Telephone Town Hall Transcript, May 4
Richard F. Clarke, Metro’s Executive Director of Program Management
Speaker 1: 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 plans to transform transportation over the next many years. This is our draft expenditure plan that we have put out to the public for review and for input. And our Board of Directors will decide in June whether or not to put this sales tax measure on the November ballot. And that is where you will have a decision to make about the future of our transportation. Joining me this evening is Rick Clarke, who is Metro’s Executive Director of Program Management. Also sitting in tonight to answer your questions is Will Ritter, Metro’s Executive Officer of Countywide Planning and Development, and also Scott Paige, who is Metro’s Director of Service Development. So we are here tonight to hear from you. And it’s all about getting feedback from you, hearing your questions. We’re here to answer those questions. What would you like to know about Metro’s plan to ease traffic? How does that impact you and your community? And tonight we are focused on the Fifth Supervisorial District. And that covers the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, and the North County area. And so we are pleased tat you’re here with us tonight. Again, my name is Pauletta. And I’ll be your moderator tonight. And this is an opportunity for you to press zero on your telephone keypad and get in the queue to ask us a question. So all you have to do is press zero and you will be connected to an operator that will get some information from you, and then be put in the queue. And wait for your name to be called by me, and then you’ll be able to have a chance to ask us a question. Again, we’re here tonight to talk about the future of transportation across Los Angeles County. And your opinions are very important to us. We are going to have some live electronic polling during this meeting where we’ll ask you to press on your keypad the corresponding number to the answer that you support, so that we can see how you, as a community, feel together about these questions that we’ll ask you. So if you would like to participate online, you can go to metro dot net forward slash the plan and click on the interactive Town Hall link on our Metro homepage. So again, that is if you want to participate with us via our web site. Again, that’s metro dot net forward slash the plan. If you would like to get information from Metro moving forward, you can press seven on your keypad. And you’ll get to an operator that will take down your email so that we can put you on our distribution lists. And you’ll be able to get future information from Metro. So again, to get in the queue for questions, press zero on your keypad. And right now, we’re going to kick it off by turning it over to Rick Clarke, who is our Executive Director of Program Management. Good evening, Rick.
Speaker 2: Good evening. Thanks, Pauletta. And thank all of you for joining us. I’m looking forward to your questions. But first, I want to share a few thoughts on our newly-opened Metro Gold Line extension. That’s a resounding success in the San Gabriel Valley and why Metro’s efforts to create transportation options are so important for the entire region. Riderships has gone through the roof on the new Gold Line extension to Azusa, which is carrying about 6,000 boardings on weekdays, even higher than we anticipated. The other good news is that more than 70% of those riders are new to Metro. And many of them no longer drive to work, taking cars off the road. This is proof that Metro takes vehicles off the road. And, as you all know, every car off the road has a positive impact on the number of trips of those who must drive. This relief is something that’s much needed by commuters on the 210 freeway, where traffic usually crawls during rush hour. Even before the Gold Line opened, Metro was providing 450 million rides a year. So think if we have traffic now, think about what it would be like if all our riders started to drive. That’s why our region’s embarking on a transportation revolution, to create more options for LA County commuters. With the opening of the Gold Line extension and the upcoming opening of the Expo Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica, Metro will have increased from zero miles to more than 100 miles of rail in just 25 years. We also have 2,200 buses providing service on 170 routes all over the county, and numerous bike and pedestrian paths under construction to help travelers reach Metro. So the options are continuing to grow, including the possible extension of the Gold Line to Claremont if funding becomes available. With that said, I have to tell you I’m proud of the people of LA County. And I’m looking forward to our bright future. I’m also looking forward to our discussion tonight. So please press zero to participate. Thanks.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Rick. And thank you for being on the line with us. We’re going to go ahead and go to our first caller right now. And our caller is John from Glendora. John, go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 3: Hi, the question is a partial statement, partial question. The goal being to get more people to use mass transportation, and understood, and a noble effort. However, we live in the city of Glendora. And a new station has just opened up within 5.6 miles from our home. The problem is that we can’t use it because the parking structure is full before 5:30 am. Now, you can’t get people to park on the side streets because the entire city of Azusa is now putting up signs and law enforcement are towing cars and all that sort of thing. How do you expect people to use mass transit if you don’t give them a place to park?
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, John, for your question. That’s a great question. And actually, we hear this because the parking lots are very popular. And so that is a way that a lot of people are able to get to our trains or our buses, is by using our park and ride system. I’m going to go ahead and turn it over to Scott Paige, who is our Director of Service Development. And Scott can add a little bit of insight on the interconnectivity of parking and our concept about that.
Speaker 4: Thank you very much, Pauletta. In the case of the Gold Line extension to Azusa, parking lots were built certainly in conjunction with the city of Azusa. And we’re currently working with the city of Azusa to develop options for parking. Permit parking is supposed to come in June to the existing parking lots. That will help give someone like you a chance to get a priority space, by getting a permit for parking in those particular locations. So, the different individual cities work with us in partnership to develop the park and rides. Sometimes it’s an unfortunately lack of real estate or a lack of funding at the time of construction. I know that our Director of Parking Management here at Metro is currently studying the different situations that are available to us out there. And they’re certainly working with each individual cities to try to improve the situation. And I hope, for you, it will get better soon in the near future.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Scott. Appreciate your answers. We had a question from Maria in Lancaster, who is listening by way of our Spanish simulcasting. We’re also offering the telephone Town Hall meetings in Spanish. And Maria’s question is, ΓÇ£When is the meet-up for the halfway rail celebration?ΓÇ¥ And I believe that Maria is talking about the Halfway There event on the Crenshaw LAX line that is actually going to be celebrated this Saturday. So this Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, we will be celebrating the halfway point on the construction of the Crenshaw LAX project. That’ll be a major milestone. It is designed to be a community festival atmosphere. And so we would invite everybody to join us along Crenshaw on Saturday morning. That’s this Saturday, May 7, from 10:00 am to 4 o’clock. And there will be many activities for kids and families and demonstrations and food and plenty of things to do, a feature of our art program within the Metro system, and along the Crenshaw line. So that’ll be this Saturday. The ceremony will actually be at 10:30 at Laimert Park. That is the area for the celebration, Laimert Park, this Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00. We’re going to go ahead and go to our next caller right now. And that is Steve in Glendora. Steve, go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 5: Hello. Thanks for taking my question. I would like to know if the stations could accommodate a park and ride system where people could be dropped off or picked up by family members so they don’t have to stop in traffic. It’s like a kiss and ride system. Thank you.
Speaker 1: Yes, that is a kiss and ride system. The idea being that you drop off a loved one and kiss them goodbye and you pick them up later, and there isn’t parking there. There are some kiss and rides throughout our system. And the key about park and rides is that we provide as much parking as we can. And when we go through the environmental process, we look at where the station locations should be to maximize serving population centers and where people are and where they’re going, also how much parking is necessary. And so this is one of the areas where we provide ample parking by way of what our studies show us. But the kiss and ride and the actual park and ride system is complementary. And we typically will have kiss and rides around an area where there wouldn’t be a lot of space to have a parking structure or a parking lot, a surface lot, but it still provides an area where people can drop off and pick up people. And I don’t know if Will has anything more that he would like to add to that. Will?
Speaker 6: I think, Pauletta, you’ve covered it. We do go through a very extensive process when we’re developing the stations to understand what are the needs of the public that will be accessing them. And the kiss and ride option is one that we have employed at a number of our stations. And continue to look at that as we’re developing new stations, to maximize the efficiency of the stations for those that are not only looking to park but also simply, as noted, to drop off potential passengers that are accessing the facility.
Speaker 1: Okay, that’s great. Thank you very much, Will. We’re going to go ahead and go to our next caller. And that’s Deborah from Monrovia. So Deborah, go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 7: Hi, good evening. I would like to know why the Sierra Madre train stops and doesn’t just go clear through to Azusa. When we get on the train in the evening, it’s ridiculous. And you’ll see the other Pasadena train come and, you know, there’s plenty of seats. So, you know, I would, for one, love to see it extend through to Azusa so you could accommodate more riders and we’re not squished like sardines.
Speaker 4: Thank you very much, Deborah, for your comment, and it’s actually quite timely. This is Scott Paige in Service Development. We’re currently looking at a way to extend all the Gold Line trips to the Azusa station. It’s under study right now. As more cars come in from our manufacturer, and we have more cars available, then we’re looking to possibly operate a seven-minute headway. That’s what we’re studying right now so that every trip would be able to go to Azusa. It would mean one less train within one hour, but the loads would be smoother operating to and from Azusa and Sierra Madre. So right now, every other train turns back at Sierra Madre. And a lot of that has to do with car inventory. But that’s getting better all the time as more cars come in from our manufacturer. And, at the same time, we’re looking to possibly run a seven-minute service every trip to Azusa in the peak periods. And those would be two-car trains back and forth to each end. So I appreciate your call. We like to hear in-service planning from patrons that would like to see more service go to the Azusa station.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Scott. We’re going to go right to Kay in Pasadena. So Kay, what’s your question?
Speaker 8: Good evening. I’m very happy to hear they’re elongating the route. I just wondered if it will have a financial impact on the prices for seniors and disabled people as well as regular riders.
Speaker 1: Kay, that’s a great question. And it’s something that we do get asked a lot. One of the good things about this plan is that we do have funds that we would be dedicating to providing ADA paratransit service and keeping fares affordable for the disabled, for seniors, and for students. These are core riders that are very transit-dependent. And so we are looking out for them in this plan. And, as part of this 120 billion dollar plan that we are putting forth, that would cover the next four years, we have about 2.5 billion dollars that we have estimated that we would want to invest in ADA paratransit service ΓÇô this is for the disabled, for the handicapped ΓÇô and also so that we can keep fares, over time, as affordable as possible. Because we know that this is a group of folks that are going to really need to be able to afford their trips that they rely on. And the federal government does mandate that we provide ADA service for the disabled. And yet there isn’t federal funding that goes along with that. So we have to be able to fund this service. And so this is an area of Metro’s plan to ease traffic that we are proposing that we dedicate 2.5 billion dollars of this plan moving forward to serve the disabled, students, and seniors. And so I hope that answers your question, Kay. We’re going to go to our next caller, which is Glen from Altadena. Glen, what do you have for us?
Speaker 9: Yes, I ride the 210 and the 110 at least once a week in the morning and usually coming back in the evening. And I’m listening to you. And you have said that the trains, like there’s the Gold Line that comes from Pasadena into town and so forth, are the ones that are alleviating the traffic. And I’m wondering if you’re not taking into consideration the fact that many more people are moving here, and those two freeways are still like parking lots.
Speaker 1: That’s a great comment and question. And I’m going to turn that over to Scott Paige, our Director of Service Development.
Speaker 4: Actually, Glen, we’ve been studying that ourselves. And we’ve actually come up with some very interesting facts over the last few weeks. Year over year, urban miles driven in California have increased by 5%. And you’re probably right, there are more people moving into the region. And concurrently gasoline consumption has risen in the same period by 2.5%. So that means people are driving more. Recently, we had Assembly Bill 60 that came into being. And that allowed people who are living in the state, who currently couldn’t get driver’s licenses, to get them. And over 397,000 people applied for new driver’s licenses since that bill went into effect. And the DMV expects up to a million new drivers will also be added in 2017. And if you haven’t noticed, new vehicle sales have grown 5.5% year over year from 2014, topping out at about 15 million new units sold in 2015. And supposedly, sales will hit an all-time record of 17 million units at the end of this year. And, according to the New York Times, the US employment rate fell below 5% along with wage growth within this region. And finally, Uber and Lyft may be replacing shorter transit trips previously used by tourist riders. So the number of people ΓÇô think about it this way. If we didn’t have our rail and we didn’t have our bus, that many more people would be on the freeway that you see as not changed or you feel the reduction in cars hasn’t changed. We’re kind of like ΓÇô we move a step forward and the freeway congestion moves a step forward. So we’re always trying to stay a step ahead. But definitely there’s a number of factors in this region that have allowed car growth to continue on our freeway system. It’s definitely an issue.
Speaker 1: Scott, that’s great insight. Thank you very much. If you would like to get in the queue to ask us a question, press zero on your keypad. And you’ll be connected to an operator, who will get some basic information and put you in the queue. If you would like to get information from Metro in the future, you can press seven and leave us your email address. And we’ll put you on our distribution lists. And if you would like to participate by way of our web site, you can go online at metro dot net forward slash the plan and click on the interactive Town Hall link on our homepage. So all these different ways that we’d like to engage with you. We’re going to go to Bill in Lancaster next. Bill, what’s your question?
Speaker 10: Good evening. I’d like to know what’s the plan to expand Metro beyond a basic commuter service? I’d like to have something that’s more than a basic hub and spoke for trips to Union Station, to be able to get around other than just out and back once in one day, and that’s it.
Speaker 6: Bill, this is Will Ritter with LA Metro. And that’s a great question. I’m understanding that you’re probably speaking to Metrolink service that runs up to the Antelope Valley, connecting here to Union Station. And that has been an area of significant focus for us over the last couple of years as we’ve been looking at the needs in the north county area and what type of transit connectivity they have to our other areas of light rail throughout Los Angeles County. And, as a part of the potential ballot measure, we have been working with Metrolink as well as our local partners in north county to identify what the needs would be for additional Metrolink service and trying to look at how we would be expanding from what you’ve noted previously as far as the kind of the typical commute hours to a service throughout the day. And so that is an area that we have been looking at as a priority. We’ve actually created kind of a plan for funding directly to Metrolink for various types of operational improvements as well as funding that would be available for capital improvements, to ensure that there are the appropriate kind of infrastructure to be able to support that as well.
Speaker 1: Will, I’m going to ask you to stay on the line for a second. I want you to talk a little bit about the collaboration that has been a source over the last couple of years really with folks all across the county to develop this plan that we now are presenting to the public.
Speaker 6: Well thank you, Pauletta. I appreciate that opportunity because that has been one of the significant aspects of this process that has been underway for over two years and really started in earnest when we performed what we commonly called a mobility matrices process, which was this bottom-up process working through, you know, the various sub-regions throughout Los Angeles County to identify what the needs were. Through that process, over 2,300 projects and programs were identified by the local agencies and the various stakeholders that we work with in transportation, representing approximately 270 billion dollars’ worth of investments over the next 30 to 40 years. And we’ve worked then to establish a list of priorities that we would then carry forward into the potential ballot measure. And we feel very proud about ensuring that the draft expenditure plan, as released by the Metro Board in March of this year, has been representative of a lot of that work and presents those priorities that were brought up through that bottom-up process from the sub-regions as well as the input from the stakeholders and the public at large.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Will. Rick, I’d like for you to talk a little bit about the projects that we currently have in construction. We have three rail lines currently in construction and other highway improvements. And I think it would be helpful for folks to know that that work that they see out there, that’s Metro’s work. And that’s their tax dollars at work.
Speaker 2: Yes, Pauletta. We certainly have a lot going on in construction. We have three major rail projects under construction. The regional connector is a subway through downtown Los Angeles. The Purple Line is another subway, runs from Wilshire Western to the Miracle Mile and to the east side of Beverly Hills. And then the Crenshaw LAX to the airport, and the Crenshaw corridor with a connection to the Green Line on the south end. These are major projects going on. Construction is going on heavily on all three projects right now. There’s also important highway improvements going on that Metro funds and works with CalTrans in improving highways. An example is the I-5 freeway widening on the south near the Orange County line. We also have hundreds of buses that make travel more reliable and comfortable for riders. But there’s still much more to do. LA County’s 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 world-class region, we need a combination of local, federal and private dollars, especially local dollars. It leverages a lot of other funds. In LA County, I’m sure it’s not news, we spend an average of 81 hours a year stuck in traffic. Time is money. The longer it takes to build our transportation improvement, the more expensive it will be. If we don’t plan now for future growth, gains of recent years will give way to more traffic congestion. That’s why we’re considering a ballot measure for this November that Will talked about. The proposed ballot measure would be a half a cent and half a cent sales tax in LA County, and an extension of the existing Measure R. This means about 24 dollars 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 that in perspective, buying a fancy coffee drink once a week, like I do, costs about 260 dollars a year. I’d also like to note another important point. The plan provides an infrastructure inheritance for our children and grandchildren. These infrastructure improvements last a long time. We don’t want to leave them with crumbling rail tracks and highways. We want to leave them with a mobility system that’s been well planned and well maintained and that works well 100 years from now.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Rick. If you would like to ask a question, just press zero on your keypad and you’ll get in the queue to ask us a question live. We’re going to go ahead and go right to our first electronic polling question tonight. And this is an opportunity for you to press the number on your keypad that corresponds with the answer that you support. And then it will all aggregate and we’ll be able to tell you in just a few minutes how you all, collectively as a community, responded to our questions. So the first question deals with what, in the transit industry, we call the state of good repair. And what that is is keeping the system in good working order. So we’re talking a lot tonight about building out new transit and highway projects. But it’s another thing to then keep those in good working order. We’re going to have to replace buses over time, replace train cars, track, do maintenance, our electrical system, our signals. So keeping all of these things in good working order is significant. We call that state of good repair. So the question for you to answer by way of your keypad is, after projects are built out, would you support part of the new tax continuing to keep the system in good working order? Press one if you believe yes, two if your answer is no. Again, this is after we build out all these projects. Would you support us keeping part of that tax to keep the system in good working order? One for yes and two for no. And we’ll give you the results here in just a couple of minutes. We’re going to go right to our next caller. And that is Jose in Sylmar. Jose, what is your question?
Speaker 11: Yes, hi. My name is Jose. I live in the San Fernando Valley, Sylmar to be exact. My question is, do you guys have any plans to build a Metro all the way to the San Fernando Valley? And that’s number one. And number two, if it’s possible to add more offices for senior citizens to go and get their TAP cards.
Speaker 2: Thank you, Jose for the question. As part of the potential ballot measure that we have released, we’re actually identifying three potential rail projects in the San Fernando Valley. The first would be the conversion of Metro’s existing Orange Line, our very successful bus rapid transit corridor, to light rail. The second is looking at some form of a light rail that would then provide kind of a north-south connectivity along Van Nuys Boulevard to the Orange Line as it exists. And the third is a kind of new rail system that would be along the Sepulveda Pass that would connect to the Orange Line Van Nuys station underneath the Sepulveda Pass with the station at UCLA terminating at Wilshire Westwood Purple Line station. So those are the three rail projects that we currently have identified to not only promote kind of connectivity from the San Fernando Valley to our existing system with connectivity down to downtown LA, but to also promote kind of connectivity with light rail or other rail options within the San Fernando Valley.
Speaker 12: Hello? I didn’t want to speak anymore. I just suggested that maybe they could use some of the church parking lots when the churches were not using them. And I know that during World War 2, we did all kinds of things to help each other. I’m old. And I don’t use any of your system or anything. But it would seem to me that even some private people that have spaces in their own driveways might let someone park there, if they knew the person and had made sure the person was insured and everything like that. I don’t have a driveway at the front of my house. My driveway ΓÇô we have to come in from the back and park. We come in from the alley. And there’s a big gate and fence there and everything so I couldn’t do that. ButΓÇª
Speaker 1: Anita, yeah. We’re going to go ahead and get to your question though. You made a great comment, very insightful comments. And we’re going to ask Scott to respond to that.
Speaker 4: Very good question about using churches as a park and ride location for our rail lines. Ironically, we already have a relationship with the First AME Church on Crenshaw Boulevard that’s just north of our Crenshaw Expo station. They have, I believe, about a four or five-story parking garage there that Metro leases during the week when the church is not in session so that people can park there and ride the Expo line. Certainly, we have no problem having relationships with other churches. And I’ll certainly get with our parking management person here at Metro and pass that along to him to see if possibly there’s some churches, particularly along the Gold Line, where we do have some parking issues on the extension, to see if they’re churches near any of the stations that we might be able to lease. That’s a very good question and a good idea.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Scott. I understand some folks didn’t hear my response back to the question that we asked you. After projects are built, would you support part of the tax continuing to keep the system in good working condition? And so I want to make sure that we get those results to you. 83% of you said yes, 17% said no. And we’ll be doing another polling question here in just a couple of minutes. So remember to push zero if you’d like to get in the queue to ask a question. We’re going to go to Joseph now in Lancaster. Joseph, what’s your question?
Speaker 13: Yes. My name is Joseph and I live in Lancaster, Antelope Valley. And it was concerning the plight of the homeless here because we’re the last stop. And I was wondering if ΓÇô because we’re getting so many homeless coming up here because we do have a lot of resources. Are we going to have some kind of Metro Police riding the rail or to check for tickets and so forth? And if they are, what is going ΓÇô are they just going to get a ticket because they don’t have one? Like a riding ticket against the, you know, breaking the law? Or are they going to be arrested for it?
Speaker 6: Joseph, this is Will with Metro. And I appreciate that call because this has been a significant issue for us, as well as Metrolink as the operator, you know, of that service to Lancaster. And I would like to note that in cooperation with Metrolink we have established resources to kind of step up the law enforcement on the Antelope Valley line. This is something that is kind of continually evolving to be able to kind of manage this issue. It’s not our understanding that they are, you know, kind of receiving any kind of direct ticket, you know, as far as being arrested for that but are working to be able to ensure that they’re limiting, you know, the access and trying to manage how they are accessing the actual trains.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Will. We really appreciate you joining us tonight. Again, you are listening to a live telephone Town Hall meeting that is hosted by LA Metro. And we have some staff here that are here to answer your questions about Metro’s plan to ease traffic. This is our plan looking ahead about 40 to 50 years of how we can continue to provide better mobility all across LA County. And so what Metro is proposing at this point is a half cent sales tax increase and then continuing the Measure R tax when that is set to expire so that we can do more projects sooner rather than later. And the longer it takes to do these projects, of course, the more expensive it gets. So the time is now for us to plan ahead for the future. And that is what we’re here talking about tonight. Again, press zero on your keypad if you’d like to get in to the queue to ask a question. We are going to go to Bobby in Lancaster. Bobby?
Speaker 14: Hi, thanks for taking my call. I’d like to know that with all of the infrastructure and all of the imrpovements that are being made down there right now ΓÇô and I’m up here in the Antelope Valley, Lancaster again. You’re getting a lot of calls I see from up here. And that’s because the population, as you know, is increasing tremendously. What sort of mechanism do they have plans for, if there are any plans, for the connections to that infrastructure from traveling from the Antelope Valley from north county Los Angeles to that infrastructure down there? And if they have anything that’s in place, what do they have plans for?
Speaker 4: Thank you, Bobby. This is Scott Paige in Service Planning. Actually, there is a way for you to get from Lancaster all the way down to the North Hollywood Red Line station, where you can catch a number of services, including our new 501 line express, which operates from the North Hollywood Orange Red Line station to the Pasadena Gold Line. And that is offered by Antelope Valley Transit. It’s called the North County Transporter. And what it does, is it runs from the Palmdale Transportation Center and the New Hall Metrolink station over to the McBean Regional Transit Center, which is over in Santa Clarita. There, you will transfer to the Santa Clarita transit line 757 called the NoHo express. And it operates directly to the NoHo Orange Line, Red Line station. And that runs seven days a week all day long. It’s bidirectional. And that will provide you your connection to the Orange Line and the Red Line. And once you get to the Red Line, then you can go all the way to downtown, to Hollywood, connect with line 720 on Wilshire Boulevard. So the transporter runs 10 trips a day. And then the 757, run by Santa Clarita Transit, also runs seven days a week. I would suggest you consult Google Transit. And Google Transit will help you put that trip together. But those options are available to you today. And I hear they’re quite popular.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Scott. If you would like to ask a question, it’s not too late to press zero to get into our queue. And again, if you would like to leave us your email so that you can get on our distributions, you can press seven. So we are going to go right to Jim in Grenada Hills. Jim, what’s your question?
Speaker 15: Yes, I live in the northern part of the San Fernando Valley. And I was just wondering what percentage of the projects will be in the San Fernando Valley. I heard Jose. And you explained. I only see ΓÇô actually I counted out. It’s just maybe two and maybe a quarter. I don’t count the one going to UCLA as maybe a half. What percentage of the projects, money-wise, will go to the San Fernando Valley?
Speaker 6: This is Will Ritter with Metro. While we don’t have an exact kind of breakdown as far as the percentage of funds that would be going to the San Fernando Valley, as I mentioned before, we have a number of projects that are planned for inclusion in the draft expenditure plan. And those included the Orange Line conversion to light rail, the Sepulveda Pass project, which would not only include a rail element, as I’ve noted previously, but also a new bus rapid transit corridor that would fall along the 405, the light rail and the Van Nuys Boulevard, and then actually a number of other kind of localized improvements that would be funded through local return that the San Fernando Valley would receive as well as other kind of improvements that would be on active transportation, being pedestrian and bicycle in nature.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Will. One of the things that is challenging when we’re putting a plan like this together is, of course, taking all of those projects, those priorities that we heard from our partners all across the county, and then figuring out how to sequence those. Because, of course, everybody would love to have all their projects sooner rather than later and done in the first 10 or 15 years. And obviously, based on the cash flow of the plan, it’s not possible to do that. So we have to look at these projects. We evaluated them based on criteria such as how well they would improve mobility and provide better access and grow the economy and create better sustainability and qualify of life and safety. And once we ranked these projects, we then went about the business of looking at how we were going to sequence those. And the biggest goal that we’ve kept in mind is equity across the whole county. And how are we going to make sure that we serve LA County as a whole. And in the first 15 years of the plan that we have come up with, all areas of LA County get major projects done within the first 15 years. We worked very hard to make sure that we could do that. But obviously, there are going to be some projects that folks are going to want done sooner than what we have over the life of a 40 or a 50-year plan. And so we do the best we can, working with our projects and based on the cash flow, to make sure that we’re serving you the best that we can. We’re going to go to the next question. And that is from Sam in Grenada Hills. Sam, what’s your question?
Speaker 16: Yes. What are the ΓÇô I guess I came in late. What are exactly are the plans to get from the Valley to the west side with the rail that you’re proposing? And because that’s really ΓÇô the 405 is a nightmare. You know? And I don’t understand why it took so, you know ΓÇô the ΓÇô in the beginning, they just added some more carpool lanes, which did absolutely nothing. I don’t understand why it took so long to realize that this corridor is the worst probably in the country and really needs to get, you know, we really need transportation to the west side from the Valley.
Speaker 2: Sam, this is Rick Clarke. Yeah, we’ve all shared your nightmares of driving on the 405. It is a challenge. Metro did fund that carpool lane, which, granted, is congested now. But things would be that much worse if we hadn’t built it. The new ballot plan does include a focus on the Sepulveda corridor and 405, starting with additional capacity, a bus rapid transit, and, as Will alluded to earlier, ultimately a heavy rail system that will connect into the San Fernando Valley. So this is a big focus. We are all aware of the challenges on the 405 freeway. And we have a major focus of that in the ballot initiative.
Speaker 4: Sam, this is Scott Paige in Service Planning. I do have, hopefully, maybe some immediate relief for you starting on May 15. We will be extending our Metro rapid line 734, which is what I call our true Sepulveda Rapid, which begins in Sylmar and goes all the way to Westwood. And we’re going to be extending that line to the new Sepulveda station effective May 15 so that it will already be there when the rail line opens on May 20. We’re also extending our line 788, which is a Metro rapid express line that operates from the Van Nuys and Sepulveda corridor also down to the new Expo station as well as on Saturdays and Sundays our local line 234, the Sepulveda local, will also be extended to the Expo Sepulveda station. So now you actually can ride the Orange Line, transfer to these buses, and go right to the Expo Line, where you can get to places that you need to go via the Expo Line. So I think that’s good news for now until some of these other projects can be built out.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much. We’re going to go to Janet in Sylmar. Janet, what’s your question?
Speaker 17: Hi, thanks for taking my question. Are you taking into consideration the high speed rail which will ultimately come in to the north valley and then downtown?
Speaker 2: Janet, this is Rick. Yes, we are working very closely with high speed rail, particularly at Los Angeles Union Station, to accommodate them and the station. High speed rail is currently doing their environmental impact statement and looking at coming down through Palmdale and into Burbank and then to Union Station. And we’re working with them. We’re also working with them that they would fund critical improvements on the existing Metrolink lines that they would share. So that is a great question. And we are continuing to closely coordinate with high speed rail.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Rick. If you would like to participate online, you can go to our web site at metro dot net forward slash the plan. And then you can click on the link that says interactive Town Hall. And you can participate that way. Also, it’s not too late to press zero and get into the queue to ask us a question. We’re going to ask you a question now. We’re going to go to our next polling question of the evening. And this is a chance for you to tell us electronically how you feel about this next question. It’s a pretty big question. You will press the number on your keypad that corresponds with your answer preference. So that question is, what you’ve learned tonight about Metro’s plan to ease traffic and transforming transportation over the next four to five decades, if that election were to be held tonight, would you vote for this proposed sales tax measure for transportation? Press one for yes and two for no. So again, if this sales tax election were to be held tonight, would you vote yes or no? One for yes and two for no. And we’ll share those responses with you here in just a little bit. Now though, we’re going to go to Daniel in Claremont. Daniel, what’s your question for us?
Speaker 18: Yes. Good afternoon, or good evening, rather. My question was, I heard that the Gold Line is going to ultimately end up in Claremont. As I live out here in Claremont on the east part of the county, and we have limited service out here with Foothill Transit. So the Gold Line would be greatly welcomed. I just wonder where the stations would ultimately end up. In the northern part of the city or down by Claremont Village, where it’s already served by like five buses and the Metrolink? So I was just curious as to where the plans are to locate the end of the line for the Gold Line.
Speaker 6: Daniel, great question. This is Will Ritter. That project that you’ve identified that would provide for the extension of the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont is one of the priority projects that are being identified in the first 15 years of the plan, as Pauletta has recognized. And in our efforts to, you know, collaborating with the Gold Line joint powers authority that is developing that project, our understanding is that those stations will be located in downtown Claremont.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Will. We’re going to go ahead and go right to our next caller, which is Michael in Pasadena. Michael, what’s your question?
Speaker 19: Well, it was more of a comment but I’ll make it a question. The ticketing facilities for the TAP cards are quite ΓÇô I’m a native. And I have a lot of difficulty putting money on my TAP card when I want to use it. I’m not a frequent user. I’m an infrequent user. And people that are not from the area, particularly foreign people that are visiting here, have even more difficulty using it because they don’t speak the language. And if it’s difficult for me, I’ve helped some that have had problems, what’s going to be done to make those ticketing machines more user friendly?
Speaker 4: Hi, this is Scott in Service Planning. I know recently the TAP card department recently completely changed the whole screens and the whole way with which you access TAP cards. I hear that you’re an infrequent user. And if you haven’t used the TAP card machines recently, they have been completely changed. The screen is much easier to use. And hopefully you’ll be able to negotiate the newer screens more easily than the way they were when the TAP program first started. So the TAP machines, I believe, are easier to use. And if you haven’t used it recently, I hope that you’ll give it a try again and see if it works more easily for you.
Speaker 1: Yeah, one other thing I’ll add to what Scott just mentioned is that we hit a great milestone here in the past month where we have integrated the TAP card with our fellow municipal bus operators so that we’re all on the same TAP card. And that’s a huge convenience for transit riders all across the county. So we have like 24 municipal bus operators that are partners of Metro’s that enhance the bus service that we provide. And being able to get everybody on this one TAP card is significant. And so that’s one way that we’ve been trying to look and keep the forefront of the customer and excellence in customer service and support at the forefront for us. So hopefully that helps you out a little bit as well. Want to go ahead and give you the results of that last polling question that we asked you. So we asked if the election were to be held tonight, would you vote for the sales tax measure. 65% of you said yes and 35% said no. And so we thank you for participating. This will be included as part of our public input process, which is going on through May 20. And at that time, we will compile our imput to this draft expenditure plan. And we’ll be sharing all of the input with the Metro Board of Directors. And they will be considering that when they then decide on June 23 at their board meeting whether or not to pursue this sales tax measure on the November ballot. And so they’ll be making that big decision in June. We’re going to go ahead and go to Henry in Sylmar. Henry, what’s your question?
Speaker 20: Oh. Hello?
Speaker 1: Henry in Sylmar, are you there?
Speaker 20: Who?
Speaker 1: Henry? Sorry about that, Henry.
Speaker 20: Yeah.
Speaker 1: Are you there, Henry?
Speaker 20: Yeah.
Speaker 1: Go ahead.
Speaker 20: The phone cut off.
Speaker 1: Go ahead. Ask your question. Sorry about that.
Speaker 20: Oh I don’t have a question. I’m just going to tell you that what happened here in the Valley and everywhere else is the mistake of whoever was take the electric cars out of here. That was when we could ΓÇô when we were kids, we could get on the car, go to Santa Monica or Santa Monica Boulevard. We could go anywhere. And then they took those out and we couldn’t go anywhere. Now they’re putting in buses, buses, buses, buses, more pollution. I can’t believe it, you know? So that’s what I have to say.
Speaker 1: Henry, thank you for your comment. And Scott will go ahead and address that.
Speaker 4: Hi, Henry. Certainly, I can sympathize with you as I myself liked the old streetcars that used to run here in Los Angeles. One of the problems that the streetcars had even when they were operating ΓÇô remember, you rode from the Valley when the Valley wasn’t nearly as populated as it is now. Yet those streetcars used a traffic lane, particularly the local streetcars. The LA railway street cars in the city of LA actually took away a traffic lane. And today, to put a streetcar back on a lot of these streets such as Vermont or Western or Broadway would reduce yet another traffic lane, which I don’t think the streets can handle at this point. However, we are studying actually the Van Nuys corridor in the San Fernando Valley as a possible choice for a new local streetcar as well as there’s the streetcar project in downtown that would be like a circulator that would operate down Broadway and around by Staples Center and back up Figueroa Street to near where the museums are. So certainly we are looking at the streetcar. It is a potential mode of transportation that other cities such as Tucson and Portland and Washington, D.C. just opened a new line with a streetcar as well. So that’s certainly a good question. And we are always keeping the streetcar as an option when we look at future rail and BRT corridors.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Scott. We’re going to go ahead and go to Melody in Pasadena. Melody, what’s your question?
Speaker 21: Hi, I was wondering what would you do if you didn’t get the proposed tax or tax proposal on the ballot this November. Because from what I understand, you guys are still going to go forward with the projects. But how long would it take if you don’t have the funding or you don’t have that specific plan?
Speaker 2: Melody, this is Rick Clarke. That’s a great question. If the ballot measure doesn’t get on the ballot or doesn’t pass, then all the projects listed in this ballot measure that we’ve been talking about either won’t get done or would take a whole lot longer to do. That includes the extension of the Foothills East Line to Claremont and many other important projects. It also means that service improvements won’t be able to be made. Highway expansions would have to be slowed down. And also the money we provide to local return back to the cities would have to be maintained at its current levels without any expansion.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Rick. We’re going to go right to Garth in Pasadena. Garth?
Speaker 22: Hello?
Speaker 1: Yes, Garth. Go ahead.
Speaker 22: Yeah, I addressed the parking situation. I wrote a letter to the LA Business Journal, which they published in their May 2 edition. If you have 1,562 parking spots on the six new Gold Line, how many more cars than 1,562 can you take off the freeway? It’s been answered. The other question I have is the TAP card. You cannot load it from your house. You have to go to the station. That’s 20th century technology. They need to upgrade that. And the other one is LAX. You have tourists coming in who cannot get out of LAX on pubic transportation other than cabs. So is LAX being addressed in the current or future plans? Thank you.
Speaker 4: Hi, this is Scott in Service Planning. First, I wanted to address your TAP question. And actually, you can load your TAP card via your home computer. If you go to Metro’s web site and then look for TAP to Go, you can actually load your TAP card using a credit card or an ATM card. Each TAP card has basically a serial number on the back of it. And that serial number is specific to you. You own that card with that serial number. So you can go online, look for Tap to Go, and you can load money onto the TAP card or you can purchase the different products that are available and place that on your TAP card without having to go to a station. And that’s certainly much more convenient for you. And then regarding the parking issue, we are aware that there are parking issues at the new Gold Line stations. But based on our recent survey, 60 plus percent of our transit users are currently using buses and only 9 to 13%, depending on the demographic area of where the park and ride is, are using the park and ride. Most are connecting by buses. Metro’s developing a parking master plan to actively manage our parking resource and to try to encourage carpooling. And more effort will be placed to enhance our active transportation resource for our transit users for better experience on arriving at our stations. We’re currently also installing real-time car count system at all the Metro parking facilities to reduce parking space searching time. And basically that means as you approach the parking lot, there’ll be a number up on the electronic board that will say there are five spaces available. Then you know you don’t have to circle and circle and circle and find that there are no spaces available when you arrive. So drivers can decide to drive or use other options to arrive at our stations. Of course, increasing capacity is always an option. We’ve talked about things tonight like leasing space at churches and also introducing permit parking at some of the stations. I’m sorry, I couldn’t ΓÇô didn’t get the third question. You’re going to get that?
Speaker 6: Garth, this is Will. I will take what I understood is the third part of your question, which is the connectivity to the Los Angeles International Airport. And that is one of the, you know, priority areas of focus for us in our current planning activities, as well as for funding through the potential ballot measure. And Metro has been actively working with LAX in the development of an airport Metro connecting station, currently identified for 96th Street. And that would provide a connection between not only an extension of the Green Line but the Crenshaw Line that is currently under construction. And the intent is there at the 96th Street Station to then provide connectivity with the proposed people mover under development directly by LAX and their new parking structure. That would be a compliment to that facility.
Speaker 1: So, by way of the clock on the wall, we have come to the end of our Town Hall meeting. I’m sorry we couldn’t get to the rest of your questions. But you can stay on the line after the call and you can leave us a message. You also can press seven on your keypad and leave us your email so that you can get on our mailing lists and receive future information. One of the things I will leave you with is that this plan to ease traffic, this plan that we’re putting out to the public to consider and that the Metro board will then decide on in June, is designed to plan for future growth. Over the next 40 years, we expect to have 2.4 million more people move into Los Angeles County. And so planning for that growth today is significant. It’s tough to wait 10 or 20 years to plan for that type of growth. So that’s really the plan. And so we ask you to review this plan. It is available on Metro’s web site at metro dot net forward slash the plan. Provide us feedback online or by participating in another telephone Town Hall meeting that’s coming up. And you can get that call-in number on our web site. We thank you so much for joining us tonight and for taking time out of your evening to provide us with input and ask us questions. We hope that this has been helpful to you. And on behalf of Metro and all of my colleagues here, we wish you a good night.