When voters approved both Measure R and Measure M, they were expecting to not only expand Metro’s capital program for the future but to expand its transit operations in the present as well. After all, Measure R stipulated that 5% of its funding should be used for rail operations and 20% for bus operations. Measure M also allocated 5% of its funding for rail operations and 20% for a somewhat more flexible category called transit operations.
This past year, LA County Metro has made strong commitments and expanded its resources to accelerate its capital program, a level of ambition that we love. Metro board members want to build 28 major projects from Measures R & M in time for the 2028 Olympic Games in LA. This is the “28 by ’28 Plan.” If they succeed, we’ll all celebrate! But what about the present?
There are things to celebrate in the present as well! Metro has finished the Expo Line and the extension of the Gold Line. It has also made strong commitments and expanded resources to ensure the state of good repair of the current system, which is both needed and necessary. Consider the extent of the work being done on the Blue Line!
But the level of resources committed to the operating needs of the present bus system has not been expanded nor has service been expanded—as voters clearly expected when they approved Measure R and M. Metro needs to reconsider this decision.
We are urging Metro to expand the scope of its ambition from “28 by ‘28” to “29 by ’28” and to include restoring bus service to 2008 levels by 2028 as a co-equal priority to the commitments cited above.
We are confident that if Metro makes this its mission, it will find the ways and the resources to do it.
Please join with us to urge LA Metro to make a stronger commitment to our current bus riders and new riders we believe will join them if we improve bus services in the near term in several ways, as listed below.
By signing the letter below, you agree that strategic investments by LA Metro in enhanced bus services and operations are good investments. They are the investments more likely to benefit voters and community members of the present. Your support will be shared with LA Metro leadership.
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA
To CEO Phil Washington and Metro Board Chair Sheila Kuehl,
Metro makes important equity choices with the priorities it sets in its budget, especially choices between its scale of investments in new capital infrastructure and current operations.
Capital investments in transit infrastructure are good and important commitments to meeting the needs of members of our community, especially the needs of many families and persons who will live and work in our community in the future.
But expanding investments in operations and maintenance for the current bus system, its frequency and reliability of service, its convenience and cost, its safety and security is a commitment to current riders and to those who live here now and could ride the system now and will benefit in the present from reduced traffic congestion and air pollution.
Metro has made strong commitments and expanded its resources to accelerate it’s capital program. It has made strong commitments and expanded its resources to ensure the state of good repair of the current system. But the level of service of the current bus system and the resources committed to the operational needs of the present bus system has not expanded.
Resources available for bus operations have soared, but the levels of bus service has declined.
- In 2008 Metro budgeted $890 M in Bus Operating Revenues, this year about $1200 M.
- In 2008 Metro budgeted for about 7.8 M Bus Revenue Service Hours, this year about 7.1 M Bus Revenue Service Hours.
When voters approved both Measure R and Measure M they were expecting to not only expand Metro’s capital program for the future, but to expand its bus transit operations in the present as well. Measure R provided 20% of its revenues for bus operations – that alone should have increased bus service. Measure M provided 20% of its revenues for transit operations, including bus transit operations.
Further, Metro has raised transit fares twice – in 2010 and 2014 - to add about $60 M/year, ostensibly to operations. In addition, Metro and other California transit operators have received millions of dollars in Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds for transit operations through the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program and from SB 1.
We, the undersigned, believe that Metro should take important yet modest actions to rebalance its emphasis on the needs of the future and more adequately serve the needs of the present, beginning to restore Metro’s previously robust bus ridership and thereby reduce the worsening traffic congestion all Angelenos experience in the near term.
We believe the following steps are good and reasonable steps in the right direction:
Budget $30 M/yr. to reduce base fares from $1.75 to $1.50 to help rebuild both bus and rail transit ridership and to enable more low-income households to afford to use the system.
This would rescind a fare increase approved by the Metro Board in 2014 based, in part, on the premise of a structural operating deficit in the future. Since then, Metro has benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars in operations money from Measure M, LCTOP & SB 1 funds that mean there should no longer be an operating deficit. Furthermore, an expectation from voters, many of whom are low-income, was to subsidize fares and provide an affordable means of public transportation throughout the County.
Budget $10 M/yr. to support a universal fee-based student transit pass program to college students throughout LA County and begin immediate implementation with all community colleges in Los Angeles County that wish to participate.
Students at 8 LACCD campuses voted overwhelmingly to approve a fee to help cover a share of costs for a fee-based universal pass. Similar programs at other colleges, like SMC and colleges around state and country, get over 40% student ridership. Municipal transit operations such as LADOT are now offering free service to include LAUSD students. Evidence from around the country shows that these programs are effective at increasing ridership, reducing traffic and VMT, and even improving educational outcomes. Funds from California's cap-and-trade auction are eligible for allocation to this type of program.
Budget $10 M/yr. for deeper discounted transit passes to seniors and disabled persons to reduce the costs and to expand the marketing to a larger universe.
Only 4% of riders on LA Metro rail are older than 64 years of age but this group represents more than 13% of the population. This proportion of the population is growing rapidly, the risk of isolation severe. This population, and ridership, would greatly benefit from additional investment.
Continue to augment the budget of Access Services.
Access provides a lifeline to LA County residents in need of paratransit services and voters supported 2% for these services in Measure M. As the population of residents with disabilities increases, Metro must meet those needs.
Ensure that future budgets evaluates equity for disadvantaged communities but also between the present and future residents of Los Angeles County and works with communities as outlined in the Equity Platform Framework.
The budget should work within the Equity Platform Framework, unanimously approved by the Metro Board in 2018. This Platform is built around 4 pillars: 1) Define and Measure, 2) Listen and Learn, 3) Focus and Deliver, 4) Train and Grow. Metro's annual budget process should be rethought to work within this Framework
Amend the Transit Service Policy to move revenue service hours discussions from the budget process to customer service so that service is determined by customer needs and not just budgetary needs.
This change will result in Metro providing the best service to customers, especially as it rolls out its new bus service under the NextGen Bus Study.
We know that the Metro Board and Staff are committed to providing the best possible service to our current ridership.
Therefore, we call on the Metro Board to add rebuilding ridership to the great list of projects to be completed by the 2028 Olympics - this 29th project can be achieved through the modest yet strategic investments listed above which will benefit community members today and enhance ridership now so that, as we build out the full system, we have a growing base of riders who love and use the system.
Yours in transit,