Telephone Town Hall Transcript, May 16
Mike Bonin, L.A. City Councilmember
Ms. Pauletta Tonilas: Good evening, everyone, and thank you for joining us for a live telephone town hall meeting hosted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also known as Metro. I’m Pauletta Tonilas, Chief Communications Officer for Metro, and I’ll be your moderator tonight as we talk about Metro’s programs and services and our long-term transportation plan as we look out about 40 to 50 years on how to improve mobility all across Los Angeles County and plan for future growth. Joining me tonight is L.A. City Council Member Mike Bonin, and also sitting in to answer your questions is Phil Washington, Metro’s CEO. Tonight we’ll focus on the western portion of the city of Los Angeles, which includes the communities of Brentwood, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, West Los Angeles, Westchester, Venice and Playa Vista. We thank you very much for being on the line with us. We also have Mark Linsenmayer from our Planning Department and Scott Greene from our Service Development Department to answer your questions about specific service.
This is your opportunity tonight to share your thoughts and ask us questions about our draft plan for mobility and to improve transportation all across the metro area. If this is your first time on a telephone town hall meeting, here’s how it works. To ask a question, all you have to do is press “0.” You will then be connected to an operator who will take down some basic information and put you in the queue so that you can ask us your question live. When we do call upon you, we ask that you are brief in asking your question. When I call your name, repeat your question for the live audience. We also are here to hear your opinions. This is really important to us tonight, so we will be asking you some questions in some live, electronic polling so that we could get some immediate answers back from you, as a community, to see how you feel about some issues that are important to us. You can also participate online by going to metro.net/theplan and clicking on the interactive town hall link. Again, to get in the queue, just press “0,” and we will hopefully be able to get to you to ask your question live to us.
Again, if you’re just joining us, this is a live telephone town hall meeting being hosted by L.A. Metro. We’re here to hear what you think about our long-term transportation plan and how we together can invest more in planning for future growth. I’m pleased tonight to have with us Los Angeles City Council Member Mike Bonin, and I’m going to turn it over to Councilman Bonin.
Good evening, and thank you so much for joining us.
Mr. Mike Bonin: Thank you, and thanks to all my Westside constituents who are on the call in the town hall tonight – great to be here – to talk about what is really probably the hottest issue on the Westside, which is transportation and traffic and mobility.
Let me just start by giving a little bit of a context, because I think most folks living on the Westside will know, if they’ve been there for any length of time, that 25, 30 years ago there really was nothing. Now there’s something. If we’re able to go to the ballot again and do more, we can actually really be doing something else, and it’ll be out of this world. On Friday of this week, we’re going to be opening up the Expo Line. It’ll go from downtown Los Angeles all the way to Santa Monica, through West L.A., through my district; and it’s going to be game-changing. It is going to provide relief, an alternative to the 10 Freeway for folks, and it’s going to be huge. It’s just one of a series of things that L.A. Metro has been doing over the past few years. The Gold Line extension just opened. We’re building a regional connector linking all of our lines downtown. We’re working on the Wilshire subway, which eventually is going to get as far as Westwood and to the VA. And we’re building the Crenshaw Line, which is actually going to connect us to Los Angeles International Airport. A lot of huge stuff going on, and that adds to already the number of Rapid Buses we have on the Westside. I take Rapid Bus, Venice Boulevard, to downtown. We’ve got a Rapid Bus on Wilshire that people use, Santa Monica Boulevard; and our partners with Big Blue Bus also have some Rapid lines that go north-south. So, a lot of good stuff happening, and we’re looking to do a lot more.
Ms. Tonilas: Councilman Bonin, thank you so much for taking time to be with us tonight.
We also have with us Metro CEO, Mr. Phillip Washington in the House, and he’s here to share some information about this potential ballot measure and how we look to transform transportation all across the metro area.
Good evening, Phil, and thank you for joining us.
Mr. Phillip Washington: Thank you for having me. Thank you, Pauletta, and to Councilman and Metro board member Mike Bonin.
As Mike said, we have a lot of things going on. Won’t go through the whole list. Mike Bonin covered our regional connector and the Purple Line and also the Crenshaw Line. There are important roadway and highway improvements going on as well, like the I-5 freeway widening. We have hundreds of new buses to make travel more reliable and comfortable for our riders. But we feel there’s still much more to do. L.A. County is expected to grow by another 2.4 million people over the next 40 years. If we want to fund the transportation improvements, 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, especially local dollars. In L.A. County, as all of you know, we spend an average of about 81 hours a year stuck in traffic. We know time is money. The longer it takes to build transportation improvements, the more expensive it will be. If we don’t plan now for further growth, gains of the recent years will give way to more traffic congestion.
That is why we are considering a ballot measure for this November. This proposed ballot measure would be a half-cent sales tax for L.A. County and an extension of the existing Measure R sales tax. This means about $24 a year out of pocket for the average resident to ease traffic and help build a transportation renaissance for ourselves and our children. To keep this in perspective, buying a fancy latte or a fancy cup of coffee once a week costs about $260 a year. What we are proposing is an investment of $24 a year out of pocket to build all of this infrastructure improvements around the entire county. I’d also like to add another important point. That is, we are building and leaving with this proposed plan an infrastructure inheritance for our children and grandchildren. So we’re not leaving crumbling bridges and bad highways and potholes for them to inherit.
So, we look forward to the calls. We look forward to the questions. Thank you for joining us tonight.
Ms. Tonilas: Thank you, Mr. Phillip Washington, Metro’s CEO. We’re going to go now right to our first question, and that is Diana in Playa del Rey. Go ahead, Diana.
Diana: Hi. I have two things I’d like to suggest. I’m really tired of watching all these beautiful, new transportation systems when we’re driving around on crummy streets that haven’t been repaired in 20 or 30 years. I happen to live on Falmouth Avenue in Playa del Rey, and there’s a section that goes all the way to Westchester Parkway that hasn’t been fixed in the 30 years I’ve lived here. They do a lot of little intersections going to and from Falmouth Avenue, and they fix them, and they’re beautiful. But there’s a terrible problem with the extension that goes from Manchester to Westchester Parkway. It’s a mess! I think it should be fixed. Also, I think we should also strongly consider adding more fast track lanes on the 405.
Ms. Tonilas: Thank you very much, Diana. We’re going to ask Councilman Bonin to address that.
Mr. Bonin: Hi, Diana. Thanks for your call tonight. I know the neighborhood well. I know the stretch of Falmouth you’re talking about. One of the good things about the proposed ballot measure we’re doing is that there will be a 16 percent local return, so 16 percent of the money raised by this will go back to local cities. It’s Mayor Garcetti’s intention, it’s the intention of the city council that the great bulk of that, if not all of it, will be spent on street resurfacing projects in Los Angeles. This will help get us the relief we need so that our neighborhood streets and our main thoroughfares get taken care of. And I love the idea about the fast track on the 405.
Ms. Tonilas: Thank you, Councilman Bonin.
If you would like to get in the queue to ask us a question, please press “0” on your keypad, and you can be connected to an operator and get in the queue. We’re going to go now to Dylan in Santa Monica. Go ahead, Dylan.
Dylan: Hello. This is a question for the guy who just spoke, Councilman Bonin, I think. Is that the right name?
Mr. Bonin: That’s the name, yes.
Dylan: This is more of a question I wanted to ask you. One of my questions is related to the topic of transportation, but the one I want to ask you before that is just an advice question. I was just wondering. I myself in the past have been aspiring through many career occupations, and I’ve asked people I’ve known throughout my life what is it like – because I have a good friend of mine. His name is Bryan, and him and I have known each other for a while, and him and I are always talk –
Ms. Tonilas: Dylan, can you get to your question, please, so we can get to as many callers as possible?
Dylan: Sure, okay. I guess my question is what advice, Councilman Bonin, would you have for people who are wanting to know more about how someone can get started into the industry or the business of politics? What advice would you have?
Mr. Bonin: Into public service, you mean, or working in the transportation industry?
Dylan: Politics, anything.
Mr. Bonin: The best thing you can do is get involved at the neighborhood level. Try to get involved with civic organizations. You can also intern or volunteer for any of your local elected. If you want, if you send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will read it, and I’ll get in touch with you, and we can have a longer conversation.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much, Councilman Bonin. Very gracious of you. We’re going to go now to Phillip in Los Angeles. Go ahead, Phillip.
Phillip: Yes, good evening. My name is Phillip. I live in Mar Vista, and this question is for Mr. Phillip Washington and for you. I have a question. Then I have a short statement that I want to make. Basically, the 50 cents that you’re asking is in addition to any other taxes that we have right now, number one. And number two, a suggestion and a statement that I would like to make to facilitate and expedite traffic from downtown L.A. to the Westside. I think if you put Olympic and Venice in a one-way direction, I think that will definitely expedite the traffic. Thank you. I’m waiting for your answer, please.
Mr. Washington: Yes, Phillip. This is Phillip Washington. Thank you for your question. What we are proposing is a new half-cent sales tax and then also extending the current half-cent sales tax. So the answer to your question is, yes, the current Measure R half-cent sales tax – this would be in addition to. Now, it’s very important to also mention that in the previous half-cent sales tax, the Measure R, there were many unfunded projects in Measure R. There were many projects that are being proposed now through this bottoms-up approach, where we went to the sub-regions around the county and asked them to identify and prioritize new projects. This funding would accomplish and build all of the projects that were identified by your council of governments or your representatives. So, with this new tax and the Measure R, we are still talking about $24 per year for the average resident.
Ms. Tonilas: Thank you very much, Phil. We’re going to go now to Stuart in Pacific Palisades. Go ahead Stuart.
Stuart: Yes, good evening. I’m very excited about this new transit that’s taking place. I think it’s a real revolution. I go downtown a lot from the Westside, and I think this is really exciting. I’m hoping that we can continue the momentum here; because, obviously, the mathematics of having automobiles – the square footage for Los Angeles, it just doesn’t work. The numbers of cars that can move on a freeway, I think, is something like 10,000 or 12,000 an hour, nothing compared to the number of people you can move with trains; and that’s what we got to do. I thank all of you, Councilman Bonin and the person from MTA. I forgot your name. I’m sorry.
My question has to do with in the interim measures as we’re developing this spider web of transit, it seems to be we have to be doing some things in terms of connecting people to these trains. One of the thoughts I was thinking is having things they have in Europe, like jitneys. Less numbers of people; but jitneys carry, on a more frequent basis, people from neighborhoods and from outlying areas connecting into the other transit systems. These are very popular in certain parts of Europe. I think the way that Los Angeles is spread out right now, we need to come up with something like that. Buses alone, I don’t think, can do it. I’m kind of interested on your views on this subject.
Mr. Bonin: I think you make a great point. One of the things that we have to be very open to is different types of transportation, different types of mobility to get to and from the network we’re building. Twenty-five years ago, we had zero miles of rail in Los Angeles. We now have 100, and we’re hoping to do more. 450 million trips are made each year on Metro. That would be 450, almost half a billion people who would otherwise be on our freeways and our roads, clogging things up. So, we have to be open to what’s going to be coming. I think automated vehicles are going to be important for us, that will get people to and from some of our transit stops. I think Uber and Lyft and the rideshare companies are going to be key as part of a first mile and a last mile. I got to say I’ve been very pleased, although there’s been some heartburn in the process, with our partners on the Westside: Big Blue Bus and Culver City Bus, which have realigned some of their north-south routes to bring folks to our rail system.
In more long term, if the measure we’re talking about for the ballot gets approved, we’ll have even more north-south opportunities. We’re looking at a bus rapid transit on Lincoln Boulevard that would go through the center of Lincoln Boulevard so it doesn’t take away any lanes of traffic. The project I’m most stoked about is a train, or rail from LAX all the way up into the San Fernando Valley through the Sepulveda Pass. It’d be the biggest game-changing thing we could ever do on the Westside. Because once you relieve some of the 405 congestion, you take the pressure of Sepulveda and Lincoln and all of our neighborhood streets. So, thanks for the call, Stuart.
Ms. Tonilas: And thank you, Councilman Bonin. For those of you that would like to ask a question, press “O,” please; and we can get you in the queue to ask a question. We do ask when we call upon you that you keep it brief and get right to the point so that we can get to as many callers as possible. We’ll go now to Art in Los Angeles. Go ahead, Art.
Art: Hello. My name is Art. It appears that we did a great job building the Metro. Following up the other caller, I don’t see any parking when you get there. I’m just asking for what your thoughts are.
Mr. Washington: Thank you, Art. This is Phil Washington again from Metro. The parking provided along this phase of the Expo Line does, in fact, meet all the requirements approved in the environmental documents. When we build any project, we have the environmental phase at the beginning of the project. We understand that many of the stakeholders are concerned that there needs to be excess parking. Our management team really has a multifaceted effort to both manage parking demand and to identify potential additional parking opportunities. The three Metro parking lots along the Metro extension will be part of this parking management pilot program. All spaces will be subject to various requirements and fees. And patrons will be also asked to purchase monthly parking permits. In addition, there will be Metro’s existing reserve parking permit program. We will provide information about purchasing parking permits to all of our transit patrons prior to this Friday. We will provide parking attendants at all Metro transit parking locations to manage the traffic flow that’s out there and assist patrons with both payment and finding available spaces.
We are also currently exploring opportunities to build more transit parking on Metro right-of-way along the Expo Line. This is similar to the activities along the Gold Line extension that we just opened in March. If demand remains higher than supply, we can explore other partners to lease transit parking spaces. We will continue to watch this. We’re always available to talk, and you are welcome also to call our Director of Parking Management, Frank Chang. He’s at 213.922.3033. Thank you so much for the question.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much Phil.
Tonight, we’ve been talking about Metro’s long-term plan to ease traffic and to improve mobility all across Los Angeles County, this as we prepare for another 2.4 million people that are expected to move into Los Angeles County over the next 40 years. We have to keep up with that, and Metro has a plan that we have presented to our board of directors and, now, to the public. That’s why we’re doing these live telephone town hall meetings – to educate you and to get your feedback. This plan does, in fact, include a lot of new projects; but we’re going to ask you a question now that we’d like your participation in for what we do with those projects once they’re built out. This first question that we would like for you to participate in by pushing the number on your keypad that corresponds with your answer is about having some funding dedicated to what we call the “state of good repair,” which is how do we keep our system in good working condition. As we build out all these projects, it’s maintaining those projects after they’re built.
Our question is: after the projects are built, would you support part of the tax measure continuing to keep the system in good working condition? Press “1” for yes and “2” for no. So, again, once we build out new projects, are you supportive of Metro retaining part of that tax so that we could keep our existing system in good working condition? Press “1” for yes and “2” for no. We’ll share the results with you in just a couple of minutes.
In the meantime, we’re going to go to Dave in Pacific Palisades. Go ahead, Dave.
Dave: Hello. Thanks for taking my call. A question about funding: how can I be sure that, if we pass this initiative and the tax, that those funds will go to the purpose intended? And along with that, how can we be sure that the current funding for transportation won’t be in some degree ratcheted back as a result of new funds coming into the coffer?
Mr. Washington: Thanks, Dave. This is Phil Washington. Great question. We are proposing with this proposed ballot measure a very robust oversight provision and requirement. We will present this to our board next month. And we are proposing a very robust compliance system to say that we use the money exactly where we said we would use it. Now, keep in mind that whatever goes on the ballot, there must be a project description. There must be, and there will be, a date for the groundbreaking. There will be a completion date. All of this will be on the ballot or in the ballot language that we bring forward. Then the oversight/compliance piece will be there to make sure we do that, so very robust; very intensive oversight that we are proposing. You will be able to see all of that on our website, the projects. Then in June, we are going to propose and recommend to our board this robust oversight provision. So, you will see all of that. It will be very transparent as we move forward; and you’ll be able to check our progress as we build out these projects.
I will say that you can see the proof of Measure R. We, as we mentioned, just opened up the Gold Line extension to Azusa. We are opening up the Expo Line to Santa Monica on Friday. We just reached 50 percent completion, or halfway, on Crenshaw. So, you see the results of the Measure R half-cent sales tax is coming to fruition right now.
Mr. Bonin: Let me just add to that also. When the voters have an opportunity to cast their ballots in November, they will be aware of a published list of the projects that are in the bond measure. You’ll know specifically what projects you’re voting on, like the Sepulveda Pass project or Crenshaw Line extension. You’ll also know from the breakdown that 16 percent of that money will go back to local cities for transportation projects in local jurisdictions.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much, Councilman Bonin.
Going to share with you now the results of the polling question that we asked you just a couple of minutes ago. It centered around the concept of what we call in the transportation industry “state of good repair.” That is us being able to have a dedicated funding source so that we can keep our system in good working condition. The question was: how supportive would you be of Metro retaining part of the tax after the system is built to keep the system in good working condition? 72 percent of you said yes, and 28 percent said no. We appreciate that feedback and we’ll ask you another question here in just a couple of minutes.
Right now, we’re going to go Jennifer in Pacific Palisades. Go ahead, Jennifer.
Jennifer: Hi. I just wanted to understand your calculations for this tax a little bit better. To get to a $24 increase annually, you’re estimating that people are only spending $4,800 a year, which I can spend easily in groceries and gas alone. It seems that your estimate is way too low and that a half percentage point increase in sales tax to 9.5 percent is going to end up costing us way more than $24 a year.
Mr. Washington: Thank you, Jennifer. This is Phil Washington. That $24 a year is really figured from an economic model that takes into account population, average spending patterns and how much visitors spend in L.A. County when traveling here. It is an average, and we’ve said that it’s an average. What we can do with that local investment, though, is leverage it against federal dollars, state dollars and even private dollars as we move forward. So, that is an average. It’s based on an economic model that takes into account all those things that I mentioned.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much, Phil. That’s Metro’s CEO, Mr. Phillip Washington. We’re going to go now to Howard in Pacific Palisades. Go ahead, Howard.
Howard: Hi. Thanks for taking my call. My question is about driverless cars, or smart car technology. I’m wondering whether any studies have been done which predict how much they may have a beneficial effect on reducing traffic congestion. I can’t help thinking that traffic congestion is due to the cumulative effect of millions of individual drivers making their human decisions. And I just wonder if any experts have predicted how much traffic congestion will be improved by driverless cars.
Mr. Washington: Thank you, Howard. Great question. What we’ve done with regard to technology and innovation, what we are proposing is that each project that we put out for bid, if you will, for work to be done, or to build that particular project, is that we allow for creativity in that particular solicitation or proposal. And so while we don’t know over a 50-year period what technology will be out there – whether it’s autonomous vehicles, whether it’s driverless vehicles – what we are doing in each project is to leave sort of an opportunity for the private sector to submit to us what we call “alternative technical concepts.” These alternative technical concepts, or ATCs, we will evaluate them to see if we can implement them. What we don’t want to do is just make blanket statements on all of the projects that we’re proposing and saying that we must just do it this way that we think is most appropriate. We want to hear from the private sector, so we have allowed creativity in each one of these solicitations. We are already hearing from the private sector right now, as we contemplate this ballot measure to have alternative technical concepts and new technology in some of these projects, and we’re willing to listen to that.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much, Phil. We’re going to go now to Jason in Los Angeles. Remember you can press “0” on your keypad to get into the queue to ask us a question live, and we ask you to keep your questions brief. So, Jason, go ahead.
Jason: Good evening. I have a question as a 20-year rider of transit and Westside resident. There is probably going to be a lot of excitement in Los Angeles City for the new Expo Line that is riding from east to west. On the Westside one of many concerns is crime. How will you address the potential crime and encourage people to ride eastbound out of the Westside and into the city?
Mr. Washington: Thank you, Jason, for the question. Yes, addressing crime: we are doubling down on our security efforts right now. You are going to see a significant presence and increase on all of our lines, and there will be uniform officers. There will be plainclothes officers. We have added technology to our security. We have what we call “security towers” that are mobile, that we can move to various park-and-rides and stations. These security towers can rise to a level about 24 feet off the ground to survey all of the area around it. It has room enough for two law enforcement personnel. We are doubling down on this. There will be more uniform and plainclothes police officers out there. I think you’re going to see a marked difference. I just looked at some stats today where incidents on our line is decreasing. We want to keep it that way. It’s very important to enhance our customer experience, so I think you’re going to see a big difference there.
Mr. Bonin: This is Councilman Bonin. Let me just add, too, for folks who haven’t tried riding the train yet, I encourage folks to take a chance on it and try it this weekend or over the next couple weeks. Some folks may have a perception that it’s scary or something like that. The experience I have had on the train, watching the Westside embrace it over the past few years as it has come to Culver City, is I see scores, hundreds of people going to work and going to work stress-free because they’re not driving in traffic, because they’re able to read the paper and have a cup of coffee on the train. I see families with kids going to museums, or going to a show and finding ways to enjoy quality time together. The Expo Line, like the rest of Metro, is an opportunity for people to have fun and to explore the city and get to know other people.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much, Councilman – Councilman Mike Bonin. And we have Metro CEO Phillip Washington with us. We are here to hear from you. It’s all about you, folks. It all starts and ends with the public. As we put forth our plan to ease traffic and to plan for growth and better mobility all across Los Angeles County, it’s important that you are engaged and that we hear from you. So, if you’d like to ask us a question, press “0” on your keypad. We’re going to go now to Preacher from Venice. Preacher.
Preacher: Hello. Anybody there?
Ms. Tonilas: Yes, yes. Go ahead.
Mr. Bonin: Hi.
Mr. Washington: Hello.
Preacher: Yes, a couple of things. One is, Mr. Washington, there was somebody who asked about the parking, and I believe he was talking about the Expo line, specifically. I felt that that question was skirted a bit. There seems to be a tradeoff there between what was promised to neighborhoods in terms of limiting the amount of parking and what it will take to make the system work at full capacity. I’m wondering if he can lay out how that’s going to be dealt with.
The other thing is just following up on what somebody else was talking about and the alternative technical concepts. Are we planning a fully integrated system that will include new, emerging technologies? Is there an organizational framework, a procedural framework for how those things can be bought in not just now at the outset, but as time progresses? Because I think that the technology of transportation is going to change a lot in the next ten years.
Mr. Washington: Thank you, Preacher. Let me touch on the technology question first. These new technologies, they’re a very, very important piece of our plan as we look toward the future. We’re already using Next Trip technology to help riders plan their trip up to the minute. One of the major initiatives that we have started here at Metro was to create what we call an “Office of Extraordinary Innovation.” That office is taking a creative look at all new technologies and new methods of delivering projects. The idea of emerging technologies – we’re excited about that. We already have a partnership with one of the rideshare companies right now. On the Expo Line on Friday, we are doing a pilot project with Uber for them to bring passengers to our stations, and our Office of Extraordinary Innovation is engaged in that partnership. We’re very excited for things that don’t yet exist, like driverless cars. We’re thinking about this right now, before they exist, so we can capitalize on their use when they arrive. So, this whole idea of alternative technical concepts is very real. While we don’t know what’s going to be out there in the next 30 to 40 years, it’s important that we allow for the private sector to propose those things to us. In order to do that, we created an unsolicited proposal policy. This unsolicited proposal policy says that people can come in and, instead of waiting on us to put out a solicitation, they can actually suggest things to us.
The last thing I’ll mention is the parking. We definitely are not trying to skirt that question. We’re developing a parking master plan to actively manage all of our parking resources and encourage carpooling and more of an effort to enhance our active transportation resource for our transit users for better experience at and around our stations. Specific to the Expo Line, we are working with the City of Santa Monica to identify additional parking in and around Expo stations, and so we’re doing that right now. Some of the environmental documents that were done four, five, six years ago – I can’t really speak to those, but we’re looking at what excess parking we can identify right now.
Mr. Bonin: Hey, Preacher. It’s Mike. Thanks for taking the call tonight. I’ve known Preacher for a number of years. He’s one of my more active constituents. Let me add a little bit to what Phil has said. Let me hit on the parking thing first, because I’ll be a little more blunt than Phil. Due to the cost of land on the Westside, it was either have the train go all the way to Santa Monica, or have the train go halfway from Culver City to Santa Monica with a lot of parking. It was just very expensive to buy the parking. Don’t agree with the decision, but part of the benefit of going to the ballot for the additional sales tax revenue is so we can do more things to make all of Metro right. Not only is it about the new projects, but it gives us the opportunity to enhance what we already have there.
A big part of what the Mayor and I have been trying to push on Metro has been a first-mile, last-mile strategy to make it easier to get to and from Metro stations and Metro stops, whether it’s a bus stop or a train stop. We know that technology is going to change the way people are going to get around Los Angeles, but we can’t predict exactly how that’s going to be in 30 years. Are driverless cars going to mean everybody will take them to get to Metro, or does it mean that nobody’s going to use Metro because they have a driverless car? We’re hoping on the former, because if everybody does the latter our freeways are going to be too congested, and nobody can move. So, making sure that folks in driverless cars, on foot, by bicycle, by local neighborhood shuttles can get more easily to and from Metro is a key thing we’re working on and a key thing that’ll get funded out of the ballot measure.
Ms. Tonilas: Council Bonin. We have our next polling question that we’d like to ask you tonight. This question revolves around the ballot measure itself. Tonight, we’ve been talking about Metro’s plan to ease traffic. Our Metro board of directors is considering putting this measure on the November ballot. They will make that decision likely in June at their board meeting. So, what we’d like to ask you now is: if the election were held tonight, would you vote for the proposed sales tax measure for transportation? Press “1” if yes and “2” if no. Again, if the election were to be held tonight, would you vote for the proposed sales tax measure for transportation? “1” for yes and “2” for no. Thank you for participating.
We’re going to go now to Bill from Los Angeles. Bill? Go ahead, Bill.
Bill: My first comment is to Councilman Bonin. I’d like to thank you for making your office once again available for the inspectors’ classes last Friday. I do appreciate all the things that you are doing on the Westside very much. I’m an L.A. native. Your comment on the city of Santa Monica is very much true. Getting parking there would cost a small fortune, let alone the problems it would incur.
My question primarily, I believe, goes to Mr. Washington involving the new Metro line that is currently under construction, running primarily along Florence Boulevard. I live in the LAX area. I see where they are building rises like over La Cienega Boulevard. They completed, it looks like, over La Tierra. I’d like to know the start, the finish point and what specifically points of areas are you trying to move for that line.
Mr. Washington: Thank you, Bill, for the question. This is Phil Washington. I’m going to take part of that, and then I’m going to ask Mark to talk about the cost and when complete. We are looking to connect with the LAX folks. They are building a people mover out to our station. We are building that line to what’s called the “Aviation Station,” or the 96th Street Station, to meet the people mover that the airport is building. So, that project is right at the top of our list for this potential ballot measure. We believe that, in terms of regional and national significance, we must have a connection to our airport. That is right at the top of our list. The cost of that I’m going to ask Mark Linsenmayer to talk about. Keep in mind that when I say it’s the top of our list, we’re talking just months after the ballot passes we would start on that. We’ve actually already started on some of the environmental things; and, of course, you see the line that we’re building out there. So, we’re looking to build the station. The line is already under construction.
Mr. Mark Linsenmayer: The airport/Metro connector station is a project that we’ve already started studying and have done some of the environmental work on. The full project we have funded from 2018 to 2024, which will be the major part of construction. As I mentioned, we’ve already started some of the early work on it. The total cost will be, in our estimate, about $581 million, and that’s in today’s dollar. It’ll escalate throughout the years. But the expected completion date should be within 2024, which will coincide with the extension of the Crenshaw Line down to that part of the LAX area.
Mr. Bonin: This is Councilman Bonin. Let me just add a few words on that, because this is one of the things that Metro is doing that I am most excited about. When Mayor Garcetti put me on this board a couple of years ago, the number one thing I focused on was making sure that we finally, after decades of confusion and nonsense, get rail to this airport; and we are absolutely going to get it done. The Crenshaw Line, which is being built now, will be finished by 2019. The LAX station will be at 96th and Aviation. And that’s where it will connect to the people mover that the airport is moving that will take you from there and from our new, consolidated rental car center all the way around the airport to the terminals. It’s going to be convenient. It’s going to be modern, and our goal is to make sure that it’s a place where you can check your luggage. You can have a cup of coffee. There’ll be a restroom there. It’ll feel like the new front door of the airport. It’s a great partnership between Metro and the airport. It’s going to change the way people get to and from the airport. It’ll bring a lot of relief, I think, to the folks who live around the airport because there’ll be fewer people driving because they can take mass transit there. It’s one of the things that I’m really excited about for the Westside, for our neighborhoods in this ballot measure.
I mentioned eventually getting mass transit from the airport up to the Valley. This LAX connection is another huge thing for us. The Lincoln BRT is huge. And I don’t want to forget to mention that the Wilshire subway is also in this as well, to get it further out to the VA, which is going to be serving a lot of vets and is a huge employment center. Then also, the Crenshaw Line – we’re hoping in this next ballot measure to extend it further north and get it all the way up to West Hollywood and Hollywood, which is going to be another huge win for everybody in the region.
Ms. Tonilas: Thank you, Councilman. I’m now going to share the results with you of the question we asked you just a couple of minutes ago. We asked: if the election for this transportation sales tax ballot measure were to be held tonight, would you vote for it? 72 percent of you said yes. 28 percent said no. We thank you very much for your feedback.
We’re going to go now to Laura in Venice. Go ahead, Laura.
Laura: Hi. I’m calling from Venice. We moved here from New York City, so we’re all in favor of public transportation as much as possible. But we were kind of taken aback by the new bus line number 18, because there was no attempt at feedback from the community. In our case, I guess we’re about 40 feet from the bus. We see it from our windows. We can feel it when it goes by. But I could get my mind around it if maybe also, even if there wasn’t a chance to have input into the decision of putting the bus line there, if maybe at least there had been some notice with an explanation of why the bus line is there. Lincoln is just one block away, which is an appropriate place for a bus, and having it run along Ocean and 7th Avenue is really messing with some very quiet residential streets. You didn’t tell me about it before it was coming, but maybe you could tell me now why you chose to put a bus line in that spot and why the neighborhood wasn’t consulted or at least prepared.
Mr. Scott Greene: Thank you, Laura. This is Scott Greene with Metro Service Development. You mentioned Line 18, which is a new line provided by Santa Monica’s Big Blue bus. The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus did do an extensive outreach before starting that line and other lines that were necessary to feed the new Expo Line stations. That line has opened up opportunities for people along the Walgrove Avenue Street in Mar Vista to reach the Expo Line without a car and also has opened up service to Marina del Rey near Lincoln and the hospital there in Marina del Ray. It’s expanding the network so that we can carry more riders on the rail and they can get there on a bus.
Mr. Bonin: This is Councilman Bonin. Let me just add to this, because I’m familiar with the situation you’re talking about. I think you went to the town hall meeting we had a couple months ago. As they said, it’s Santa Monica Big Blue and, while they did their outreach, it certainly wasn’t extensive enough for Venice. They continue to listen, and they’re evaluating the routes, and they’ll be looking at what service changes they might make to keep service for those who need it, but also accommodate the neighborhoods.
What I can tell you about Metro, though, is that the projects that are being outlined in this ballot, they’re all going to go through an extensive street-level, ground-level environmental review process before they’re done. Before we do the bus rapid transit on Lincoln, that’s going to go through a community process, an environmental process. It’ll discuss everything from the impacts to the design. Metro also does an extensive outreach when it changes its regular bus lines as well, so we’ll make sure that lessons have been learned and incorporated into how we go forward.
Mr. Washington: Let me just add one other piece. This is Phil Washington. We have frequent conversations with all of the muni operators, including Santa Monica Blue Bus, and we’ll pass this along to them. We meet with them on a regular basis. We’ll pass this along to them – your concerns about this route 18.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much. We’re going to go now to Jeff in Pacific Palisades. Jeff, you have a question for us.
Jeff: Yes, hi. I’m concerned about how the Expo Line goes ground level towards the end of it, right by OPCC and a bunch of homeless individuals. I’m worried someone’s going to get hit and why you guys didn’t make that part more safe for pedestrians.
Mr. Bonin: Hey, Jeff. This is Councilman Bonin. I’m not too familiar with why they chose to go street-level there, but I do know that Santa Monica, back before I was in office chose – they wanted a street-level configuration there. I know that they have worked very closely with OPCC, and they’re doing a pretty good job in Santa Monica reconfiguring traffic, making sure that there’s folks out there, white-gloved officers giving guidance as folks get used to the new traffic patterns. I don’t anticipate any problems with OPCC, but Santa Monica is keeping a close eye, from what I can see.
Ms. Tonilas: Thanks very much, Councilman Bonin. We’re going to go now to Greg from Los Angeles. Greg, go ahead and ask your question.
Greg: Hello. How are ya’ll doing? I have a couple questions. One is about funding and one is about parking. There were a couple other people who were talking about there being not enough parking. I almost think that there’s too much parking in the last mile. We need to do a better job of getting the last mile with getting people to walk, or bike to the last mile. I wonder if they’re going to set up bike share, possibly. Los Angeles has been trying to set up bike shares for a long time and hasn’t done it.
The other thing is we do know how to get rid of traffic on the freeways. What we need to do to get rid of traffic on the freeways is to put demand-based tolls on all lanes. It would be easy to do. I’m not sure. Is that being considered at all? Also, the funding cars don’t really pay their own way. Their roads are paid for less than 50 percent in the United States by user fees such as gas taxes, tolls and stuff like that. I think we need to make sure that cars are paying their full fee before we start increasing sales taxes.
Mr. Washington: Yes, Greg, thank you for the question. We are not looking to toll all lanes of the freeway. In our plan, though, is some additional express lane projects. But I can’t say that we’re looking to toll all of the freeways. In terms of the parking, we are really looking to implement a balanced system around the county. When we talk about this master parking plan that we’re working on, it’s important that we look all over the county and see what works in different areas. Our environmental planning and all of that sort of gets to that before we do a project, so there is a balance that we must work on.
The other thing I would say – and I think board member and Councilmember Bonin wants to add to this as well – when we talk about bike lanes and bike paths and all of that, that is, indeed, in this plan. We are looking to implement and build and extend the existing bike lanes, because we agree with you that there must be a walkability element to this plan; and the first and last mile is very important. We want folks to walk to our stations, take a bus to our stations, or even ride bikes to our stations. So, we’re looking at that as well.
Mr. Bonin: I want to thank Greg for the questions, too. There’s a lot of stuff that Greg talked about; congestion pricing, or paying for the use of roads, or removing parking, which are very clearly futurist concepts. Most of Los Angeles, as you can hear from this call where quite a few callers were asking about parking at the Expo station. Los Angeles isn’t there yet, and changes in how people approach transportation and how they approach land use are generally an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary process. I think we’re probably at the beginning of an evolution in how Los Angeles handles traffic and mobility.
One thing that I think speaks to a different vision of Los Angeles is the mobility plan we just passed in Los Angeles, which starts giving us a route forward to think about planning not just for the single-occupancy vehicle, but for trains and buses, pedestrians and bicycles. The way the two things dovetail very nicely – this measure and the mobility plan – is that there is going to be a lot of money in local return and in certain pots of money for active transportation for us to do more bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and stuff like that. So, we’re moving in a direction of having a more bike-able and walkable and public-transit-friendly city.
Ms. Tonilas: Thank you, Director and Councilman Bonin. We’ve got time for a couple more questions, so those of you we call upon, we’re going to ask you to keep it brief. When you ask the question, ask it quickly so we can get to a few more. Mindy from Los Angeles, what’s your question?
Mindy: Hi. Thank you for taking my call. I live on the Westside close to the Barrington and Wilshire area, and that is very near the new veteran’s station that’s going to be built. Currently, it can take almost an hour, many times, to get from Barrington and Wilshire to the 405 because of congestion in that area. As you open up train stations and build bus lanes and all of these things, there is absolute gridlock. On top of that, there is a 57-story building and complex being proposed currently that is going through the approval process right now. If you ask any resident in the immediate area, we can’t even get out of our driveways at that hour, or get anywhere. So, what is being done to put metrics in place to manage this transition and new building and population in the areas not only that are already congested, but as there will be more cars or people trying to get these very congested areas?
Mr. Bonin: Thanks, Mindy, for the question. You speak to what is a common frustration in my district not just on Wilshire, but on Sunset, on Olympic and on Pico, any of the east-west thoroughfares particularly near the 405 during rush hour. And by “rush hour,” I mean anytime from three o’clock to seven o’clock. Part of what’s happening is the population of Los Angeles is growing, and that’s not something we can stop. We can’t prevent people from moving here. The city’s growing and the city’s changing, so what we need to do is figure out how are we going to manage movement in a city where the population is continuing to grow – which is one of the reasons that we’re building the projects that I’ve talked about on this call.
For instance, some of the construction you’re seeing around Wilshire further east of where you are is associated with the Purple Line construction. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to go from Westwood to downtown in 25 minutes on the train. In the meantime, we’ve created some of the bus-only lanes on Wilshire to help folks get through Wilshire quicker. That bus takes up the space of a couple vehicles, but it carries by a factor of dozens more people than a single-occupancy vehicle does.
The fact of the matter is we’ve developed a system in Los Angeles that forces you into gridlock, because we’ve built a system that is centered only around the car. We need to build a system that gives you the option of having a safe, convenient, clean bus, or train, or a nice walkable commute. And as our cities try to make that happen, Metro’s going to be there to make sure that we have those systems in place so that you have an option to not be stuck in that gridlock, which makes me want to pull my hair out when I’m there. We’re working on that.
Ms. Tonilas: Well, by the clock on the wall, our telephone town hall meeting has come to an end. I want to thank all of you very much for joining us this evening; and also L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin and also one of our Metro board members, Metro CEO Phillip Washington; Scott Greene of our Service Planning; and also Mark Linsenmayer from our Planning Department.
For all of us here at Metro, we invite you to stay engaged, stay informed and keep giving us feedback. You can get all the information about Metro and our plan to ease traffic on metro.net/theplan. Again, thank you for joining us, and a good evening to you.