Sunday, May 1, 2011

Metro Board Report for April 2011

This month the Board took up the question of whether one County Supervisor either knows more about public transportation engineering than his bio indicates ... or thinks he deserves an exception to existing policies simply because his ego demands it.

Undergrounding The Crenshaw/LAX Line: A considerable amount of time was wasted this month at the Measure R Project Delivery Committee meeting by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' continuing attempts to underground a part of the future Crenshaw/LAX light rail line between 48th to 59th Streets, including a new Leimert Park/Vernon Station.

One problem, which the Supervisor fails to understand, is there are no monies to be "redirected" (as his motion words it) to fund that segment. The bigger problem is that, despite his selective quoting of last year's Park Mesa grade separation analysis, the segment in question does not meet the Board-established criteria for grade separation.

The facts aren't stopping the unyielding and arrogant Ridley-Thomas, though; he arranged for representatives of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce, the Westchester Neighbors Association, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP to speak in favor of his motion. Several business owners also spoke, as did Damien "light rail kills black people" Goodmon and a representative of the Leimert Park neighborhood council.

All of it was for naught, as committee chair Diane DuBois refused to allow the motion to go to the Board with any recommendation ... and by the time of the Board meeting the following week, the motion had been withdrawn. I wish I could say it won't return in a future month, but I have come to understand that Ridley-Thomas believes he should always get his way and I am certain he will try again.

The sad, but comic, ending to this chapter is that the committee meeting was subsequently recessed for several minutes due to lack of a quorum. The reason: Ridley-Thomas had absented himself to hold a press conference on his motion.

Well, There's Another Hour Of My Life That I'll Never Get Back: The requested Board report with additional information on the impacts of the forthcoming June service changes, as expected, accomplished little, if anything. Despite Chair Don Knabe's statement that the report was "just a receive and file ... there will be no action taken" a full hour of public comment was heard, dominated by those champions of little-used and non-productive service, the Bus Riders Union.

BRU co-chair Barbara Lott-Holland, in fact, continued their unbroken streak of dire predictions of "devastating effects" from the changes, oblivious to the fact that the Board no longer pays any attention to that argument (probably because the BRU, like Chicken Little before them, has been saying that for years but has never produced any evidence of the devastation). Among the clueless comments from non-BRUers was a veterans advocate who decried Line 577X "will no longer serve the V.A. Hospital in Long Beach" (the line is actually going to have its south terminal there) and one person who declared "keep this up and we will boycott your service" (ummm, boycotts only work for profit-making concerns ... boycott transit service and you just make more of it eligible for cancellation).

The previous cancellation of Line 30 service in the Gold Line corridor a year ago also came into the discussion, with several people claiming there was no longer any service between Rowan and Atlantic on the Eastside. This came as news to Supervisor Gloria Molina, who championed the El Sol shuttle service in that area several years ago, and rebutted the comments with a reminder of same.

Although -- not surprisingly -- the Board did not rescind the June changes as the BRU had vainly hoped, Director Richard Katz did call for a staff report on the tracking process for bus/rail and bus/bus transfers (which could prove very useful to the Service Councils in future service change programs) and a quarterly report on efficiencies from implemented changes.

We'll Get No Money From David Solow: The former Metrolink CEO has been trying, for several months, to negotiate a settlement of the agreement made when he purchased his Orange County home that gave Metro an equity share in same. Now that Solow is moving on, there is the matter of Metro getting $141,000 back by selling that equity back to him.

The matter has come before the Finance and Budget Committee several times in the past few months, with more questions being asked every time. This month, the matter ended up at the full Board meeting for discussion, where Molina opposed the deal because Solow failed to follow a provision in the agreement that required him to get approval from Metro before making improvements to the property. This led CEO Art Leahy to ask, tongue-in-cheek, "how much money do you want to pay to validate the cost of a ceiling fan?"

Solow reportedly waived claims for an additional $27,000 in equity related to unapproved improvements, but the agreement still failed on a 5-2 vote, with three Directors abstaining (seven "yes" votes were necessary to approve the agreement). Leahy has said he would not bring the matter back before the Board, but I wonder now what happens to that equity ...

Making Metro Rail More Bicycle-Friendly: The Board also voted to revise the policies regarding bicycles on the Metro Rail system, in the process approving the removal of seats in the Green and Gold Line cars to create an open location for bikes, as was done on Red/Purple Line cars in 2008. Blue Line cars, because of the wide open spaces at the ends of each pair of cars, were not included in the new seat removal program.

The major policy revision removes time restrictions on peak-hour use of the system by cyclists (which were largely ignored anyway). However, an existing safety issue -- the use of escalators rather than elevators and stairs by cyclists inside stations -- will now be enforced more stringently, with citations to be issued in the future.

Quote Of The Month: Gadfly John Walsh, during discussion of state legislation that would reallocate some Proposition 1B transit security funds, if and when bond sales resume: "The fall bond sales have as much chance of happening as Kadafi has of ruling Tripoli in the fall."

But does Tripoli have transit security issues?

Next Metro Board Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, May 18 and 19.
Next Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, May 26.