A New Mayor Inherits the Ambitious Task of Kicking a City’s Car Habit
By Nate Berg, November 4, 2013
Until Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles was a city dominated by cars,
freeways and the worst traffic jams in the country. But L.A.’s most
recent mayor began a shift away from that transportation monoculture by
ramping up bus and rail service to a degree unseen in city history. He
pulled this off thanks in no small part to Measure R, a half-cent sales
tax that L.A. County voters approved in 2008, and which will generate a
projected $40 billion for transit investment over 30 years. But
Villaraigosa is out of office now, and it will fall to his successor,
Eric Garcetti, to try to keep up the momentum. In his June inauguration
address, the new mayor kept the focus on smaller transportation
improvements — like filling potholes — and though he’s promised to
follow through on five major transit projects already on the table, he
hasn’t introduced any additional ideas for the future. Garcetti will
have a spot on the Metro board of directors, but he and his allies will
have to contend with commissioners representing parts of the county far
from L.A. proper. Writer Nate Berg sets out to see if Garcetti will keep
Los Angeles on track in one of the most dramatic turnarounds any
American city has seen on its transportation front.
A second BART union whose members walked off the job during two strikes this year has approved a tentative contract agreement with the transit agency's management.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 members voted Friday to approve the four-year contract, which includes a 15 percent raise and pledges better safety conditions for workers.
The vote came as Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the largest union involved in contract negotiations with BART, also voted overwhelmingly to approve the contract.
ATU Local 1555 represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, while SEIU 1021 represents 1,430 mechanics, clerical workers and custodians.
In a statement, BART Board President Tom Radulovich said that while the unions gained "a reasonable wage increase in the labor agreements, BART gained priceless changes to outdated work rules which will help pay for the wage increases while allowing BART to modernize and operate more efficiently."
Under the contracts, management and workers agreed to use technology to streamline operations and ensure the financial sustainability needed to reinvest in the 41-year-old transit system, BART management officials said.
"The Bay Area and our riders will benefit from these contracts because BART will be able to move forward with the replacement of our aging fleet of train cars and the needed upgrades to meet demand," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said.
Now that both unions have approved the contract, BART's board of directors is expected to vote on the agreement later this month, according to agency spokesman Jim Allison.
The vote will likely come before the board's upcoming Nov. 21 meeting, he said.
Negotiations over the contract between BART management, ATU 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 began earlier this year but fell apart twice over the past six months. The breakdown in negotiations resulted in two four-day strikes in July and October that shut down BART service and gridlocked traffic throughout the Bay Area.
During the second strike, two BART workers were struck and killed while working on the tracks in Walnut Creek. An employee undergoing training was operating the train at the time of the deadly collision.