By Steve Scauzillo, January 28, 2016
Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington at the dedication of the new Arcadia
Gold Line Station on the Foothill Extension August 22, 2015.
LOS ANGELES >> The list of priorities for the county’s mega
transit agency in 2016 includes the on-time opening of two new rail
lines, halfway completion of a first-ever train to LAX and, if that’s
not enough, a successful ballot measure in November that could add
another half-cent sales tax to fund more rail, bus and highway
These ambitious priorities were listed in Metro CEO
Phil Washington’s first annual “State of the Agency” presentation
delivered Thursday before the board and a near-empty auditorium.
“The state of the agency is one of expectation for big change. We
are on the verge of becoming the infrastructure capital of the world,”
said Washington, new head of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan
Transportation Authority (Metro).
Washington only marginally
addressed recent news reports about a drop in transit ridership, fueled
by the continuing decline in gasoline prices and a thriving economy.
counting the rides on its 2,000 buses, boardings per hour have fallen
25 percent since 1985, Metro reported. Overall boardings (bus and rail)
have declined 5 percent in fiscal year 2015.
“LA Metro ridership’s decline rate is in line with the national
trends,” he said, adding new rail corridors have resulted in increased
Among possible reasons for the decline are
lower gas prices allowing more lower-income households to drive to work
and numerous rail interruptions that altered transit patterns. For
example, Washington hinted that updates to the Blue Line from Long Beach
to L.A. decreased rail ridership.
He said Metro must do a better job of
informing the community of rail construction interruptions to train
But with planning agencies expecting 750,000 more people forecast
for L.A. County, Washington said the agency will continue to invest in
more rail and improved bus services. “We are building not just for
tomorrow but rather for the next 100 years,” he said.
Led by L.A.
Mayor and Metro board Chair Eric Garcetti, the agency is trying to
attract more riders by adding Wi-Fi, more real-time bus and train
information, and by increasing safety.
Washington said Wi-Fi
service in the Red Line subway tunnels from Union Station to 7th
Street/Metro Center Station will be operating sometime in March, when
wireless repeaters would be installed from 7th and Flower streets to
Vermont and Sunset and Wilshire and Western.
New rail lines will attract more riders, he said.
The Expo Line
from Culver City to Santa Monica will open to passengers in May, Metro
announced. The 11.9-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension from east
Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border will start taking passengers about
noon on March 5, said Rick Jager, Metro spokesman.
lines are under construction: Crenshaw Line to 96th Street, with a
future connection via a people mover into LAX; the Purple Line along
Wilshire Boulevard stretching to Westwood; the Regional Connector in
downtown Los Angeles.
Other goals for 2016 include reducing crime system-wide by 5
percent and fare evasion also by 5 percent, workforce development and
better asset management.
The CEO would like to see a measure put
on the November ballot that would most likely add another one-half cent
to the sales tax for transit projects. Known loosely as Measure R-2, it
would either extend or add to 2008’s transit tax, Measure R, approved by
more than two-thirds of county voters.
Some in the audience
tussled over whether Measure R-2 would include extension of the 710
Freeway north from El Sereno through South Pasadena and Pasadena via
twin underground tunnels. Members of the No on 710 Coalition said if
Metro’s measure includes tunnel funding, or does not exclude it, they
will muster forces to campaign against the measure.
Barbara Messina, Alhambra councilwoman and long-time supporter of
completing the 710 Freeway, characterized the tunnel opponents who
addressed the board Thursday as “vocal minorities ... not representative
of the broader community.”
Metro is proposing to divide Measure R-2 funds
for new rail projects as follows: 19 percent for central Los Angeles;
7.7 percent for the Arroyo-Verdugo area (Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank);
19.8 percent for the Gateway Cities; 1.4 percent for Las
Virgenes/Malibu; 9.4 percent for North county; 14.85 percent for the San
Fernando Valley; 10.62 percent for the South Bay cities; 13 percent for
the westside and 16.2 percent for the San Gabriel Valley. Since these are Metro's estimates, the figures add up to 112 percent.