Metro CEO Art Leahy to Leave Agency in April; Oversaw Nation’s Largest Transit and Highway Public Works Program
A news release from LA Metro on Tuesday said that Metro CEO Art Leahy has resigned and that his last day will be April 5, when his current contract expires after 6 years of service. Move LA wants to acknowledge Art Leahy for his exceptional work implementing the Measure R sales tax program for transportation, which is funding one of the largest public works programs in U.S. history.
Six projects moved to construction during his tenure as CEO: an extension of the Orange Line to Chatsworth has been completed, the Expo Line to Santa Monica and Foothill Extension of the Gold Line to Azusa may be completed before he leaves, and the Regional Connector and Purple Line subway extension to Century City are now underway. During his tenure he also brought $3 billion in federal grants and loans to the agency, and disadvantaged and minority workers were able to get construction jobs and apprenticeships because of Metro's Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Program.
Metro's The Source blog wrote that "Today Metro has transit and highway projects and programs valued at more than $14 billion, eclipsing that of any other transit agency in the nation."
Art worked his way up from bus driver to director of operations for LA Metro, where he oversaw bus operations and activation of the Blue Line before taking a job as chief executive of the transit agency in Minneapolis-St. Paul and then becoming chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Agency. Under his leadership both of these agencies and Leahy himself garnered top national transit industry honors.
Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane notes that one of his first conversations with Art Leahy, upon Art's return to LA Metro, was about a book written by investment banker Felix Rohatyn entitled Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now. "It was a sign that Art understood the significance of what he was doing," Denny says. "It gave me increased confidence that Art was the right guy for the job."
Read more on The Source and in the LA Times.
Until this year, when he became the president of the Los Angeles Taxicab Commission, Eric Spiegelman, a 38-year-old attorney, was perhaps best known as the producer of the long-running Web series “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” Now Spiegelman and his board have been asked by the city’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti, to take steps to “insure equal competition” in L.A.’s taxi industry—a formidable task, as cab companies attempt to fend off competition from mobile-phone-based ride-sharing applications such as Lyft and Uber. Local authorities across the country and, indeed, around the world have responded to the runaway success of these services by forcing them to operate under new regulations designed to match existing taxi policies—or by attempting to ban such services outright.
This is taking place in California, too—district attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco have filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against Uber, alleging that the company misleads consumers regarding driver background checks, and that it overcharges passengers. (Prosecutors reached a settlement in a similar suit against Lyft.) But Spiegelman’s draft plan—which was composed after months of hearings, and will be presented to the Los Angeles Taxi Commission on December 18th—takes a new approach. It proposes to require L.A. cabs to become more Uber-like, rather than the other way around.
According to the terms of the proposed draft order, every taxi in Los Angeles would have to become accessible via a mobile application similar to the ones used by Uber and Lyft. These applications will require certification by the Taxi Commission, which can then specify things like pricing maximums and limits on hours worked in a single shift, and can perhaps even set up a rating and complaint system for passengers.
Read more in the New Yorker.
California has alread set targets to reduce GHG emissions but discussions on expanding the program and setting new goals have begun. Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who announced legislation requiring the state's public pension funds to divest from coal, said "We are hard at work . . . to make sure we move forward with next steps."
Read more in the LA Times.
Streetsblog: Study Says Older Adults Who Live in Walkable Neighborhoods Stay in Better Shape Mentally
The study, presented to the Gerontological Society of America, finds that older adults stay in better shape both mentally and physically if they live in walkable neighborhoods than in car-dependent areas. Author Amber Watts of the University of Kansas examined 26 subjects with Alzheimer's Disease and 30 healthy subjects, tracking health outcomes over two years. Watts found that the individuals from both groups who lived in walkable neighborhoods had lower body mass index, healthier metabolisms and better memory and cognition, and that this was particularly true in neighborhoods where the paths to destinations were complicated. Read more on Streetsblog.
Currently, Uber is available in 52 countries and is continuing to expand. The transit behemoth’s empire is vast, stretching from the Americas to Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and it’s quickly making its way through the Asia Pacific. “Available locally, expanding globally,” the company’s locations landing page reads.
But even as the company, most recently valued at $41 billion, makes its way to the Asia Pacific it continues to fight regulatory battles in the locations where it is already operating — whether legally or illegally.
Most recently, New Delhi, Thailand, and Spain banned the service. In the United States, where Uber had its beginnings, a number of cities have either issued cease and desist letters to Uber and its rival company Lyft or have even gone as far as to sue. Earlier this week, Portland, Oregon, filed a law suit against the company for operating illegally within city limits, in addition to issuing a cease and desist and citing and fining drivers caught operating a vehicle for Uber. Shortly after, the district attorneys of both Los Angeles and San Francisco also filed a civil consumer protection suit against the company.
Lyft, on the other hand, operates exclusively in the United States in 30 states. Generally, the company is less aggressive in how it wages its regulatory battles. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, Lyft settled for $500,000 in a recent lawsuit — while Uber continues to be “uncooperative,” according to San Francisco District Attorney Jorge Gascon.
Read more . . .
Vancouver Looks to LA for Insight on Transit Referendum From "One of the Continent's Most Successful Pro-Transit Coalitions"
“There wasn’t clear evidence why,” Denny said. “The only thing we could conclude was that it’s paid in one lump sum, while the sales tax is paid in small increments. Our key criteria [when the referendum was being planned] was what would raise enough money to matter and [what was] politically viability. The sales tax scored high on both.”
The Globe and Mail story said that Move LA has become a model for other cities in Canada and the United States, especially Vancouver as it braces for its own transit referendum in March. The Globe and Mail is Canada's largest national newspaper.
Read more here.
Read more on City Lab.
"Our transportation infrastructure is at its capacity," Morales told the Planning Report. "We can’t keep building more roads. If you think what we are going through in clearing two tracks up and down the state is difficult, think about what it would mean to add 4,500 lane miles of freeway. That’s what would be needed to replace the capacity of our system. Think about what it would mean to try to add runways and new terminals at airports, because that’s what would be needed. Compared to our price tag, those alternatives are two to three times higher. An investment like this is absolutely critical.
"High-speed rail is filling a niche. That’s what it has done around the world. That’s what it will do here in California. It’s not about replacing cars or trains. It’s about providing transportation in a way that makes the most sense. A lot of people don’t realize that LA-to-San Francisco is the busiest short-haul air market in the country. In addition to the air quality issues that brings, it is not a very efficient way to utilize public facilities—runways—at airports. Airports would much rather use those to serve long-haul flights. That’s why San Francisco Airport is one of our major proponents, calling high-speed rail its third runway. That’s the answer to its capacity as we go forward. Our system will fill that niche, creating a much more efficient way to move people within the state on trips that aren’t efficient by car or plane.
"Very importantly—and I say this sometimes to the dismay of our engineers and manufacturers—it isn’t about the train. It’s about connecting up the state and what that can mean for its future. The folks who wrote Proposition 1A, which provides the initial funding for the program, had a lot of foresight to insist that the system connect all of the state’s population centers. That’s never been done before. When I-5 was built, it bypassed the Central Valley—which has 5-8 million people, depending on where you define boundaries.
"It’s going to be completely transformative to connect the Central Valley with the rest of the state for the first time. It’s going to connect Palmdale and the High Desert area to Los Angeles in a way it’s not connected today. It’s going to connect the Central Valley with Silicon Valley. Even within the Peninsula, driving up and down the 101 can take at least an hour, not to mention the aggravation that ages you even further as you’re driving. A half-hour connection between San Francisco and San Jose will change how that economy works."
Read more in the December issue of the Planning Report.
Construction of the people mover is to start in 2017 or 2018, and last 5 to 7 years. Completion is slated for 2024, when LA hopes to host the summer Olympics. The city's improved public transit system is central to the Olympics bid, as are recent upgrades to LAX."Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city, with endless diversity, attractions and scenic beauty," Mayor Garcetti said in an earlier press release about the bid.
Read more on Metro's The Source and on Curbed LA.