Telephone Town Hall Transcript, May 4
Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas, representing the Second 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 [Tenillas?], the chief communications officer for Metro, and I’ll be your moderator tonight as we talk about Metro’s programs and services, and our plan to transform transportation over the next many decades – our drastic expenditure plan that could become part of a possible November ballot measures. So we thank you for joining us tonight. I’m here with LA County Supervisor and Metro board chair Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Metro CEO Philip Washington. We also have with us Richard Clark, who is Metro’s executive director of program management, and Scott Page, who is our director of service planning.
Tonight we’ll be focusing on the second Supervisorial district. That is the area that Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas represents, which includes the cities of Carson, Compton, Culver City, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lynwood and portions of Los Angeles and unincorporated areas. So we’re here tonight for you. This is your opportunity to share your thoughts and ask questions to Metro about our draft expenditure plan.
This is our long-term transportation plan that we are proposing to transform transportation across Los Angeles County, and so we are counting on you to engage with us tonight. We’re going to give you a chance to ask us questions, and also take part in some electronic polling. If this is your first time on a telephone town hall meeting, here’s how it works: to get in the queue to ask a question you’re going to press zero on your keypad, and then you’ll be transferred to an operator who will take down some basic information and get you in the queue to ask us a question. Now since we want to hear from as many of you as possible tonight we can only take one question per person, and when you do ask a question live we do ask you that you keep it brief so that we can keep the meeting flowing. Once the operator has your information you can listen to the conversation until you are called upon to ask a question live in the forum. When I call your name please repeat your question for our live audience. Also, your opinions tonight are very important to us, so we’ll be asking some polling questions giving you an opportunity as a community to give us some live feedback through electronic polling, and so that’ll be a nice way for us to see how you as a community feel collectively, as all of these answers aggregate for your collective answer.
So you also can participate online by going to Metro.net/theplan and clicking on the interactive “Town Hall” link on our homepage. So that’s another way that you can engage with us tonight. Again, press “zero” at any time if you would like to get in the queue to ask us a question, and we’ll call upon you. Hopefully we can get you tonight. We’ill get to as many callers as we can. And it is my pleasure now to start the meeting off to introduce LA County Supervisor, and our chair of the Metro board, Mark Ridley-Thomas. Mr. Supervisor, glad to have you here tonight.
Mark Ridley-Thomas : Delighted to be here, and thank you very much Pauletta. We want to say good evening to everyone, and we also want to say thank you for joining us. Before we get to your questions let me give you a quick update on what’s going on here at Metro. There’s a lot to report. Some 26 years ago Los Angeles had literally no rail infrastructure, and some of you no doubt remember that. But over the past quarter decade Metro has built over 100 miles of rail in all corners of our county. We also operate 2,200 buses which provide service on 107 routes throughout the county. So essentially we provide 450 million rides a year, which means that every day 1.4 million people opt to go Metro. We say it loud, “‘Go Metro”. We say it -proud, “Go Metro”, instead of getting into their cars. We are currently in the midst of a significant expansion. In March Metro opened the Gold Line rail extension from Pasadena to Azusa, and some of you know about that . And on May 20th the Expo line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica will open, and link downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean for the first time in over 60 years. But construction is not limited to San Gabriel Valley and Santa Monica. Right here in the second District construction on the Crenshaw LAX light rail line is approaching the halfway mark. It will one between the Expo line and the Green Line, and most importantly will be the first rail line to finally connect us with LAX. That’s a big deal, and so I want to invite to personally to join us on this coming Saturday right here in Lamert Park as we celebrate the halfway mark to complete this particular project that is Crenshaw LAX line. The festivities will begin at 10.30, and we want you there. So join us. And so while so there is a lot going on here at Metro, there is so much more we need to do to truly finish building out our transit system, and I’m also looking forward to the discussion tonight . Please press “zero” at any time to ask a question, or to make a comment. Pauletta?
Pauletta: Thank you very much Mr. Supervisor. Just amazing the signs of progress that we have going on all across LA County, and this is all through our collective investment in our transportation. We have the two rail lines- as the Supervisor mentioned – opening this year; one already, the Gold Line extension, the line to Santa Monica and the beach, opening up May 20th. We hope that you join us out there on Friday, May 20th at 10 AM. So it’s great to see how we are making a difference together. So Phil, we have a tremendous amount of progress that we’ve talked about, but what can you tell people about what else we have on the radar?
Philip Washington: Yes, thanks Pauletta. Metro also has three other major rail projects under construction: the regional connector through downtown Los Angeles, the purple line subway to the miracle mile, and the Eastside of Beverly Hills and the Crenshaw LAX to the airport, and a connection with the green line. There are important roadway and highway improvements going on as well, like the I5 freeway widening near Orange county line. And we have hundreds of new buses to make travel more reliable and comfortable for riders. But there’s still much more to do. LA County is expected to grow by another 2.4 million people over the next 40 years. If we want to fund the transportation improvements that we need to achieve our goal of building a world-class transportation system for our region we will need a combination of local, federal and private dollars to do that, especially local dollars.
In LA County we spend an average of 81 hours a year stuck in traffic. Time is money. The longer it takes to build our transportation improvements the more expensive it will be. If we don’t plan now for that future growth gains of recent years will give way to more traffic congestion. That’s why we are considering a ballot measure for this November. This proposed ballot measure would be a half cent sales tax for LA County, and an extension of the existing Measure R. That means about $24 a year out-of-pocket for the average resident to ease traffic and build a transportation renaissance for ourselves and our children. To keep that in perspective buying a fancy cup of coffee once a week costs about $260 a year.
I’d also like to note another important point. This plan provides an infrastructure inheritance for our children and grandchildren. We don’t want to leave them with crumbling bridges and sidewalks. We want to leave them with a mobility system that has been well planned and well maintained, and that works well now and 100 years from now. So Pauletta, I will hand it back to you.
Pauletta : Thank you very much, Phill. Without question what we do today will impact those who come after us, and that’s why it’s great for us to be thinking farther ahead while we want to improve our transportation system for today so that we garner that benefit. We also want to look ahead. What can we leave for our children and our grandchildren. Now we want you to get in the queue so that you can ask us some questions. So please don’t forget to push “zero” on your keypad so that we can get you in the queue and let you engage live with our Supervisor and chair of our Metro Board of Directors, Mr. Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Metro CEO Mr. Philip Washington. We also have some staff here on hand to answer your questions. So we’re counting on you. This what we’re here for is for you; for the public. So we are going to go aahead and take our first question tonight. First we have Erlena from Compton. Erlena, go ahead and ask your question live.
Elena: Yes. I wanted to know if when a politician’s in office and he is supposed to manage the money the way it is allocated, and it is not done, is there any kind of punishment that is put on them. When they leave office are they audited to make sure that what they had done in office is what they were elected to do?
Mark Ridley-Thomas: I think the answer to that is yes, and one of the things that is important for voters to know is when we go to the ballot and ask voters to fund projects we typically add to that an oversight entity that is responsible for ensuring that the will of the voters is in fact met. In other words, you can’t raise taxes, for an example, for one stated purpose, and then spend it for another stated purpose. There are audits, and in addition to audits there are routine monitoring efforts, and then there are the results that you ought to be able to see. For example, with Measure R you can see results. That’s the first transportation effort that was afforded us by the will of the voters of LA County. And at the time I was in the state Senate, and the proposal was made to me, I managed the issue on the floor the of the Senate so that the local agency, namely Metro, would have permission from state legislature, and ultimately the governor, to put that ballot measure forward. We’re doing the same thing with a proposal that we are considering, called measure R2, to finish the work that was begun. But you see specific results . You see the Expo line. You see the regional connector. You see the purple line. You see Crenshaw to LAX. And you wil,l in fact, see more. So yes, there has to be results, and if there aren’t results, of course there are consequences that can be visited upon anyone who is responsible for doing the wrong thing.
Pauletta : Mr. Supervisor, thank you very much for that answer. Taxpayer oversight is a key component of this proposed ballot measure. This will be one of the main parts that would go to voters if our Board of Directors decides to pursue this and put this on the ballot in November. So this is significant for us to make sure that we’re transparent, and that we are all about the people, and the people know how this money is being spent according to our plan. So if you have just joined the call this is Metro’s telephone town hall meeting. We are here with board chair and Supervisor, Mr. Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Metro CEO, Mr. Philip Washington, and some other staff. If you want to get into the queue to ask us a question please press “zero”, and we’ll get as many of these questions live on air as we can. So we’re going to go ahead to our next question now, and we are going to go to Mike in Gardena. Mike, ask your question.
Mike: Thank you. Yes, taxes already are really high and burdensome – and especially the sales tax. So I, and I know many other people, we try to buy over the internet to avoid paying that tax. And when I was commuting to work in orange County, I would buy my gasoline there, and shop at Costco there, and I think raising sales tax will cause a lot of people to not buy stuff in LA County if they can avoid it. It will hurt businesses and jobs, and you may end up collecting less taxes. And one other issue here is it seems that since LA city and county has been made into these sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants we’re paying a whole lot of money, we’re suffering a lot more traffic congestion, because there is just a whole lot more people here who aren’t supposed to be here. It just seems like it’s very unfair.
Philip Washington : This is Philip Washington, the CEO of Metro. I will take the first part of your question. We have put forward a plan we believe – a transportation infrastructure plan – that is comprehensive; that is well thought out. We believe this investment is worth the $24 an average citizen would pay on an annual basis. And so with this connectivity, and with the plan that we have presented – that, by the way, will last for the next 100 years, and be used by millions of people – we think that $24 per year by the average citizen is not a great deal to pay for 200 miles of rail for over 2,000 buses, and countywide bus rapid transit for connectivity to bike trails, to highway improvements, to pothole and local street repair. We think it’s a great investment, not to mention the creation of thousands of jobs, the creation of new businesses – small businesses, veteran-owned, women-owned businesses that will work on this infrastructure, and the years of operations and maintenance that will keep thousands – and even millions – of people employed for a generation. So we think this is a wise investment. We think it’s useful, and we think it’s worthwhile.
Pauletta : Thank you very much Phill. We had a caller ask us to repeat the website, so for folks who want to interact with us through our website you can go to Metro.net/theplan and click on the Interactive Town Hall link on the homepage, and you can also listen in with us that way. We had Francesca from Inglewood listening in Spanish tonight, and she’s asking the question, “Will you be putting a Metro line running along Highway 405?” Boy that’s a popular one for us. We get that question a lot. So Phil, I’m going to go ahead and ask you to just fill folks in on our plans for the 405 area.
Philip Washington: Yes. This is Philip Washington, the CEO of Metro, again. Yes, we have plans to build and solve – or at least ease – the congestion on the 405, or the Sepulveda Pass .That plan is near the front of the ballot measure in terms of the project that were looking at. Our hope is to structure a plan and program that includes some restriping of lanes to allow for traffic to flow easier. Also in our plan, in a second phase, is to do a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass to allow for heavy rail to go to that Sepulveda Pass. So near the top of our list, in our first 15 years or so — and let me just mention that we are proposing, in the first 15 years, 18 projects to be done in every corner of this county. So the 405 is being addressed, would be addressed, in a pretty relatively quick order with this proposed plan.
Pauletta: Thanks very much Phil. If you’ve just joined the call, we’re here for live telephone town hall meeting. This is live as you hear it, with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Metro CEO Philip Washington, and we’re here to answer your questions and to get your input. We are going to do a live electronic poll, and so we’ll be teeing that up here shortly, and let you have an opportunity to answer a question for us, and see how all of you together feel about these questions. But were are going to go to our next question right now, and that is Mary from Inglewood. Oh, Betty from Carson. So sorry. We’re going to Betty in Carson. Sorry about that, Betty.
Betty: Okay, thank you. I don’t know, and I did ask the operator, is this also covering the Metro express lanes? Or are we only talking about the rails?
Philip Washington: This is Philip Washington. No, we are talking about express lanes as well. This plan lays out a multi-modal approach. It includes express lanes. It include rail. It includes bus. It includes bikes. It includes road improvements. This is probably the most unique plan in this country, in terms of an investment of transportation infrastructure. So are we believe that we can ease congestion through a balanced transportation approach, and so it does include express lanes, and many other modes. And more importantly – and even equally important – it includes local improvements that the 88 cities in the county could use some of these funds to repair their local streets – your local streets – and potholes in the various communities. So a significant portion of this proposed plan would go back to the cities so they can do that work, thereby creating even more jobs, and improving street conditions in your community .
Pauletta : Thank you very much Phill. ThatΓÇÖs Philip Washington, CEO here at Metro. And we’re going to go ahead and go right to our next caller. Our next caller is Emma Jean from Culver City. Emma Jean, go ahead and ask your question.
Emma Jean : Hello. I’m so glad you’re coming to Santa Monica with the rail, and I know it’s going to be opened the 20th, and I would like to be there, but I see that cars are coming down on surface streets, and there’s a lot of people that are always walking – the tourists – cause it’s a great town for tourists. And I donΓÇÖt see any protection for people walking into through the new lines. So could you clear that up please?
Philip Washington : Yes. This is Philip Washington, and Emma Jane we hate you are going to miss the ceremony on the 20th. We hope you can get out there. We are working with the city of Santa Monica on the issues that you talk about – pedestrian safety. That is our number one priority, along with our train safety, and those things. So we’re working with the city of Santa Monica, both the mayor out there and the city manager, to make sure it is as safe as possible. We are also, you’ll see on the Expo line, implementing new technology in terms of safety, based on lessons learned that we have on other projects. So we are well aware of the foot traffic in the Santa Monica area, and were working with the city of Santa Monica to really alleviate much of that pedestrian traffic.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. We’re going to go ahead and do our first electronic polling question. So we’ve been talking a lot tonight about what its going to take to build out our transportation infrastructure. We have some 40 projects that we are proposing; major highway and transit projects over a four-year period. And then a tremendous amount of other investment, in terms of bus operations, and ADA paratransit service, and active transportation, and improvements at the local level, like local street improvements and signalization and such. So we’re building all of this out, but it’s another thing to keep it all in good working order. And what we do to continue to maintain our system so that we can keep it viable. So our first polling question of the evening, you are going to answer on your keypad with the number that corresponds with the answer. So our first polling question tonight is, after our projects are built would you support part of the tax continuing to keep the system in good working condition? So you’re going to press “one” on your keypad for “yes”, if you support that idea, “two” on your keypad for “no” if you do not support that idea. So again, the question is, after we build out our transportation infrastructure would you support us keeping part of that tax to continue to keep our system in good working condition? So you’re going to press “one” for yes, “two” for no. So go ahead and record those and we’ll tell you the answer here in just a couple of minutes. Meanwhile we’re going to go ahead and go to our next question. We’re going to go to Barbara from Hawthorne. Barbara, go ahead and ask your question.
Philip Washington : Barbara are you there go ahead please
Barbara: Yes. I’m Barbara from Hawthorne. I would support the system. Number one, we need new jobs. We need the potholes fixed. And I also think you all are doing a marvelous job, and I think we all should support it. The first thing we’re all thinking of is finance.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: Well Barbara, you made the CEO very happy by agreeing that this is a wise way to proceed. We thank you for your vote of confidence, and we commit ourselves to not letting you down. In other words, what we intend to deliver is a system that is safe, a system that is a convenient ride, a system that will be cost effective, and of these are the basic amenities that any transportation system ought to afford its ridership. And to the extent that you already know that, and have expressed it so well, we simply want to say you thank you very much, and any issues that you have with the Metro, or anyone else you know, we are prepared to be responsive. So feel free to be in touch as the situation arises. Once again, thank you very much Barbara.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Mr. Mark Ridley-Thomas, our chair of our Metro Board of Directors. We are going to go ahead and give you the results of the polling question that you just participated. So the question was, after projects are built would you support part of the tax continuing to keep the system in good working condition? We call that “state of good repair” in the transit industry. Sixty-nine percent of you said “yes” that you would support that concept. Thirty-one percent of you said “no. So we appreciate your feedback. We are including that as part of our public input process. We are going to go to our next caller right now, and were going to John in Carson. John, go ahead and ask your question. John go ahead.
John : I was asking you if the taxes are going to come out from the property, trying to kill [our proposition?] Or are the taxes going to be raised from other areas instead of property taxes?
Phillip Washington: Thank you John. This is Phillip Washington again. We are proposing a sales tax, and so sales tax would come from things that are purchased. On most purchases we’re talking about pretty much one cent on most $10 purchases, is what that would amount. That is a full cent. Then a half cent would be the other piece. So we’re not talking about property taxes at all. We’re talking about sales taxes on various items. So, hope that answers your question.
Pauletta: Thanks very much. That is CEO, Mr. Philip Washington. Again, if you want to participate by asking a question please push “zero” on your keypad now, and you’ll get in the queue, and we’ll get some information from you from our operators, and then we’ll get you in line to ask a question. We are going to go to Robert now from unincorporated Compton. Robert…
Robert: Yeah. Good evening. My question is it, was a couple of years ago there was a proposal, or there was a discussion, about building some type of corridor from down to the shipping industry down by the shipping yard all the way to Los Angeles. They was going to build two or three lanes to bring the trucks from the docks up into Los Angeles, to take some of the pressure off the 710 freeway. I haven’t heard nothing in the last couple of years about that. I was wondering if that is something that is still in the discussion, or its just had been discontinued all together?
Rick Clark : Thank you Robert. This is Rick Clark. We actually are working on that right now. We have a major environmental and design study going on to look at alternatives to improve the entire 710 south corridor, all the way to the ports. This study is expected to be completed in 2017. However were not going to wait for work to be done, particularly if this ballot initiative passes. We are going to be looking at doing work all along the 710 corridor, to use the funding that’s available, and to address what we call “hotspots”, which are areas that are known congestion points and occur every day. I think you were specifically concerned about the 710-91 interchange, which definitely is a hotspot there. This is a priority, not only currently, of Metro, to finish this study, but also as part of the ballot initiative.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Rick. That was Rick Clark, who is our executive director of program management here at Metro. He’s the one who oversees all of the engineering and construction, making sure that these projects are done on time and on budget, and moving forward so that we can as quickly as possible deliver these to the public. We had another person who was listening in Spanish, who asked a question. So Juana in Carson is asking, what plant are we going to begin with? So, of this proposed plan we’re going to go ahead and ask the CEO to talk a little bit about that schedule.
Phillip Washington: Yes, thank you Pauletta. Right at the top of our major project list is connecting to the airport. Connecting to the airport, in terms of regional and national significance – and I know the chair of the board will want to chime in on this – but in order for us to be an even greater city, more of an international city, we need rail connection to the airport. So the raill connection to the airport, through the 96th Street station, is right at the top of our list, and I will ask chair of our board to talk about the significance of the airport project – that being the number one project for us to begin.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: Well, I think it’s fair to say that this is a project that may of us have awaited for so many years. Perhaps it started as far back as the mayorship of the then Honorable Tom Bradley. Others have been calling for this, and pushing for many, many years. It’s not an uncommon thing for major cities throughout the world to have public transportation directly to – or into – their international airport. Los Angeles has been behind the times in this regard. So we celebrate the fact that the Crenshaw to LAX line provides that very opportunity, and we are fully intent on making that happen, and when it does happen it will be a great day of celebration. So keep pulling for us, and I think you will have much of which to be proud.
Pauletta: Thank you very much Mr. Supervisor. That is Mr. Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas, the chair the Metro board. We are taking questions live, so if you want to get in the queue, press “zero”. If you would like to leave us with your email address, so that you can get information from us after this meeting, as we move on in our “easing traffic plan” press “seven” and you’ll be able to get to an operator who can take your email down. We’re going to go ahead and go right to the next question. So we are going to take Al from River Gateway. Al, go ahead and ask your question
Earl: Yes. My question is, are all these projects all going to being designed with the most modern, current retrofit for earthquake safety?
Rick Clark : Al, this is Rick Clark. That’s a great questio. Absolutely. We design all our projects for seismic conditions in the Southern California area. In fact, our project manager for one of our tunnel project says, “The safest place to be in an earthquake is one of our tunnels.” That’s where he’d like to be if there was an earthquake. So there’s been a lot of new technology, a lot of design advances, and I can assure you that we incorporate all of them in our designs for a new projects.
Pauletta: Thanks very much Rick. Again, press “zero” please if you want to get in the queue to ask question. We’re going to go ahead and go to Elaine from Gardena now. Elaine, you’re going to ask a question, I believe, about Metro jobs. I bet the Supervisor would like to…
Elaine: Yes. I’m very interested.
Pauletta: Go-ahead and ask the question.
Elaine : Hi. I’m very interested in finding out, where do you apply for Metro jobs?
Mark Ridley-Thomas: Well , I appreciate the question very much, Elaine, and our CEO is prepared to answer specifically, and he’ll give you a number that you can call. But I want to say that the employment aspect of building out the system is very important to us, and what we require of all Metro contractors is what we call local hire – targeted hiring. So on the Crenshaw to LAX line, there’s been some 58% of the hours worked on that project for those who are targeted in terms of local hire, and the disadvantaged worker program. Now there are a number of organizations: the urban league, as well as other centers – the Black Workers center, etcetra, etcetra – who are assisting in identifying persons who are ready to work, able to work, willing to work, to make this a positive experience. More can be learned on this coming Saturday at the halfway mark celebration. We’ll have booths there to inform people about the opportunities – business opportunities, employment opportunities – and to learn more about the system. But in the event that you can’t wait until Saturday we’ll give you a number, rather immediately, so that you can call. The job line is : 213-922-6217. Let me repeat that : 213-922-6217. That’s 213-922-6217. I hope that satisfactorily answers your question. Now the earlier call spoke to safety, and our able staff person here made it clear that perhaps one of the safest place to be would be on metro in a tunnel. That’s not a particularly pleasant thought. Thank you very much.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Mr. Supervisor. You are listening to Metro’s live telephone town hall meeting, with Mr. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Mr. Philip Washington, the CEO of the Metro. And we’re here all about you; to hear what you have to say, to ask some questions about our transportation plan for the future – Metro’s plan to ease traffic in many different forms. So please press “zero” if you would like to get in the queue to ask a question. And we’re go to go ahead and go right to our next caller, which is Frankie from Compton. Frankie, go ahead and ask a question
Frankie: Yeah. My question is about the potholes in the streets. I was trying to find out, how do they determine which streets get repaired, and which streets donΓÇÖt get repaired. When they were repairing the streets they stopped at a certain area, and then they never came back to complete the other parts of the streets. They stated that they determined that what is the money that they dedicated to the streets, and the value of your homes, and they had to get money from other places to complete the job.
Phillip Washington: Thank you very much for your question, Frankie, and I can tell you that part of the 40 year plan that is being articulated here takes in consideration local improvements, which means pothole repair, and street repaving. Nearly just over $19 billion. But in addition to that you should know that the major portion of the work in terms of road improvement and the like happens at the local level. We will partner with cities where we can do so and get the work done more quickly. But this is a substantial amount of money. As a resident of the city of Compton you should feel free to be in touch with your city hall, and it that fails you can feel free to be in conversation with my office. I’m at 213-974-2222. And we can guide you through the system, and help you find the right place to be of some assistance. So you three potential sources: Metro, the city of Compton, and the county of LA. We ought to be able to be responsive to the range of questions you’ve posed. Those are excellent questions. Those are questions that are uppermost in the minds of many constituents. You’re a voter. You should get what your tax dollars afford you, and we thank you for your call.
Pauletta: Thank you, Mr. Supervisor. One of the things that a lot of folks don’t realize about Metro is that we are a substantial funder, at the local level, so that local communities, like yours, can have street improvements, potholes repaired, our signalization that is synchronized, bike paths and pedestrian ways. So there is money that funnels through our local investment together, back to the local communities. So that is significant. Phill wants to add to that as well.
Phillip Washington: Thank you, Pauletta. I think the things – to add a couple of points to what Pauletta and the Supervisor said – even the white tow trucks on the freeway is Metro. Helping people change tires is Metro. And so we do a litany of things out there to assist people at the local level, at the county level, and as the Supervisor and Pauletta said, we are almost all things to everyone transportation.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. I’m going to ask Scott Page, who is our director of service development, to weigh a second. Because one of the important parts of this plan is also how we make it convenient and easy for people to make connections. As we build out a system we want to make it easy for you to go between bus and rail, and of course, were always looking at that first and last mile. So I’m going to ask Scott, real quicklym to touch on how that fits into this plan. Scott.
Scott Page: Thank you very much. This is Scott Page of service planning. Whenever a new rail line is being planned, and later on constructed, service planning is always putting together a bus-rail interface plan, or in the case of the silver line, a bus to bus interface plan. Those plans basically help patrons navigate their way to the stations by changing slightly a bus route to better connect with a station. In some cases transit centers are built along the right-of-ways of the proposed rail line, and we assist in making sure that there’s a proper number of bus bays that will be provided so people can make easy transfers to and from the rail .A recent example is on the Crenshaw line. We recently worked with rail planning to have a new transit center built at the corner of Florence in La Brea. That will provide — and it has turned out to be a blessing, because that’s actually going to provide a place for people to arrive and get on buses to go to the new NFL stadium, once it’s completed in Inglewood. So we’re always looking for ways to improve bus connections to rail, rail BRT and Metro-rapid is the backbone of our Los Angeles County bus system, and were working to improve connections to that backbone.
Pauletta: Scott, thank you very much. Service planning, of course, a significant part of what we do here at Metro . Now we are going to do our second live polling question. Again, how this is going to work is you’re going to push the number on your keypad that corresponds with the answer that you support. So I’m going to go ahead and read this next question. So if the election were to be held today would you vote for the proposed half cent sales tax for transportation? Press “one” if you would say “yes”, and if you would vote for the plan. Press “two” if “no”. So again, we kind of like to get a sense of how you feel. If the election were to be held tonight would you vote for Metro’s half cent sales tax increase to transform transportation over the next decade. Press “one” for “yes”, or “two” for “no”. And I will be letting you know your collective responses in just a couple of minutes. But I’d like to turn it over now to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to tell us a little bit about a project that is near and dear to his heart, and the community were talking to tonight, because this is the Crenshaw-LAX line. I want at Mr. Supervisor to talk a little bit about the significance of that project.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: Well , thank you very much Pauletta. I simply want to say that the most of the listeners and callers know that this is a project that has been long and hard fought, and we have reached a halfway mark, and it’s worthy of celebration. It was in February that we lowered the giant tunnel boring machine, which the community named “Harriet”. And we called it “Harriet” because of our respect for that trailblazer known as Harriet Tubbman. Now, apparently the President of the United States got wind of this and decided that they were going to name some dollar bill – the $20 bill – after Harriet, so we’re looking for some Tubbmanns. Harriet is now beginning to dig her way through the underground portion of the line; twin tunnels which run from Exposition Boulevard to Lemart Park, right under Crenshaw Boulevard. It’s a fascinating thing to behold. I was down there recently, and saw this magnificent piece of equipment ready to go. I was there with Council Mark [?], Dawson Council President, Herb Wesson, and we could do nothing but marvel at technology. So nothing but the best is being used to accomplish what needs to happen for the Crenshaw-LAX line. As a part of the construction of this line we’ve developed several nationally recognized programs; a project labor agreement that allows us to hire local workers. We’re seeing more than half of the workers on the project come from the surrounding community, which is very important. Nothing worse than having big projects built in your community and you can’t work on them. That is not the case with the Crenshaw-LAX line. We’ve also developed various marketing and business assistance program that include something that we’ve called the “business interruption fund” to help local small businesses survive the construction process. It is not easy. When that work began all the dust, all that inconvenience related to parking and so forth, and businesses were harmed, but Metro stepped right in to help save those businesses, and we are very, very proud of that. So I would like to say that we are seeing significant progress along the Crenshaw-LAX line, and I can’t wait till it is completed in 2019. In the interim, as I mentioned earlier, I hope everyone will come out and join us in celebrating the halfway completion of the project on this coming Saturday at 10.30, Lamert Park. It’s going to be a great celebration of our accomplishments to date. It won’t be as good as it could be unless you’re there. So join us. Thanks Pauletta.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Mr. Supervisor. We’re going to go ahead and let you know how you all responded to our last polling question. The question was, if the election were to be held tonight would you vote for the sales tax for transportation? And 74% of you said “yes”, 26% said “no”. So again, that question was, if you were to support that tax if the vote were tonight, 74% of you said “yes”. And we appreciate that. As a community we vie to move forward together. Phil, this has come together with a tremendous amount of partnership. Metro did not put this plan together in a silo. Regional collaboration has really been a key part of this, right?
Phillip Washington: Most definitely. We went out to the various council of governments in the nine subregions, and we asked them for their input in developing projects – whether it be highway projects or rail projects – in their subregion. We asked them to identify the projects in the region, and to prioritize the projects in their region, as well. So this was a true bottoms-up approach, as directed by our Board of Directors – a true bottoms-up approach where we worked with all of the cogs, or the council of governments, to determine which projects we should put in this plan. I would also say that we worked with other various groups to determine the other slices of the expenditure pie – whether it be state of good repair, and maintaining our assets. It’s almost like buying a new car, you must change ythe oil in that car. And that’s what we talk about in terms of maintaining what we build. We went to the various groups and talked to them about the local improvements – street improvements – that the 88 cities in the county will do. We are giving back to those 88 cities to the tune of about $19.2 billion in this plan over a 40 year period, to do those street improvements in your communities. And so true regional collaboration, that is the only way to do it.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Phil. We want to take as many questions as we can before our meeting comes to an end. We’ve got about seven minutes, so we are going to go right to Tabitha in Inglewood. Tabatha, go ahead and ask a question.
Tabitha: Okay, you kind of answered my question – this is Tabitha from Inglewood – about when the Crenshaw-LAX project would be done. But I thought about something else that, kind of, concerns to me as a Metro rider. The mental health issues, and like the issues with like homelessness in the city, do you guys have teams that are working creatively in terms of like finding out ways the kind of better the relationship with the riders, and Metro, in terms of like cleanliness and mental health issues that are impacting us as riders?
Mark Ridley-Thomas: Well, two things. First, a very insightful question, and we appreciat it very much. I think the Crenshaw-LAX line, if there is any single city that will benefit from this it will be the city of Inglewood. Inglewood is doing fabulous things in terms of its recent attraction of an NFL stadium, and thinking about the investment of the Crenshaw-LAX line. This means literally millions billions – with a “B” – of investment in that community. But ultimately, what we need to appreciate is that the ride needs to be safe. It has to obviously be convenient, and it has to be cost-effective. I believe that Metro has an obligation to guarantee all three of those factors. With respect to those who are homeless and/or mentally ill, it is our job to make sure that the employees are safe – that i,s the operators – and that they are trained to deal with any sorts of difficulty. There is a public safety feature, in terms of law enforcement, that monitors the bus system, as well as the rail system, and they are being trained and upgraded with respect to how they diffuse circumstances, and not only that, but to be present in many instances to prevent problems from happening.So our concerns about your experience happens to be very,very broad and deep, and we don’t think of it in just a static way. We are doing more and more each year to learn how to make that rider experience positive. You’d be surprised, Tabitha, as to how much training is going on. Even on the issue of human sex trafficking of children – minors, and all of that. We train our employees as to how to detect those problems, and “If you see something, say something.” If there is sexual harassment happening anywhere on our system you have a recourse to deal with that. All of our signages on the buses, on the on the trains, reinforce that so that the passenger’s experience is as positive as possible. So Inglewood is in the house, and you poses an excellent question.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. If we do not get to you and you would like to leave us a question, all you have to do at the end of the meeting is stay on the line and then you’ll be able to leave us a message. Also, you can press “seven” if you would like to leave us with your email, so that moving forward you can get information from Metro, and stay informed and updated as we move forward. We are going to go right to Tammy in Compton. Tammy, what your question.
Tammy: Good evening. I apologize if this topic has already been discussed here or elsewhere, but are there any plans to expand the Metro lanes – the fast-track – to other areas within the Los Angeles county?
Mark Ridley-Thomas: The answer is yes. We began this work when I was in the state legislature, and I introduced the motion, at Metro’s request. I introduced a bill to implement express lanes, and let me say that there was some controversy that attached to them at the time. We were unsure as to the success. This is a demonstration project, but if you think about what we’ve experienced now it is been a grand success. Therefore, we want to make sure that we can expand It. So those who were skeptical initially are now saying, “Let me have it.” It’s on the 110, south of the 10 freeway, and the 10 East, out to El Monte etcetra. We’re rebuilding stations, and doing ranged of things. So the 105 is under consideration, as well as the 405. So this has been an experiment, a demonstration, that has proved very successful. Now people are clamoring for it. So excellent question.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Mr. Supervisor. That’s all the questions we’re going to be able to take tonight, but I want to remind you that you can leave us a message. All you have to do is stay on the line, and you can leave a voicemail. You can also press “seven” if you’d like to leave us with your email so that we can put you on our distribution list, and you can get information from Metro moving forward. I’m going to ask Mr. Washington, and Mr. Mark Ridley-Thomas, if they have any quick parting comments that you would like to make. Mr. Supervisor?
Mr. Mark Ridley-Thomas : On behalf of the board I’d like to say thank you to all the callers, and we are listening very carefully to your questions, and we know that this agency, and the work of transportation from a public sector perspective, as well as private sector, means big things in terms of job opportunities. We are injecting some multi-billion dollars into our local economy. Every dollar that is invested in transit infrastructure here yields four dollars that are added back into the economy. This means not only safe ridership, but it also means economic development, with transit-oriented development and community around stations. So this is a big deal, an important thing for communities all along the areas in the second district, from the Crenshaw line – which is proposed to go north – to the Vermont corridor, and more. All of these projects mean good jobs, and local worker and small business opportunities. So I’m excited about the potential, and trust that you are as well.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Mr. Supervisor. By way of the clock on the wall we have come to the end of our telephone town hall meeting. So we ask you to stay on the line and leave information for us if you would like, and with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and CEO Mr. Philip Washington, and on behalf of Metro, I am Pauletta [Tanillas?] and I thank you for joining us tonight. Good night.