Everyone was told to put February 26th on their calendar because the San Fernando Valley Transit Summit was going to be one hell of an event. For those in the mobility world, it held a Academy Awards like stature, with many luminaries in attendance.
It also matched the award show in length. The whole idea of the evening was building consensus for what projects would excite the electorate to get the two-thirds vote to pass Measure R2 in 2016.
I’ll break the precedings into six parts: The initial speakers, Denny Zane’s presentation, the first panel, the part where I complain about the laptop burning my lap, the second panel, the part where I skirt the audience participation and some closing notes. Here’s the summary of what had occurred:
The Gang of Four
Krekorian kicked off the meeting reminding us of days of yore, when the red cars ruled the valley before gridlock had a hostile turnover, but sees the valley wanting better connectivity. He gave a good overview of all the projects that could help the San Fernando Valley(more details later). There was little mention of walking and bike talk, but I could have missed it if I sneezed.
Mike Antonovich reminded us that the valley needs its fair share of funding that we didn’t get in Measure R. He stated that he opposed Measure R & J because of the inequity. I might need a fact checker for that. His focus was on the big money projects, like connections to the Antelope Valley, Burbank Airport and double tracking trains into Ventura County. There was no mention on any issue involving the usage of people’s legs.
Denny Zane, Executive Director of MoveLA, then started his MC duties of the night. He metered some of the promise of these potential projects, reminding us that other parts of the region need a reason to vote too. That put a slight damper on the mood, like having to share your Christmas presents.
Martha Welborne took her turn for the biggest sunshine pumping segment of the night. She mentioned that LA is 2nd or 3rd in transit ridership(maybe fudging the numbers a bit). Then she went into the process of determining which projects R2 would prioritize. I would explain it, but if you’re really that interested in this matter, you probably know everything about it anyway. In all, there are 2,300 projects being considered in this first cut with the overall price tag starting at $150 billion. Those are Dr. Evilesque numbers.
Denny Zane came back to whet people’s appetites with some of the possible R2 projects. Here’s a quick rundown without all the fancy graphics at my hand:
- The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor has Measure R funds, but not enough to do anything significant. It would take $450 million for Bus Rapid Transit and $2 billion for Light Rail
- Sepulveda Pass Corridor covering 9 miles at $1 billion for BRT or $6 billion+ for tunneling.
- San Fernando Valley to San Gabriel Valley BRT costing $900 million for 14 miles of service.
- “ECO” Corridor from Glendale/Burbank into downtown.
- Extending the Red Line into Burbank Airport covering 2.5 miles at $1.5 billion.
- Converting the Orange Line into LRT for $2 billion.
- 5% for upgrades to Metrolink.
- Another 5% for Grand Boulevards, including beautification, enhanced bus service and complete streets.
The first panel then took their seats. Everyone gave about a 3-5 minute speech about what they’d like to prioritize. So:
- Coby King(Chairman, VICA) – Wants to convert the Orange Line to light rail, tunnel to the westside and stated the East SF Valley corridor is vital to all this. Easing the Sepulveda Pass from being one of the most congested corridors in the world is a priority.
- Rabbi Rachel Timoner(One LA) – Asked for better transit to get people home to their families and how a north/south spine is key to the valley. Also noted that the people who are most transit dependent need to be able to afford to live near transit.
- Bart Reed(Executive Director, The Transit Coalition) – Stated the East SF Valley Corridor and Westside Connection cannot be mixed modes like the Orange & Red Line. Connectivity and timing needs to be improved for all bus & rail services.
- Hilary Norton(Executive Director, FAST) – Talked most out of anyone in the first panel about the need for bike lanes and car sharing. Also asks that transit becomes more habitable by making stations safer and dealing with the occasional heat conditions.
- Richard Katz(Former Chair, Metrolink) – You can guess by his title what he talked about mainly. He brought up later that he believes a 710 extension would reduce congestion on many of our interchanges.
- Michelle Boehm(Southern CA Regional Director, CA High Speed Rail Authority) – Expunged the benefits of HSR and how the system could forward other projects like Red Line expansion and Orange Line conversion.
- Victor Lindenheim(Executive Director, Golden State Gateway Coalition) – Focused on connectivity to the Santa Clarita Valley and getting better roads for their region.
This was the point where I got squirmy with my laptop. My legs were almost flammable. It’s a good thing I was wearing jeans.
Ara Najarian, Glendale City Councilman and Metro Board Member, gave a brief speech summarizing that the valley must understand that it can’t play catchup with R2 from the funds we were shortchanged on 1.0. Also, with R2 projected to bring in $39 billion, that the East SF Valley/Westside connection would eat up about a quarter of those funds. That’d be a lot.
As the panels were rotated out, people started heading for the doors. The next group of speakers had to deal with some of this distraction, but were solid as well:
- Jessica Meaney(Managing Director, Investing in Place) – Doesn’t own a car! She works getting safe routes to schools and notes how 20% of trips are made walking while that mode only receives 1% of transit funding.
- Gloria Ohland(Policy & Communications Director, Move LA) – Asks that we utilize social media and technology to
make our systems more efficient.
- Katie Kurutz(LACBC Liason, Walk Bike Glendale) – Fights Glendale’s high rate of pedestrian and bicycle collisions with education, events and advocacy. Notes that transportation is about communities, not commutes. Good quote.
- Andre Colaiace(Deputy Executive Director of Planning & Government Affairs, Access) – Brought awareness to the problem that not all people have sufficient access to our systems.
- Jacob Lieb(Director of Sustainability, Metro) – Wants to focus on projects that get the most bang for the buck, like first mile/last mile, active transportation and urban greening. Notes that 85% who access transit do it without a car(walking, biking, etc.).
The Part Where I Can’t Do It Justice
There were about fifteen speakers who got some words in before I left at 9:00pm, right on the dot. I’ll just say there was a wide range of opinions and comments. Some ideas were probably better than others, but if I were to do this right, I’d write another column.
See. That’s classic skirting.
Let’s go back to bullet points. Those always seem to work.
- The meeting was very well attended, so much so that Mr. CiclaValley got hot under the collar. It was a long day.
Everyone was given eight green dots(yes) and eight red dots(no) that the audience was asked to stick on projects that they liked or disliked. The three with the most approval were the East SF Valley Corridor, Sepulveda Pass and Bike/Pedestrian improvements. The freeway enhancements looked like a big loser, even though one man put all his green stickers on it.
- The crowd had good deal of support from the Santa Clarita area. They always represent well, even without a great way of getting to Van Nuys.
- Good to see Joe Linton of StreetsblogLA with great seating in front. I always look forward to reading his take. I also wish I had his zen-like ability after a full day of writing.
- Overall, the evening trended to the bigger projects, rather than first mile/last mile or cycling issues.
- Getting the two-thirds vote is going to take some delicate planning. Seeing how Measure J missed out on such a narrow margin, picking out which projects to target in order to close that gap will take some fast action even though the election is 1 1/2 years away.
In all, the meeting lasted about three hours. It was impressive to see so much representation at the summit. There’s no doubt, ff Measure R2 is going to pass, it will need strong representation from the valley.