Joshua Schank: Interviewed by Steve Hymon on The Source

joshua-schank.jpgDr. Joshua Schank, head of LA Metro's new Office of Extraordinary Innovation, been around the block: He’s lived in Paris, New York, Washington DC, worked for Senator Hillary Clinton on the federal transportation reauthorization, came straight to us from a well-known Washington DC-based transportation think tank called the Eno Foundation, and was at the Bipartisan Policy Center before that. He’s worked at the US Department of Transportation, and at New York’s MTA, and he’s a really interesting guy. He was interviewed by Steve Hymon for a podcast on Metro’s The Source, which you can listen to here. But I've more or less transcribed the interview below because I thought it was so good. Schank is also star of the Transit Coalition's monthly dinner at Metro Feb. 25 and you can register here.

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Could Be Biggest Year Ever for Transportation Ballot Measures in U.S.—On Average 71% Win


As federal and state funding for transportation becomes increasingly uncertain, more and more funding measures are being put on the ballot across the U.S., and the success rate is going up. Jason Jordan of the national Center for Transportation Excellence, who has monitored these election results for 15 years, says on average 71% of all measures pass, and that transportation measures are twice as likely to pass as other kinds of funding measures. If LA Metro puts a sales tax measure on the ballot in November, Jason says, "I am confident it will win." That's because, he adds, in LA we've done it right — we have a strong, broad and deep coalition, we have a mayor who will be our champion, and we have a "permanent campaign" that champions transit in place. The interview with Jordan, by my longtime colleague Jeff Wood of the very popular Direct Transfer blog, is on Streetsblog here, or read my brief sum-up below.


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Metro CEO Phil Washington Says . . .

This is the video of the 3 hour conversation with Metro CEO Phil Washington at the Transit Coalition's meeting on Feb. 4. Phil Washington stayed until he'd answered every last question in the room—and there were many. He talks about:
• the new FAST federal transportation bill
• gentrification
• local hire
• integrating technology into transportation culture
• where we are with the transit build-out
• a sales tax that would generate $120 billion
• student transit passes and clean freight!
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Portland Asks Denny Zane for Advice on How to Build a Winning Coalition


A big coalition of citizens and local elected officials in Portland, Oregon, led a movement in the 1970s to depart from the conventional practice of investing in roads to invest in transit instead—a departure that has made that city the exemplar of sustainable transportation. Los Angeles followed suit in 2008, when LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LA Metro, and the Move LA business-labor-environmental coalition put the Measure R sales tax on the ballot and won $40 billion in transportation funding. And just 8 years later we are poised to do the same thing again--but for $120 billion.

My how times have changed: Because of our success Portland is asking Los Angeles—or Denny Zane, anyway—to explain how to build a big coalition that can win funding for transportation. Here’s what Denny is going to tell them:
Lesson #1: You have to think big.
Lesson #2: Unless the coalition sticks together nobody wins anything.
Lesson #3: Big coalitions are essential to a winning vote.
Lesson #4: Cities have to plan for everyone—rich and poor.

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From the Bureau of Good News From the Federal Government

OK, that was Steve Hymon's headline on The Source and good news it was indeed when President Obama issued his proposed budget this week, recommending $375 million for Metro's rail projects — 5 times the average annual amount of New Starts funding Metro has received during the past 2 decades. (Of course it is a proposed budget.) And then the U.S. Department of Transportation provided another $300 million! All money is for the Regional Connector in DTLA and Purple Line extension to the Westside (Section 1 with stations on Wilshire at La Brea, Fairfax and La Cienega, and Section 2 with stations on Wilshire at Rodeo and in Century City on Constellation. Go Metro! LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who chairs Metro's Board, and Metro CEO Phil Washington thanked President Obama not only for helping build out our transit system but also for keeping thousands of people at work building the system. Metro press release here.

Mayor Garcetti's 6th Street Bridge Slow Jam


Wow: Metro CEO's State of the Agency PPT


LA Metro CEO Phil Washington's "State of the Agency" speech and PPT last week covered some 150 bullet points on commitments ranging from "Implementing Local Hire on federally funded projects and Project Labor Agreements and Construction Careers Policies on all mega projects" to "Planning for an aging workforce" to "Rennovating Union Station's East Portal restroom" (hooray!) to "Creating a culture of innovative thought" and the "Expectation of transformative positive change." You can download the PPT on The Source.

Cell Service + Wi-Fi in Underground Stations + Tunnels, More Real-Time Info, Next Gen TAP Cards, Etc.!


LA Metro has long talked about providing cell service and wifi at underground stations and in tunnels and it looks as if there will be cell service by the end of March along the Red Line from Union Station to 7th St./Metro Center—also allowing riders to access the internet on their phones. A motion by LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin, and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian at last week's board meeting also requested the provision of wifi, more real-time arrival info (including the repair of all broken displays at stations), improved bus speeds through the use of more traffic signal prioritization, and the development of next generation TAP cards allowing people to use their cards for Metrolink, taxis, ride-hailing, bike-sharing and parking garages. LADOT Commuter Express buses will also have wifi within the year. See the full motion on The Source and read more on Curbed LA and KPCC's Take Two.


All the Planned But Unfunded Rail Lines


This map by Jake Berman at Studio Complutensejust to be clear, this is not a Move LA map or official LA Metro map — is one more interesting rendition of a future LA transit system that stimulates the imagination. And it could become real if Metro puts the new sales tax for transportation on the November ballot and it passes with the required 2/3 super majority vote! Jake Berman is a lawyer, native of San Francisco, and a map-maker. According to his website this map includes all of LA Metro’s currently unfunded projects, including: Green Line extensions to Norwalk and San Pedro; Wilshire, Santa Monica and Sepulveda Pass subway lines; lots of rapid buses in the San Fernando Valley; a high-speed elevated line to Santa Ana, and light rail tracks on Exposition, Crenshaw, Slauson, Sunset and Westwood" . . .  Well we are getting Expo, and Crenshaw is 50% completed.

More and More on Declining Transit Ridership


Last week's LA Times story on the drop in LA County's transit ridership has continued to generate debate with a good sum-up by Steve Hymon on the Source and a good op-ed in the LA Times by UCLA's Ethan Elkind. The Source cites the point made by Joe Linton on Streetsblog that Metro should not ignore its bus riders, since many, many more people live close to bus stops than to rail lines and account for 74% of all boardings. Linton points out that Metro has been shifting hours of service from low-performing bus lines in order to run buses more frequently along higher-performing lines, and Hymon adds this approach was endorsed last year by a peer review committee. Transit expert Jarrett Walker writes that the expenditure of billions of dollars on long-term investments like the build-out of the rail system won't yield short-term ridership gains as it takes a long time to change transportation and land use patterns. Ethan Elkind also makes these points in his LA Times op ed and adds: "Local leaders can also improve service by allowing more bus-only lanes on major arterials and on freeways. These relatively low-cost options would make use of existing infrastructure and provide a huge time-savings to transit riders. . . Given the stakes, it makes sense to prioritize passage for buses carrying more people than single-occupancy vehicles. And more people would take transit if they knew it would save them time compared to being stuck in traffic." And he cited the importance of providing students with low-cost transit passes as a way to boost ridership. (Included above is Steve Hymon's excellent photo of the view of the city from the La Cienege/Jefferson station on the Expo Line.)

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