Why not make fares free for all community college students in LA County?

We urge you to attend Metro’s Telephone Town Hall meeting tonight—Wed., March 30, 6:30-7:30 p.m.—to share your thoughts about how a fare-free system would change the way we use transit and help rebuild transit ridership. You must register to join the call, however, and registration closes at 3:30 p.m. Register here: https://tthm.wufoo.com/forms/metro-telephone-town-hall-signup/

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Metro has begun a “Fareless System Initiative” study and is likely to recommend an 18-month-long pilot program to provide free bus and rail service for all low-income riders beginning in January 2022 and expanding to include all K-12 students in August 2022.

Move LA has long championed the idea of free and/or reduced fares for college students, and believe Metro will miss an important opportunity by only including low-income college students. We believe the pilot should include all community college students because:

  • Ridership pre-COVID was 1.2 million boardings/day and has now fallen to 500,000 boardings/day, causing many to question whether transit will be relevant going forward—we need to find new riders now.
  • Community college students are an ideal population for this pilot because about 2/3 are low-income and  independent enough and environmentally conscious enough to understand
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Thank you for a wonderful time at Spring Forward LA 2021!

We had a really really good time at our Spring Forward LA 2021 event last Thursday night honoring the "Transit Transformers" who have played a crucial role in in pushing forward LA County's expanding transit system and transit-oriented housing as well.

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Click the graphic above to get a better view of these transit superheroes (L to R): Former Metro Boardmember/former Duarte Mayor John Fasana, LA Business Council President Mary Leslie, Laborers Local 300 Business Manager Sergio Rascon, Metro CEO Phil Washington, Skanska Executive Vice President Mike Aparicio, LA BizFed CEO Tracy Hernandez and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

2020 was a challenging year, but spring is here—and pretty soon everyone can get vaccinated—bringing hope for the future of LA County, California, and the rest of the world. We took this opportunity to honor the above leaders—in business, organized labor, government and nonprofit organizations—who have worked with us on so many issues since 2008!

But we have much more work to do.

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Join us to honor Mike Aparacio, who's been working on the railroad in Los Angeles County!

Mike Aparicio has just been named Executive Vice President at Skanska, a Swedish firm that is one of world’s oldest and biggest construction and development companies—one that has signed the Paris Agreement, been named to Forbes list of Best Employers for Diversity several times, and to Fortune’s “Change the World” list of companies pursuing socially or environmentally sustainable practices.

Mike, a third-generation California contractor, began working in his family's road-building business after college, then got work on the Red Line subway in the 1990s, and soon became project manager on what was then called the Blue Line to Pasadena (then the Gold Line and now the L Line)—a construction joint venture project that helped make his career take off. 

Perhaps this is partly because of his perspective on construction work: "While most people think it's all about digging and welding and pouring concrete, in fact it has a very human side. Construction is also a people business. One of our biggest calling cards for Skanska is that we try to nurture relationships—with the neighbors, the people who run the agencies, with city council members—because this is also where we live and work.

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Join us to honor Mary Leslie, CEO of a business organization working for sustainability

The Los Angeles Business Council has been, under the leadership of President Mary Leslie, one of Move LA’s important allies: A progressive business group with a keen interest in transit development in LA County—not only in transit but housing as well. 

Even more importantly, LABC advocates for both market-rate and affordable housing near transit, especially in transit-oriented housing or TOD, with the goal of creating affordable, livable communities that connect Angelenos to jobs, reduce congestion, and clean the air.

This is where Mary’s interests align most closely with Metro CEO Phil Washington’s: a shared interest in affordable housing near transit. 

Washington had championed the idea of constructing housing near the new transit system he was building as General Manager and CEO of the Denver Regional Transit District after the successful passage of a ballot measure there, not unlike the two ballot measures—R and M—LA County voters supported here.

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Join us to honor Sergio Rascon, our first major labor ally on Measure R!

Sergio Rascon became a construction worker like his father when he was 17, tagging along with him to Laborers Local 300 meetings and begging his father to get him into the union, even though he knew the answer was absolutely not—because his father thought Sergio should go to college.

That was in 1971, shortly after the earthquake in Sylmar, and there was a lot of repair work to be done, and Sergio was so determined to work that his father finally gave in. Sergio started out making the union-scale wage of $3.85 an hour—and he loved the work because he was "young, healthy and strong."

His family had come to the U.S. when Sergio was only 10, and he and his brothers worked picking oranges, lemons and grapefruit in Fillmore and Santa Paula on weekends. There was something special about Sergio that people responded to—he was earnest, honest, unafraid, and respected. And it was a very different time—when immigrants could get a green card in less than a month, whereas now Sergio knows people who have been waiting for 8-10 years.

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Join us to honor Tracy Hernandez, LA Biz Fed's transit champion!

The Los Angeles County Business Federation or BizFed, is a different kind of business organization—a network of existing business networks, a “federation” that dared support a sales tax increase in 2008 and again in 2016 (Measures R and M) even though businesses typically do not support tax increases (bad for business, the thinking goes).

But BizFed CEO Tracy Hernandez stepped up and out to support Measure R in the first months after she created the organization. Note that she and Denny Zane are the only two figures who appear in both Measure M and R photos—Tracy to the right of Mayor Garcetti up top and the left of Mayor Villaraigosa below.

Tracy's friend and mentor, David Fleming, then chair of the LA Chamber of Commerce, had suggested she take the lead in convening all LA’s business groups to work together as a united federation while at the same time maintaining their own autonomy. Fourteen years later BizFed has grown—with 450,000 members (more about that below).

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Join us to honor Long Beach Mayor Garcia: Urbanist. Populist. Optimist!

Mayor Robert Garcia has been a real asset to Long Beach—young, ambitious, articulate, openly gay and progressive. He won re-election to a second term with 80% of the vote, became a national figure while working with the Biden campaign, and earned recognition as a statewide leader in the fight against COVID-19 after establishing testing capacity for more than 1,900 people a day—twice the state’s requirement.

But he’s chosen to leave the Metro Board after just one term, leading to speculation about a possible national career. Others say it’s because Long Beach is a big city that requires all his attention: The city is home to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (one of the world’s largest ports), its own public health department and airport, the California State University system headquarters and Cal State Long Beach—the second largest campus in the CSU system.

And his mother—who was a hospital worker—and his step-father both died of COVID late last year. Move LA is sorry for that tragedy.

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Join us to toast former Metro Boardmember/former Duarte Mayor John Fasana!

John Fasana was elected to serve on the Metro Board in 1993, when Metro was a brand new agency—having replaced both the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency and the Rapid Transit District (RTD). When he retired last December Fasana had served on the board for 27 years, longer than any other boardmember. 

The 1990s were tumultuous: Construction of the subway had proven contentious, problematic even before it caused Hollywood Boulevard to sink by a foot. There were lengthy battles at rambunctious board meetings over which projects would be funded—the Blue Line to Pasadena? Crenshaw? Expo?—and whether Metro was shorting the bus system in favor of more glamorous rail projects.

Fasana together with his allies on the board and other officials in the San Gabriel Valley rescued the Blue Line to Pasadena, which Metro was considering canceling due to a shortage of funds. Working with then state Sen. Adam Schiff and other local politicians, they took the project and its funding away from LA Metro and created a new agency, now called the Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority. That agency still manages the project, and has extended it first to Sierra Madre, then Azusa, and now Pomona—with conversations continuing about whether to extend it to Claremont and then Montclair in San Bernardino County and maybe eventually to Ontario Airport.

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Join us to toast Metro CEO Washington! Thursday, March 25, 5:30-7p.m.!

We consider Metro CEO Phil Washington a real hero for what he has done during his 7-year tenure at LA Metro, because he has used the funding voters provided with Measures R (2008) and M (2016) to turn the agency into one that is, as he told us on a Zoom call last August, “not just about mobility anymore, and not simply a big transit construction program.

"Now Metro is also about investing in communities—as well as new transit lines,” he said, “and delivering jobs, training programs, and small business assistance programs. While previously LA County had invested mostly in freeways to provide mobility, the Measure R and M era of investment is doing something very different: Now we are funding the construction of new transit lines with the goal of providing access to opportunity—education, jobs, healthcare—and to uplift disadvantaged and low-income communities.”

Please join us Thursday, March 25, 5:30-7 p.m., for a special networking event to honor Phil and other leaders who have taught LA to take on big challenges—like the need for better transit service, more affordable housing and curbing climate change. REGISTER HERE.

 

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Advocating for a More Equitable and Rider-Focused Budget at Metro

While one can easily get buried in LA Metro reports, plans, and proposals for public transit, the most important document every year is the budget, even though it is the hardest to understand. While certain expenditures were required by statute after voters passed Measures R and M, budgetary items like debt service on obligations, subsidy funding programs, overhead, revenue service hours, FTEs, carryover, and transportation infrastructure development are all quite opaque.

For the past couple of budget cycles, Move LA has been trying to get clarity on the budget in order to organize and advocate for one that is more transparent, sustainable, equitable, and rider-focused. The first year we were—in all honesty—caught flat-footed.

The Metro budget is not usually released until a few weeks prior to the Board vote when it is essentially a “done deal” because Metro has already been preparing for hires and projects that the not-yet-approved budget can fund. In 2019, for example, we called for more equity in decisions about transit infrastructure, more resources for bus operations, reductions in fares, and funding for discounted transit programs for students, seniors, and persons with disabilities—all aimed at increasing ridership. Read our letter to Metro here.

But while there were some small wins in that year’s budget, our efforts came too late and we didn’t have time to build enough community support to win significant changes. This did, however, arm us with a new understanding: 1) The budget process starts almost nine months before the Metro Board takes action, 2) making measurable changes to the budget requires a dedicated effort to build sufficient community support, and 3) an increase in funding for transit doesn’t necessarily mean that service—especially bus service—will be increased.

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