Telephone Town Hall Transcripts , March 28, 2017
Speaker 1: Good evening everyone and thank you for joining us for a live telephone town hall meeting hosted by the Los Angeles Country Metropolitan Transportation Authority otherwise known as Metro. I’m Pauletta Tonilas, Chief Communications Officer for Metro, and I’ll be your moderator this evening for this telephone town hall as we talk about our local tax dollars and the funding that really drives Metro and that provides transportation all across Los Angeles County. We are here to talk about our FY-28 budget, which we are in the process of planning. We’re in the middle of our budget planning process, and a key component of this is outreach about our budget, and about Metro’s funding sources, and we want to give you an opportunity tonight to learn about the budget process and ask us some questions. We’ll give you an update also on Measure M, the program that will advance 40 major highway and transit projects over the first forty years of the Measure M program. This is the sales tax ballot measure that voters of Los Angeles County passed on November 8th, and we’re already hard at work on that, and we’ll share some information with you about that. And we’ll also answer your questions about the changes in service that will help your commutes.
So joining us tonight are Metro Board member Jackie Dupont-Walker, Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins, Drew Phillips, who is the director of Metro’s office of management and budget, Giovanna Gogreve, Manager of Accessibility Programs for the office of management and budget, and also Scott Page, who is Metro’s Senior Director of Service, Performance and Analysis. Tonight’s focus will be on Metro’s budget and how Metro is using various funding sources to move LA County transit successfully into the future. Now again this is your opportunity to share your thoughts and ask questions about Metro’s budget process, and Measure M – which is our latest funding component – and the role it will play to keep LA County moving. Now if this is your first time on a live telephone town hall meeting, this is how it works. To ask a question you just press zero on your keypad, and you will be transferred to an operator who will take down some basic information and get you into the queue. Now since we want to hear from as many of you as possible we can only take one question per person, and we ask you that you please keep your questions brief. Once the operator has your information you can listen to the conversation until you are called upon to ask your question live in this telephone town hall forum. So when I do call your name please repeat your question for our live audience, and also your opinions are important to us, so we’ll be asking some polling questions throughout the night during the call, and we’ll ask you to weigh in by pressing the number on your phone keypad that represents your answer. You can also participate tonight online by going to metro.net/theplan and clicking on the interactive town hall link on the home page. Again, press zero at any time to get in line to ask a question, and we’re ready to get started everybody! So it’s my pleasure to introduce Metro Board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker. It’s so nice to have you with us tonight, Director Dupont-Walker.
Speaker 2: Thank you, Pauletta. I chair the Metro Board Finance Committee, and on behalf of our chairperson, John Fasana, and our vicechairs Eric Garcetti and Sheila Kuehl, I am really pleased to be with you here this evening to talk with you about the Metro budget. Thank each of you for joining us. Telephone town hall meetings have been an extremely successful and creative way for us to get your input, and I am looking forward to our conversation tonight.
Speaker 1: Thanks so much, Director Dupont-Walker. We appreciate you being with us. Actually, when we were at the finance committee last month it was Director Dupont-Walker who had suggested that we utilize a telephone town hall meeting to do our outreach – as part of our outreach effort for the budget – and so we thank her for that, and that is how this came about for tonight. We also have, as I mentioned, our Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins with us. So Stephanie, a big part of our budget is now Measure M, thankfully. So tell us a little bit about some of the progress we have been making since last November.
Speaker 3: Well, thank you, Pauletta. We at Metro have really been working hard at laying the foundation for actually implementing Measure M. From our planning staff to our highway staff, a number of projects are underway, most notably actually connecting us to the LAX Airport with our new Airport Metro Connector station. We also have projects underway in West Santa Ana, in the San Fernando Valley, all around the county we’ve begun to start accelerating projects as much as possible. We’re also working with our new office of Extraordinary Innovation to actually attract private sector interests in some of our mega projects. So we’ll be evaluating those over the next few months to see if we can also accelerate those projects. One of the exciting things that we’ve been doing to actually lay the groundwork for Measure M is actually taking nominations from the general public for our very important taxpayer independent oversight committee. The deadline to submit applications is about 3 weeks away, April 18th, and people can apply on our website at metro.net. This committee is very important because it will monitor and ensure, for all of our taxpayers in LA County, that Measure M is being implemented as it’s intended to be. So those of you who are listening who may be inspired by the opportunity to serve us, to help us with the largest and most ambitious program in the country, should really consider applying. We’re looking for all types of experts, whether it’s in the field of transit operations, construction, business, finance, even retired judges. I invite you all to apply to bring Measure M to our region in a transparent way. I look forward to entertaining the calls tonight, and questions, as we work to develop our budget for the upcoming fiscal year. So as a reminder, please press zero to participate in the call.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Stephanie. That’s Stephanie Wiggins, Metro’s Deputy CEO. So folks, we’re going to go right ahead to our first caller, our first question of the evening, because we have several people already in the queue. We’re going to go now to Lorenzo. So Lorenzo, go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 4: Alright, hello. I just want to know if there is anything in the 2018 budget that hopefully goes to improving bus service, if not by increasing frequency or even painting down a few bus lanes here or there. I’m from the east valley, San Fernando Valley, and you know there are some streets that get gridlocked at some points, you know? A little improvement wouldn’t hurt, you know. So that’s my question.
Speaker 5: Hi Lorenzo, and thank you for your call. This is Scott Page in the Service Planning department. We actually have a BRT study currently underway that’s looking at bus-only lanes on Vermont. We’re also looking at a valley connector that would connect the San Fernando Valley to the San Gabriel Valley. That would be a BRT operation as well. And just this past week the board authorized staff to enlarge that study to also look at major streets in the San Gabriel Valley, such as Valley Blvd and Garvey Ave, as possible BRT operations as well, with exclusive bus lanes. Regarding increasing service in the area, I do have some good news in that this coming June we’ll be making some implementation marks with our fifteen-minute network. Last year we conducted a comprehensive operational review of our peak hour service and determined that there were some lines that we felt were regionally significant lines and should be increased to every 15 minutes in the AM and PM peak hours. And I’m happy to report that line 105 and 705 – that’s our local bus on La Cienaga and Vernon Ave – will be increased to every 15 minutes. Line 110, which operates from Playa Vista in Culver City to Beau Gardens via Gage Ave, is also going to get an increase. A rapid bus on line 710, the Crenshaw Rapid, will also get increased. In the San Fernando Valley lines 166 and 364 – that’s our Nordhoff St local and limited stop service – will also be improved. Line 234, which is our local bus on Sepulveda Blvd will be improved, and finally line 750, our Metro Rapid bus on Ventura Blvd will also be improved to every 15 minutes. And also, in addition, our current orange line service will also operate now 24 hours a day, as well as our silver line which operates on the Harbor Freeway and the Al Monte bus way. So all of this will go into effect on Sunday, June the 25th. And again I thank you for the call.
Speaker 6: Hi, this is Drew from our office management and budget. I just wanted to follow up with what Scott said in terms of additional issues we’ll be doing on the rail side. In the upcoming year, as you know, we’ll be expanding to three-car sets on both our gold and expo line services, as all of our new vehicles are here. On the green line we’ll be expanding our service to six-minute headways as well. And we also intend to increase our services for special events. Those have proved to be extremely popular, and we want to allow everyone an opportunity to make use of the service and try it out.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Drew. That was Drew Philips who is the director of budget for Metro’s office of finance and budget. Drew, what can you tell us about the budget process and why it’s so important? And also, why we want to hear what our public out there has to say about the budget.
Speaker 6: Well thanks, Pauletta, and that is an excellent question. I get that a lot. People say to me, "You know, Drew, I don’t ride the bus, I’ve taken the train once or twice – and those are cool things to do – so why should I worry about what metro’s budgets involved?" And I try to explain to them that the minute you step into the public space the reality is you are a metro customer. Whether you’re a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk, riding a bike, riding the bus or taking a train or yes, even riding in your very own car, you are a metro customer. Our bus and rail service represents only about a quarter of what we actually do. We provide funding for construction services, we provide expansion services on the freeway. Our freeway service patrol, for example, is an excellent service out there people see every day. We provide funding to our local communities for streets and roads improvement. There’s a number of programs that we ultimately participate in that expand far beyond just bus and rail services. The reality is wherever you are in the county, metro is there and participates in your ability and increased mobility.
Speaker 1: Drew, thank you very much. That’s Drew Philips with our office of management and budget here at Metro. If you would like to ask a question and get in the queue don’t forget just press zero on your keypad, and we’ll get you in the queue and lined up to ask us a question live. You can also participate online by going to metro.net/theplan and clicking on the interactive town hall link on the homepage. We’re going to go right to our next caller now, and we’re going to ask John to please ask your question, John.
Speaker 7: Hi, my name is John Goldfarb. I’m from Eagle Rock. And I’m calling with a question about sound walls for the freeways, and this may not be the topic of tonight’s conversation, but I know that it’s a metro-funded thing. I wondered if there’s anything in the budget from any source for the post-retrofit, post-1989 retrofit sound wall program. The latest information on the website that I could find is from the 2013 which says there’s a backlog of these freeway sound wall projects which have no state funding attached to them, and I’m specifically interested in the one that would be built near me in Eagle Rock. So just wondering if there’s any information about that.
Speaker 3: Hi John, this is Stephanie. Thank you for the question. Yes, as you are aware, there is a backlog for funding for sound walls. They’re requested in almost every neighborhood. We were fortunate, as Pauletta mentioned at the opening of tonight’s show, that with LA County residents voting for Measure M that there actually is some funding identified for some sound walls along the 210 freeway in particular, but also in what we call our sub-regions. So there will be additional funding to support sound walls. And because there is such a backlog each of the needs in the neighborhoods for sound walls undergoes a rigorous assessment to prioritize the need, but we’re fortunate with the LA County voters that we’ve identified additional revenue sources to help fund the sound wall program. Thank you.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Stephanie. Don’t forget folks, press zero on your keypad if you’d like get in the queue if you’d like to ask us a question. We got a question through our Spanish simulcast from Juan in Long Beach, and Juan’s question is "I would like to know more information on the budget, so how do I get it?" Well, we actually have a lot of information readily available to folks on Metro’s website, and I’m going to ask Drew to extrapolate that a little bit, and get a little more into specifics. Drew, why don’t you share info on the budget and where that’s available.
Speaker 6: Okay thanks, Pauletta, that’s excellent. On our website metro.net, we have a specific section for the finance and the budget department where you can go. We have all of the items that we take to our board of directors. so they recap what we presented to our board and the information we have there. We do make presentations at our various local councils. If that’s in Long Beach that would be at the gateway cities, or you could venture out to the South Bay service council meeting. We also have an online budget tool that we encourage people to check out so that they have an opportunity to express what their various priorities are. It’ll ask you a series of questions, and we recap all of that information, and we retain it, and we report it out to our management staff so that they can understand what it is that people are asking for. We also have a budget comments email address where you can forward comments that you may have on the budget. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s one word. So there’s a lot of information out there. Just as I say, check our website. You can come down to our committee meetings. That would be great. We hold them down in the Gateway building in downtown Los Angeles, and even at those if you can’t make the meeting itself all of the audio of those meetings are available so you can click in on your computer and listen in on the meeting as it was held.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Drew. That is Drew with our office of management and budget. I’d like to have Director Dupont-Walker weigh in on why, number one, we’re doing this meeting tonight? And why we have outreach as a component of our budget planning process. So Director Dupont-Walker, this is significant to us, and I know how much it meant to you for us to make sure that we have an expansive outreach program. Tell us a little more about that.
Speaker 2: Thank you, Pauletta. As I was listening to Drew talk about the many opportunities that we have to get your input, even that is not all that we as a board would like for you to have. We know that you have trusted us with the opportunity to spend public dollars, and we want to be sure that we get all of the feedback we can from you. So in addition to the website, I was on last night and I think I tripled the budget with my needs, but I know that when that is put in queue as Stephanie said, we will have a balanced budget. Our head of the finance department, Nalini, does an excellent job of deciphering what is needed internally, and how it meets the needs of the people. Each one of you, as Drew explained, is a Metro customer. Never thought about it the way he explained it, but each one of us. So once you have engaged in this process you will look at our yellow buses, our red buses, our silver buses – where 80% of our customers are very, very differently – and know that you’re a part of making that decision. The outreach means that we are all in this together and that you have an opportunity to help us prioritize the needs of this vast county. Pauletta mentioned the other partners that we have. There are 26 public transit companies in Los Angeles, and we work together even having one TAP card. And so the input that we get, because our board represents every grain of sand in Los Angeles County, means that not only does metro board respond, but our county board of supervisors, all of the city council members have representation, and by your vote for the board members and their responsibilities in your city, or unincorporated area, as well as understanding not only that you can participate from the comfort of your home like tonight, but attend our meetings personally, as well as use your phone to call during our committee meetings and board meetings. That makes you the very active partner. So this we hope will justify the reason that we do an outstanding job, because we are working together to make sure. And this outreach give us valuable information that we need in order to make those decisions.
Speaker 1: Director Dupont-Walker, thank you very much for sharing that information with us. If you’d like to get in the queue, just press zero on your keypad, and an operator will take down your information. We’re going to go Patricia now. Patricia, go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 8: Hi, my name is Patricia, and I was wanting to know a little bit more about the anticipated $860 million that you have budgeted to receive from Measure M, and in the event that- because I’m sure that you’re not just looking at the anticipated dollars from Measure M, you also get federal dollars. So what if all that doesn’t come up within your budget? How do you allocate the dollars so that you’re not at a standstill, or needing more voter approval to receive more funds. How do you do that?
Speaker 6: Well thanks, Patricia. That’s a really good question. The reality is that Metro receives multiple sources of funding. As you pointed out we receive funds both locally, from our sales tax measures. We receive funds from our partners at the state and federal level, and one of the things we’re always trying to do is to ensure that the items that we include in our budget are achievable and realistic over the period that we intend to invest. So one of the things we always try to do- well, what we’ve begun to do, I should say, is we’ve implemented what is called a risk allocation matrix under the leadership of our CEO, and it’s to address that very issues; to build in effect a buffer, a reserve. The ability to address unanticipated shortfalls as they occur. Obviously we know the economy ebbs and flows, and in times of plenty, as it were, we try to put those moneys away, set them aside so that we have an opportunity to have funds available for us when the economy is not performing in the same way. One of the things we always want to be able to look at is efficiencies within our system. Now one of the good things about a budget is it allows us a one year opportunity for the board to really have a chance to review the organization and see if we’re moving forward in a way that comport with our plans. So we have an annual process that affords the board the chance to see where we are every year, where we’re going, and what is our opportunities to react to the various things that exist in the economy that could cause us to need to veer course.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Drew. Appreciate that. We’re going to go right to our next caller, and Jeff, go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 9: Hi, good afternoon. I have a question in regards to small business, or SBE opportunities, for construction projects in regards to Measure M. Will there be any opportunities for that?
Speaker 3: Absolutely, Jeff. This is Stephanie. There will be small business opportunities for all of our construction projects from Measure M. It’s a commitment from our board and our CEO to ensure that there are opportunities, and I’m happy to say that this year we hit our highest goal for small business participation on all of our metro contracts, at over 30%.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Stephanie. That’s Stephanie Wiggins, Metro’s deputy CEO. We’re going to take a question that came in through our Spanish simulcast from Fara in Reseda. "I depend on Metro for transportation. What is Metro doing to increase access to public transportation?" That’s a great question, and there’s actually a lot of things that Metro is doing to enhance access, and one of the things I do want to make sure that we touch on tonight is the vast amount of service that we provide through paratransit services, and the access that we are enhancing through that. So I’m going to ask Giovanna to go ahead and tell us a little bit about our access services. Giovanna.
Speaker 10: Thank you, Pauletta. This is Giovanna Gogreve, and yes, we have access services. It’s the ADA complimentary paratransit services for functionally disabled individuals in Los Angeles County. And access transportation services is available to any ADA paratransit-eligible individual to any location within 3/4 of a mile of any fixed operated bus by Metro, or 3/4 of a mile from a metro rail station, during the same hours as our fixed route system. Complimentary paratransit services is not required to compliment commuter rail, but they are available throughout LA County, and access services is a curb to curb shared ride service, and several riders can be transported at the same time in the same vehicle. It’s not a cab service, and it’s not emergency or medical service, but if you do require door-to-door service you can apply for that service. And access provides services at the same time as the scheduled bus service, from 4am to 12am, seven days a week. Limited services are available in some areas. And with shared ride service you can travel at the same time as the fixed route bus in a car or a taxi or a van, and your one-way fare is based on the distance you travel within the maximum fare of either $3.50, or you can also travel between the Antelope valley and the Santa Clarita valleys as well.
Speaker 6: Yeah, Pauletta, I just wanted to add a little bit to that too. In terms of people being able to directly access the system, one of the things our board has recognized is very important is questions surrounding the first and last mile. That oftentimes is a great restriction on people simply being able to use the system. They can travel 10, 20 miles on a commuter rail system, or they can travel 5 or 6 miles on our bus or rail system, but if they can’t make that last mile connection that becomes very difficult for them to transfer into being a regular commuter. So many of the programs we’re looking at are trying to figure out ways to get people from their front door to the system, and from the system to where they ultimately need to be at the end. Alternative transportation programs we’re looking at; our bike share program is an example of that, for someone that doesn’t have to carry a bike around they can get to the end of the line and there’s a bike that can take them the last half mile that they really need to go, and our board is really trying to understand and explore opportunities to keep people moving, because we recognize very clearly that that first and last access into the system is so very important, particularly in a region as vastly large as LA County.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Drew. Folks, we’re going to go to our first polling question of the evening. This is a chance for us to ask you a question and hear what you have to say about some things that are of interest to us as part of our budget planning. And so what our question is is; What are your transportation priorities? Press 1 on your keypad if it’s increased pedestrian or bike paths to bus stops and rail stations. Press 2 if it’s improve bus and rail frequency, meaning how frequent the buses or trains come. Press 3 for reduce congestion, by adding new toll or carpool lanes, and press 4 for providing more security on bus and rail. So again what are your transportation priorities? Press 1 on your key pad if it’s increased pedestrian or bike paths to bus stops and rail stations, 2 ifor improved bus and rail frequencies, 3 for reduced congestion with toll or carpool lanes, or 4 to provide more security on bus and rail. And we will share the results with you in just a couple of minutes. We’re going to go to our next question now, and that is to Edmund. Go ahead, Edmund.
Speaker 11: Hello, afternoon. This is an awesome call by the way. I appreciate the opportunity to be vocal. My question is in regard to updating and the electrification of metro’s fleet, and what level of priority in the budget is there for that?
Speaker 6: Hi, this is Drew in the budget office. Yeah, that’s actually an excellent question. One of the things our board is committed to is looking at opportunities to provide alternative fuel vehicles. As you know, we’ve gotten out of the diesel bus business, and we’ve converted to compressed natural gas. One of the things we’re actually doing right now is purchasing a series of electric buses that we can demonstrate for practical operation purposes on the orange line. So as we go through that, and as we receive the results of that, we’ll be able to come back to our board and make a series of recommendations on how they mind otherwise want to move forward. We know there are a lot of issues today with electric buses – whether its battery capacity, and ultimately the travel distance of the bus between charges, and how we might be able to use those. The charging infrastructure that’s related to electrification of buses, but it’s clearly an item that our board has moved up the priority list, and we’ll be looking at that probably over the next 18 to 24 months, and we’ll see how those results play out, and ultimately that’ll be a decision of our board as to how we might want to move forward.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Drew. If you are just joining us, you are in a live telephone town hall meeting being hosted by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, otherwise known as "LA Meto", and we are with you tonight to educate you about our budget planning process. Metro is in the midst of planning for our fiscal year 2018 budget which begins in July, and this is part of our outreach process, because hey folks, it’s all about you. We work for the public, and hearing the public’s input about everything we do – and in this case our budget planning is very important to us and we take that very seriously. We are going to go now to our next question, and that is Jason. Go ahead, Jason. Give us your question.
Speaker 12: Hi, my name is Jason Ackerman. So you’ve already heard a couple of questions of this nature, from fellow residents of the San Fernando Valley, about increasing span of service and also frequency of service. I think that’s what the woman in Reseda meant when she said "access", because for example, the 744, which is a rapid bus that runs up and down Reseda Blvd on the weekdays does not run on the weekend. So if you live on Campus at [?], you’ve got to take the 240. Or if you live along Reseda Blvd you’ve got to take the 240 on the weekends when you could take the 744. There’s a huge lack of reliable, around-the-clock north-south connectivity in the San Fernando Valley. I moved to Van Nuys on purpose to be next to the orange line, so I didn’t have to deal with that anymore, and to be near Van Nuys Blvd so I didn’t deal with the low frequency of service, but I used to live off Balboa, and that bus runs once and hour, and that is not okay. Okay, it runs once every 45 minutes, but it runs an hour and a half on the weekends. So can you make commitments to the San Fernando Valley that you’re going to make substantial improvements in span and frequency of service for our region?
Speaker 5: Hi Jason, good evening. How are you? This is Scott Page. Nice to hear you on the phone as opposed to seeing you in person. We are making some improvements in the San Fernando Valley actually coming up this June 25th. As you probably know we have our 15-minute network that we’ve been rolling out over the last year, and the Measure M money is actually going to allow us to continue making improvements to the 15-minute network on the Nordhoff St service, the 166 and the 364. We will be improving the peak period service to every 15 minutes, as well as 234 line on Sepulveda and line 750, our Metro rapid bus on Ventura Blvd. Jason, what we’re going to be, now that that Measure M has passed, is we have been instructed by our CEO, Mr. Washington, to do a system-wide comprehensive study of all the lines that were operating before we invest money to improve services not only in the valley but throughout the system. We want to make sure that those monies are invested in the right places. A number of things have changed over the last two to three years. Within Los Angeles, home to work trip patterns have changed. Where people live has now changed. So we want to make sure that we put money onto the lines that are the best lines, that are good regional lines, and will serve the greatest number of people. So stand by and look forward to that process beginning. The RFP right now is being put together by Metro staff, and then it will be put out on the streets and a consultant will be hired in the near future to begin that study, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Scott. That’s Scott Page with Metro’s Service Planning department. We’re going to go right on to our next question and that is from Brynn. Go ahead, Brynn. Ask your question.
Speaker 13: Hi, I’m wondering if you’ve got sort of standards in place for the funding that’s going out into local street projects to make sure we’re kind of getting the most bang for our buck there, and also trying to solve some environmental issues, like adapting to climate change impacts, urban heat is a major issue, and storm water, flash precipitation, and especially the communities that maybe don’t have as much staff resources to be looking at those environmental issues.
Speaker 3: Hi Brynn, this is Stephanie. Thank you for the question. Actually based upon the feedback that we’ve heard, in particular from the environmental community, we actually included in Measure M specifically for local return- that is the technical term we use for the monies that goes directly to the cities. We included eligibility for the funds to be spent on what we call "green streets" and "complete streets" to really provide a new funding source for the cities to really help incentivize them to think about sustainability efforts when they are making these infrastructure improvements.
Speaker 6: Hi, this is Drew too. I just wanted to point out too, our board has also adopted a construction policy that reflects sustainability. So when we’re out in the community and we’re building projects, we’re trying to use clean equipment, we’re trying to ensure that our vendors and our contracts are acting in as responsible a way as they possibly can, because we do recognize that there are local, oftentimes large impacts on the community, and one of those would be air quality impacts from a large construction project. And we’re trying to address those as well. But clearly the biggest thing we can do to improve air quality in Los Angeles County is to encourage everyone to ride transit as much as they can, and get out of their own personal automobile, and at least try us once a week or so if you have an opportunity to.
Speaker 1: You know, Drew, that’s a really good point, because folks who are currently not transit riders, some of the time people don’t ride transit because there’s an intimidation factor of maybe not knowing how to take the bus or the train, or how the connections happen, or how to buy a tap card, and it’s really all very simple once you get the hang of it, but we invite people to just try it. Try it one day. Map yourself out a trip. You can call our customer call center to get assistance. You can go on our website to plan your own trip on our trip planner, and just give it a try. And that’s usually the first big barrier to folks then becoming occasional riders, or even a weekly or daily riders. So we ask you to just give it a try. We’re going to give you the results of our first polling question that we did a little bit ago. The question was: what are your transportation priorities? And we had 21% of you say increasing pedestrian or bike paths to bus stops and rail stations, 40% of you – which was the majority – said improving bus and rail frequency. So how frequent our buses and trains come. 21% said reducing congestion by adding new toll or car pool lanes, and 19% said provide more security on bus and rails. So again, most of you favored improving bus and rail frequencies to the tune of 40% of you. So thank you for participating in our poll, and we’ll do another one a little bit later. We’re going to go now to Ray. Ray, go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 14: Hi, my name is Ray. I’m from West LA, and my question is: Is there anything in the budget for metro to look into really doing congestion pricing in order to really kind of cap the number of cars we have on the road, since we can’t really have more cars on the road than we currently have, so that the van pools and the buses will all work better as a system? Thank you.
Speaker 5: Well thanks, Ray. One of the things our board is looking at is just that very issue. As you know, we’ve opened the toll roads on the 10 and the 110 freeway, in terms of being able to provide increased capacity through the concept of congestion pricing, as you just described. There’s also a plan, in our budget available the upcoming fiscal year, to look into toll roads strategic plan in terms of how we might have opportunities in front of us to be able to address congestion on our freeways. As you know, freeway construction is extremely expensive, and there isn’t a whole lot of land still available in order to expand our freeways, so we really have to look at areas where we can increase their capacity given the current infrastructure. In terms of specifically banning cars into parts of the town, or something similar to what London is doing for example in terms of pricing cars coming into the downtown. That’s not on our immediate horizon, but I have every confidence that our planners are looking at various options that could be on the table in order to address the ability of cars to remain free-flowing. The reality is the vast majority of people in Southern California are going to continue to drive their cars. So metro wants to invest in car infrastructure, transit infrastructure, walking infrastructure, and pedestrian infrastructure. We consider it all to be important, and we want to be able to address the concerns of everyone.
Speaker 2: Ray, this is Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Metro board member. I just wanted to talk further about your question. We are very concerned about congestion, as was indicated by what we discussed in the Measure M campaign, but the solution comes with all of us working together. We are working very hard to define transit dependency, as everyone making a choice to be dependent on public transportation, and as our CEO Phil Washington says often, "Transit independence starts with walking." So we’re not going to try to move people from their current mode of transportation be it walking or bike or car, but we’re going to try to provide the best possible service so people choose our very dependable, efficient and effective fixed-route public transportation. We believe we can work on that with your cooperation and your partnership. So yes, we all have a goal of reducing congestion as painlessly as possible so that the quality of life for all of us is improved.
Speaker 1: Thank you, Director Dupont-Walker. If you would like to ask a question you can still press zero and get in the queue to ask us a question live. We’re going to go right to Michael. Michael, go ahead and ask us your question.
Speaker 15: Hi, we all love how money spent has multiplier effects on the local economy. I was wondering if there were any plans to invest on possibly providing leasable space at some of the stations, and the station plazas, to kind of get the leasing revenue, to kind of help metro decrease cost of the maintenance of the stations once they are built.
Speaker 6: Uh yeah, hi Michael. We are indeed looking at a number of options in terms of being able to capitalize on space that Metro has available to it. As you know we’re a significant land owner in Los Angeles County, because of the various stations we have. We’re looking at the various TOD programs – excuse me – Transit Oriented Development programs- which would look at the space immediately adjacent to and on top of our stations. We’re working with our board to address questions of other joint development related to properties that aren’t necessarily on the system. We’re looking at various properties there that would otherwise increase revenue. Our North Hollywood joint development study is now underway, and we look at options that are specific to the stations themselves that would have space available in order to pursue potential revenue-generating opportunities for the system.
Speaker 2: Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker again. This is really a place where you can weigh in on a regular basis. We have CLC, those neighborhood meetings around station construction where there is regular input by residents of the community. You can even, perhaps, join to be a CLC member. I think that’s Community Leadership Council. We also have service councils and advisory committees where you can have input on a regular basis. So as the vision is laid out for a station and a line, there’s opportunity to have input from design to the way the space is used. And as our CEO Phil Washington talked about transit-oriented communities, it expands beyond the exact footprint of the line. We’re also expanding our focus on transit-oriented communities to include our bus routes, and so it’s very important for you with ideas about how we can protect the legacy businesses along our routes, and help keep them in place as the neighborhoods turn around and improve, to let us know what is working best in the neighborhood you care about, and where we can help the small and disadvantaged businesses in those areas that would otherwise not be able to remain when we increase the traffic of individuals riding public transportation. So please find one close that is in your neighborhood community or where you travel and get involved.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Director Dupont-Walker. If you would like to ask a question, there’s still time. Just press zero on your keypad. You can also go online on metro’s website and get a tremendous amount of information about our budget and our budget process, and there’s a really neat interactive tool on the budget part of our website that allows you to play decision-maker in the budget here at Metro, as an exercise. It walks you through a number of questions, and it really does pose to you perspectives of what our team here at Metro faces when it comes to tough budget decisions, and it asks you the tough questions of what you would do in budget situations. And so I invite you to go on Metro’s website and go through that interactive exercise, because it really give you a whole different perspective about all of the dynamics involved in making major budget decisions for an organization like Metro; a regional organization in a county of 10 million people, and we provide 1.3 million passenger trips a day, and all of the elements that go into a dynamic transit system. So go online, check out that interactive budget tool. It’s fascinating because it really asks you things like, "If you were in this situation, what would you do? Would you increase fares? Would you reduce service? Would you look for unique and innovative funding mechanisms?" And it asks you to make those tough decisions. So as part of this process we think that’s a value to offer that to you. We’re going to go to the next question, and that is from Kevin. Kevin, go ahead and ask a question.
Speaker 16: Oh hi, I’m sorry. This is Kevin, last name Bell. And I guess my question is, with regards to your expansion plans, do you plan to expand outside your footprint and create a mass transportation system similar to San Francisco?
Speaker 5: Hi there, Kevin. This is Scott. I’m in charge of Service Planning. Currently metro is the sole operator and funder of services within LA county, along with our other transit partners in the individual cities as well as our local return operators. We do fund the regional commuter rail service, MetroLink, and currently in Measure M – which you voted for – there were regional commuter rail improvements that will assist MetroLink and Amtrak. There are various capital improvements to enhance travel time, service reliability, and speeds on those particular lines. However, outside of LA County we do work very closely with the planning of high speed rail. And while we don’t have a master plan ourselves, we are a part of that master plan, in that we have a Union station master plan that was put together to accommodate high speed rail should it reach Union Station, and how the trains would enter and exit Union Station. Our regional partners – MetroLink as well as Metro – also work with the high speed rail authority in developing how the trains will enter LA County, and where the stations will be placed in LA county. So while we’re not looking to create something like BART, something similar to BART is already in place, and that’s MetroLink. So we’re always looking for ways to improve MetroLink, as well as work with our partners who are developing a high speed rail system within the state of California. And thanks for the call.
Speaker 1: Great answer. Thank you very much, Scott. That’s Scott Page with Metro’s Service Planning. We’re going to go right on to our next question, and that is from Johanna. I hope I’m saying that right. And go ahead and ask your question.
Speaker 17: Hi, good evening. My name is Johanna [?], and I’m calling from Monterey Park. First of all, I want to thank you all for the opportunity that you’ve provided this evening through this forum. It’s very important as concerned ridership to express our opinions and give feedback. So thank you for that. Earlier on the call it was mentioned that there are some BRTs that are planned in the San Gabriel Valley along Valley and Garvey Blvd, so that’s fantastic. But this evening I have a personal concern as my elderly folks live in the South San Gabriel area of unincorporated Los Angeles, and they are faced with a current hardship that there’s no bus stop within a one mile radius of their home. There have been some– there has been some additional housing, senior complex housing, that have been built there. Some new homes have gone up as well. But there’s still not easy access to buses. And so earlier Mr. Philips mentioned wherever you are in LA county, Metro is there. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, and I just wanted to know what can be done to close that gap and alleviate the hardship that many of the residents and seniors are facing in south San Gabriel along the Potrero Grande corridor. I know the 68 is being rerouted temporarily. That’s bus route 68 along Potrero Grande, but there is no stop. It takes the freeway normally bypassing the residents.
Speaker 5: Hi, this is Scott Page in service planning. Yes, we’ve had some requests for service in that particular area before, particularly on line 68, and line 68 does use the freeway to access the Montebello town center. We certainly will re-review your request to provide service from Potrero-Grave. Potrero-Grave is somewhat difficult in that it is hilly, as well as we also have to have stops that meet the American Disabilities Act, and that means that we have to have sidewalk, we have to have curb and gutter, we have to have a safe place for wheelchairs and those with other access disabilities to be able to walk to the bus, as well as get off the bus and have a place to walk to, as well as curb cuts. So that certainly has been an issue on the Potrero-Graves before. We’ll review this request also with Monterey Park Transit, which is our service provider partner in that area, and I appreciate your call, and did you want to say something?
Speaker 10: Sure, yeah, I just wanted to let you know that access services is also available for those individuals that have disabilities that qualify for access services, and you can definitely contact Access at asila.org and you can get more information on becoming eligible to be an access services rider. Thank you.
Speaker 2: Johanna, I’m really moved by your presentation, and looking around at staff here we want to be able to get back to you to discuss in more detail, especially if we are building housing for additional seniors to be in that area. It’s important with the partnership with the local city, with the portion of the unincorporated county there, to try to make sure we can meet those needs, and of course it was mentioned earlier that Access is available, but I just love the challenge for us to create some more transit dependency in that area. Thank you.
Speaker 1: So this goes for Johanna and anyone else who is still on the line and maybe we don’t get to your question tonight. After the call, stay on the line and you can leave us a voicemail. If you leave us your information we will get back to you with the information that you request. So again, just stay on the line after the call and you’ll be able to leave us a voicemail with your information. So we want to make that available to you. Let’s go right to Clara in Long Beach. Go ahead Clara in Long Beach.
Speaker 18: Hello?
Speaker 1: Go ahead, Clara.
Speaker 18: Hello. I want to know, I’ve been listening to the conversation. I haven’t heard anything about what is going to be done in the city of Long Beach.
Speaker 3: Hi Clara. Thank you for the question. Well, with Measure M passing there are actually a lot of improvements that will come to the city of Long Beach. First of all, funding comes to Long Beach Transit as a result of the passage of Measure M. We also give funding directly to the city so they can make improvements, whether it’s pot hole repair, sidewalk repair. We also will be making improvements to the 710 freeway south in the Long Beach area. We also are making improvements along the 405 section that provides connection along the Long Beach area. We also have a new category of funding through Measure M that actually helps keep fares affordable for both the elderly and disabled and students, and that will be for all of those populations that travel, including in Long Beach. And as you may know, Clara, being a resident of Long Beach, one of the pride and joys of Metro is the blue line. It is the first rail line in our system, and it actually happens to be the oldest, so it’s in need for upgrades and repair, and to get a kind of refreshed look. And so both in our budget, as well as in our Measure M, there will be funding for a blue line improvement, and we’re talking about blue line improvements from the inside and the outside, so not just from the signals but also new car equipment, new signal systems, upgrading our stations and lighting really to ensure that we continue to invest in the upkeep and maintenance of that system. So check us out. We are in your city. We also are available online to keep you informed, and one of the new aspects of Long Beach and their investment is starting a couple of months ago, one of our newest board members is actually your mayor, Mayor Robert Garcia. So he is also now directly been appointed to our board not just to directly oversee the investments for Long Beach, but for all of the southeast cities.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Stephanie. That’s Stephanie Wiggins, our deputy CEO. A couple more minutes on the call. We’ll take one more quick question, and that is from Lindsay, so if you could ask your question quite quickly that would be great. Go ahead Lindsay.
Speaker 19: Hi, I wanted to know what is Metro doing to make sure that projects are prioritized equitably such that they best serve low-income commuters and commuters of color who often rely more heavily on transit and active transportation. Thank you.
Speaker 6: Hi Lindsay, this is Drew at the budget office. I think you may recall one of the things we’ve done is when we developed the Measure M program, one of the things we did is to reach out to all of the communities for their input. Now each then subsequent subregion, as we would call them, was able to identify the specific needs of its community; the transportation priorities and projects that would benefit their specific local communities in the highest fashion. And we tried to address those various priorities, both in terms of how we would otherwise schedule the projects that we move forward, as well as ultimately the projects that were approved by our board. Unfortunately, we can’t address every priority that exists out there, but we do do our best to focus on those areas both in the greatest need as well as those that have an opportunity for improvement.
Speaker 3: And Drew I’d like to add for Lindsay, as part of our development of Measure M list of priority projects, we actually evaluated each project using certain criteria, including access to low-income neighborhoods. We looked at environmental improvements and benefits. We looked at congestion relief, and we also looked at geographic equity. So all of those elements that you identified, Lindsay, are factors in the prioritization list. And of course, as we move forward in implementing Measure M, we have developed a policy advisory council which will include representatives that represent various stakeholder groups including low-income, elderly and disabled, transit, highway users, etc. to help oversee the guidelines as we implement the program.
Speaker 1: Thanks very much, Stephanie. We are just about out of time. I want to thank all of you for staying on the line with us and learning about Metro’s budget process, about how our newly approved Measure M sales tax initiative fits into the big picture here at Metro, and I want to also thank Nalini Ahuja who is our Chief Financial Officer, and Nalini is in the house tonight. She’s kind of directing traffic here behind the scenes, but Nalini and her whole team is here as a resource tonight, so we want to thank all of them. And I also wanted to turn it over real quickly to Director Dupont-Walker to just give some final comments. Director Dupont-Walker.
Speaker 2: Thank you, Pauletta. I think that the effort tonight, let me thank you and the communications team along with Nalini and the finance team. And then the CEO’s office represented by Stephanie Wiggins. This is the kind of teamwork that is so important for us to deliver what we have promised, and what Measure M brings us is a carefully organized plan to carry us into the future. It includes new rail and bus rapid transit projects, highway projects, enhanced bus and rail service, and yes bus. I’m going to say bus several times, because we realize that 80% of our ridership is on the bus. It ensures that our fares remain affordable for our seniors, for our students, persons with disability, affordable fares are extremely important. It also dedicates billions more to the kinds of transportation projects that might otherwise not be built, including active transportation, pedestrian and bike projects to help our patrons solve the first and last mile gap. And for the very first time in the history of public transportation, we have a dedicated funding stream to keep our system in a state of good repairs so we can restore and replace rail cars, and yes, purchasing electric buses and other transportation infrastructure [?]. Know that your board is dedicated to providing the very best for you. That said, I can tell you that at Metro we’re looking forward to the future. So where you see a Metro board member, ask the questions. Where you see an opportunity to get involved, get involved. Use our Merto website, metro.net, frequently. Go and build that budget. I had fun adding a billion dollars to the budget with the interactive tool. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, but I finished my exercise. But know that the more that you’re engaged, the more that we hear from you, the more that we can affirm your needs and your desires and the better we can do at building a public transportation system that serves your needs and of which we can be very proud.
Speaker 1: Director Jackie Dupont-Walker, thank you so much, and just a quick comment that Giovanna Gogreve needed to mention here to make sure we clarified some information from earlier. Go ahead, Giovanna.
Speaker 10: Thank you, Pauletta. And just as a reminder, April will be a review of our budget. You still have time to provide your public comments. We’ll be accepting those until Friday May 12th at 5pm, and yes you can submit those to email@example.com, and we also look forward to presenting our FY-18 budget in our public hearing that is scheduled for May 17th at 1pm at Metro headquarters located here at 1 Gateway Plaza. And also as a reminder, just to let you know, we will be having additional meetings with our service councils, our advisory committees, and also with our stakeholder groups, and just one further reminder is our online budgeting tool that you can also access for further information and comments. Thank you.
Speaker 1: So hey folks, have fun with that online budget tool like Director Dupont-Walker said, go ahead, add a billion dollars to the metro budget because it’s only play, and it’s kind of fun like Monopoly so that’s okay. So anyway on behalf of LA Metro and the fine staff and board here at Metro, I’m Pauletta Tonilas, and I’m so pleased to have been with you tonight and be able to offer this outreach opportunity to you, and we wish you all a good night.