Telephone Town Hall Transcript, May 11
Phillip A. Washington, Metro CEO
Pauletta: Good evening everyone. 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 Metro. I’ll be your moderator tonight as we talk about Metro’s programs and services and our bold plan to ease traffic all across Los Angeles County. We are putting forth a plan that looks ahead 40 to 50 years on how we can enhance mobility, improve our bus service, and build more rail lines and more improvements at the local level right there in your community. And a host of other improvements. And so, we’re glad that you’re on the line with us tonight. Your opinion is very important to us. So we want to hear what you have to say. And we’d like to take in your questions.
Joining me tonight on the call is Metro’s CEO, Philip Washington. Also sitting in to answer your questions is Rick Clark, Metro’s Executive Director of Program Management; Mark Yamarone, Director of Long Range Planning; and Carl Torres, who is Transportation Planning Manager in our service development.
Tonight we’ll focus on the fourth supervisorial district, and that is the area that Supervisor Don Knabe represents, which includes residents in the cities of Artesia, Avalon, Bellflower, Cerritos, Diamond Bar, Downey, El Segundo, Hawaiian Gardens, Hermosa Beach, La Mirada, Lakewood, Lomita, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Norwalk, Palos Verdes Estates, Paramount, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, Torrance, and Whittier. As well as the communities of Harper City, La Habra, Hacienda Heights, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey, San Pedro and Wilmington.
So we thank you, again, for being on the line. You are on a live telephone town hall meeting being hosted by LA Metro. This is your opportunity to share your thoughts and ask questions about Metro and our plan to ease traffic all across the metro area. Now if this is your first time on a telephone town hall meeting, here’s how it works. To ask a question just press zero on your keypad and you’ll be transferred to an operator who will take down some basic information and then get you in the queue so that we can call upon you to ask your question. And once the operator has your information, you can then listen in and learn about this plan to ease traffic that Metro has put forth. And when I call your name, please repeat your question for our live audience. And keep it brief if you can. And then we’ll be asking you take part in some live electronic polling during the course of this hour long meeting. You can also participate online by going to metro.net/theplan and clicking on the interactive town hall link. So again, press zero at any time during the meeting and get in the queue to ask a question.
But we’re going to go first to our CEO, Philip Washington. Good evening, Phil. Thanks for being here.
Phil: Thank you, Pauletta and good evening to everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. Before we get to our questions, let me give you a quick update on what’s going on here at Metro. There’s a lot to report. It’s very important for everyone to know that Metro provides 450 million rides a year. And that in the past 25 years, we have gone from having zero miles of rail transit to more than 100 miles. We also have 2,200 buses providing service on 170 routes around the county. This year alone Metro has opened the Gold line extension from Pasadena to Azusa. And the 501 NOHO to Pasadena Express bus service, which connects the San Fernando Valley directly with Pasadena for the first time. On May 20th, the Expo line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica will open and link downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean for the first time in 63 years. And again, that’s May 20th. Next Friday.
In the neighborhood we’re talking about tonight, Metro is now building the Crenshaw/LAX project that will run between the Expo line and the Metro Green line. And in fact, we just hit the half way point for the Crenshaw/LAX project. That’s 50% completion. It will also be the first rail line that connects with LAX. Closely tied to this project is Metro’s airport connector project that will add a station at 96th Street to serve as a transit gateway to LAX future people mover serving airport terminals. We will have a connection to the airport very soon. When complete, these projects will be one of the biggest transportation improvements in any district and the entire county. Getting to and from LAX directly via transit will be a huge game changer for Los Angeles. So let’s delve into this and other projects in our discussion tonight. Remember to press zero to participate.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. That’s Phil Washington, the CEO of Metro. And we’re so glad that you’re on the line with us tonight because it’s all about you. All of what we do here at Metro starts and ends with you the traveling public. For us to be able to serve you, that’s what we’re here for. To provide excellence in service and support. So we hope that you’ll stay on the line with us. Press zero on your keypad to get into the queue to ask your question live. And we’re going to go to our first question of the evening. And that is [Jolle?] in Manhattan Beach. Oh, Jolle I’m told. I’m sorry about that. Go ahead and ask your question.
Jolle: Well, I’d like [?] that the South Bay was sort of overlooked down here. And that’s all that I’d like to know, when I can get from the South Bay to Burbank [?]. And also, I’d like a couple of bathrooms along the route.
Carl: Yes, Jolle, is it? Thank you for the question. As of right now, I heard that you wanted to go from South Bay to Burbank. Currently, we just extended the Silver line. This is one of our better BRT’s stories. What we did is we had four South Bay and two San Gabriel Valley lines that were combined into one BRT service providing service every five minutes from either El Monte Station or the Harbor Gateway Transit Center. So, what you could do is get on the Silver line at some point in the South Bay, whatever station is closest to your house. Take that all the way to downtown, continue that. And actually, you could transfer over to possibly the Gold line and take that into Pasadena. From Pasadena, there’s a few routes that you can take right into Burbank. Your best bet would probably be to use our trip planner at metro.net. If you prefer to call, you can call 323-GO-METRO. And I’m sure you can find some type of trip that will fit your needs. And thank you, again, for the call.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Carl. That’s Carl Torres with our Service Development group. Thank you for being on the line with us. We are pleased that you are here to learn about Metro, our programs and services, and our bold plan to ease traffic. And we’re going to go now to our next question. And that is Maria in Long Beach. Maria, go ahead.
Maria: When will they be making the Metro down to the Harbor area towards San Pedro?
Pauletta: Thanks Maria. I’m going to turn this over to Rick Clark who is the head of our program management. And she’s wanting to know when we’re going to take a line down to the Harbor area where the boats are. So Rick, go ahead and share some information.
Rick: Maria, I’ll probably have to defer to our service planners. As you know, right now the Metro Blue line goes to downtown Long Beach. However, the Silver line, which was noted as one of our more successful bus rapid transit lines, does serve San Pedro.
Carl: And to add on to what Rick was saying, we do have a Blue line refurbishment plan in the works. And also, that will help with the frequency of the line too. So in case you want to use the Blue Line to get to Long Beach, that in the future will be a help. But thank you for the call.
Pauletta: We’re going to ask a question on behalf of Christine who is listening through our Spanish simulcast. And Christine’s question is: Will Metro run to Santa Fe Springs and Whittier? So, I’m going to ask Mark Yamarone to go ahead and answer that:
Mark: Well thanks very much for that question. Included in the plan is funding for what we call our Gold line eastside extension. And currently we’re looking at two different routes. But one of those routes would provide a direct extension of the existing Gold line into Whittier. And it’s still needs to be determined which one will be built. But eventually there are plans to extend that Gold line right into Whittier.
Pauletta: Thanks Mark. We’re going to go now to David in Rancho Palos Verdes. David, go ahead and ask your question.
David: I’m an occasional rider of the system. And I noticed that there are never route maps on the bus that I’m riding. I’ve had troubles where the bus stop has been moved and, yet, there’s no notice where the new stop is. There’s no information available on buses at the Harbor Gateway Transit Exchange. And the website is clunky, not easy to use. Seems to me that you could get a lot more riders if you invested a little more money in making it easier for new ridership.
Pauletta: Thank you David. I’m going to ask Carl from our Service Development group to answer your question. Go ahead Carl.
Carl: Could you repeat the question as to what he asked?
Pauletta: Yeah. He was wanting to know about the route maps, that he’s having troubles not having route maps. And that our website is clunky and what have you. And what’s the best way to get him some information or for him to find that, Carl?
Carl: Actually, your best bet would to be calling customer relations at 213-922-6235. We have another number for our transit info at 323-GO-METRO. I’m sure you can give them your address; we’ll mail it to you. They’ll tell you where to go on the website to find whatever maps you’re looking for. And also, provide you information with a transit planner. Any of those ways of telephoning us or getting the information would be your best bet. Again, thank you for the question.
Pauletta: Thank you, Carl. We’re going to go now to Joe from Whittier. Joe, go ahead and ask your question.
Joe: I have two questions. One question is: With all of the people you have in Planning, why didn’t the Metro go all of the way to the airport in the first place? That would have saved a lot of time and a lot of ridership that could have been in place already. And second: You announce how many riders you have accommodated through the year. But what is the number of the maximum possible of riders you could have if all of your trains and buses were full?
Phil: This is Phil Washington, CEO of Metro. Let me take your first question first. Going to the airport from the beginning. I think it has to do with funding which is why we are proposing this plan to go to the voters in November. Right at the top of our list with this plan is a connection to LAX. I think from the very beginning it was all about funding and all about the issue of resources. In terms of our capacity for riders, how many folks we can get on the system, we would sure like to know because that would increase our ridership tremendously. We are encouraging people to ride our system. We are out there educating people on how to ride. I think when you look at some of the projects that we have just opened, namely projects both in your area and also up north and out east and out west. Many of those train lines and bus lines run right next to highways and It’s quite evident that we are moving faster than the congestion on some of the highways. We are encouraging people to ride our system. Our ridership, we would love to see it double and even triple. We have the capability to put extra cars on trains whether it’s a three or four car train. We have the capability to increase our frequency on the bus side and add buses out there. We are continuing to encourage people to ride our system. We can accommodate them.
Pauletta: Thank you, Phil. That’s Phil Washington, our CEO here at Metro. If you would like to get in the queue to ask a question, press zero on your keypad. And then you can wait until you hear your name and we’ll call on you to ask your question. We’re going to go now to Maureen in Torrance. Maureen, go ahead.
Maureen: Yes, I would like to know how to get from Torrance to Fullerton in order to catch the AMTRAK?
Carl: Hi, Maureen. This is Carl Torres from Service Planning. Actually, your best bet from Torrance to Fullerton would probably be to get on the Green line all the way to the end at Norwalk Station. And at Norwalk Station you can catch either a Norwalk transit bus or possibly a OCTA transit bus that will go into Fullerton. What you can do is go to our website at metro.net and use the trip planner. And it will give you the best route and what buses to catch. If you’re just basically catching AMTRAK itself, one of the possibilities could be to catch it at Union Station instead which you could take the Green line. And then from the Green line you could take the Silver line which will give you a one-seat ride all the way to Union Station. You can catch AMTRAK right there. Thank you for the call and I hope you have a pleasant trip.
Phil: Maureen, this is Phil Washington as well. Let me just add to that. In this plan we are proposing, we’re proposing to fill that two-and-a-half-mile gap, I believe, around the Norwalk area. We are proposing to extend that Green Line to Norwalk to be able to the AMTRAK station. That is indeed in this plan. And what we are trying to do to connect you to that AMTRAK line. So that is in the plan.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. We’re going to go to our first electronic polling question of the evening. This is an opportunity for you as a community to give us immediate feedback together on how you feel about a couple of issues. We’ve been talking a lot tonight about our plan to ease traffic and how we want to build new rail lines and new bus ways and improvements at the local levels. So better streets and signalization and bike and pedestrian pathways and what have you. Building out all of these projects is one component but keeping all of these projects in good working order is another component of this plan. It’s important for us to have a funding mechanism for what we call in the transportation industry state of good repair. Which is really just keeping our system in good working order.
The first question that we would like to have your input on is: After we build out these projects, would you support part of the tax continuing to keep the system in good working condition? Press one on your keypad for yes and two for no. Again, after we build out all of these projects, would you be supportive of Metro retaining a part of the tax to keep our system in good working condition? Press one if yes and two if no. Thank you very much for your input and we’ll share the results with you in just a couple of minutes.
So, Rick, we’ve talked a lot about the progress we’ve been making. We’ve talked about opening up the Gold line extension to Azusa in March. And coming up here in just a week in a half, we’ll be opening up the extension of the Expo line to Santa Monica and the beach for the first time in over 60 years. But we have a lot of other things going on too, Rick. So why don’t you go ahead and share that with the crowd.
Rick: Yes, Pauletta, thanks. Metro has three other major rail projects under construction that I’d like to talk about. The first, the Regional Connector, which is a subway through downtown Los Angeles that will connect the Gold line to Pasadena and East LA with the Expo line and the Long Beach line. The Purple line subway will we’re also extending to the Miracle Mile and the east side of Beverly Hills. And also the Crenshaw/LAX line. We’ve had some discussion about service to the airport. The Crenshaw line will have a stop at the airport. Also the Green line will be extended to connect to the Crenshaw/LAX line. There are also important roadway and highway improvements going on. Like the 5 freeway widening near the Orange County line. And we have hundreds of new buses to make travel more reliable and comfortable for our riders.
But there’s still so much more to do. LA County is expected to grow by another 2.4 million people over the next 40 years. If we want to fund the transportation improvements, we need to achieve our goal of building a world class transportation system for our world class region. We will need a combination of local, federal and private dollars, especially the local dollars. In LA County, we spend an average of 81 hours a year stuck in traffic. Time is money for you. The longer it takes to build transportation improvements, 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.
The proposed ballot measure would be half a cent sales tax for Los Angeles County, an extension of the existing Measure R. This means about $24 a year out of pocket for the average resident to help ease traffic and to help build a transportation renaissance for ourselves and our children. To keep that in perspective, buying a fancy coffee drink once a week costs $260 a year.
I’d also like to note another important point. The plan provides an infrastructure inheritance for our children and grandchildren. We don’t want to leave them with crumbling bridges. We want to leave them with a mobility system that has been well planned and well maintained and that works well 100 years from now.
Pauletta: Thanks very much Rick. Great points to be made about how we all collectively together can make a difference in terms of how we plan for the future. I’m going to share the polling results with you that we asked you just a couple of minutes ago. We were talking about building out various transit and highway projects and projects at the local levels. And the other half of that is to keep things in good working condition. So the question was: How supportive would you be of Metro retaining a portion of the tax after everything is built so that we can keep the system in good working condition? 80% of you said yes, that you liked that concept. And 20% said no. We thank all of you for weighing in. It’s very important to us. And we’ll be asking you another question here in just a little bit.
We’re going to go now to Rachel in Long Beach. Rachel, go ahead and ask your question.
Rachel: They had a 24-minute delay in the Long Beach area because of construction or something going on. Is that delay still in effect?
Phil: This is Phil Washington, CEO. Thank you for the question. We are doing major rehab work and repairs on the Blue line to make it more efficient for our riders. We are putting a billion dollars over a ten-year period in rehab on the Blue line. The Blue line is our oldest light rail line in the system. It’s the busiest light rail line in this country, actually. It is 25 years old and we are sprucing up that line. So, yes, there is going to be some delays, but it is for the benefit of the rider and you. So please bear with us on these delays. You should not experience too many more delays. But we are doing repair on that line replacing various pedestrian gates and working on signaling and all of those things. We’d ask you to bear with us as we maintain that precious asset. That being the Blue line.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. That’s Metro’s CEO. And, actually, Phil is celebrating his first anniversary here at Metro today. There have been many amazing accomplishments under Phil’s leadership here over this last year. So thank you, Phil from all of us.
We’re going to go now to Steven in Long Beach. Steven, go ahead and ask your question.
Steven: Congratulations on your first year. I would think that the fares from the ridership would cover the funding, or at least the future funding, for the additional lines that you’re proposing. At this point, it sounds like you’re asking the tax payers to pay for somebody else to ride the Metro.
Phil: Thank you, Steven, for your question and I appreciate the congratulatory comments. The fares do not cover all of our operation. We have something that’s called the fare box recovery rate. The fare box recovery rate for our system is in between 25% and 30%. That means for every dollar that goes in the fare box, we recover about $0.25 to $0.30 of that. It does not cover all of the operation that we need. It does help, but it does not cover it all. Now, with regard to the projects that we are proposing, it takes additional monies to cover not just our operating costs, the service we have out there now, but to build these various projects, we need funding in order to do that. Some of the things that we are looking at to help with that is a sales tax that we’re proposing. But the ridership does not, for any transit agency in this country, the fare box does not cover all of the operating costs. Typically, transit agencies are subsidized in some way by some sort of local investment or local taxes. And also the federal government provides some funding to help us operate as well.
Pauletta: Thank you very much, Phil. We’re going to go now to our second polling question of the evening. And this question relates to the tax that Phil was just talking about, the sales tax investment that we are considering. And the Metro board will be deciding in June whether or not to put this sales tax measure on the November ballot. So our next question is: If the election were to be held tonight, would you vote for the proposed sales tax for transportation? Press one if yes and two if no. So again, if the election were to be held tonight, would you vote for the proposed sales tax measure for transportation, for more local investment, for more benefits? Press one if yes and two if no. And we thank you for your input in advance.
We’re going to go now to Eliana in Downey. Eliana, go ahead and ask your question.
Eliana: Yes, and that speaks about the transportation that [?] system that we have now, it’s long buses and the schedules are rigid. And, of course, that’s costly because a lot of people don’t use it because the schedules are not flexible. They don’t meet the need. Have you, in all your proposal, considered using smaller vehicles to provide more frequent schedules and, therefore, have more people use the public transportation system?
Phil: Thank you for the question. This is Phil Washington. We do a couple of things to determine how much service we should put on the street. Twice a year, we do what we call service adjustments or shake-ups to determine rider patterns, travel patterns, those sorts of things. Whether our routes are going to the right places, those sorts of things. If we determine that there are more riders than we have vehicles out there or if we determine that we need to increase the frequency of buses from let’s just say every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes or something like that then we make those. Again, twice a year we look at that. We’re constantly checking to see what additional service we should put out. In terms of smaller vehicles, we do have smaller vehicles out there for our paratransit or our disabled riders as well. And those are much smaller that’s run by one of our contractors. If there is a specific route that you think we should have either smaller buses on or whether we should change the frequency or anything like that, you can definitely give us a call at our customer relations number. 213-922-6235.
Carl: And if I could add on to what Phil said. This is Carl Torres from Service Planning. Probably about 10 years ago, I think, our directly operated fleet of Metro had the last 35-foot bus in the system. So we’ve always had 45 foot or larger buses on the system since. The smaller buses that you may have seen are used by our contract lines. And those usually are on lines that, like you said made sense, to put smaller buses on there due to the passenger ridership. That is a great idea and that was just one of the reasons why we don’t have 35 or smaller foot buses on our system. Thank you for the call.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Carl. If you’d like to ask a question, it’s not too late to get in the queue. You can press zero on your keypad and we’ll get you in the queue. We’re going to go now to Jim in Bellflower. Go ahead, Jim.
Jim: Phil, thank you for taking my call. A couple of things before I get to my questions. I rode the Green, Blue – I’m color blind – from Bellflower to Xerox while I was working there because it went close and it’s a good way to get around. Some of my questions, there’s three and I’ll give them to you quickly. One, are these going to be at grade level because grade level has an enormous amount of problems. And if you get it off grade you avoid a lot of what killed the original Red cars back in the 50’s. Second thing is, why are we doing 200-year-old technology when the monorail is quiet. I think it’s cheaper, I’m not sure. But you don’t have near so much problem with rights of way. And by using a much wider beam, like two or three times what they use at Disneyland, in off hours you could be moving containers all around the city and take a lot of that smog load and traffic load off of the LA/Long Beach port system. Okay, I’ll let you go ahead and answer.
Rick: Thank you, Jim. This is Rick Clark. A couple of responses to your questions. Metro has a number of light rail lines that operate at grade successfully. Over the years we’ve learned a lot of important lessons. Learned to improve the safety at the grade crossings. Generally, the heavier streets are grade separated. We have criteria for the streets that we cross as to whether they’ll cross at grade. And also, we do try to avoid like the old trolleys having them run in streets. So we do provide some type of segregated right of way. As far as monorails go, when we launch a new project, we start with an alternatives analysis and then go into an environmental impact statement. In that alternatives analysis, we do look at a number of technologies and we also look at potential route alignment. Those types of things are considered. It’s a very collaborative process with the community. Monorails can be a great solution. However, we do have to consider that they are a new technology. They wouldn’t be able to interchange with any of our existing rail lines. And also, sometimes we run into opposition of the elevated structures that they would require.
Phil: This is Phil Washington. I would add to what Rick is saying on the technology front. We are allowing and will allow the private sector to offer up new technology as well on a project by project basis. For example, when we put out the solicitation for various projects, we are being less prescriptive in our solicitation documents. That is to say, many times governments are overly prescriptive and tell the private sector exactly what to do. In our solicitations, we are allowing for innovation. This is a 40 to 50-year plan. We don’t know that the technology will be even 10 years from now. But what we are doing is leaving it open in our solicitation documents to allow for the private sector to present alternate technical concepts to us. And then we will decide whether to implement that new technology. It is really the way to do these projects, both big and small. In 10 years, we’re looking at automated vehicles. So what does that mean for our transportation system. We want to leave these things open so the private sector can come in and suggest various new technologies. We’ll do that on a project by project basis as we put these solicitations on the street for the private sector to help us build.
Pauletta; Thanks Phil. That’s Phil Washington, our CEO. I’m going to ask a question on behalf of Adele. She just didn’t want to go on the call and ask the question live. So on behalf of Adele, I’m asking: Do you have information on LAX plans. Well, we actually do have plans on what our connection to the airport will be through this plan to ease traffic. And that is adding a station at the 96th Street area on the Crenshaw/LAX line. But to find out more about LAX plans, you can go to their website at lawa.org. And you can get a host of information about LAX on their website. And Phil wants to add to that.
Phil: Yes, Phil Washington. Let me just add to that. We are working in very close partnership with the Airport Authority as well. The Airport Authority plans to do what’s called a people mover to go out to our station and meet our train. We’re working very closely with them for that connection so it is seamless to the passenger. So a person can go out and catch our train to the airport station and catch the people mover directly into the various terminals. We’re working in close concert with the Airport Authority to make that happen. And I will say that that airport connection project is at the very top of our list in this proposed plan.
Pauletta: Thanks Phil. We’re now going to go to Delphina in Whittier. Delphina, what’s your question?
Delphina: Hi. Can you hear me all right? I love the buses. I’ve been riding buses since I was about 8 years old and before that the street cars. But anyway, I was just wondering when this project starts here in Whittier area? Are there going to be any homes that are going to be knocked down to make room for that or are they going to use the old railroad lines that we have here right now? Thank you.
Mark: Hi, Delphina. This is Mark Yamarone with Planning. Thanks for that question. Included in the plan, as I mentioned earlier, is funding for the extension of that Gold line to the east side. Currently, Metro’s staff is working with the community in Whittier and the communities of El Monte and South El Monte to determine which one of the alignments will go first. One of the routes that is under consideration is an extension of about nine and a half miles from the existing Atlantic Boulevard East into Whittier. And the bulk of that route would be along Washington Boulevard. There are no plans to have to take any homes or condemn any properties to support that extension.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Mark. If you would like to ask a question, it’s not too late to push zero on your keypad to get in the queue. And right now we’re going to go to Francia from Long Beach. Go ahead, Francia.
Francia: First of all, I’d like to tell Mr. Phil Washington congratulations. And also, that LA County is, as far as Metro goes, we are the best run in the country. My question is: You know the tokens for the disabled and for the seniors. We seem to be having a problem here in Long Beach with getting them. I just wanted to know who do I talk to about getting them and who do I go to and how do I continue to get them? And what do I do about it?
Carl: Hi, Francia. This is Carl Torres from Service Planning. To get the tokens themselves, your best bet would be to call Metro at 323-GO-METRO and ask customer service how you would go about getting the tokens, at what location. Now, don’t forget our rail accepts TAP cards now. So, actually, with the new TAP vending machines, you can load those tokes onto your TAP card. A token would be good for a one-way trip on the rail. I hope this information helps you and you have a good night.
Phil: And Francia. This is Phil Washington. Thank you so much for the congratulatory one-year anniversary shout out there. Our facilitator, Pauletta was not supposed to mention that I’ve hit my one-year anniversary. But she did it anyway. We’ll address that in her performance evaluation. I will say thank you.
The tokens, feel free to make that call. And if you have any problems with that, most definitely give us a call.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. We’re going to go not to Dave in Diamond Bar. Go ahead, Dave.
Dave: Hi. I’ve lived in the East San Gabriel Valley for a long time and there’s really no way to get down to South Bay, to Long Beach, to Orange County except on the freeway. And most of the MTA traffic is to downtown LA. Have you thought about other traffic modes that aren’t slow bus travel to get from this part of the world to the west part of LA County?
Phil: Let me start with that, Dave. And I’m going to ask Rick Clark to touch on it as well. Actually, those projects to allow that is actually in the proposed plan that we want to take to voters in November. One project in particular is something called the Regional Connector. The Regional Connector is a relatively short project, less than two miles, but it will facilitate people being able to go from north to south with a one seat ride. Right now you have to transfer. So the ability to go all the way from Long Beach all the way to Azusa, if you want to, will be allowed with this Regional Connector. What you’re describing, you will be able to do with this plan that we are proposing for a half cent sales tax, which amounts to about $24 a year for the average citizen. This is exactly what we are proposing and pushing to allow for connectivity all over the county. And we hope you support us with that.
Rick: And this is Rick, Dave. That Regional Connector will connect the Gold line to Azusa will actually under the plan be extended to Claremont. And as Phil said, that will provide a one seat ride through downtown to Long Beach. Another option, also, is the Silver line can get you to the South Bay/San Pedro area relatively quickly. Another major project in the plan for the South Bay area is the extension of the Green line to Torrance. Our hope is with all these new lines coming on and what’s in the plan, that it would give you a number of new options that you’ll be able to use for that ride.
Pauletta: Thanks both Rick and Phil on that one. I want to share the polling results with you guys that we asked a little bit ago. The last polling question was: If the election were to be held tonight, would you support the sales tax measure to support more transportation improvements all across LA County? 61%of you said yes. 39% of you said no. We appreciate all of your feedback and we do take it seriously. So thank you very much.
We’re going to go now to Carol in Torrance. Carol, what’s your question? Hi, there Carol. Are you there?
Carol: I am.
Pauletta: Okay, go ahead.
Carol: Well, I’ve heard a couple of things and the reason I called was having to do with the Green line/Blue line transition. The other thing is the rides, since they did away with the 444 that came all the way from Union Station all the way to down Hawthorne Boulevard to the Pacific Ocean. It’s gone. And anyone elderly or disabled, which my husband has been. And he can’t get from Valencia. He can take the Metrolink in. He can take a bus. Excuse me. It just is impossible. There are no restroom facilities. There are no rest stops. Nobody can get anywhere in less than two hours.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Carol. I’m first going to ask Mark to speak to that. And then I’ll ask Carl from Service Planning to weigh in. Go ahead, Mark.
Mark: Hi, Carol. Thanks for the question and the comment about the connection between the Blue line and the Green line. As you know, that occurs at the Willowbrook and Rosa Parks Station. And currently Metro staff, as Phil Washington mentioned, has had many improvements along the Blue line to upgrade that service and that infrastructure. But specifically at the Willowbrook and Rosa Parks Station, Metro staff is working with the community and has plans to upgrade that station including extending the platform to accommodate the ridership loads that we see there, better lighting. And all sorts of other improvements to really try to improve not only the service of that station but the ambiance and the way it works there within the community. If you’d like to press seven and leave your contact information, we’d be happy to include you in the outreach for further plans and community work on that station.
Carl: This is Carl Torres from Service Planning. If I could add to that. Right now as the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station redesign that’s underway, this will improve the Blue and Green line connection as it is. And also, I heard your comment about the bathrooms or rest areas. Currently, we have self-cleaning bathrooms at El Monte Station and also just added at Harbor Gateway Station. And we are looking into other stations that we can possibly put these at because this is definitely one of the biggest questions we get from passengers. We appreciate your question and have a good night.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Carl and Mark. We still have a little bit of time left so we’re going to take some more questions. We’re going now to Fanny in Long Beach. Go ahead, Fanny.
Fanny: This is Fanny. My question was, the security on the Blue line. There are friends and things that are afraid to ride it at night after dark because there’s no security. You’re building all these lines. What type of security are you going to have to make sure passengers can arrive at their destination safely?
Phil: Hi, Fanny. Thank you for the question. Safety and security is our number one priority. We are doubling down on our security both in secured law enforcement presence and also technology. First we have a transit watch app on peoples phones where they can go to our app and report safety incidents and security incidents. We also, near park and rides, we have sky watchtowers that are mobile that can rise 24 feet in the air and have law enforcement folks inside it. These sky watchtowers, again, are mobile and can be moved around. But more importantly, we are really increasing the number of security personnel both on the Blue line and on our buses all over the system. And some of them are in uniform and some of them are plain clothes. So you are going to begin seeing, if you haven’t already, an increased security presence on the entire system, but more importantly on the hotspots that we know are somewhat problematic. And so while we believe and know that we have a safe system, it’s always good to improve safety. And we’re doing that with more of a physical presence on various lines to include the Blue line and buses as well.
Pauletta: Thanks very much, Phil. One of the things that a lot of folks don’t know about Metro is how much we invest at the local level. We do put money back to the local communities, all 88 cities of Los Angeles County to help them with their street improvements, paving their streets, fixing potholes, improving their signalization, making better bike and pedestrian connections. That is also part of our plan that we’re putting forth to the public to get input on. You can learn all about our plan to ease traffic on Metro’s website at metro.net/theplan. You can even submit comments through email through our website so that we can hear from you. We’re taking in public input about this ambitious plan through next Friday, May 20th. And we will then share the outcome of our public input process with the Metro board of directors, which then they are tracking towards making a decision about whether to put this measure on the November ballot. And the board will do that at their June board meeting. You’re a significant part of this. It all starts and ends with you, the traveling public who are our constituents and our customers. So it’s very important that we hear from you.
We’re going to go now to Gail in Norwalk. Gail, go ahead and ask your question.
Gail: Hi. I ride the Metrolink from the Norwalk Station to the Irvine Station and with your time changes coming up on June 6th, we are all going to be arriving to work five minutes later. Rather than making it convenient for us to arrive on time to work because like most of us, we work 8 to 5. There is no earlier train option for us from the Norwalk Station. And now we’re going to be inconvenienced more because we have to get to work a little later than we already did. Especially when the train is running ten minutes late. Then we’re talking about getting to work at 8:30. I don’t understand why the change was made to get us there later rather earlier when we all work the same as you.
Carl: I’m sorry, her name? Gail. I’m sorry, Gail. This is Carl Torres from Service Planning. I do feel your pain because actually I’m a former rider of Metrolink on the San Bernardino line and they have changed the schedule quite a few times on that. Unfortunately, my service planning is not associated with the train side. But that doesn’t mean that any of your connection after Metrolink can’t be adjusted. What I would recommend that you do is to go to metro.net’s website and actually comment on your connection. Let us know what line that you catch after the train gets in. And we could possibly adjust the trips for that connection. On the other end, I would recommend to go to Metrolink’s website and also express your feelings about the change in schedule. Hopefully, your trips will get better in the future. Thank you for calling.
Phil: Hi, Gail. This is Phil Washington. Let me just add to that and be clear about Metro and Metrolink. We do fund Metrolink. We’re not Metrolink but we fund Metrolink. We fund Metrolink to the tune of about 52% of their revenue. While we work with Metrolink, we do not control their service and what time they put their service out there. While we will definitely pass this on to Metrolink, we’re not Metrolink. We’re actually Metro. People do get us confused and think we handle their service. But we will pass that on to them. And so, again, we fund Metrolink but we don’t operate Metrolink.
Pauletta: Thanks for that clarification, Phil. Well, by the clock on the wall, the time for our telephone town hall meeting has come to an end. We want to thank you all for staying with us tonight, being on the call, asking great questions and providing input to us. It’s all about you folks. And we’re looking for more ways and options and choices out there for how we move around LA County. We invite you to stay engaged and informed through this whole process. And you can find all the information on Metro’s website at metro.net/theplan. If you did not get to ask your question, stay on the line. You can leave us a message, if you’d like to leave us your email so you can get future communications from Metro. Press seven on your keypad and I’m going to ask our CEO, Philip Washington, if he wants to make any closing comments. Phil?
Phil: Yes, thank you Pauletta and thank you to all of you that were on the line. Together all these construction projects that we’re doing are major economic drivers for the region. The Gold line that we just opened up in March alone costs about a billion dollars to build. And the Expo line that we are opening next Friday, May 20th was $1.5 billion dollars. The Crenshaw line will cost about $2 billion. All of this money is injected into our local economy plus it represents thousands of jobs both direct and indirect. Meaning that the vendor who provides coffee for the construction employee is making a few dollars along with construction workers who have full-time jobs. Should this measure that we are proposing, should voters decide to support it in November, LA County will see huge changes in terms of mobility. Nearly 40 projects in 40 years. Money back to your local communities to do pothole repair, to do local street improvements. The plan includes another nearly five-mile extension of the Green line to Torrance. We’ll also be making big capacity improvements to the I5 freeway between the 605 and the 710 freeways by adding a mixed flow lane and an HOV lane in each direction of that busy freeway. And more importantly, there’s going to be funds dedicated to the improvements to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This is a balanced plan that we believe will raise all boats and create jobs and increase mobility options around the county. Again, we thank you for joining us and have a good evening.