Telephone Town Hall Transcript, May 5

Telephone Town Hall Transcript, May 5

Richard F. Clarke, Metro’s Executive Director of Program Management

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 this evening as we talk about Metro’s programs and services, and our plan to ease traffic; our long-term plan to transform transportation to provide better mobility all across Los Angeles County. Joining me this evening are Rick Clarke, Metro’s Executive Director of Program Management, Therese McMillan, who is Metro’s Chief Planning Officer, also Mark Linsenmayer with the Planning Department, and Mike Sekirk with our Service Development Department. So we are here all for you to answer your questions, to get your feedback on this expenditure plan to transform transportation. We want to hear what you have to say, what’s important to you as we look to the future in how we move around Los Angeles County. What is it that we should be planning for? What do you think of this plan? This plan would involve a half cent sales tax increase to provide better bus service, and more rail lines, and express lanes, carpool lanes; more improvements at the local level that go right back to you and your local communities, and a host of other things that all integrate to provide better transportation.

So if this is the first time on a telephone town hall meeting, here’s how it works. To ask a question you just press zero on your keypad and you’ll be transferred to an operator who will then take down some basic information and put you in the queue so that you can ask your question to us live. And since we’re here to hear from you, and we want to hear from as many as possible, what we ask is that when we turn it over to you to ask the question that you’re brief in asking your question, and that you ask just one question, because we want to get to as many folks as we can tonight. So I will call your name when it’s time for us to go to the question and answer portion, and then you’ll just ask us your question live. All of your opinions are important to us. Tonight we are going to be asking you some questions. We’re going to be doing some electronic polling where we’ll ask a question and we’ll ask you to correspond with the number on your keypad that best represents your answer. And then a little bit later we’ll tell you how you collectively – as a community – combined for that answer. Tonight’s telephone town hall meeting is focused on the Gateway Cities area. This is 27 cities and communities in the Southeastern part of Los Angeles County. So that is the area we’re focused on during this town hall meeting. But we have many more coming up over the next couple of weeks, and you’re free to call in to any of these telephone town halls. You can get all the information on our Metro Web site for when all of these meetings are happening. Also, the call in number so that you can participate in any of the meetings that we have over the next couple of weeks; if you would like to participate online with us, you can go to our Web site at Metro.net/theplan, and click on the “interactive town hall” link that is on Metro’s web homepage. So again, we thank you for being here tonight. Press zero to get in the queue, and you’ll be able to ask us a question live on the air. So I’m going to turn it over now to Rick Clarke, who is Metro’s Executive Director of Program Management. Good evening, Rick. Thanks for being with us.

Rick: Thanks Pauletta, and thanks for all of you for joining us on this call tonight. I’m looking forward to your questions, but first I want to share a few thoughts on what’s going on now at Metro, and why Metro’s efforts to create a transportation revolution are so important for the entire region. Metro provides 450 million rides a year. So if we think we have traffic now, think what it’d be like if all those people on Metro buses and trains were instead driving. That’s why our region is embarking on a transportation revolution. We need more options for commuters. With the opening of the Gold Line extension to Azusa, and the upcoming opening of the Expo extension to Santa Monica, Metro rail will increase from zero miles to more than a 100 miles of rail in just 25 years. We also have over 2,200 buses serving 170 routes all over the county. But cars are not the enemy. For car dependent parts of L.A. County, our highly developed freeway system is the best way to go around. The Gateway Cities are highway dependent. They’re crisscrossed by the 5, the 710, the 405, and the 605 freeways. So the massive $1.6 billion widening and carpool lane project on the I-5 freeway are now under construction right now by Caltrans and Metro, and that’s hugely important. It’s part of a package of six construction projects that will ultimately widen the 5 between the Orange County line and the 605 freeway. The 5 freeway widening project is a great example of Metro, Caltrans, and also local efforts to improve and modernize existing freeways, and illustrate how we’re working to take care of the infrastructure we inherited. In fact, the Gateway Cities have about $14 billion in highway projects that are in various phases. These include interchange improvements along the 605, 405, 91, 5, 605, and 60. That said, we’re looking forward to the future. And as we work towards a more mobile region we’re also looking forward to the discussion tonight. So please press zero to ask a question or to participate in our call.

Pauletta: Thanks very much, Rick. Yes, as Rick said, we’re here for you. This is all about the public. It starts and ends with the public, with our citizens out there. And it’s all of us in it together, how we’re going to improve transportation all across the Metro area. So we’re going to go ahead and go to our first question right now, and that is Derek in L.A. Derek, go ahead and ask your question.

Derek: Oh, it’s time for me to ask the question? My question is when are they going to start running the three cars instead of the two cars on the Metro blue line? When you’re catching the train, the two cars are really loaded with people. It’s not enough room for everybody to get on. So you have to wait until the next car come by. By that time you’re late to get to where your destination is. Is it a way that you guys can rectify that?…

Mike: Derek, are you there? Derek, we’re having a little glitch, I guess, on the operation of the trains right now. As you may know, we’re starting to run some new rail lines, and although the cars have been delivered, we are still testing some of those cars, and so we have been forced to pull some of those cars off the blue line so they could be put on some of these other lines so we can get the testing done. That’s only going to be a temporary thing. We are moving quickly to reinstate the three car trains on the blue line as quickly as we can. We probably think within the next week or so we should have that wrapped up.

Pauletta: Thanks very much, Mike. And thank you very much, Derek, for your question. We’re going to go now to Petra in Long Beach. Petra, we’d like to take your question.

Petra: They told me something about’because I like to have’how to get somewhere; like to the doctor or grocery shopping. I’m 91 years-old, but I’d like to know where I can get transportation. But there was a man that called, but I cannot hear because I’m hard to hear.

Pauletta: Hello, Petra. Thank you for your question. And for those who would like to take advantage of our services for seniors, you can call our access services. That number – if you have a pen and paper handy, I’ll mention the number for you – it’s 1-800-883-1295. Once again, our access services number is 800-883-1295. 800-883-1295. And that is how you get in touch with our access services. What I will tell you is that we have various services for senior citizens at Metro, and one of them is teaching seniors how to use our system; how to buy their TAP card – their discounted TAP cards, because we do offer discounts to seniors and to the disabled and to students – and this is a significant program for us. So this plan that we’re talking about tonight – our future plan to ease traffic – it does include funding so that we can keep fares, over the next four decades, affordable for seniors, students, and the disabled. So that’s part of the plan. It’s a funding pot that we want to make sure that we have access to. And so I want to make sure that you knew that, Petra. But thank you very much for your question. We’re now going to go to Frank in Long Beach. Frank?

Frank: Yeah. I was wondering if we can improve the way that the local buses can coordinate when the rail line comes into town. I waited an hour and 15 minutes when I came on the blue line down to Long Beach from Los Angeles to catch a bus to my house. As I was getting off of the train, the bus left, and it was an hour and 15 minutes, and then I had to wait. And then when I did finally catch a bus it took a half hour to get across town. I can just get in my car and drive to where I was going in 45 minutes. I don’t have to waste two hours. So, it’s fast, but the connections on either end are just absolutely horrible.

Mike: Hi, Frank. This is Mike Sekirk in Service Planning. Apologize for the connection problems there. As far as the service, I’m not sure you didn’t indicate what line you were riding or where you were going, but Metro tries to coordinate the schedule between the bus and the trains. It’s what we call our interface plan for each rail station. And so we try to maintain that connection so it’ll allow for people to, when they get off the bus, to catch the train or vice versa. Again, I’m not exactly sure what happened in your case, but we apologize for that. But we do make an effort to make sure that those buses and trains do connect to get people where they want to go.

Pauletta: Thanks, Mike. And thank you, Frank, for your question. Listening to our Spanish simulcast tonight is Roberto in Huntington Park. And Roberto’s question is, “If the Alameda Corridor was constructed, why are the lanes still being used by cargo trains? That does not seem to improve traffic.” So again, he’s asking about the Alameda Corridor, and why the lanes are still being used by cargo trains. I think I’m going to have Rick go ahead and respond to that. Go ahead, Rick.

Rick: Yes. The Alameda Corridor, as you know, was a grade separated line built for cargo trains to go from the inland areas to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. That is not necessarily a Metro initiative, and the operation of that is separate from Metro. However, my understanding is there still is a number of cargo trains using that line, and the trucks that are on it are going to other destinations that are directly connected to the railroads. So I think that corridor still is providing benefits. If you look at all the trains still using it that would be a lot of additional trucks that would be on the roads that aren’t there now.

Pauletta: Thanks for answering that, Rick. We’re going to go now to Vincent in Long Beach. And Vincent, what is your question?

Vincent: Well I was wondering if you guys have any plans of bringing the trains closer to the airport, or actual in the airport. Other states do that.

Therese: Vince, hi. This is Therese McMillan, and I’ll take your question; a very good one. And just wanted to let you know that actually we have under construction right now a rail line called the Crenshaw-L.A.X. rail line that would go from the current Expo line – that runs a bit in the north and central part of L.A. right now – go down Crenshaw Boulevard through Inglewood, and connect to a major new terminal at L.A.X. And then the airport itself is planning on a people mover connection that then would go straight into the airport and into various areas around the terminal. So that’s actually under construction right now. Another part of that is that the Crenshaw line would then also continue to the green line that’s farther south. So actually you could connect to the airport both from the north and from the south. So that’s a major improvement to the system connectivity of our rail system in L.A. County.

Pauletta: Thanks very much, Therese. And that project is one that people all across the county are really excited about; is taking the train to the airport and having that connection. As Vincent was mentioning, a lot of other major cities do that. So it’s going to be great to have that connection to the airport. And that project will open up in the 2019 timeframe, I believe it is. So that’s not that far away, folks. That’s only about three years. So I do want to mention that we’re going to be marking a major milestone on the Crenshaw-L.A.X line this Saturday. We’re going to be having the “Halfway There” community celebration on the Crenshaw-L.A.X line. So this Saturday, May 7th, we ask you to come out and join us at Leimert Park, off of Crenshaw there on the Crenshaw line corridor. And we’ll be having a little ceremony, lots of festivities, things for the kids. So we ask you to come out. It’s our way of saying thank you to the community for enduring the construction. Whenever we go through these construction projects there are impacts; we all know that. But, we like to say that “short-term pain for long-term gain”, because we have to keep our eye on the prize of what that’s going to mean when that rail line is done, and the community there is going to be so happy when that Crenshaw-L.A.X line is done and serves the community. We ask you, once again, to come out this Saturday and join us for the “Halfway There” event on the Crenshaw-L.A.X. line. Next, we’re going to go to Ishmael in Los Angeles. Ishmael, go ahead and ask your question. Others, please push zero to get in the queue, but I’m going to turn it over to Ishmael right now.

Ishmael: Hi, thanks guys. I just wanted to know if Metro is planning to expand its rail service out to the Gateway communities, such as Pico Rivera, Commerce, those areas?

Mark: Hi Ishmael, this is Mark with Planning. We do have a number of projects that we’re looking to expand down into the Gateway. I think the primary one we’re looking at is what we call the “West Santa Anna Branch Corridor”, which will be a light rail project going from downtown Los Angeles through various communities in south L.A. and ultimately connecting with the green line down towards the Orange County line in the southern part of Los Angeles County, throughout the Gateway area. So we are planning on that extension to go forward. We’re also looking at the east side extension along Washington Boulevard going out towards, again, the San Bernardino County line, on various alignments. So we’re trying to accommodate several different rail projects, along with, of course, going through the community of Whittier.

Pauletta: Thank you very much for your question, Ishmael, and Mark, for answering that question. If you’d like to ask a question to us, please press zero on your keypad and you’ll get in the queue to ask your question live to our panelists. Right now we’re going to go, however, to Christopher in Norwalk. Hi Christopher.

Christopher: Hi, thank you for your time. This is in regards to the L.A. Metro route 460. There is a proposal that is going to be removing the segment from Norwalk station to downtown Los Angeles. I’m hoping to get a reconsideration on that removal, just because people from Orange County – to connect to downtown – the 460 is a perfect route, and as of right now there’s a proposal to remove the segment from Norwalk station to downtown Los Angeles. I was hoping to get that reconsidered.

Mike: Hi, Rick, this is Mike Sekirk. Or I’m sorry, Chris. This is Mike Sekirk from Service Planning. You’ll be happy to know that that proposal to discontinue that segment of the rail has been withdrawn. That was determined after we had a public hearing on this matter. And we did get a number of people from the community that opposed that change. So we did reconsider it, and it will not be cut back. So it will continue to operate like it has for the last 50 years. Thank you.

Pauletta: Thanks very much Mike and Christopher for your question. If you’d like to ask us a question, press zero on your keypad. You also can push seven if you’d like to leave your email so that we can put you on our distribution list, so you can get information and updates from Metro moving forward. Another question that we have received is, why is this ballot measure so important? So I’m going to ask Therese to address that, because there are lots of reasons. Therese.

Therese: Pauletta, that’s a really important question, because there is such an extraordinary demand for increased mobility here in L.A. County. As we’ve talked about before, there’s a lot of activity going on right now. We’re in the middle of some significant construction: the regional connector through downtown L.A., the purple line subway going from west past Beverly Hills, the Crenshaw-L.A.X. line that we’ve already talked about. Rick, I think, did a great summary of the major highway projects, many of them in the Gateway region that we’re sharing the evening with right now. But the reason for all of that is that L.A. County is expected to grow by another 2.4 million people over the next 40 years. And if we want to build transportation improvements that are going to allow – not only the current folks living here, but this expected growth in population – to move around this county, to their jobs, to schools, to health care and the like, we have to start thinking ahead about investment to meet that growth, as well as reinvesting in our current system to keep it up to a state of good repair. So that’s largely what’s really motivating us to bring forward this ballot measure in November. It’s both of those tracks, not only the new projects that we hear a lot about, but the reinvestment in our current system that’s so important. Folks worry a bit about, what would this ballot measure do in terms of impacting me financially? And one way to think about it is we estimate it might be about $24 a year, out of pocket, if the current structure of the measure were to pass, which as you know, is an extension of the current Measure R plus a half cent sales tax. And if you want to have a way of keeping that in perspective, if you were to buy a fancy coffee at your favorite barista every week for a year, that’s $260 out of your pocket. So, sometimes thinking about it in that way is a way of really being able to say what’s important to you. And one of the things we want to think about is, what kind of mobility future and options are we leaving for our children and our grandchildren, 25, 40, 50 years from now.

Pauletta: That’s really a great point, Therese. It’s really important for us to think about not only, how can we get some easing from the congestion right now? But how can we plan for those that come after us? And I think that’s part of the legacy that we can leave, just like folks who built out the highway system many decades ago left that for us. And so it goes. I’m going to go ahead and read a question from Maria in Long Beach, who’s been listening through our Spanish simulcast. And Maria wants to know, why don’t bus drivers wait for people? Sometimes we try to get their attention before they pull off the curb but they do not wait. And so I’m going to go ahead and ask Mike if he can address that. Again, why some of our bus drivers don’t appear to wait for people. Mike, what do you think?

Mike: I think that’s a problem that we need to fix. Drivers know better than that. They’re not supposed to pull away from the curb like that when the passengers are near the bus. Sometimes – because of maybe the traffic or whatever – they get distracted, and that can happen sometimes. What would help in the future – if this should happen to you – if you can write down the direction and the time that this occurred, and possibly write down the big number that’s on the back of the bus, that would help us track it down, and we can actually monitor it and take the corrective action. But that’s how we would normally handle it. And again, we apologize for the pass-up.

Pauletta: Thanks, Mike. Also, we had a question from Maria, listening to our Spanish simulcast. And Maria from South Gate’s question is’or her comment to start with is, I think it’s great that Metro’s services are being expanded, but the question is will there be added security inside the stations and the cars? Security is a great topic for us to talk about, because our number one priority here at Metro is safety; the safety of our passengers, of our operators, of our staff, of the general public, and we work very hard to make sure that we have safety measures and security measures in place for that. Our safety enforcement has been redeployed recently to areas where we want to make sure that we have more of an increased presence. So our security strategy really is to look at what’s happening out there on the system, and they change up the operation weekly depending on what’s happening out there in the system. What we do ask of you is that if you see a problem, or, “if you see something that you say something” and that you let us know as soon as that happens. One easy way to do that is to download our transit watch app, and that is a way that you can call, or even text. You can even take a picture and text it right to us, and it goes right to our dispatch. So that’s part of being safe is all of us having that role in safety and security. So that’s a great question Maria. Thank you very much. We’re now going to go to Connie. And Connie, ask us your question please.

Connie: Yes. This is Connie. I was calling to find out exactly about this ballot measure. I keep hearing about this half cent. I’ve read about it. Is that something that we’re going to be voting on in November?

Pauletta: That’s a great question, Connie. Actually what we’re doing is taking in feedback right now, because we’ll be going back to the Metro Board of Directors in June with our staff’s final recommendation on this future transportation plan. Then the Metro Board will be deciding at their Board meeting in June whether or not to put this half cent sales tax measure on the ballot in November. So we don’t know for sure yet, because that will be the purview of the Metro Board. But they will be considering that, and then making a decision on that in June. And so we’ll have more information for you at that time. But if you want to learn more about Metro’s plan to ease traffic you can go on our Web site and download all kinds of information at our web site at Metro.net/theplan. If you’d like to ask a question here tonight during this meeting, press zero on your keypad, and you’ll go in the queue to ask us a question, and we’d love to hear what you have to say. Right now we’re going to go to Virginia in Whittier. Virginia, what’s your question?

Virginia: I was just wondering if there was any plans to have an earlier train from L.A. to Irvine. Right now I have Metrolink monthly pass and I have to drive to Fullerton to catch the Amtrak because I can catch the 644, and I can get off work a little bit earlier. I know there’s a lot of riders going from Fullerton that would like to actually leave from Norwalk that would love to get to work earlier. And if there was a train about six o’clock that would be really great.

Mike: Hi this is Mike Sekirk in Service Planning. What you’re referring to is actually a Metrolink service, and this is something that’s really under their purview. I’d suggest, or recommend, that maybe you call them and request that they think about providing an earlier trip.

Rick: This is Rick. I want to add to that. Metro is a big funder of Metrolink, and part of our plan is to allocate additional funding to Metrolink so that they can work on expanding their services, and provide more efficient and reliable services. So that’s also a key part of our plan is the additional funding for Metrolink.

Pauletta: Thanks very much Rick and Mike. We’re going to go to our first electronic polling question tonight. So this is a chance for you to give us immediate feedback, as a community, on how you collectively feel about a couple of different issues. So tonight we’ve been talking a lot about the new projects that we would like to build out with more local investment. So it’s one thing to build out these projects. It’s another thing, though, for us to be able to keep them in good condition. We call that “state of good repair”. Therese was mentioning this a little bit earlier. But our question for you – and we would like you to push the number on the keypad that corresponds with your response – but the question is, after we build out these projects would you support Metro keeping part of the tax to continue to keep our system in good working condition? Press one if you say yes, two for no. So again, after out projects are build out, would you support Metro keeping part of the tax to keep our system in good working condition? One for yes, two for no. We appreciate hearing what you have to say. Right now we’re going to go to Peter in Long Beach. Hello, Peter.

Peter: Hi, yes. Good evening. I just want to start by saying I’m a big proponent of using the tax increase for mass transit and transit related project in Los Angeles County, because I generally don’t support putting more lanes of freeways in at all, basically. I ride the blue line a lot, through Long Beach, and it’s super overcrowded sometimes – the cars are, which I know you guys are trying to work on. But there’s a stretch of the 710 freeway that’s right there that runs along the same corridor, from downtown Long Beach to the 405 freeway – I’m speaking specifically about – that there’s heavy, heavy truck traffic on there, and it’s always congested every hour of the day, with trucks and passenger cars. It seems to me they could easily add lanes to that freeway, that stretch, and it’s really necessary in a big way. I know that’s they’re everywhere, but in that stretch they could do it with no land acquisition necessary, because there’s plenty of land. I don’t see why they haven’t done that.

Rick: Peter, that’s a good observation. We’re actually working on that right now. We have an environmental impact statement on the 710, specifically in that area, which is looking at expansion, and again, specifically to address the heavy truck traffic that’s coming out of the ports. That environmental document is underway. It should be complete next year. Once that’s complete we’re going to get rolling with some early action plans on 710. We’re going to be addressing specific interchanges where congestion happens every day, and focus on those areas to start the improvements as quickly as we can. Again, that’s a great observation. We’ve seen that, and we have those plans underway right now.

Pauletta: Thanks very much, Rick. We’re going to go now to Erica in Whittier. But before we get your question, Erica, if you would like to ask a question of us please press zero on your keypad. So Erica, go ahead and ask the question.

Erica: Hi. Thanks so much for taking my call. I was wondering what plans there are, if any, to expand Metro into the Whittier area.

Mark: Yeah. We talked earlier about a possible expansion of the east side Gold Line, going out from downtown to the Whittier area toward Lambert Boulevard. So we do have plans to service that area in Whittier. It’s one of the possible alignments. There’s also a northern alignment to that east side extension that would go a little bit further north along the SR-60. But at one point – either sooner in the expenditure plan, or in the future – we do plan on having that east side extension of the Gold Line going out towards Whittier.

Pauletta: Thanks Mark, and thanks Erica for that question. Want to give you the results of the question that I asked you a couple of minutes ago. The question was, once these projects are built out, would you support Metro keeping part of the traffic to keep the system in good working condition? Eighty-eight percent of you said yes, that you support that concept. Thirteen percent of you said no. So we really appreciate all of your feedback. This is our public input process through May 20th, so that’s valuable for us. Thank you very, very much. We have a question that came in from Delphina, who’s listening on our Spanish simulcast. Delphina, in Huntington Park, said that she’s handicapped, and that she sometimes is passed up at her bus stop by the bus, and that the bus does not stop to pick her up. And will Metro address this issue? If this happens we definitely want to know about it. So we ask you to notify Metro, and if there’s a way that you can tell us which bus it was – the time of the bus, or if you have the bus number, that’s very helpful for us. So if something is happening – whether it’s you being passed up, or something else that you believe that you should be reporting to Metro – we sure ask you to do that. We try very hard to uphold excellence in service and support. That is actually our agency mission; providing excellence in service and support. So we want to know about these things. So we appreciate Delphina bringing that to our attention. I’m going to turn it over to Darlene, now, in Long Beach. And Darlene, it’s time for you to ask the question. What would you like to ask?

Darlene: Thank you. Hi. I live in Long Beach, and my sister lives in Corona. I was wondering if there was a Metro line that connects that I could take all the way over there.

Mark: It’s a bit of a tricky connection since you’d have to cross the county. Right now we could provide green line service towards Norwalk, and then there’s a bit of a gap between the Norwalk green line station and the Norwalk Metrolink station. And it’d really be a Metrolink, our sister agency, who as Rick mentioned earlier, we are planning additional funding to as part of the proposed expenditure plan. But it’d be the Metrolink connection from, say, Norwalk or Fullerton, that would connect you more closely to the Corona station.

Pauletta: I want to bring up a topic that I think people oftentimes find fascinating, and that is how long it takes to bring these projects to fruition. From the time that we actually start the planning process – when we start thinking about, “You know what, we need to have some kind of a transit improvement in an area.” to the time of when that gets constructed and actually opens to the public, it takes years for that to happen. And sometimes what we’ve seen in the past is that when we put forth plans people will say, “Well, jeez. I don’t see this rail line happening yet”. And that is because it does take years. And I’m going to ask Rick to weigh in briefly on just what is all involved. These are very complex projects to plan and to build out. So Rick, why don’t you provide some insight to that?

Rick: Yeah. Pauletta, to start a project we have to do a lot of planning. We have to look at a number of alternatives. We have to present those alternatives to the stakeholders, to the citizens, to the communities. And that’s a good process, because we do get public input, and it gives us ideas where best to route the lines, how to minimize the impacts to the public, and generally develop our engineering and cost estimates. Once that’s done, and it’s approved, we go into design and construction. Again, these are very complicated lines. As Pauletta said, we have utilities we have to relocate. We have soil conditions. We have seismic conditions that we have to design for. So the design process itself could take a year or two for the engineers to complete those designs. And then, of course, we go into construction; also a very extensive, elaborate process – especially if we do major structural work, such as tunnels or bridges. The tunneling, especially. We have to excavate deep; sometimes up to 60 feet deep for the stations. We have complex tunnel boring machines that basically mole through the ground to minimize the disruption. So we go through all that. We do our electrical systems, which is a whole other complex situation we do. And finally, we go through an extensive period of testing the trains. We put the trains out there without passengers. We run them through various tests to make sure everything is working. And then, when we’re finally done, we go through a safety certification process that we go through at Metro to make sure the checklist of all safety requirements are achieved, and submitted to the California PUC, who finally gives us permission to open. That’s the end process that we’re going through on the Expo line right now. There’s trains out there running without passengers. That’s primarily to test the systems and to train the operators. So that’s a nutshell of what happens. There is a lot that happens behind the scene. But it’s all done with a lot of outreach to the community, and involvement and input from the community.

Pauletta: Great explanation, Rick. We oftentimes hear that, that, “Well, jeez. We voted on this three years ago. How come these rail lines aren’t open yet?” And it’s just important for everybody to understand the complex process. If you would like to ask a question, it’s not too late. Press zero on your keypad and you can get in the queue to ask us a question. We’re going to take Dave’s question now. So Dave from Long Beach, what’s your question?

Dave: Hi. I live in Long Beach and I occasionally take a blue line, and I have noticed over the last year or so there seems to be station closures and delays, and I’m wondering what’s going on on the blue line.

Mike: Hi Dave, this is Mike Sekirk in Service Planning. What’s been going on in the blue line is that we’ve been undergoing a series of refurbishments. That line is about 25 years old, and over the years there’s been some upgrades that needed to be made. And that’s what we’re doing now. That’s just an ongoing program. Started in the southern part of the line, we’re moving north. A lot of the improvements include the tracks and everything have been redone. We’re also putting improved passenger amenities, and so forth. So this is the type of improvements that we’re trying to do to bring the blue line back up to where it really needs to be. Thank you.

Pauletta: We’re going to go to our next live electronic polling question for the night. So I’m going to ask a question, we’d very much appreciate you giving us your feedback by pushing the number on your keypad that corresponds with your response. So we’re talking about Metro’s plan to ease traffic. This is our long-term transportation plan that we’ve worked on with our regional partners all across L.A. County. We are proposing this to the public. And this is a half cent sales tax increase to fund many transportation projects over the next 40 or 50 year period. So the question is, if the election were to be held tonight would you vote for the proposed sales tax for transportation? Press one on your keypad if you say yes, two if you would vote no. If the election were to be held tonight, would you vote for Metro’s proposed sales tax for transportation? Press one for yes, two for no. And we thank you for your input. I’ll share that with you in just a couple of minutes. We’re going to go to George now. George, go ahead and ask your question.

George: Hi. Yes. I frequently drive on the 605, and it’s highly congested. Are there any proposed improvements to fix that?

Rick: Yes, George. A number of improvements, some of which’I mentioned the environmental studies. Some of those studies are already underway. So the focus of the 605 improvements are what we call “605 hotspots”. These are primarily interchange improvements of interchanges that, again, are known to congest every day. And we’re trying to address the worst conditions on the 605. Some of those interchanges are the 605 and 5 interchange, the 605 and the 60 interchange, and the 605 and the 91 interchange. All those projects, right now, are in environmental studies. Once the environmental clearance is received – hopefully by throughout this year and next year – we plan to start an early action program, which is to use the funding we have available and start making improvements at specific locations on those interchanges; adding things like accel/decel lanes, and overall provide a priority set of improvements on those I-605 hotspots.

Pauletta: Thanks, Rick, for your answers. One of the things that people don’t understand about Metro is that not only do we fund major highway projects, and transit projects, and we keep our rail and bus operations moving, and we also fund our municipal operators, so the bus operators that operate around the cities, we provide funding for them. We also provide a tremendous amount of funding at the local level that goes back to the local communities. And I’m going to ask Therese to weigh in on that, because this is a component of this plan that we’re putting forward that we want to make sure that you’re aware of. Right, Therese?

Therese: Absolutely, Pauletta. And I think it is really critical for everyone to understand that to deliver the breadth and diversity of improvements to move people more easily throughout this region, and provide them options, involves a partnership with a number of different parties. As you pointed out, one very important part of our current – actually Measure R, as well as the ballot measure plan that we’re pulling together right now – is this investment program called Local Return. We direct funding directly back to our partner cities, in particular, to deliver real neighborhood, local improvements – such as repairing local streets and roads, dealing with those pot holes that can be so infuriating for people in their neighborhoods. As well, we definitely need to work with our sister transit providers in different cities. And it’s that collaboration with the services they provide, as well as the transit services that Metro provides. We talked a lot about the need to, for example, work better to link Metro services and Metrolink. But those types of partnerships are very essential. They work, I think, because in this region we’ve recognized, for some time, that effective collaboration is going to mean success, in terms of delivering this program, not only to raise the necessary revenues – and that involves a big collaboration with the general public we’re talking to today – but also just for delivering the projects. A lot of what Rick talked about. There’s a lot that goes into working with communities, working with agencies like Caltrans to deliver these big highway projects. So we can’t do it alone. We need to work together, and that recognition is a big part of what makes delivering transportation improvements in this county a success.

Pauletta: Thanks for adding that, Therese. Want to go ahead and give you the responses to the question that we asked you just a couple of minutes ago. You may recall the question was, if the election was to be held tonight on this sales tax measure that Metro is considering putting forth, would you vote for it? Seventy-seven percent of you said yes, and 23 percent of you said no. So we appreciate your feedback. This is going to be included in the public input that we collect, and report back to the Metro Board of Directors, as they consider whether to put this sales tax measure on the ballot this next November. And the Board will be making that decision in June at their Board meeting. So we ask you to stay informed and engaged. You can get all the information about Metro’s plan to ease traffic on our web site at Metro.net/theplan. There’s lots of detail there, if you want to drill down to see what kinds of projects are included in this plan in your area, that’s all in the detail. So we ask you to learn more, to stay engaged. Because really folks, this is all about you. It all starts, and it all ends, with you, the traveling public. That’s why we’re on these telephone town hall meeting, because we want to hear from you. And these town hall meetings – these telephone town halls – are a way to give you more of a convenient way to engage with us. Because while we have physical public meetings, we know that that may not work out for all of you. So this is another way that we want to make sure we’re providing opportunities to get input from you. So, we are going to go now to Barbara in Seal Beach. Barbara, go ahead and ask your question.

Barbara: Hi. I frequently take the 710. I live in Seal Beach, and I take the 710; that’s a direct road for me. But there’s so much truck traffic on there. It’s dangerous, and the trucks spew out all kinds of garbage into the air. Do you have any plans to make any improvements in that area?

Rick: Yes, Barbara. This is Rick. It’s tough battling those trucks on the 710. I know that. We actually have a major environmental study going on right now to address the truck traffic on the 710. That environmental study is expected to be complete next year. There’s two alternatives under consideration; a major effort. I would encourage you to go onto the Metro web site, and you could find information about how to be involved, and how to provide input to that study. But you’ve identified a major mobility need that we’ve seen for the region, and that’s the trucks coming out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. So we’re working. That’s a major priority. Also, once that environmental study is complete we plan to get started right away with some early action programs to address some of the hotspots on the 710 also.

Pauletta: Thanks very much, Rick. We’re going to go now to Leelee in Downey. So Leelee, you’re up next. What’s your question?

Leelee: Yes. I live in Downey and I see on the 5 freeway signs that say “Brought to you by Metro.” There’s a lot of construction going on. I want to know when that will be completed.

Rick: Sometimes, Lilly, it seems like construction on the highways never ends. And I know that frustration. But that work is going very well. It’s expected to be complete by 2018. So that’s two years from now. Some sections will be earlier than that, and the contractors are working very fast. We’re working really closely with Caltrans on that. But understand the frustration while construction’s going on, but that’s a necessary thing so we can make those permanent improvements on the 5.

Pauletta: Thanks, Rick. And yes, you do see those signs out there that say Metro. And you know what? We’re actually proud to take credit for that, because we’re showing you that that is your local tax dollars at work. And as Rick was saying, sometimes putting up with the impacts of construction can be a pain, but again, one of my favorite things to remind people about is “short-term pain for long-term gain”, because it’s our collective investment that makes improvements like that. So you will see our signs up across the metro area. And we want to make sure that you know that that is us, and that that is us putting your tax dollars to work as you have directed us through different plans that we have put forward. So that’s just one important thing for you to remember. If you would like to ask us a question, it’s not too late. We still have about seven or eight minutes. So go ahead and press zero on your keypad, and we can try to hurry up to get you in the queue. We’re going to go now to Hymie in Huntington Park. Go ahead, Hymie.

Hymie: Hi. I was just wondering if there’s any improvements planned for the 710 freeway.

Rick: Yes, Hymie, there definitely are. We have an environmental study underway right now. We’re looking at two alternatives. That environmental study is planned to be complete next year. So it’s open. If you want to provide input I’d encourage you to go to the Metro Web site, Metro.net, and look at the information on the environmental studies for the 710, to get information and be connected to that study. Once that environmental study is complete and approved we plan to get started really fast and start with some early action items on the hotspots – the areas of priority congestion on the 710 – to get that work started and moving so we can make some permanent improvements for the motorists out there.

Pauletta: So when we try to keep this whole plan in context, we’re talking about a county that already has 10 million people, and L.A. County is projected to grow by another 2.3 million people over the next 40 years. That’s a lot more people that we have to plan for. And we don’t start in 20 years planning for that growth. We actually have to start today, planning for that growth. That is why Metro is coming to you with this plan to ease traffic. And our plan includes nearly 40 major transit and highway projects, over about the next 40 years. And this plan will include not only major transit and highway projects, but also improvements in our bus operations, and the bus operations of our municipal bus operator partners, improvements at the local level. That means better streets, improving the condition of your streets, repairing pot holes, building out bicycle and pedestrian connections in your community. And that is called active transportation. Perhaps you’ve heard that. And Therese, I’m going to ask you, real quickly, to just weigh in on the importance of us having active transportation as a part of this plan, because it’s really growing in popularity.

Therese: Well, Pauletta there’s a number of reasons why active transportation is beginning to, sort of, catch fire as a concept and a priority, not only here in L.A. but in a number of the other areas of the country. One area – gets back to a point, I think, folks have raised – is the difficulty, sometimes, in connecting to our transit system. We term this, sort of. the “First mile, last mile challenge”. That getting to the transit system can often be difficult, and then the point when you reach your destination, getting to your final destination sometimes can be a challenge too. So there is a lot more attention that’s being paid to bicycle connections, effective and safe pedestrian connections. Most people get to their bus, or transit service, by walking, and we need to make sure that we’re presenting a safe and accessible way to do that. Another recognition, quite frankly, is the fact that active transportation can be good for your health, in terms of walking and biking, and that type of thing. And so we are very actively, here at Metro, exploring how to best integrate those into the larger concept of mobility and transportation, and looking at various ways that this can be addressed up front, on the same playing field as our highway improvements, our road improvements, our transit improvements.

Pauletta: Thanks, Therese, very much for that. Appreciate your wisdom. We only have about five more minutes so we’re going to ask people to ask their questions quickly, and we’ll try to answer them quickly. We’re going to go to Monica next, in Paramount. Monica.

Monica: Good evening. My question was regarding a later extension as far as the 117, the 120, or the green line out on the east end. There’s a lot of people that actually do commute from L.A.X. to the east side, and they’re pretty much stuck. After 10 there’s no service to Lakewood, Paramount, Cerritos. So I was wondering if they would consider expanding, possibly the green line, or any other line that goes east’south –

Mike: Hi Monica, this is Mike Sekirk with Service Planning. In answer to your question, yes. Metro is planning to increase bus service on, specifically, those lines that you mentioned. We realize that some of those are actually ending a little too soon, so they will be operating later service and so forth. Now a lot of this, by the way, is going to be tied into the operation of the rail lines; the opening of these new lines. Metro has a very comprehensive plan that we’re developing right now that will basically restructure virtually the entire system. And what we will be doing is we’re going to be focusing on creating this network of what we call a “15 minute network”. That means that all the lines that are included in that network would be running at least 15 or more during the peak hours. A lot of these corridors will be operated with rapid bus service, as well as the BRT, for example, on the Silver line and the Orange line. They’ll be a lot of service back into the Gateway here, a little bit. We will be providing additional service, also, like on the 266 line, which is a Rosemead service. We recognize the need to actually provide a faster service, and more frequent service, for our riders, particularly with the trains, because the trains are operating about every six minutes in the rush hours, and about 12 minutes or so in the base, or the non-rush hours. So this is something that we really need to work on, and I think the plan that we’re talking about here today is going to help provide the seed money to provide some of these improvements that we need.

Pauletta: You know folks, it’s great getting your feedback, your input and your questions tonight, because, really, as we’ve said before, this is really all about you. And this plan that we’re putting forth, we are committed to delivering this plan, if the board does plan to put this before voters in November. And if the public then decides that this modest investment is worth it for us to plan for our transportation future. One of the other things we’d like you to know about is that the transparency included in this plan is at the forefront, in terms of us making sure that we have a taxpayer oversight committee, that makes sure that the funding is spent as intended. We hear that from the public, that, “Yes, we need to do something about the traffic congestion and about the future. But we want to know that the money is being spent as intended.” And so built into this plan is the taxpayer oversight component. And so I think that’s probably important for you to know as well. So by the clock on the wall it tells us that our telephone town hall meeting is just about over. We thank you so much for joining us tonight. If you did not get a chance to ask your question live you can stay on the line and leave us a message. If you would like to leave us your email so that you can continue to get email notifications from us, you can press seven, and you can leave your email for us. Otherwise, we invite you to participate in the other town hall meetings that will be coming up over the next few weeks. You can find the list of those on our web site at Metro.net/theplan. And you can proactively call in to any of these meetings. So we invite you to do that. And they also are available in Spanish. We thank you again for joining us, for taking time out of your evening. For all of us here; for Rick, Therese, Mike, Mark, and all of us at L.A. Metro, good evening.