Telephone Town Hall Transcript, May 18
Sheila Kuehl, L.A County Supervisor representing the Third Supervisorial district
Pauletta: Good evening everyone! And thank you for joining us for a live telephone town hall meeting hosted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority also known as Metro. I’m Pauletta Tonilas, Chief Communications Officer for Metro. And I’ll be your moderator tonight as we talk about Metro’s programs and services and our long term plan to ease traffic all across Los Angeles County. How can we provide better mobility, how can we plan for future growth and how can we, furthermore, invest more together to make improvements like highway and rail improvements, enhanced bus service, improvements in your local communities like better streets, bike and pedestrian pathways? And how can we also provide better service for those who use ADA paratransit service and keeping fares affordable for seniors, the disabled and for students. So this is your opportunity to share your thoughts and ask questions about the draft plan that we’re putting out to the public as well as our potential ballot measure that the Metro board will be deciding whether or not to put on the November ballot. And they’ll be making that decision likely in June.
Now if this is your first time on a telephone town hall meeting here’s how it works. To ask a question just press zero on your keypad and you’ll be transferred to an operator who will take down some basic information and then put you in the queue so that we can call upon you for you to ask your question to us live. Once the operator has that information, then what you’ll do is just listen for your name to be called and then you’ll repeat your question. We ask you to keep your questions brief so that we can get to as many of you as possible. Also, your opinions are very important to us so we’re going to be asking you a couple of questions tonight and give you an opportunity to participate in some live electronic polling on some questions that are important to us. We’d like to know how you feel about that. You can also participate on line by going to metro.net/theplan and clicking on the interactive town hall link. So again, just press zero to get in the queue to ask us a question. We’re going to go ahead and get started.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you LA County Supervisor and Metro board member, Ms. Sheila Kuehl. Hello, Supervisor. Thank you for joining us.
Sheila: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, of course. Good evening everybody. Thank you all for joining us. Before we get to your questions let me give you a quick update on what’s going on these days at Metro. I’m happy to say there’s a lot to report. It’s really important for everybody to know that Metro provides 450 million rides a year. In the past 25 years we’ve gone from having zero miles of rail to more than 100 miles. We also have 2,200 buses providing service on 170 routes throughout the county. This year alone, Metro opened the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa, the 501 NOHO to Pasadena Express bus service which connects to San Fernando Valley directly with Pasadena for the first time. I am delighted to report on May 20th, this Friday, the Expo Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica will open and it will link downtown LA with Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean for the first time in 63 years. Also, we’re doing construction of the Purple Line to the border of Century City. Much of the advanced utility relocation work has now been completed. The project contractor now plans to start decking work to allow traffic to keep moving on Wilshire Boulevard, very important, while we excavate the Wilshire/LA subway station. That work is scheduled to be begin in June. So we’re actually making really great progress.
Let’s delve into these and other projects in our discussion tonight. Don’t forget you need to press zero to participate.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Supervisor Kuehl. Tonight’s telephone town hall meeting is focusing on Supervisor Kuehl’s area. That includes the cities of Agora Hills, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu, San Fernando, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and West Lake Village as well as portions of the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. Again, if you just joined us, we are live in a telephone town hall meeting being hosted by LA Metro. We’re here to hear what you have to say about our long term plan to ease traffic and congestion all across Los Angeles County. We’re also going to be asking you a couple of questions tonight. We ask you to stay on the line with us. And please press zero if you’d like to ask us a question live.
We’re going to go now to our first question. That is from Ollie. Ollie, go ahead and ask your question.
Ollie: Yes, our concern would be with the impact that this mass transit corridor would have on residential zoning and any zone changes that would allow massive high rise apartment complexes to be built within the two to three blocks east and west of the Lankershim Boulevard corridor. Will this be a probability and how soon would these zoning changes begin?
Phil: Hello, Ollie. This is Philip Washington, the CEO. Our plan would be to work with the various cities on residential zoning. So we would be there to work with the various cities along the Expo Line actually in this case to determine what zoning requirements are there. We would not be out advocating for zoning changes ourselves as Metro but we would work with the cities to do that. It’s hard to say specifically the areas that you’re mentioning. But we would definitely work with those cities. And I’m sure there would be some community meetings to that regard as well.
Sheila: Also Ollie as Phil said, this is Sheila Kuehl, Metro doesn’t have the ability or the sort of legal jurisdiction to do zoning. That’s all with city. So if we talk about the Lankershim corridor, and that’s in the city of LA, they’re the ones talking about limiting building height, etcetera. Although as you know, that measure was moved off of the ballot from this year, the one that Michael Weinstein was putting on the ballot and is being maybe put on next year. I think that’s something to worry about with your city council if you’re worried about it. But Metro’s not going to be able to say one way or the other.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Supervisor Kuehl. Tonight we are live in a telephone town hall meeting being hosted by LA Metro. We have LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl here as well as Metro’s CEO Philip Washington. Also, David Yale from our Planning Department and Israel Marin from our Service Development Department. We’re here to take your questions. We want to hear what you have to say and we’re going to go now to Nicki in Beverly Hills. Nicki.
Nicki: Hello, everybody. I’m a resident of Beverly Hills. I don’t know whether you’re still planning on putting the Purple Line right through Beverly Hills high school. And I was concerned about that and I just would like to know the status.
Sheila: Hi Nicki it’s Sheila Kuehl. The Metro people have been working over the last year with Beverly Hills City Council and the Beverly Hills School District because the line, as planned, is going under the high school. What they have been working out is what they’re calling a “thread the needle response” which means that it wouldn’t go under any of the buildings. Now you understand it’ll be like – I know you understand, I didn’t mean that. The depth would be about 80 feet; we’re not talking about a train rumbling right under your gym building. The final decision is going to be negotiated. And the meetings are going on. I have a really good feeling about the compromise that they’ve come to.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Supervisor Kuehl. If you would like to ask a question just press zero on your keypad and we can get you in the queue to ask us a question. We’re going to go right to our next one from Constantine. Constantine from Santa Monica, go ahead. Constantine, are you there?
Constantine: Yes, nice lady. I am 87 years old and I like to make some treatment for the [legs at the Hughes there?] and I ask the Access Group to help me to get a car to go there. And they didn’t accept it. They told me to take the bus but it’s very far there to go.
Pauletta: Well, Constantine, one thing I can offer you is to call our Access Services and you can get more information on how you might be able to take advantage of our Access Service for seniors and for paratransit needs. And that phone number is 1-800 –
Constantine: Excuse me one moment, nice lady, to get a pen.
Pauletta: Okay. And for all of you out there who would like to have the Access Services number. It’s 1-800-883-1295. 1-800-883-1295. And our CEO Phil Washington would like to add something.
Phil: Yes, Constantine. Thank you so much for your call. Let me add that in addition to what’s called Paratransit Services, we have various senior discounts as well. And this potential ballot measure, this half cent investment in a tax that we’re talking about tonight actually, has a provision to keep fares down and low for seniors, the disabled and students. Not only are we addressing the issue of seniors getting to appointments now through our discounted programs and through our funding to Access Services which transports disabled. But we’re also addressing it in the potential ballot measure in November. We’ve actually carved out some funding specifically geared towards seniors, the disabled and students as well.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Phil. That is Phil Washington, Metro’s CEO. If you would like to ask a question, press zero on your keypad and we’ll get you into the queue. We also are going to be asking you a couple of questions in a little bit. We’re going to go not to Rosalie in Malibu. Rosalie, what’s your question?
Rosalie: My question is; I live in the Santa Monica mountains in the unincorporated part of Malibu. And The Edge, the basis from U2 has proposed to build five large properties on the ridge line in Malibu. There was a long article in the LA Times just recently about this. I’m just wondering what the position is given that the California Coastal Commission has voted 12 to 0 in favor of allowing the property to go up. There was a photograph in the LA Times associated with the article that showed a view not towards the ocean but back towards the mountains from the proposed building site, and my house is visible in that. I’m just very concerned about him being allowed to build on the ridge line which I thought was illegal. And also concerned about the damage to the wildlife there in the mountains.
Sheila: Yeah, Rosalie, I’m with you. This is Sheila Kuehl. I’ve been opposing this development ever since The Edge was trying to build five huge mansions. Now he’s building five little mansions. The Coastal Commission is required to approve things as long as it meets all the rules. I think that’s what they think they’re doing because, you notice from the picture in the Times that the houses are all supposed to be sort of low and they’re not on the ridge line anymore. I think it’s terrible. And I would complain if – I can’t say it’s going to do any good at this point – but I would really complain to the Coastal Commission because I think that they are not doing what they’re appointed to do. So, I’m with you. I may actually be even more upset about it, you know. But, of course, Metro has nothing to do with it. And unfortunately the supervisors can’t but the kibosh on it either. So we’ve been frustrated, too.
Pauletta: Thanks much, Supervisor Kuehl. We’re going to go now to Sean in Beverly Hills. Sean, what’s your question?
Sean: Hi, this is Sean. I’m a Beverly Hills post office resident. I grew up on the East Coast. Initially worked in Washington D.C. and love mass transit. Given where the current Expo Line is and, from my understanding the future developments, what is the plan for north/south connectors off the Expo Line to give people more access to some of the more used east/west line?
David: Hi, Sean. This is David Yale in our Planning Department. For the first time, this ballot measure and our expenditure plan in it would make possible a northern extension from the Crenshaw Boulevard area of the Expo Line north to the Red Line in Hollywood. The route is under study and it may go a little bit west or east of a straight line up Crenshaw depending on those studies. We are also, right now, building the Crenshaw Line south of the Expo Line all the way down to the Green Line. So those two north/south pieces are made possible by the Measure R before and the new ballot measure we’re proposing for November.
Pauletta: Thank you very much. That’s David Yale with our Planning Department and responsible for much of the intensive work that goes into our long range plan that we are proposing to you, the public, to review and give us some feedback on. This is a plan looking out about the next 40 to 50 years of how we can ease traffic and enhance our mobility all across Los Angeles County. And also, provide funding for local communities for all 88 cities of Los Angeles County on how they can do improvements right in your own community. We’re here tonight to take your questions and we’re going to go now to Jack in Santa Monica. Jack, what’s your question?
Jack: Hi, my name is Jack. I’m a resident of Santa Monica and I live near the Bundy Station. I’m very happy with the Metro system. I’m thrilled that it’s here. But I am concerned about parking near the stations. I’m concerned that it will flood the neighborhoods with cars for people all day while they go on their trips.
Phil: Thank you, Jack. This is Phil Washington. Yes, the parking issue we’ve been looking at very hard especially along the new Expo extension that will open. Three of the seven stations where we own land we have put parking there. I think it’s about 575 spaces or so that we have put parking at those stations. Now we are studying parking and looking to partner with the city of Santa Monica for additional parking at the other four stations. We will continue to do that. We will continue to work with the city of Santa Monica to identify other parking opportunities. But at the same time, we are working with Santa Monica Bus Agency, or Big Blue Bus, and other bus companies, Culver City as well, to change their routes to allow feeder service into our stations. This is a combination of things that we’re looking at to address the parking issue. But we do have parking at three of the seven stations. And I think Supervisor Kuehl wants to add something.
Sheila: Well, I live in Santa Monica too. And I’m always concerned about it. The city of Santa Monica, I think you probably know Jack, has this theory that if they don’t provide parking you won’t use your car. And I love driving my car but I want to take the Expo Line. So I’ve been complaining bitterly. As Phil said, Metro is trying to buy up some additional land to see if we can provide more parking. The problem is when you buy up land the city has to approve what you do with it. We have to convince the city to let us build more parking. And then, of course, we have to use some of the ballot measure money in order to build it in different parts of the county. I think, maybe, if you let your Santa Monica City Council know, as I have, that you really would like their help with a little more parking because you don’t want everybody parking in your neighborhood, I think that would help us as well. Not to mention, voting for the ballot measure.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Supervisor Kuehl. If you’d like to get into the queue to ask us a question, press zero on your keypad. We have a question that came in through our Spanish simulcast. For folks that are listening to our Spanish simulcast tonight, there’s a questions from Christian in West Hollywood. And the question is: I rely on the buses for everyday transportation. And there have been several occasions where the bus driver has driven past me. So maybe Israel can address that related to our bus operators and sometimes why that happens. Israel.
Israel: Hi Christian. Thank you for your call. My name is Israel Marin and I work in Service Development. First of all, I would like to apologize. Metro does not support the idea of our patrons being passed up. However, occasionally, due to heavy loads, as you know, it’s a very dense corridor and unfortunately sometimes pass-ups do happen. We are working on a comprehensive operations analysis that will be unveiled later this year. Our goal here is to invest into some of these more popular dense corridors and, of course, the measure will help us implement this plan again in the near future. We are looking at a temporary solution as well to loads and ridership. We sincerely thank you for your comment. We’ll take that into consideration.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Israel. We had another question that came in asking about the Sepulveda Pass and if our plan to ease traffic has any plans related to the Sepulveda Pass. So I’m going to ask David Yale to address that.
David: Yes, thank you, Pauletta. And thank you for your call about the Sepulveda Pass. This corridor has over 320,000 travelers going over it every day and we know that more want to get through that Pass. It’s a very tight and congested corridor. The ballot measure has a next generation improvement that would involve express lanes over the Pass and a heavy rail subway project under the Pass between Westwood and UCLA and Van Nuys. We’re super excited about this part of the plan. It’s a challenging project a lot like the North Hollywood project where the subway goes from Hollywood to North Hollywood under the Santa Monica mountains. We’ve done it before and we want to do it again here in this corridor. We’d be happy to answer any more questions you have about the corridor.
Pauletta; Thank you very much, David. That’s David Yale with Metro’s Planning Department. We’re going to go not to C.J. in Santa Monica. C.J., Go ahead. Go ahead, C.J. You on the line?
C.J.: I am. I’m calling back when you guys were talking about transportation for the fares for elderly, the handicapped. But my thing is everybody always forget about the veterans. I know there are some veterans out there that are abusing the system. But there are also great veterans out there and I think they should be considered as well when it comes to using transportation and they should have discounts or actually ride the Metro line free.
Phil: Thank you, C.J. As a veteran myself having served 25 years on active duty, I couldn’t agree with you more. However, to have it free for all veterans I think is probably down the line a bit. There are discounts available for veterans especially if they’re seniors or disabled. And let me also add, in this plan to fully fund a line that goes all the way out to the Veteran’s Center, it’s called the Purple Line, we are in full construction on Phase 1 or Section 1 of that line that will ultimately go all the way out to the VA Center. That is very important to us. We are looking at some ways that we can partner with our veteran organizations. I actually just met with the state veteran representative about a month ago to look at ways at how we can possibly identify disabled veterans at a certain disability rating. We’re looking at that. We don’t have anything etched in stone yet but we are thinking about ways that we can partner with our veterans. We already do that here with Veteran’s Preference for Jobs. We’ll continue to look at how we can partner with veterans on fares.
Pauletta: Thanks very much. That is Metro’s CEO Philip Washington. If you’d like to get in the queue, please press zero and we’ll get you in line to ask us a question live. Now we’ve been talking about a lot of new projects that we’d like to build as part of this potential ballot measure that the Metro board will be deciding whether to put on the November ballot. This includes an array of services and improvements at the local level and how we can keep our bus service enhanced over time. Better connections with bike and pedestrian pathways. But there’s another component of this plan. That is taking care of our system and we in the transportation industry call that the state of good repair. We’re going to ask our first question of the night. So we want you to listen up and participate, if you can, by just pressing the number on your keypad that corresponds with the answer that I give you. The question revolves around this concept of state of good repair and maintaining our system once it is built out. We would like to ask you tonight: When we build out these projects, would you support Metro keeping part of the tax to keep the system in good working condition? Press one on your keypad if yes and two if no. One for yes and two for no. We’re going to be sharing those results with you here in just a couple of minutes and we thank you for your participation.
We’re going to go now to Ken in Calabasas. Ken, go ahead.
Ken: This is Ken. Is the Metro line ever going to connect directly to the airport without having to change buses or lines or something as other cities do around the country or the world?
Sheila: Hi, Ken. It’s Sheila Kuehl. I haven’t answered a question in a while because I wanted to jump in. But there’s really good news about that because we are building an airport connector now. The Green Line, of course, is going to connect to it. The Crenshaw Line is going to connect to it. And if we pass this ballot measure and build our fabulous new line down the 405, I should say, under the Sepulveda Pass, that will eventually connect to it, too. And it will be sort of a major platform where all of our travelers can gather when they get off the train. It will not go directly into the airport, it’s not a plan at the moment. Instead there will be a people mover that you’ll go on and we save lots of millions of dollars by not taking the train all the way into the airport but having a people mover instead. I’m really excited about it, even though I don’t have to go to Sacramento every week like I used to. I get to stay home and be a supervisor. But we are going to have a connector and it won’t be too long from now. And then there will be a people mover to take you right to your gate.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Supervisor Kuehl. That is Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. We are talking to her district. Also Metro CEO, Philip Washington is with us tonight to answer your questions. I want to give you the results of the question that we just asked you. We were asking you about the concept of state of good repair and Metro keeping part of the tax that we will be asking for potentially in November for us to keep our system in good working condition. 82% of you said yes and 18% said no. We very much appreciate your feedback and we value that very much.
We’re going to go now to John in Westlake Village. Go ahead, John.
John: I live in Westlake Village in the Conejo Valley and I’d like to know what plans you have, if any, to extend the Orange Line out into this area and beyond?
Phil: Yes, John. Let me talk about improving the Orange Line. First of all, that is part of our plan that we are bringing to board in November. The idea is to look at grade separations on the Orange Line in order to speed that service up. That is in our plan to construct grade separations so that the Orange Line vehicles are not stopping at intersections for lights and those sorts of things. In terms of improving that Orange Line, that will be a huge improvement to the Orange Line and will speed up that line as well. In terms of extending out to Westlake Village, we might have asked you to call our transit info line 323-GO-METRO, and we will provide that. I don’t have that at my fingertips in terms of the plan to extend out to Westlake Village. But I will say that twice a year, we do service adjustments on all of our lines. We look across the county and we determine what service needs to be adjusted and we make that adjustment. I will also say that on the Orange Line and in addition to the grade separations that we’re looking to construct, what is also in our plan is converting that Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit to rail. That is very important to know. That is in our plan. And also, keep in mind that we look at all of our service out there twice a year. We will determine whether service is justified in terms of boarding’s and all that to go all the way out to Westlake Village.
Pauletta: Thanks very much. That’s Phil Washington, Metro’s CEO. You are on a live telephone town hall meeting being hosted by LA Metro. We have Supervisor Sheila Kuehl here as well as Phil, our CEO here at Metro. And some of our other staff members. Not too late to press zero to get in the queue to ask us a question. We’re going to go next to Nadia in West Hollywood. Go ahead, Nadia.
Nadia: Good evening. First of all, thank you very much for preserving the low fares for seniors and people with disabilities. Adds a lot to the quality of life. Now my concern as a bus rider is that once again, we are not going to be treated as the poor child and that the expansion of the Metro is not going to again affect the quality of service of the bus riders. Which now encompasses the huge demographic of people who use it because there is no Metro or because that is all that is available. And, of course, as we are expanding, I would like to see the frequency and quality of the bus services are expanded.
Sheila: Hey, Nadia. It’s Sheila. How are you doing? Wait, you can’t answer because now you’re on mute and I’m not. But I hope the answer is great. I’m going to tell you; it will not be at the expense of bus service. The bus services will all continue. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Phil Washington, the CEO.
Phil: Thank you Supervisor and thank you for the question, Nadia. Actually, bus service increases when you put in rail lines. People don’t think that’s so but it does because we are providing more feeder service into the new lines. While we look at parallel service, service that’s parallel to the rail line itself, bus service actually will likely increase due to feeder service into the new transit lines. No, we have no intention of building these new transit projects at the expense of bus services. In fact, we have a 20% carve out in terms of funding in this potential ballot measure for transit operations which are primarily bus service. You will see more bus service and likely higher frequencies or improved frequencies based on justification of that higher frequency in terms of higher boarding’s and all that. So that’s good news.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. We’re going to go now to Richard in Santa Monica. Richard, share your question with us.
Richard: Hello. I wanted to follow up just on that last question actually in terms of the feeder service and in terms of north/south access that Sean asked. And that is, would you consider having a DASH type of service that just circles around. In particular like in Santa Monica, we have a lot of businesses that are within actually walking distance. Would it be possible to, in lieu of parking and to get more access, to just have a DASH service that goes maybe a mile north/south around the busier stops? Thank you.
Israel: Hi Richard. Thank you for your question, first of all. My name is Israel and I work in Service Planning. We actually have pretty good news for you. Although, we do not directly make the schedules for the DASH service we do proudly fund the DASH and other municipal services throughout the county. I do want to mention, however, that in the recent months, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus has worked out a feeder type service in coordination with Metro. And their plan is, as you’re mentioning, to modify their current routes to feed the Expo Line. It’s brand new. I recommend you going to the website, it’s www.bigbluebus.com. They have the latest information on line as well as future services beginning the day of the Expo extension opening, which is this Friday, May 20th. They’ll have new alignments and their purpose, again, is to feed the Expo Line. So I think you’ll be glad to check out their new routes. Thank you very much.
Phil: Yes, Richard, let me just add another piece and that is bike and pedestrian. As we look at these lines, what we like to think and what we’re doing is we’re building a balanced transportation system that includes rail, bus, bike, pedestrian, all of these things we’re doing currently. But we are proposing that we do more of that in this potential ballot measure in November. There is a slice in this expenditure plan that is dedicated to active transportation or bikes and bike pathways. There is also a slice of funding in this plan to return to local cities so they can do pedestrian sidewalks and potholes and those types of improvements. This is an all-encompassing plan. When we talk about being able to get to a station and things like that, we are looking at not just buses but bike and pedestrian as well.
Sheila: Also, I think what they said about the Big Blue Bus is really important. They’ve added a bunch of lines. A friend of mine that lives on Fourth and Pier for instance, there was no bus anywhere nearby, just took the bus to go to a movie down at the Place down where I live near Pico and Centinela, they’ve added an extra bus going down Pico. I think they’re really hooking up to each of the Expo stops. Whether it’s Bundy or 17th Street, Bergamot Station, all the way toward Colorado and 4th. I think they’re trying to do what we would normally use DASH’s to do. But the Big Blue Bus carries more people and that I think really helps. They’ll also take your bike. You can also grab a bike right near our Metro stop. And, as Phil said, a lot of that is going to be in the ballot measure that we hope you’ll vote for in November because cities will be able to do a lot more with different modes of transportation.
Pauletta: Thank you, Supervisor Kuehl. We’re going to ask you another question tonight. So get ready to punch the number on your keypad that corresponds with your response. We’ve been talking tonight about Metro’s long term plan to ease traffic. This is us looking out about the next 40 to 50 years on how we plan for future growth given that we expect to have another 2.4 million people move into Los Angeles County over the next 40 years. So we have to start planning for that now. We don’t start in 20 years. We would like to know how you feel about this plan and this potential sales tax ballot measure that the Metro board will be deciding whether to put forth in the November ballot. The question that we have for you now is: If this sales tax election of one half of a cent were to be held tonight, if the election were held tonight, would you vote for this proposed sales tax measure for more transportation? Press one for yes and two for no. We will share those results with you in just a couple of minutes.
Right now we’re going to go to Dave in West Hollywood. Go ahead, Dave.
Dave: Hi this is Dave and I work in the internet industry as a Technical Service Rep of a hosting company. I’ve got a couple of internet related questions. The first ones are technology related questions. The first one has to do with customer service. I, too, have been passed up and I’ve taken out my cell phone, taken a picture of the driver, taken a picture of the bus, sent it into the complaint forum on the website which is really hard to do. And it was as if it was dropped into a giant black hole where nothing was responded to. I would call, they’d say we’re looking at, even though I put in my email address and ask for updates. Never got done. So I’m just thinking, if the customer service line which you want to call in a complaint, there’s set hours you have to call, were built out more technologically, adeptly, you might be able to start helping customers give feedback to drivers so that that combined with their supervisors could affect behavioral change.
The second one – I’m talking fast because I don’t want to take up too much time – is that Google has published that they’re two years away from self-driving cars. Apple is about to get into self-driving cars. My thought is why are we building out a future based on 20th century technology when 21st century technology, which would allow us to provision these cars, drive them in energy efficient paths, give them little turn offs so they could go up the street, get the person closer to their route, come back on, go in a loop. Why aren’t we building and planning for that kind of technology? Why are we kind of stapling ourselves and shaming ourselves with the old centuries technology?
Sheila: Well, I love the idea of self-driving cars. Unfortunately, they’re still cars and one of the reasons that we’re building trains, Dave, as you know, is so that you have an alternative to being stuck on the freeway. Whether I’m driving or riding in a self-driving car, which sounds like fun because I could text and talk to my friends instead of having to just drive, or I’m driving myself, the problem has been congestion. Congestion, congestion, congestion. The answer to congestion is trains and buses because they carry a lot more people per car and they take you, essentially, off the road. That’s the whole idea. It doesn’t have to take the place of self-driving cars. I think people will have a wider range of things to buy, but you’re still going to be stuck in traffic.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Supervisor Kuehl. In our plan, we actually have, looking forward to technological advancement, built into our plan, because we can’t possibly know what is going to be the technology of the future in 10 years or 20 years. So what we have built in is that flexibility so that as we would be building out more projects and enhancing service over time, we can take a look at what we need to evolve into. So that is part of what we’re looking at.
We’re going to go now to Daniel in Santa Monica. Go ahead, Daniel.
Daniel: Hi, I’m Daniel. I have a quick question about the Purple Line extension plan. With the long range transportation in mind, are the new stations at Wilshire and La Brea and Wilshire and Westwood going to be built with two levels each to connect to future planned Sepulveda Pass corridor and the Crenshaw Lines respectively so that you don’t have to go back and interrupt future service and build extra levels to these two stations?
David: Yes, that’s right. This is David Yale in the Planning Department. All the Purple Line extension stations will be built not to preclude future north/south connections. So we are looking forward at the north/south connections we’ve already mentioned like the Crenshaw northern extension, the Vermont corridor is another area in the plan that we’re looking at for north/south connection. And the Sepulveda Pass, including a connection down to the Expo Line and to the airport and the Purple Line in West LA a little north of the Expo Line there. All of these connections are being advanced planning so that we don’t preclude future north/south connections. Thank you.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, David. We asked you just a couple of minutes ago. The question that we asked you: If the vote were to be held tonight for this proposed sales tax measure for more transportation and easing congestion all across Los Angeles County, would you vote for it. And 69% of you said yes and 31% said no. We value your feedback. We thank you very much for taking the time to participate. We would ask you to go to our website at metro.net/theplan to learn more about this long term transportation plan. And you can even provide more input to us through the website through this Friday. We’ll be compiling that and sharing that with the Metro board of directors as a piece of information for them in making their decision about whether to put this ballot measure on the November ballot.
We’re going to go now to [Caulin?]. So Caulin, I’m hoping I’m pronouncing that right, go ahead.
Caulin: Hi, it’s Caulin. I have a question about the Expo Line. I live in Santa Monica and I’m going to be working in downtown LA in a week. I’m wondering is there any plans to speed up the commute time from downtown Santa Monica to downtown LA? Like using signal authority or adding in, I don’t know. Because currently, driving is sometimes a faster option for me and I want to be able to use the Expo Line to get to work on time.
David: Yes, this is David Yale. We’re working with LA DOT on these issues about signal coordination along the line. Some improvements are already in place and we’re looking at how we might do further improvements as the line is implemented and we get up and running here.
Sheila: Let me also add, Caulin, this is Sheila, that some of the tangles with the Expo Line seems to primarily be downtown. There’s a lot of having to stop and stop and stop. I rode from Culver City to Santa Monica and it was pretty fast. I think what we’ll look at and I think what the ballot measure will also help us do as we look at keeping everything in good repair, is to allow us to see if we can make some little tweaks. Like, I don’t know, maybe changing the lights so that we don’t have to wait at all the streets. Can’t promise it. Their all giving me the eyebrow here except for Mayor Garcetti who’s saying thumbs up. So we agree. It needs to go faster through downtown. And I hope you’ll ride the Expo all the way to the beach because it’s really fast and it’s fun. Especially when you go through this box under the 405 and then it shots up over Pico. It’s better than what they used to call an E-ticket ride.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Supervisor Kuehl. And she would know because she’s been on the train. In fact, we want to promote this fabulous video that Supervisor Kuehl has recently done. She and her staff have done a super video in showcasing in a very wonderful one-minute snapshot video of the value of the Expo extension and all the things that you can benefit from by riding the Expo Line. And you can see this video on Supervisor Kuehl’s website, that would be supervisorkuehl.com. Supervisor normal spelling K-U-E-H-L.com. And that’s on her front page of her website. I encourage you to look at that. It’s a lot of fun. Her personality comes out in it. And I personally, as a communications person, want to thank her because it does great things for us in promoting the benefits of the Expo Line.
Okay, we’re going to go to Natalie now. Natalie, what’s your question?
Natalie: Hi, this is Natalie. I grew up in Beverly Hills. I live in New York now. First of all, I’m just so excited about this happening. And now living on the East Coast and actually being able to read the newspaper on my way to work is amazing. My question is actually around how you all are planning for success. Hopefully this is a huge success and there is an increasing now of riders every year who want to ride all of the new transit options. But how are you planning for that now? I ride the train in the summer with my nose in someone’s armpit, which is not the most pleasant experience. I just want to know how are you planning now for, hopefully, incredible success in future years?
David: Thank you for your support, Natalie. This is David Yale in our Planning Department. When we look forward at our rail lines, we are delivering them into congested employment centers so that you can get to your jobs and back home again in the peak hour in a protected right of way. That’s what these rail lines actually do for you, is they move you farther and faster. The grade separations that we’re doing in these lines will prevent some of the stops that would otherwise be necessary without them. The parallel service we’ve got in for shorter trips on the buses also help. We’re looking at this. Each project we do has a specific environmental study that will plan for the life cycle of the project to make sure that we’re building ahead to carry the right amount of the people at the end of the project for the demand that’s there. Like doing a subway versus a light rail line or a bus rapid transit versus a light rail line and so forth. Thank you, again, for your call.
Sheila: Natalie, also we’re looking, essentially, at the operating trains as well. For instance, the Expo Line’s now going to go out to Santa Monica. And the Santa Monica pier concerts start this summer. 5,000 people at the pier on a Friday night or a Thursday night. I talked to the CEO and he said we also will test as we go along. And instead of a two car train, we might need a three car train. Or more frequency. We already had to add cars and trains going to Universal City because there’s a new Harry Potter ride and suddenly there’s lots more people that want to go. I think, in addition to what Dave just told you, we’re evaluating every week or so what’s the ridership? What do we have to add? Do we need to extend the hours?
Pauletta: Thank you, Supervisor Kuehl. We still have about ten minutes left. There’s still time to get in the queue. We’re going to go now to Bruce in Calabasas. Go ahead, Bruce.
Bruce: Hi, this is Bruce Sacket. I’m a resident of the area of Calabasas, West Valley. And it astounds me that having lived here for more than 20 years, how much we’re ignored in terms of the major cities. Not only to transportation but building things up and so forth. But that aside, as an attorney, I have to get downtown every so often and taking the Orange Line is fine if it’s early enough in the morning and I’m lucky enough to get parking. Or coming back from downtown, it’s mayhem because you take your life in your hands getting on a bus of 400 people – I’m exaggerating obviously – in a bus that seats maybe 50. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving. And I’ve seen some people get injured. I’m wondering if, what was said before, that the Orange bus line maybe someday either changed or extended to a Metro rail line so that it makes riding in and out of downtown from Calabasas, let’s say, a possibility.
David: We are looking at those capacity enhancements on the Orange Line right away to do some of the grade separations that would speed up the line and enable us to run buses more frequently then we are able to do now. Also, later in the plan we want to convert the Orange Line to light rail which will substantially increase the capacity and our ability to carry people in that corridor. Those are some of the things we’re doing. The bus funding that was mentioned earlier can also improve frequency and reduce overcrowding on our busiest lines where we have high demand.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, David. We’re going to go now to John in Santa Monica. Go ahead, John.
John: Hi, my names John. I was just wondering whether the proposition takes into account – sort of the opposite of Natalie’s question – the declining membership that the Metro system has seen over the last decade. And whether it makes more sense to spend money on improving traffic flow for cars than on a system that has seen shrinking ridership.
Pauletta: John, thanks very much for your question. We have heard a lot of that. Folks know that the ridership goes up and down. Ridership is cyclical. It always has been; it always will be. There are many factors that go along with whether or not ridership goes up or dips down a little bit. And the national trend right now for most transit agencies is a bit of a dip for bus ridership. However, here in Los Angeles County and here at Metro, our rail ridership has actually gone up. We have seen an increase in our rail ridership. In the past five years on our Gold Line, the ridership has increased 100%. And since we’ve opened up the extension just in March that goes now to Azusa, our ridership has continued to increase. In fact, what we expected to see in ridership gains within just the first year, we’re actually most of the way there already. And that has already just been in operation for about two months. This plan does account for looking at the big picture over long term. This involves many different modes and many different ways that we provide a good, comprehensive multi-modal system that has balance. Cars are a part of that, buses are a part of that, trains, bus rapid transit, bicycle paths, pedestrian paths, ADA service and keeping fares affordable for those who are most transit dependent like seniors and the disabled and students. The answer is yes; we have this built in but it’s all of those modes together that we look out for over the long term.
We’re going to go now to Carol. Carol, go ahead.
Carol: Hi. Carol in Santa Monica. One of my concerns is you’re talking about funding for the rail system and I was under the impression that it was already funded since it’s already been built and they’re testing it. What funding is still needed for this?
David: We have a very ambitious plan already underway from the voters’ approval in 2008 of Measure R. What we’ve found is that the opening of these rail lines has sparked a desire for the system to grow even more than what we were already building. We’re putting in five lines already in the first decade from the measure we did before. We’re building the Crenshaw Line, the subway’s being extended, we’re opening the Expo Line this Friday, and we opened the extension to Azusa on the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley in March. So, we’re building the rail that we promised and we’re doing it on time. What that’s caused, I think, is more interest and more construction of the system. I should add to that list of projects the downtown connector which is a connection through downtown and the Orange Line which was our first project that we delivered in the Measure R program. What we’ve found is the history of our record of project delivery is building more confidence in doing more for the public. So we’re going back to ask. It’s a big ask and it’s a super majority vote. So we need your support. Thank you.
Sheila: Let me also add that the new lines that are planned in the ballot measure. The Sepulveda Pass Line, the Purple Line going all the way out to the VA in Westwood, Southeast LA, Central LA. There is so much in the new plan because we have built and built and built and people are loving it. We want this town, this county to be a place where you can get from one end to the other on a train, on a bus and not have to use your car because we’ve just been stuck in traffic so much. I’m really excited. I also want to tell you there’s a bunch of money in this ballot measure proposed for bike and walking paths as well and greening all along. And affordable housing so that you can live right near the transportation and go. I’m really excited about it. I hope you will be too.
Pauletta: Thank you, Supervisor Kuehl. We have a couple of more minutes so we’re going to take a few more questions. We ask folks to please ask your question quickly. Candy from Santa Monica, go ahead.
Candy: My question has already been answered. Thank you very much.
Pauletta; Candy, thanks for listening. We’re going to go to Randy in Santa Monica.
Randy: I’m hoping that the planners of the local transportation system here will not go the way of Santa Monica and take away the bus benches and put little tiny circles for about two people. You want to build up public transportation but seniors and disabled are going to suffer because of this. You’ve taken away the shade. Now, this is done to make it uncomfortable for homeless people. And it’s just weird. We’re trying to make the homeless feel uncomfortable so we’re going to make everyone else feel uncomfortable. Yet, we want to build up public transportation. What is the disconnect here?
Pauletta: Thank you, Randy. We’re going to ask Israel to answer quickly.
Israel: Hi Randy, thank you. My name is Israel and I work in Service Planning. I do want to say that Metro is 100% in support of amenities such as bus benches, shelters throughout the county. The bus benches and shelters throughout our entire system are actually provided and maintained by the local municipality. In your situation, it sounds like you’re specifically talking about the Santa Monica area. Santa Monica provides those amenities to patrons. I’m sure they will be open to your feedback. You could visit their website at bigbluebus.com which is specifically related with transit in Santa Monica and submit your comments there. I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear about your comments. Thank you very much for your question.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Israel. And by the clock on the wall our telephone town hall meeting has come to an end. Thank you very much for participating with us tonight. It’s very valuable for us to hear your questions and comments. If you did not get to ask a question, press seven and you can leave us your email to get more information from us. We’re happy to put you on our mailing list and what have you. Or you can stay on the line and leave us a message or a voicemail if you would like. I’m going to turn it over to Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to finish us off tonight and to say good night to you. Supervisor Kuehl.
Sheila: Thank you so much, Pauletta. And thanks to Dave and Israel who also joined us and actually had the real answers because they know stuff. I want to thank all of you who called in, all of you who asked questions, all of you who I hope will seriously consider voting for the ballot measure in November. This is really an amazing thing to be able to take transit from one end of the county to other to connect with people. To have these amenities for the thousands of visitors who come here, including our families who come to visit us. And it would be great if we could just hope on a train, hop on a bus and take them all around to, I don’t know, three museums a day. And don’t forget it’s a lot of jobs too. It’s a lot of jobs in building, it’s a lot of jobs in driving, operating, maintaining. Altogether I think a very good thing. So I hope you’ll consider voting for it. I really thank you for calling in tonight and I hope to talk to you soon.