts funding for our transit projects. Metro has Full Funding Grant Agreements for the Regional Connector, Purple Line Extension Section 1 and Purple Line Extension Section 2.  Metro is actively seeking and will continue to advocate for federal support for Purple Line Extension Section 3 funding.

The budget proposal said that funds for new projects should come from the areas that benefit from them. That’s an idea that has been debated for a long time in this country — what should cities and states pay for versus when the feds should step to the plate. I’d humbly suggest that the feds have a long, rich history of paying for transportation improvements (see: interstate highway system) that benefit both local economies and, in turn, the national economy.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is not the greatest of times to have transit ridership flat or down across much of the U.S. Opponents of federal funding for transit can point to the fact that about five percent of Americans use transit to commute to work and that the way that Americans commute to work hasn’t fundamentally changed over the past 44 years.

Trump’s review of car fuel standards could lead to fight with California and environmentalists (Washington Post)

The Trump Administration also said last week that it would review the fuel economy standards put in place by the Obama Administration which seek to greatly increase vehicle mileage. So much so that automakers question whether the standards are attainable under the current timeline, which targets an average new car and light truck mileage of 54.4 mpg by 2025. The current standard is 35.5 mpg.

California has its own challenges: our state has more stringent standards (which 12 other states follow) that are designed to reduce smog.

Again, this is an issue related to transit. As we have discussed recently in this space, automakers have enjoyed some good times in recent years. Gas prices have been low and the cost of car ownership may have flattened or decreased for some. Which leads us to…

Researchers: why is US transit ridership falling? (Human Transit) 

What’s behind declining ridership nationwide? (Citylab)

Lots of informed speculation/theories in both posts, although it’s hard to lump together transit systems in different localities. Still, I thought CL’s Laura Bliss put it well:

Little is certain in the murky realm of transit ridership interpretation, except perhaps one thing: If cities want to lure passengers onto trains and buses, paying attention to cracks in both types of networks, and investing to fix them, is a pretty sure bet.

I know some of the data folks at Metro are diving deeper into the data, trying to figure out what is happening here and why (Metro’s ridership estimates are available here).

Your thoughts?

And finally a little music for a Monday afternoon — I hate to say it, but I remember when this video first burped forth on MTV in 1980…

4 replies

  1. Lets not forget who put a halt to the Subway on Wilshire Bl, Congressman Henry Waxman, Democrat a twenty years ago.

  2. This is concerning, however, the fact is, our initial votes back in 2008 put this all in prep for HSR from San Diego to San Francisco. So since then we’ve seen a good amount of lines built, and also some pretty juicy planning. I am more surprised that so much has been built than not. To be honest, this project will take so long, that administrations will have changed by the time the push is ready. This does not take away from the fact that the federal monies not coming would delay our subway, but overall this outcome is not too surprising.

    I feel like I am going against my own will saying this, but if we were to finish what we have in motion right now, we’d still come out on top in Los Angeles. Although we ALL probably want more, If the Subway doesn’t get finished to Westwood that would be a major bummer, but at this stage it is what it is with this Admin in office. Also, High Speed Rail has become a major crock.

    Kinda what happens what you throw (expletive) in the air and see where it lands, but also a major lesson in getting things done faster.

    Expo to Westwood through DTLA might still be a faster option for now, surface traffic and all.

    • Perhaps the MTA and other agencies should visit San Diego and find out how they built their first line from the Amtrak Station to the Mexican Border with no federal monies, under budget and in less time than planned.