Friday, April 27, 2012


A ceremony was held Friday afternoon in Exposition Park to welcome the Expo Line, which will provide free rides from 5 am to 7 pm on the weekend and regular-fare service beginning Monday!

In other action at LA Metro on Thursday, the board certified the EIR for the initial operating segment of the Westside Subway Extension to Wilshire and La Cienega, and left a 30-day window open to certify the EIRs for Phase 2 to Century City and Phase 3 to Westwood. This gives the board more time to come to some resolution on the controversy surrounding the placement of the Century City station and the tunneling under Beverly Hills High School. The City of Beverly Hills will hold a hearing on both issues in the meantime.

The board also agreed on Thursday to continue conversations with stakeholders from the Financial District about the proposed infill station at Flower between Fourth and Fifth. Concerns have been raised about cost overruns and construction impacts; a motion by City Councilmember Jose Huizar allows the project to continue moving forward in the meantime.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Joel Epstein profiles Darrell Clarke's 22 years of tireless advocacy on the Expo Line on Metro's The Source blog. Darrell's work dates back to 1989 when Southern Pacific Railroad offered to sell a right-of-way to the LA County Transportation Commission (now LA Metro). Clarke had read about a neighborhood meeting in Rancho Park/Cheviot Hills where residents had blasted LACTC Chair Neil Peterson and the whole idea of light rail, he formed Friends 4 Expo, and the rest is history. "I didn't expect it to become a life's work," Darrell told Joel, adding that he believes Friends 4 Expo inspired others, including Bart Reed, who started the Transit Coalition, Ken Alpern, who started Friends of the Green Line, and Denny Zane who started Move LA. Read The Source here.

Monday, April 23, 2012


The Assembly Transportation Committee approved AB 1446 today on a bipartisan 10-1 vote. The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Mike Feuer, would authorize LA Metro to ask voters to extend the Measure R sales tax indefinitely, enabling Metro to bond against a longer revenue stream and accelerate the construction of Measure R-funded transportation projects.

Previously the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Assembly Local Government Committee. It is scheduled to be heard by the Appropriations Committee next Wednesday. Both the LA County Federation of Labor and the California Chamber of Commerce were quoted as supporting the bill in the press release issued by Feuer's office.

Feuer authored the original Measure R legislation during his first term as Assemblymember. Measure R asked voters to approve a 30-year one-half-cent sales tax dedicated to construction and operation of a specific list of projects. More than 67 percent of the voters approved the ballot measure in 2008.

Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane was quoted in the LA Times last week as saying that extensions of existing sales taxes "typically do better with voters than the original measures."

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO of the California Endowment, blogs about feeling like a fish out of water as he rubbed shoulders with transportation planners at the Southern California Association of Governments. Dr. Ross attended the Regional Council meeting on April 4 to testify about the importance of investing in bike lanes and in transit because transportation policy has a big impact on health and quality of life.

He writes: "As I waited for my turn to speak, the lyrics of the classic Talking Heads tune kept running through my brain: 'You may ask yourself, how did I get here?'
As a physician and health advocate, I’m used to speaking with doctors and nurses about disease prevention and illness management — but this was different . . . "

Read Dr. Ross' blog here.

Friday, April 20, 2012


LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was introduced by Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane at the State of the City speech Wednesday (link to video here) when the Mayor announced his intent to ask voters to extend Measure R. Denny had this to say about extending Measure R:

"In 2008, the business, labor and environmental communities set aside their history of rancor in Los Angeles County and agreed to work in earnest toward a common future and a shared prosperity. First, we worked together to build nearly 70 percent voter support for Measure R and to recreate our once lost but soon to be restored world class transit system. Then we continued our efforts, working to convince Congress that the America Fast Forward program could accelerate not only our prosperity but that of our nation as well.

"Unfortunately, it is clear that a similar spirit of collaboration is lacking in the federal government now. While we remain optimistic for our eventual success in Washington, we cannot passively allow our community's future to be put on hold. By giving our voters the opportunity to continue Measure R until they see fit, we can create good jobs now, relieve highway congestion now and complete all of our Measure R light rail and ubway projects in a mere decade. Why would we wait?"

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane told the LA Times that he is confident that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to pass an extension of the Measure R sales tax will be successful. Zane noted that "Extensions do better with voters than the original measures."

Measure R passed with 68 percent of the vote, slightly more than the two-thirds vote requirement and 20 points more than the two previous sales tax measures — in 1980 and 1990 — which were approved with bare majorities.

Sales tax measures in San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties were also approved with bare majorities 30 years ago but were extended this past decade by more than two-thirds of the voters.

Here is the LA Times story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


By Richard E. Cohen, CQ Staff

Conservative Republicans are once again voicing strong reservations about Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan to have the House pass another 90-day extension of surface transportation programs Wednesday.

House leaders are reaching out to the rebellious conservatives in an effort to rally them behind what would be the 10th extension of road and rail programs since the last comprehensive transportation authorization (PL 109-59) expired in September 2009.

But prospects of success are far from certain, particularly since Boehner’s signature effort to link transportation funding to increased energy exploration has suffered repeated setbacks and left state and local officials without certainty about pressing road and rail programs at the beginning of the construction season. Still, House leaders plan to press ahead and to bring the short-term measure (HR 4348) to the House floor Wednesday.

In a clear sign that Democrats are unlikely to support the bill, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget announced Tuesday that the administration “strongly opposes” the proposed extension.

“By simply extending current authority through the end of the fiscal year, this legislation would miss a critical opportunity to provide more certainty to states and localities as they undertake the long-term planning and execution of projects and programs that are essential to creating and keeping American workers in good paying jobs, improving the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, and ensuring roadway safety,” the White House statement said.

The administration’s statement of policy also took aim at the sweetener GOP leaders added to the bill in an effort to draw the support of conservatives, a provision intended to force the administration to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The White House said the provision “seeks to circumvent a long-standing and proven process for determining whether cross-border pipelines are in the national interest and for assessing the environmental impacts . . . despite the fact that the pipeline route has yet to be identified and there is no complete assessment of its potential impacts.”

For their part, Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about not being consulted over the latest leadership gambit that is designed to advance the short-term bill to a House-Senate conference committee where negotiators would craft a compromise. The Senate passed its $109 billion surface transportation bill (S 1813) with broad bipartisan support in March.

Conservatives are unhappy that Boehner has abandoned plans for the House to vote later this month on the Republican’s five-year, $260 billion transportation bill (HR 7).

“We were told earlier that we would be working on a more extensive bill,” said Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La. “Every time something moves around here at the speed of light, it’s normally not a good thing.” Landry said that he might vote for an extension “at the end of the day,” but that the House ought to debate the broader issues.

Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., said another short-term extension would fail to address the many changes in transportation programs that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved in February.

“We can do better,” said Hultgren, who serves with Landry on the committee. “This has been such a moving target.”

Hultgren conceded that the longer-term bill lacks the 218 votes needed for House passage, but said that GOP leaders should “make one more try at a bigger bill.”

Many conservatives remain opposed to the cost of a five-year bill and Republican leaders want to avoid a setback on the House floor, GOP aides said.

Leaders are hopeful that moving a short-term bill to a conference committee would permit the majority to shift the focus away from the party’s own internal divisions and toward the leaders’ latest effort to expedite approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Republicans have cited as a key part of their response to rising gasoline prices.

A leadership aide conceded that “we still need to do some education” on the extension bill and all but conceded that little progress was nade on the issue as had been promised during the recent two-week recess.

House Rules Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., said he was aware of problems, but “the plan” was to move forward on the measure.

Other conservative Republicans said they were trying to learn details of the latest extension bill and the leadership’s underlying strategy. “How can we vote on a bill that we haven’t seen yet?” asked Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said that some conservatives may be more inclined to vote for the extension because of the Keystone provision.

But Jordan, who was one of ten House Republicans to oppose last month an earlier 90-day extension bill (HR 4281), added “We need to look at the big picture . . . .We have a $16 trillion debt.”

Rep. Bill Johnson, another Ohio Republican, said the latest extension measure is “still a work in progress.” He said the House needs to move a bill to conference “that the Senate will take seriously.”

Democrats continued their call for the House to take up the Senate version and said House Republicans have not reached out to them.

“It’s clear that the Republican Party is in disarray” on the highway bill and “they have been for months,” said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Republicans “can’t get to 218 in their own caucus, but apparently they can’t get even to a significant number where just a few of us [Democrats] voting for it might make a difference.”

Source: CQ Today Online News
Round-the-clock coverage of news from Capitol Hill.
© 2012 CQ Roll Call All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Denny Zane in Toronto Globe & Mail!

John Lorinc
From Monday's Globe and Mail

Denny Zane can pinpoint the moment when the famously heavy traffic in Los Angeles changed from slushy to solid. It was the summer of 2007, and the back-ups on the I-10, through the city’s west side, snaked back over 20 kilometres and reappeared day after day after day, with no obvious cause.

“Not just bad,” recalled Mr. Zane, an activist and a former local councillor, “but, like, ‘wow!’ It was the talk of the town. We’d crossed the threshold.”

To make matters worse, L.A.’s regional transportation authority, known as Metro, had just announced it had run out of funds for future transit expansion, despite an expected influx of 4 million new residents in coming decades.

With congested highways in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, L.A.’s dilemma is painfully familiar to many frustrated urban Canadians.

L.A., however, has embarked on a fix of historic proportions, and did so with astonishing speed. After those brutal back-ups, Mr. Zane, now executive director of Move LA, hustled to assemble a broad-based coalition of business, labour and environmental groups spearheaded by L.A.’s mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a populist Democrat.

The group delivered something of a miracle: They persuaded a car-addled region of 10 million people to overwhelmingly back a ballot initiative in November, 2008, proposing a half-cent sales tax hike – roughly $25 per person per year – that will net $40-billion over 30 years for transit expansion, highway improvements and other local upgrades, including bike paths. (Two-thirds will go to transit construction and operating subsidies; the rest is for highways, bridges and roads.) Since “Measure R” passed, Metro has started planning or begun construction on no fewer than 12 light rail and bus rapid transit lines, and expects to break ground on a new subway next year.

“This is the most number of simultaneous [infrastructure] projects that have been under development at any time in L.A.’s history,” said Jaime de la Vega, the general manager of the city’s department of transportation and a former transit adviser to Mr. Villaraigosa.

The sheer speed of L.A.’s transformation into a transit city is a textbook example of metropolitan consensus-building, and stands in sharp contrast to the situation in Toronto, where municipal politicians have spent roughly the same period mired in a feud over the relative merits of LRTs versus subways. (Council earlier this month voted to back a provincially funded plan to spend $8.4-billion on an LRT network opposed by Mayor Rob Ford.) Indeed, with Greater Toronto facing similar growth, congestion and funding problems, the L.A. story could also provide some practical lessons on how decision-makers can break the political gridlock over funding future GTA transit plans, expected to cost over $50-billion in the next two decades.

A significant piece of L.A.’s solution has been an innovative borrowing arrangement with the federal government that, in effect, allows the city gain access to billions of dollars in up-front loans instead of waiting for years for the sales tax revenue to flow in. L.A. and California officials persuaded Washington legislators that the strategy, known as the “Fast Forward America” plan, will create half a million construction jobs and help lift the region out of its economic doldrums.

L.A. once had the largest streetcar network in the United States. But the car industry lobbied to have it dismantled in the 1950s. Starting the early 1990s, L.A. County planners began developing a bare bones transit infrastructure – mainly buses and one light rail line – using a regional sales tax.

Mr. Villaraigosa came into office in 2005 promising to build the so-called “subway to the sea” on L.A.’s affluent west-side, but the 2007 funding crisis proved to be a game-changer, said Mr. Zane. Instead, Mr. Villaraigosa set to work selling the sales tax plan based on a much broader vision that proposed transit projects serving the entire area, including a three-kilometre “regional connector” – an underground downtown LRT that will link L.A.’s other rapid transit lines into a network.

Local officials, said Mr. Zane, were emboldened to take the plan to voters after three successive polls pegged support for the sales tax hike at about 70 per cent.

Notably absent from the debate about how to deliver Mr. Villaraigosa’s transit strategy: any discussion about private sector partners, or a bitter fight over the urgent need for subways, as has been the case in Toronto. While construction on the first of three phases of the Westside subway will begin next year, the project could take three decades to complete, depending on federal funding levels.

As for light rail, Mr. de la Vega said that ideally, transit planners prefer grade-separated heavy rail (i.e., subways) instead of transit vehicles running down busy streets. But to confront the crisis, L.A. politicians adopted a pragmatic stance. Indeed, last year they approved a bus-only lane on heavily used Wilshire Boulevard because planners said the buses move more people than the cars do on that route.

Business leaders, for their part, are supportive of Mr. Villaraigosa’s game plan, relieved that LA County is finally seeking a solution to the gridlock that bedevils shipping companies and local manufacturers.

“I think there’s a consensus that going with surface is a lot better than not having [transit] at all,” said Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the 1,600-member L.A. County Chamber of Commerce, who helped by lobbying Congress for additional funding. The modest tax hike, he added, “was not a hard sell for our members.”

You can read the story here