To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Metro CEO Art Leahy to leave agency in April; oversaw nation’s largest transit and highway public works program


By Steve Hymon, January 6, 2015


Here is the news release from Metro:

Art Leahy, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), today announced his last day of service will be April 5, 2015, when his current contract expires. Leahy, 65, who started his transportation career as a bus operator and became one of the nation’s leading transit officials, has headed Metro for six years. During that time he guided implementation of one of the largest public works programs in United States history and helped secure billions of dollars in federal and state funding to match local transit sales taxes to finance construction of dozens of transit and highway projects.

“It has a been a privilege, honor and pleasure to serve as Metro’s chief executive officer the past six years,” Leahy said. “My time at Metro has been filled with enormous successes, intense challenges and opportunities that have and continue to shape mobility for Los Angeles County’s 10 million residents.”

Against a backdrop of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, Leahy kept Metro solvent while he focused on fulfilling the mandate of Los Angeles County voters in carrying out the Measure R building program and ensuring quality service on the Metro system that has nearly 500 million annual boardings.

Today Metro has transit and highway projects and programs valued at more than $14 billion, eclipsing that of any other transportation agency in the nation.

This includes an unprecedented five new rail projects under construction including the Expo line extension to Santa Monica and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa, both scheduled to open next year, plus the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the Regional Connector that will connect the Expo, Blue and Gold Lines in downtown Los Angeles, and the first phase of the Westside Purple Line subway extension to Wilshire and La Cienega. Just last week, Metro also received federal approval to start the engineering phase for extending the Purple Line to Century City.

Minorities and disadvantaged workers are enjoying opportunities for construction jobs and apprenticeships for these projects thanks to the nation’s first federally-approved Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Program that begun under Leahy’s tenure.  

Having started his transit career as a bus operator 44 years ago, at Metro Leahy focused on improving bus on time performance, cleanliness and ADA compliance. The agency is taking delivery of 550 new buses and a new state-of-the-art bus maintenance facility will open later this year. The popular Silver Line express bus service from El Monte to Artesia was one of Leahy’s projects along with the Orange Line extension to Chatsworth.

Leahy also launched a $1.2-billion overhaul of the Metro Blue Line and guided the purchase of a new fleet of rail cars. And he helped turn Union Station into the hub of the region’s expanding bus and rail transit network and led the agency’s acquisition of the 75-year-old iconic facility.

Major highway projects such as the I-5 widening to Orange County have broken ground under Leahy’s watch and the new 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the I-405 freeway through the Sepulveda Pass has opened. Leahy led the successful Carmageddon I & II weekend closures for bridge work as part of that effort. 

Prior to his tenure as Metro CEO, Leahy served as the Chief Executive Officer at the Orange County Transportation Authority and General Manager of the transit agency in Minneapolis-St. Paul. During his leadership, both agencies garnered national transit industry honors as did Leahy.

Leahy grew up in Highland Park. Both his parents worked in transit and he followed in their footsteps. He started as a bus operator for the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) in Los Angeles in 1971 and rose through the ranks to become Chief Operations Officer before taking leadership positions at other transit agencies.

Metro is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County, a major builder of transit and highway projects and is one of the largest transit operators in the United States. Metro employs more than 9,000 workers and has an annual $5-billion budget. 

Okay LA, It’s 2015 … Where’s the Subway to the Sea? The Valley to the Westside Tunnel? The LRTP?


By Ken Alpern, January 6, 2014


GETTING THERE FROM HERE-My recent CityWatch column on transportation resulted in a pleasantly and surprisingly high number of questions and interest in revisiting transportation planning, funding and construction in 2015-16. 
In short, we're on the cusp of a host of new transportation initiatives, but it's the Funding, Planning and Political Consensus that prevents us all from seeing this project or that endeavor from seeing the light of day. 

It's either sad and unfair, or an example of good spending, as to how transportation projects and operations have a much higher threshold than other budgetary initiatives (education, defense, etc.) to achieve a guaranteed source of funding--but it should be remembered that: 

1) Planning and Consensus is required to procure governmental Funding.   

What does that mean, in English?  Well, in short, we need to get the Planning and Consensus to come up with a proposed budget from either Washington, Sacramento or the voters to fund something.  Unfortunately, things always seem to cost more after they've started--sometimes that's just Reality 101 with Murphy's Law in full effect, and sometimes it's paying inefficient and subpar contractors too much. 

That said, we FIRST need a Major Investment Study (MIS) for a given project, as well as an updated Metro Long Range Transportation Plan to prioritize it compared to all the other projects that engineers, planners and taxpayers are screaming for.  Items such as total cost, cost per rider and cost per mile are considered to determine how fiscally-smart or reasonable a given project would be. 

Take the Sepulveda Pass rail line tunnel to connect the San Fernando Valley with the Westside, which I described in my last article as being roughly $5 billion, and probably something unlikely to see the light of day until we finished the Wilshire Subway to the 405 freeway. 

Did I say $5 billion?  Well...it's a shame I didn't take a bit of time to review the Metro link of its $1.5 million-plus studies on this "Holy Grail" of L.A. County mass transit.   

It's NOT $5 billion--make that $8.4 billion for the rail tunnel, $17 billion for an underground toll highway tunnel with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and $33.7 billion for a toll highway tunnel with private rail. 

 So the option of creating a BRT for the carpool lanes for $1.9 billion is arguably the only realistic one we can agree to at this time.  Or maybe, despite the $1 billion from Measure R dedicated to such a project, we should just leave this corridor alone while tackling other projects that are "lower-hanging fruit" to be plucked.  

And geologic/earthquake/operational issues prevent an above-ground rail option from being a reality...sorry! 

Hence, we've got the Planning (or at least a lot of it so far), doubtfully no Consensus, so no Funding.

Bye-bye, Sepulveda Pass Rail Tunnel...for now.  You'll not be forgotten, though. 

2) Metro last updated its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) in 2009, and it needs an update...probably this year. 

Why THIS year?  Two reasons, and they're inter-related:  the quest for a Transportation Measure "R-2" and the quest for a 2024 Olympics in Los Angeles. 

In other words, what can we build NOW for completion by this aforementioned Olympics, and for commuters who want more mobility NOW (but realistically by 2022 or so)?  This was not considered in 2009, so that the last LRTP in 2009 was timely then but behind the times today.  Life changes a bit over 5-6 years, doesn't it? 

At this time, it appears we've got a Crenshaw/LAX Line with a connecting People Mover on its way to completion, what with the $2.5 billion or so that Metro and Los Angeles World Airports have approved over the past three months, on its way to completion by 2022.
Ditto for the Downtown Light Rail Connector to tie our four Downtown light rail lines together and allowing one-seat east-west and north-south train trips through the county.  This is planned for an approximate 2022 completion date, so we'll have some sort of countywide rail network by that year. 
So what else can we achieve Consensus and Planning for by 2022? 

And here's your answer:  we already DID most of the Major Investment Studies of a northerly extension of the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line to the Wilshire Subway, as well as a South Bay Green Line Extension to Torrance, and an eastern extension of the Foothill Gold Line to the eastern LA County border. 

Upon completion of the currently-planned Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, the Crenshaw and South Bay Green Lines will effectively be one big, long north-south rail line and have much bigger implications than the Crenshaw Corridor or any other political or economic focus that this line once had.  It's the connection to the Wilshire Subway that allows the Crenshaw/LAX line to achieve the 100,000/day or so riders. 

If we want a Measure R-2 to truly pass, a short-term focus must be needed, and three light rail line extensions to serve the Wilshire Corridor, the South Bay and the San Gabriel Valley are certain to attract more countywide interest. 

The argument for a Major Investment Study (MIS) to directly connect LAX with Downtown, to connect Metro Rail with Metrolink in the Norwalk/Santa Fe region, and along Metrolink and/or freeway locations on the SR-60 and I-5 freeway corridors is a strong one, but can these projects get the Consensus and Planning and Funding for completion by 2022-24?  A sad but strong conclusion is...NO. 

3) What about those voters who live outside the mass transit bubble and want other transportation projects done first?  

Oh yeah...THOSE people. 

THOSE people who want to purchase a host of new buses for mass transit in the here and now. 

THOSE people who want freeway upgrades/expansions (like the widening of the I-5 and US 101 freeways) where we still can. 

THOSE people who want more parking lots and/or structures for access to light rail lines, for major surface streets, and for pedestrian malls. 

THOSE people who want their surface streets, roads, medians, sidewalks and alleys repaired NOW. 

THOSE people who want a countywide bicycle lane plan. 

THOSE people who want more tax/business breaks for telecommuting and to create private and/or Metro vanpools to use our carpool lanes to the benefit of more commuters. 

I assure you that these people are real, and that they can and do vote. 

4) Just what IS a "Measure R-2" going to look like?  More taxes up front, or bonds against future taxes? 

We don't know the answer to this one yet, but it's hoped that any plan for a 2016 "Measure R-2" has this answered as soon as humanly possible. 

The fact remains that we've got a lot of taxpayers who are feeling tapped out, and who are questioning whether the funds we're spending are being spent well. 

There's also the concern that mass transit spending is leading to overdevelopment and therefore to LESS mobility due to worsening traffic.  On a similar note, it appears to many voters that developers are just not paying their fair share to truly enhance mobility and pay for a transportation infrastructure, and that they're making a fiscal killing while insufficiently paying for the traffic and environmental impacts of their projects. 

If we don't answer this question in a fair and credible way to the voters, then kiss the election year of 2016 goodbye with respect to a 2/3 voter turnout favoring a "Measure R-2". 

The time is right, and the time is NOW, in 2015 to do what's smart and what's right in order to ensure a popular and voter-approved "Measure R-2" in 2016...but the challenges and clarifications the voters are begging for remain unanswered...despite the legitimate and praiseworthy progress made by our political leaders to date. 

2015 will be a year of proving--not only to transportation advocates but to the average voter/taxpayer--that the case should be made for a new 2016 transportation funding initiative.