The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors went on record Tuesday against a state bill that would cut the number of county seats on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors from five to two.
Senate Bill 1379, sponsored by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, would maintain 14 board seats, but replace three of the county seats with a post for Long Beach and for appointees of the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended sending a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders opposing the bill and directing county lobbyists to actively advocate against it.
In her motion, Solis said each of the supervisors acts on behalf of the incorporated cities that comprise their district when they vote on the Metro board, not just the unincorporated areas of the county.
In addition to the five county seats, the current board includes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and three of his appointees, four members appointed from other cities and one non-voting member appointed by the governor.
The debate comes as officials wrangle over Metro’s plans for spending the estimated $120 billion that would be generated by a half-cent sales tax increase proposed by Measure M. The measure is set for the Nov. 8 ballot and requires the approval of at least two-thirds of voters to pass.
Also known as the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, the measure includes a package of new rail and bus lines, highway improvements, bike lanes and street repairs.
Mendoza said the plan does not consider the needs of communities countywide and questioned the Metro board’s process for choosing and prioritizing specific projects.
He originally proposed adding 10 seats to the Metro board to address what he sees as a “lopsided system.”
Supervisor Michael Antonovich said if Mendoza “was interested in having a real regional body,” he should reallocate seats held by the city of Los Angeles to other municipalities.
Before the vote, Antonovich amended Solis’s motion to also oppose any measure that would reduce the county’s representation on the board or expand the city of Los Angeles’ representation.
Located along the state’s worst traffic bottleneck, the city of Commerce has for decades had to deal with more than its fair share of traffic, yet it’s unlikely that a proposed half-cent sales tax hike going before voters in November will help alleviate the area’s transportation woes anytime soon.
Home to hundreds of distribution and manufacturing businesses and located along a major rail yard and network of freeways, Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa points out that the city is one of the country’s busiest “ports.”
“We get a significant amount of traffic based on the role Commerce plays in the regional distribution of goods,” but he said the “dry port” receives no special state or federal funding to support its role in the goods movement.
“This is a regional place of investment and employment,” but “the southeast won’t see the benefits of this new tax for the first 15 years,” Rifa told EGP.
In November, voters will decide whether to approve an added half-cent sales tax that could generate at least $860 million annually for highway and street repairs, transportation improvements, and new rails and bus lines in Los Angeles County. If approved by the two-third margin required to raise taxes, the half-cent bump would start in 2017, permanently increasing the Measure R temporary half-cent sales tax hike to a full cent.
Measure R was approved by voters in 2008 as a temporary increase and is currently set to sunset in 2039.
Metro officials tout Measure M as a solution to the region’s traffic congestion problems that will also improve air quality and create jobs.
Rifa counters that in Commerce the claim should be accompanied by “fine print that says ‘20 years from now.’”
Like Measure R, Measure M would earmark funds generated for specific transportation projects outlined in an expenditure plan. The proposal has angered communities along the County’s southeast corridor that accuse Metro’s Board of pushing Measure R approved projects to the back burner under Measure M’s new expenditure plan.
Unhappy that improvements to the I-5 and 710 freeways and other regional transportation plans would be delayed under Measure M, the 23 cities that make up the Gateway Cities Council of Government are now spearheading an educational outreach campaign to specifically inform voters what Measure M’s impact would or would not have in the region.
In Commerce, the impact goes beyond the obvious traffic and environmental concerns and deals directly with the region’s goods movement, says Eddie Tafoya, executive director of the Commerce Industrial Council – Chamber of Commerce.
“We get a significant amount of traffic based on the role Commerce plays in the regional distribution of goods,” he explains. “If it’s not Vernon, it’s Commerce,” he told EGP.
Metro’s Chief Communication Officer Pauletta Tonilas told EGP it’s important to note that the agency has been working on its expenditure plan for years.
“We understand that not everyone is thrilled but this plan reflected what we heard from stakeholders,” she said. “We believe it is balanced and equitable.”
Currently, Commerce generates about $8 million a year in Measure R sales tax revenue for the county, but annually only gets back about $150,000. The city’s contribution would double to $16 million under Measure M, but it would only receive around $300,000 a year based on its population.
Tafoya is quick to point out however that while the industrial city only has 13,000 residents, its daytime population swells to nearly 80,000 people when you take into account the number of workers who flock to the city.
An additional 230,000 jobs are located in communities bordering the I-5 Freeway, including Downey, La Mirada, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Vernon in addition to Commerce.
“These jobs are all predicated on the use of freeways and yet [Metro] won’t be touching the I-5 for another 20 years,” complains Rifa.
Tonilas pointed out that not all major projects could be funded at once.
“Everything can’t happen in the first 10 years,” she told EGP. “The time sequence was based on when funds would be available.”
The Industrial Council surveyed businesses in the city and according to Tafoya, over 40 percent responded that traffic congestion is the leading reason they would consider moving out of L.A. County.
There’s no escaping that the high volume of goods traveling through the region leads to more truck traffic and congestion, said Tafoya, noting that “the I-5 is a parking lot.”
“This has a detrimental impact to the economy and quality of life,” he points out.
Tonilas says private-public partnerships would allow businesses to help fund and accelerate some projects.
Last week, the Commerce City Council approved $20,000 to support Gateway Cities’ public outreach efforts in the southeast region. Half of the money will be used to fund a local informational campaign.
“We think, as a region and community, [the plan is] short of being balanced,” Rifa told EGP. “The corridor has been shortchanged.”
Mayor Ivan Altamirano, who pushed for more funding for outreach, agrees. “I really think that’s very little to what we can potentially lose here,” he told EGP.
Before the vote, Councilman Hugo Argumedo noted that efforts to inform voters about what’s at stake locally would be an uphill battle.
“I’m sorry to say this guys, we can say $100,000, but guess what, we’re going to be outgunned,” he told the council, explaining the importance of mobilizing efforts in areas where there are the most votes.
Because city funds are being used, the materials distributed must walk a fine line of educating and not campaign against the measure.
The city, however, is no stranger to voicing its views on transportation projects and their local impacts.
Commerce has been front and center in talks about the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension Phase 2 project. The city was successful in convincing Metro to consider a route that would include a light rail stop within its borders.
Rifa told EGP the transit measure has been and will continue to be a regular fixture on the city’s agenda as city officials are frustrated with the totality of the plan connected to the new tax.
“The southeast was a huge supporter of Measure R, now we are being ignored,” he said. “The balance has been lost and we must protect our jobs.”
Localizada a lo largo del peor embotellamiento de tráfico del estado, la Ciudad de Commerce sufre con un sinnúmero de problemas de transportación, los cuales es poco probable mejoren a resultado de un propuesto incremento de medio centavo en impuestos.
El próximo noviembre, residentes de la ciudad tendrán la oportunidad de decidir si aprueban o rechazan la Medida M, la cual muchos dicen ayudará.
Commerce, descrita como un “puerto seco” y hogar de cientos de negocios de distribución, por el administrador de la ciudad, Jorge Rifa, también se ubica cerca de un ferrocarril principal y red de autopistas.
“Recibimos una cantidad significativa de tráfico gracias a la función que Commerce juega en la distribución regional”, y agregó que el puerto no recibe ningún financiamiento especial estatal o federal para apoyar su labor.
“Éste es un lugar regional de inversión y empleo” sin embargo continuó Rifa, “el sureste no logrará ver los beneficios del nuevo impuesto durante los primeros 15 años [después de aprobarse]”, dijo a EGP.
Si los votantes llegaran a aprobar la medida, se calcula que el impuesto generaría por lo menos $860 millones anuales que se alocaran para el uso de reparaciones de las calles y autopistas, mejoramientos en transportación, y nuevos rieles y líneas de autobuses en el Condado de Los Ángeles. El incremento comenzaría a principios del 2017, y permanentemente alzaría los términos actuales de la Medida R, de medio centavo a uno completo.
La Medida R fue aprobada por los votantes en 2008 como un incremento temporal el cual finalizaría en el año 2039.
Oficiales del Metro catalogan a la Medida en cuestión como una solución a los problemas de congestión de tráfico y dicen que por ende también mejoraría la calidad del aire ambiente y generaría trabajos.
A su contrario, Rifa dice que esas afirmaciones deberían de ser acompañadas con “una cláusula en letra minuta que explique que eso no sucederá de aquí hasta 20 años”.
Similarmente a la Medida R, la M destinaría fondos, generados específicamente para proyectos de transportación, delineados en un plan de inversión.
La propuesta ha enfurecido a las comunidades a lo largo del corredor sureste de la ciudad quienes acusan al concejo del Metro de retrasar a los proyectos aprobados bajo la Medida R con el nuevo plan.
A causa del descontento por la demora de proyectos que mejorarían a las autopistas I-5 y 710 bajo la Medida M, las 23 ciudades que componen al Consejo de Ciudades Gateway ahora encabezan una campaña educativa. Estos esfuerzos son con el fin de educar a los votantes acerca de el impacto que la Medida M tendrá en la región si es aprobada.
El impacto en Commerce va más aya de las preocupaciones obvias del tráfico y trata directamente con el movimiento de bienes en la región, dijo Eddie Tafoya, director ejecutivo del Consejo Industrial de Commerce de la Cámara de Comercio.
“Recibimos una cantidad significante de tráfico a causa del papel que la ciudad juega en el movimiento de bienes”, explicó Tafoya. “Sino es Vernon es Commerce”, dijo a EGP.
Pauletta Tonilas, jefa oficial de comunicaciones del Metro le dijo a EGP que es importante tomar nota de que la agencia ha estado lidiando con sus gastos públicos por años.
“Entendemos que no todos están entusiasmados pero éste plan refleja las aportaciones de nuestros asociados”, dijo Tonilas. “Creemos que ofrece una balance y es justo”.
Actualmente, Commerce genera unos estimados $8 millones al año generados por los impuestos sobre ventas de la Medida R. En cambio, el condado solamente recibe $150,000 de regreso al año.
Tafoya rápidamente señaló que mientras la ciudad industrial solo tiene 13,000 residentes, su populación durante el día crece a unos aproximados 80,000 tomando en cuenta a la multitud de trabajadores quienes llegan a la ciudad.
Unos 230,000 trabajos adicionales están localizados en las ciudades a la orilla de la Autopista I-5, como lo son Downey, La Mirada, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, y Vernon.
“Estos trabajos se basan en el uso de la Autopista I-5 y aun así [Metro] no tocará la autopista de aquí hasta 20 años” se quejó Rifa.
Tonilas señaló que no todos los proyectos mayores podrán ser financiados a la misma vez.
“No se puede arreglar todo en los primeros 10 años”, le dijo a EGP. “La secuencia fue basada en cuando los fondos serían disponibles”, dijo Tonilas.
El Consejo Industrial encuestó a negocios locales y de acuerdo a Tafoya, más del 40 por ciento respondieron que la congestión del tráfico es la razón principal por la que considerarían mudarse fuera del Condado de Los Ángeles.
No hay forma en cómo negar que el alto volumen de bienes que son trasportados por toda la región causa un incremento en tráfico de camiones y una congestión por consiguiente, dijo Tafoya, llamando a la Autopista I-5 un estacionamiento.
“Esto tiene un efecto nocivo en la economía y en la calidad de vida”, señaló.
Tonilas dijo que una asociación entre el sector público y el privado ayudaría a los negocios ha acelerar algunos de los proyectos.
La semana pasada, el Consejo de la Ciudad de Commerce aprobó el uso de $20,000 para financiar los esfuerzos públicos del Consejo de las Ciudades Gateway en la región sureste. La mitad del dinero fue alocado al uso de la campaña informativa.
“Como comunidad y región, creemos que [el plan] queda corto de ser balanceado”, dijo Rifa a EGP. “El corredor ha sido estafado”.
El alcalde Ivan Altamirano, quien empujó para recibir más fondos para la campaña está de acuerdo. “De verdad pienso que eso queda corto a lo que potencialmente podemos perder”, le dijo a EGP.
Antes del voto, el concejal Hugo Argumedo hizo mención de los esfuerzos para informar a los votantes acerca de lo que está en riesgo y que será una ardua batalla.
“Lamento decirlo, pero, podemos decir que serán $100,000 pero ¿qué creen?, vamos a ser aplastados,” le dijo al consejo explicando la importancia de movilizar los esfuerzos en áreas dónde se encuentran la mayoría de votos.
Ya que los fondos siendo usados son de la ciudad, se tendrá que mantener precaución en mantener los esfuerzos específicamente educativos y no usarlos para luchar en contra de la medida.
No obstante, la ciudad no permanece alejada de expresar su opinión acerca de proyectos de transportación y de sus impactos locales.
Commerce ha ocupado posiciones centrales en discusiones acerca de la segunda fase de expansión de la Línea Dorada del Metro en el lado este. La ciudad también logró convencer a Metro a considerar una ruta que incluyera una parada de tren ligero dentro de sus fronteras.
Rifa le dijo a EGP que la medida de transito ha sido y continuará siendo un acto permanente en la agenda de la ciudad ya que sus oficiales están totalmente frustrados con el plan del nuevo impuesto.
“El área del sureste fue un gran partidario de la Medida R, pero ahora nos están ignorando”, dijo. “El balance se ha perdido y necesitamos proteger a nuestros trabajos”.
The 2016 Olympic Games may be opening in Rio tomorrow, but there will be some Gold Medal action taking place here, close to home, over the next two weeks.
Metro and the LA2024 Olympic committee will celebrate Los Angeles’ Olympic history and past Olympic gold medalists at a series of events to be held at local transit stations starting Friday.
“Medalists will meet and greet, display their gold medals, pose for photographs and give autographs,” Metro announced.
The local champions, including multi gold and silver medal winners going back to the 1950s and more recent winners from the 2012 Olympic Games in London, will be decked out in Team USA apparel and ready to pose for selfies and distribute autographs, according to the event sponsors.
All of the events will take place during the high volume 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. transportation time.
The first stop along the Metro/LA204 Gold Medal tour will take place Friday at the El Monte Bus Station, where riders will meet Paul Gonzalez, Gold Medalist Boxing Light Flyweight and winner of the Val Barker Trophy for the top pound-for-pound boxer at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Aug. 8–Shirley Babshoff, 3-time Swimming Gold Medalist at the 1972 Munich Games and 1976 Montreal Games will be in downtown L.A. at Union Station.
Aug. 9 and 10 –John Naber, winner of 4 gold medals an one silver at the 1976 Montreal Games will greet riders Gold Line Sierra Madre Station (Aug. 9) and at the Culver City Expo Line Station (Aug. 10).
Aug. 11–At the Metro Red Line North Hollywood Station commuters will have a chance to meet Julianne McNamara, Gold Medal Uneven Parallel Bars 1984 Los Angeles Games, where she scored of perfect 10.0.
Aug. 12–Local favorite from the City of Commerce, Brenda Villa, will greet Gold Line Riders at the Atlantic Station on Pomona Boulevard.
Villa, who trained at the Commerce Aquatorium, was on the USA’s 2012 Water Polo team, winning a Gold Medal, two silver and one Bronze medals at the London games.
Aug. 15–Named the “World’s Greatest Athlete,” Rafer Johnson —winner of the Decathlon Gold Medal at the 1960 Games in Rome, and a Silver Medal at the 1956 Melbourne Games —will make his appearance at the Orange Line Chatsworth Station.
Aug. 16 –Meet Valerie Brisco, winner of 3 Gold Medals for the 200 meters, 400 meters, 4×400 meters relay at the 1984 Los Angeles games and a Silver Medal in the 4×400 meters dash at the 1988 Seoul games downtown at the 7th Street/Metro Center on Figueroa Street.
Aug. 17– Head over to the Metro Blue Line Downtown Long Beach Station and take a picture with Lisa Fernandez, 3-time Gold Medal winner Softball, 1996 Atlanta Games, 2000 Sydney Games and 2004 Athens Games.
Aug. 18– The Gold Medal tour lands at the Gold Line APU/Citrus College Station in Azusa, for a meet and greet with Bryan Clay, the Gold Medal Decathlon winner at the 2008 Beijing Games, named “World’s Greatest Athlete”; and the Silver Medal Decathlon winner at the 2004 Athens Games.
Aug. 19–Closing out the tour is Mark Spitz, who won a combined 9 Gold Medals in swimming at the 1968 Fames in Mexico and 1972 Games in Munich. Spitz won 7 of the Gold Medals in Munich, all in record time—a record that held for 36 years. He will make his appearance at the new Downtown Santa Monica Station of the Metro Expo Line on Colorado Avenue.
A woman was recovering this morning after she was struck by a Metro Gold Line train when she got too close to the tracks in Boyle Heights because she was trying to take a photograph, according to authorities.
It occurred at 1149 E. First St. and was reported at 10:10 p.m. Friday, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.
The unidentified woman was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
No one on the train was injured, Humphrey said.
The incident was being investigated by the sheriff’s Transit Services Division.
In 2008, Los Angeles County residents took a leap of faith and voted to raise our county-wide sales taxes to fund the construction and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure. Seven years later, Metro conducted a quality of life report to study the impact of that decision on the region. The results are impressive. New rail and bus rapid transit now provides access to more than 300,000 jobs in the region. Nearly 500,000 residents now live within a half mile of projects that opened after passage of Measure R. What’s impressive is that this data was tallied prior to the 2016 openings of the Gold Line extension and Expo Phase II.
For these two reasons, along with the tremendous congestion we all experience every day, the L.A. Area Chamber Board of Directors has voted to formally support Metro’s Traffic Improvement Plan (tentatively Measure M). This ballot measure will add another 1/2 cent sales tax to our infrastructure investment and generate an additional $860 million a year for transportation projects in every city and unincorporated region of L.A. County. Major projects include an LAX Airport Connection, Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont, Westside Purple Line Extension to Westwood, Orange Line conversion to light rail, a transit route through the Sepulveda Pass and more than a dozen highway improvement projects throughout the County.
The plan earmarks more than $4 billion in funding for our vital goods movement corridors and will return 17-20 percent annually to cities for investments in local roads and neighborhoods. It also increases oversight and implements a comprehensive review process every decade to make sure our dollars are going to the projects that make the most sense for the region.
As the largest business organization in L.A. County, the L.A. Area Chamber is dedicated to improving mobility and job opportunities for our residents. A modern transportation infrastructure is the foundation for both.
The November general election ballot will be packed with numerous state and local measures, but none will impact your day to day life in L.A. County more than this Traffic Improvement Plan. I urge you to vote yes on this transformative measure on Nov. 8.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.
A 36-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a “hoax device” that prompted the closure of a downtown Los Angeles Metro station for several hours Saturday and prompted a sheriff’s bomb squad response.
Thirty-six-year-old Jayson Lionel Epps was arrested Friday after Transportation Policing Division deputies observed him wearing the exact clothing described from the incident one day earlier, said Deputy Grace Medrano of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau.
He is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
“There is no indication or evidence the suspect was acting in concert with any other individuals or affiliations,” she said. The ongoing investigation is being handled by the LASD Arson and Explosives Detail and the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Unit.
Traffic was snarled as officers directed vehicles around the area after the unattended package was located by an employee at 1:35 p.m. Thursday at the Metro station at Seventh and Flower streets, according to Ramon Montenegro, spokesman for the Transit Policing Division.
Arson and Explosives Detail personnel detonated the item at about 5 p.m. and determined it was “a hoax device that was intentionally made to look like an explosive,” Montenegro said.
The Harbor (110) Freeway’s north and south on- and off-ramps at Sixth and Seventh streets were closed for several hours for precautionary reasons, creating a traffic nightmare for rush-hour commuters.
Union Station’s bus and shuttle hub will be closed for three months, starting next Monday, to undergo renovation work, which means the temporary relocation of stops for the LAX FlyAway, buses and other shuttles.
The Patsaouras Transit Plaza, which is showing wear from being used by 1,000 buses a week, is scheduled to be rebuilt from July 11 until Oct. 10, said Steve Jeffe, Metro’s deputy executive officer of general services.
The stops that normally use the transit plaza will be moved to several areas on the periphery of Union Station, at the following locations:
—west entrance of Union Station, which will have stops for BoltBus, Megabus and LAX FlyAway;
—Alameda Avenue west of Union Station, which serve as the stop for Metro Lines 40 and 442, AVTA Line 785 and OCTA Line 701;
—Cesar Chavez Avenue at Alameda Street and Vignes Street, which will serve as the stops for Metro Lines 33 owl, 40, 68, 70, 71, 78-79-378, 442, 704, 728, 733, 745 and 770, and Commuter Express Lines 431 and 534;
—Southbound Vignes Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue, which will be the stop for Dash D, Dash Lincoln Heights/Chinatown, Santa Clarita Transit Line 794;
—El Monte Busway east of Alameda Street, which includes stops for Foothill Transit Line 699 and Commerce Casino/Citadel bus; and
—Union Station interior roadway, near the rental car area, will be the stop for the USC Shuttles, Bunker Hill Shuttle, Mount St. Mary’s University Shuttle and all other shuttles.
A map of the alternate stop locations at Union Station is also available at https://media.metro.net/riding_metro/bus_overview/images/Pat_Plaza_Map.pdf .
A new parking garage next to the Gold Line Station in Chinatown officially opened, making available 175 spaces for transit riders and the public.
The city-owned Blossom Plaza parking facility, at 900 N. Broadway, opened this weekend. Starting Monday, the regular hours will be from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents Chinatown, noted the garage will be open in time for the start of the Chinatown Summer Nights festival series and the Father’s Day weekend.
The garage has 344 spaces, with 169 reserved for people who live in nearby residences. The remaining 175 spaces include 100 for the general public and 75 for Metro riders.
The facility also offers bicycle parking space.
The garage can be entered from Spring and College streets, and is next to the Gold Line Station. Parking is $1 per hour for the first two hours, and increases to $2 for the third hour.
Every additional half hour will be $1, with the daily maximum set at $8. After 6 p.m. the flat rate is $3. Transit users with validation pay a $2 daily rate.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is holding a series of community meetings in April to discuss a draft expenditure plan that could be part of a $120 billion ballot measure in November to fund transit and highway projects.
The plan is based on input from the public, according to Metro, and includes nearly 40 major projects in 40 years countywide, including commuter rail; transit operations and projects to keep buses, trains and facilities in good repair; pedestrian and cycling connections and funding to support affordable fares for students, seniors and the disabled.
It would also return revenues to local cities on a per capita basis – money those cities could then spend on their own local transportation improvements.
The first three of 10 public meetings have already been held in Agoura Hills, Van Nuys and El Monte. Additional meetings have been scheduled for Carson (April 14). Palmdale (April 19), West Hollywood (April 21), Downtown Los Angeles (April 23), Paramount (April 26) South Los Angeles (April 28).
A virtual/online meeting will be held April 30, 10am-12pm. Log in at metro.net/theplan.
For additional information on locations and time, www.metro.net .