Judy Chu Highlights Metro Board Meeting, Still No Answers from Metro

Get a nice good look at that image above. Take your time. Print it. Analyze it. Maybe even write notes on it – that big green blob over New York has plenty space to write on, but not Los Angeles. See anything awfully wrong and off with that image?

The Metro Board of Directors did, and yesterday they held their monthly Board meeting – with one of its main focuses on a new federal funding agreement Metro is hoping to pursue with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Metro’s current federal funding agreement netted the agency $491 million for the construction of the Gold Line Eastside Extension (NOT Foothill Extension, just to clarify). And with the last batch of federal dollars from that agreement coming in this year, Metro has had its sights set on pursuing funds from the New Starts program for the Subway to the Sea and Regional Connector.

At yesterday’s meeting, Metro staff reported that the county faces the prospect of losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government, starting in 2011, if they do not pursue any local rail projects for the New Starts program (at this point, the Metro Board had not formally recognized the Subway and Regional Connector as their choices). The comments that followed from the Board and staff were no less grim. Chairman Ara Najarian stated, “we are terribly underfunded as a region.” Using the old use-visuals-for-greater-effect method, Metro staff presented a map (see image above) of the FY2010 projection for New Starts funding throughout the nation – which saw many other (and some less populous) cities having federal funds that dwarfed the amount for Los Angeles County. Metro staff jokingly referred to the New Starts program as the “New York” program, seeing as the east coast region is set to receive nearly half of all the federal funds from New Starts. And in facing this situation, the Board unanimously voted to direct Metro CEO Art Leahy to pursue a federal funding agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation to construct the Subway to the Sea and Regional Connector.

So now Chairman Najarian is going to send a few delegates to Washington to test the waters, and the county isn’t going to lose out on hundreds of millions of federal dollars right? This would’ve been an easy question to answer were it not for a small detail Metro staff had potentially used in error.

That error was brought to light at the meeting courtesy of a representative from Congresswoman Judy Chu’s office – who pointed out during public comment that Metro’s staff had given an unrealistic timeframe of 3 years to receive federal funding for the Subway and Regional Connector. In fact, it takes 7-10 years for rail projects from the beginning to receive federal money. Judy Chu’s office proposed Phase 2B (Azusa to Montclair) of the Foothill Extension as a project that is further ahead in the pipeline than the Subway or Regional Connector, and one that could receive federal funds in as soon as 5 years. Seeing as how the Foothill Extension has had much more Congressional work done on its behalf, this wouldn’t be surprising. Judy Chu’s office stated:

“We need a federal strategy that truly leverages the billions of dollars being raised by Measure R and gives the county the most bang for its buck. If the Gold Line Foothill and East Side extensions and Crenshaw Line are excluded from entering the federal process, myself and the rest of the local Congressional Delegation will very literally have our hands tied from helping meet our community’s transit needs.”

So our question before the meeting was: how is the Foothill Extension going to get its federal money? After the meeting, that question still stands. However, it was alluded to during the meeting that Metro would try to find other sources of federal money for the extension. We’ll see.


  1. Transportation Planner says:

    When will you all wake up and realize: THE FOOTHILL EXTENSION WOULD NEVER RECEIVE FEDERAL MONEY – IT IS NOT A COMPETITIVE PROJECT – look at the ridership, look at the cost – it is simple math and you all are wasting your time whining about a project that extends into endless suburbia while dense, urban areas of Los Angeles (especially along the Wilshire corridor) remain underserved by any substantial transit service (i.e. that can carry the ridership demand). A 2nd grader could even comprehend the simple cost vs. ridership differences – apparently San Gabriel Valley residents cannot.

  2. Albert says:

    Hey Transportation Planner. The SGV’s Congressional representatives would beg to differ with your assessment that it would never receive federal money. Maybe you know something that Judy Chu, Adam Schiff, David Dreier, and Grace Napolitano – people who have worked on the federal level for the Foothill Extension – don’t know? You’re kind of reaching with that statement a bit aren’t you?

    I don’t get where your anger comes from. We’re not saying we’re against federal funding for the Subway, but with the REALISTIC ASSESSMENT of the federal funding picture, our county stands to lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars because we’re applying for a project that could potentially not even qualify for federal funds at its current stage. We want the Subway too! LET ME REPEAT: We want the Subway too – along with the Regional Connector.

    As for ridership, I’m just going to paste what I said to Juan from Bruins for Traffic Relief (great organization by the way):
    “As for ridership (even though I know comparing ridership numbers are futile), ridership would increase by 3.3 million additional boardings a year with Phase 2A in place. In 2030, the projected ridership for the Gold Line stands at 68,000 a day.”

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Transportation Planner says:

    In a perfect world, we would fund all proposed transit projects, wouldn’t we? You are ignoring the cold hard fact that there are very limited funds for mass transit and we will have to choose, as a REGION, which projects receive the very small portion of the pie we have to work with. It’s very convenient for you all to supposedly support the subway, and any other proejct you want to claim your support for, without addressing this fact. If any sane person had to choose between the two, they would obviously choose the subway – it would benefit many more people throughout the REGION than Foothill and provide access to hundreds of thousands of jobs (that people from all over the County depend on). You think politicians have a clue about transportation planning simply because they are politicians? They are merely greedy individuals who are seeking re-election and LOVE ribbon-cutting events, even if it is for a project that is not even CLOSELY competitive with the subway, or regional connector (or many other projects that this county needs, like a rail connection to the airport). In your utopia, Foothill AND the subway would be built, and completed by 2020. You need to check your ridership figures and do some simple analysis (the politicians won’t do it for you) – 68,000 is not for the Foothil Extension portion of the line. The number is closer to 10-15,000, AT BEST. Why don’t you go research the numbers for the subway, then take a short trip to the Wilshire corridor to learn WHY and WHERE rail transit (light or heavy rail) makes sense. Then come back with a straight face and tell LA County residents (or the selfish few San Gabriel Valley residents who think this project has more merit than the subway) why they should support this ridiculous waste of money. I’m assuming you are already familiar with the San Gabriel Valley (and its land use patterns, residential and job density, etc)? All the data in the world, and simple observations, prove that you are merely advocating for a project that serves your area’s narrow, selfish interests. If you REALLY cared about the subway and transit serving the MOST people, you would not push so hard for your project to compete with the subway. The facts against allocating limited funds to the Foothill Extension vs. the Westside subway are literally ENDLESS (and is why the subway WILL receive federal funding while the Foothill Extension will merely be a source of laughter from FTA officials).

  4. Transportation Planner says:

    Here’s a simple test of your actual support for the Foothill Extension as a project that has true merit: there are several corridors throughout LA County that have higher densities and more transit-supportive land use patterns (if you need examples of a few you have not lived in this area for long).

    Do they not deserve to have rail transit BEFORE the Foothill corridor? The answer is an astounding yes, according to simple logic (including yours).

    Your project is an absolute joke among educated urban/transportation planners, both academics and professionals. Good thing there are a few at the FTA – no wonder we will never be able to build a useful, high ridership system (political battling for projects that, from every view, are less competitive with others). This is why conservatives end up voting against any form of transit investment – groups like yours that want to spend huge sums of money for benefits that do not even come close to justifying the burden and expense.

  5. Albert says:

    Thanks for the response – however extremely biased, opinionated, and baseless it may have been. You’re quite transparent in your support for traffic relief on the Westside and I applaud you for that. We can go tit for tat all day on the merits for the Foothill Extension (which has many merits) and the Subway (which has very many merits as well), but that would go on forever.

    However, you’re still ignoring the very real scenario in which the county (see that map up there?) loses out on hundreds of millions of dollars because Metro applied for federal money for projects that aren’t ready to receive New Starts funding remotely anytime soon. If the Subway can only receive funding 7-10 years from now because of how early it is in the pipeline and the Foothill Extension can receive federal money much earlier than that, then how is that competing for funds? Thank you. You’re the one making a competition out of it when I’m just pointing out what will probably happen.

    Also, when the Subway still has 20 to 30 years until it reaches the sea, it’s hard to argue with a straight face against a project like the Foothill Extension that can potentially be finished in 8 years. Not to mention that it will be the first rail line in the county to connect to a major regional airport – score one for indirect traffic relief for folks near LAX.

    Your assessment of the San Gabriel Valley is baseless and I will leave it at that.

  6. Carter says:

    Transportation planner is absolutely right- we need to keep the focus on the most important projects in the region, (the subway, and the DT connector). Of course he is opinionated and biased, thats what blogs are for – to express those opinions. And for the more enlightened.. some can actually engage in dialogue and learn from others.

  7. Albert says:

    Carter, the Foothill Extension is solving a congestion problem in an area that the Subway and Regional Connector won’t touch. And yes, the San Gabriel Valley has congestion problems as well. Just ask the residents.

    Right now, in this new stage of New Starts funding, the Subway and Regional Connector projects are the wrong focus because they stand a good chance of not qualifying for federal funds. If they don’t qualify at this point and the Foothill Extension does, then what is the harm? It won’t take funds away from the Subway or Regional Connector during the next round of New Starts funding – which is when they would actually stand a chance of qualifying.

  8. Jerard says:

    Regional Connector not qualifying for Federal New Starts?

    You must be joking, the Regional Connector is the most cost effective project in Metro’s plans it is at a Medium rating now without Expo to Santa Monica.

    Cost-effective that when built will make the Foothill Extension and other projects in Judy Chu’s district look, VERY GOOD in the future.

  9. Transportation Planner says:

    Albert, you obviously need to do considerable research before you try to argue for your suburban light rail to nowhere. You must be joking that light rail to Ontario Airport will relieve congestion at LAX! Do you even know how long it will take to travel the entire length of the line – from downtown LA or even Pasadena to Ontario? Also, that segment has not been environmentally cleared in any way. Do you not live in LA? How can you argue for one second that the San Gabriel Valley has densities even CLOSE to MANY other parts of the County (not just the Westside). Do you even know what makes mass transit work? Key word: MASS. From your responses, it is clear that you not only are unfamiliar with LA County and its transportation needs, but you have no background whatsoever in urban or transportation planning. You most likely do not even know the basics- if you did there is no way you could support such a useless rail line. You are merely looking out for your selfish interests. I don’t even live or work on the Westside, yet I know (without a doubt) that it needs heavy rail transit. Just look at the bus ridership on the Wilshire corridor (or any other major arterials parallel to it).

    You also have no clue as to the timeline of seeking federal funds. The Westside project will enter Preliminary Engineering next year and will be in line for federal funds in 2012 (not in 3-7 years as you claim). Have you even had a conversation with anyone at Metro or anyone remotely involved in transportation planning? Of course not. You are only looking out for your selfish interests.

  10. Transportation Planner says:

    Jerard is right – the regional connector is actually even more cost effective than the subway (though not by much). It is a very much needed project that will grealy benefit the San Gabriel Valley. You would think they would throw their support behind this project, which actually stands a VERY GOOD chance of receiveing federal funds, rather than complete waste of taxpayer money for auto-oriented suburbs in the extreme eastern fringes of LA County.

    There is a reason why SGV residents have to show up at every Metro Board meeting with their ridiculous “I Will Ride” t-shirts – because that is exactly what they have to do: PROVE they will ride, because this project is, from every angle you look at it, a meaningless project that will have extremely low ridership. The subway or regional connector doesn’t need this ridiculous show of support – it is already proven that hundreds of thousands of people WILL RIDE benefit from the rail system once these projects are done.

  11. Transportation Planner says:

    Alfred, congestion is a part of urban life across the GLOBE. You want to argue for a rail line based on your traffic complaints??? Wow, you have just hit a new low. Transit does not “solve” congestion, you should know that by now. It merely offers a viable alternative to private vehicle use. Now let’s see, where is this alternative most needed? Where would the MOST number of people use it? Where are the MOST number of jobs in the region? Hint: it’s not in Duarte or Azusa!

  12. Albert says:

    So you’re bashing SGV residents because they don’t want to pay for a tax without receiving something in return? HOW SELFISH AND NARROW OF THEM!

    It’s Albert, not Alfred. News flash Transportation Planner: Measure R passed. You’re making arguments like we’re still deciding to see what projects should be funded by Measure R. So let’s fast forward a year to today and talk about real issues – like federal funding. And I’ve already made my point about federal funding, but you come off like somebody in the San Gabriel Valley rubbed you the wrong way – while refusing to address the very real scenario where the county loses out on hundreds of millions of dollars because Metro is pursuing New Starts with a project (Subway) that probably won’t qualify.

    You can keep throwing baseless allegation after baseless allegation about a region you obviously know nothing about, while calling yourself a “transportation planner” in an attempt to sound credible, or you can do what most of us are doing and looking at the whole picture.

    Also, SGV residents show up to the Metro Board meetings because it’s a PUBLIC meeting and millions of them are paying the half-cent sales tax increase – the same sales tax increase of which the majority will pay for the Subway to the Sea. I don’t remember paying for something without making sure I got something in return.

  13. Peter says:

    Transportation Planner is right – there is no reason to justify RAIL in the Foothill corridor. Albert, SGV residents are acting in their own narrow, selfish interests by insisting a costly light rail line be built in an area with very low population densities (just look at many of the cities along the corridor – Irwindale, one of the proposed stops, has only a few thousand residents TOTAL). I think it’s funny that Albert is advocating a rail line in the Foothill corridor while ignoring the fact that there are millions of jobs and residents concentrated in other corridor throughout LA County that are in dire need of rail investments. How can you argue for a rail line in an area of such low densities??? At least Transportation Planner is adhering to one of the most basic rules of public transportation: build rail where there are enough residents/jobs to justify rail – that is, where the expensive capital investment of a rail line is HIGHLY utilized by trains running on it every few minutes throughout the day. No one would ever begin to argue that the Foothill corridor will see ridership demand to justify this kind of service. The Wilshire corridor, or the 4-rail-line-connector through Downtown, on the other hand…

  14. Ricardo says:

    Albert – your argument that we should merely go after federal funds for the Foothill Corridor because it is READY to receive funds is completely ridiculous – basically, you are saying that we should build an inferior project (low ridership) simply because of timing??? Plus, what you fail to realize is that the federal transit pot of money is not endless. Dedicating money now to the Foothill project will undoubtedly cause a negative impact on our region’s efforts to secure funds for much more vital projects, like the Westside subway or the regional connector. How are you arguing for rail in the Foothill corridor when there are corridors nearby that are of MUCH higher density, like Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena???

    Based on Albert’s arguments, why don’t we just build a subway in the Foothill corridor? After all, they are contributing to the Measure R revenues so they should get exactly what the Wilshire Corridor (which looks JUST LIKE the Foothill corridor) gets, right? Your arguments are so fun to pick at, it’s amazing you continue to pursue them (when there is so much data and cold hard facts against you).

    By the way, the SGV gave the lowest support for Measure R – the politicians there didn’t even want it.

    There is a reason why rail investments aren’t made in low density, dispersed areas with endless parking lots and wide roads. SGV residents will STILL use autos for the majority of their travel, because the Foothill Ext. stations will not be within walking distance of the majority of their homes or jobs (and it will still be much faster to travel by auto vs. Foothill when you compare travel times between origins and final destinations).

    Albert – you need to look at some population/employment density maps and see how the SGV compares to the rest of LA County.

  15. Albert says:

    Ricardo and Peter, I’m just going to repeat what I said to Transportation Planner. You’re still arguing like it’s pre-November 2008. Measure R passed. The Foothill Extension was included in it. The tone of your arguments come off as if we’re still deciding what projects to include into Measure R.

    Speaking of Measure R, millions of SGV residents pay into that tax as well. But the reasoning from you is that the SGV should just pay into that tax for the sake of another region because that region’s residents need it more – like the SGV is already free from congestion and doesn’t need an ounce of traffic relief. Please address that.

    Ricardo, the SGV weren’t the biggest cheerleaders of Measure R for the sole reason that they didn’t believe they’d get a fair share. If you actually followed the news prior to its passing, you would have known the big issue raised by the SGV about equity from the use of Measure R’s revenues. In fact, the draft LRTP that was released in January didn’t even include funding for the Foothill Extension (it does now of course).

    Also, many SGV residents work in Downtown Los Angeles – and like many of them personally told me, they’d ride the Foothill Extension instead of using the 210 if it were possible.

    You all had a few decent hypothetical points. But your assessment of the San Gabriel Valley is very far off.

  16. Ricardo says:

    Wow, “many SGV residents work in Downtown Los Angeles” and actually TOLD you they will ride the Foothill Extension??! Congratulations, you just conducted your own professional and scientific planning/transportation study based on actual existing and future conditions! Please, Albert, you are so delusional about the SGV you must think it is another Manhattan or San Francisco. People TELLING you they are going to ride means absolutely nothing. I can also go out and get millions of people to TELL me they will ride any other hypothetical rail line throughout the county. You sound like someone who doesn’t live in LA County, let alone SGV – or you just don’t know what the definition of DENSITY is and how mass transit works. Take a course in transportation planning, THEN develop your arguments/main points based on actual education and knowledge of your surrounding built environment.

  17. Ricardo says:

    IF SGV deserves rail, then which areas of the county do not??? Can you answer that simple question Albert? Out of all the corridors in LA County with higher population and job densities than Foothill, which should NOT get rail simply because the SGV “deserves” it more??? Why is the Foothill corridor so special?

  18. Albert says:

    Ricardo, like Transportaion Planner, you still failed to address my points – all the while continuing to bash the SGV.

    Address these points:
    “You’re still arguing like it’s pre-November 2008. Measure R passed. The Foothill Extension was included in it. The tone of your arguments come off as if we’re still deciding what projects to include into Measure R.

    Speaking of Measure R, millions of SGV residents pay into that tax as well. But the reasoning from you is that the SGV should just pay into that tax for the sake of another region because that region’s residents need it more – like the SGV is already free from congestion and doesn’t need an ounce of traffic relief. Please address that.”

  19. Ricardo says:

    Thank you for FINALLY acknowledging that the Foothill Extension project is vastly inferior to many other worthwhile rail projects this county needs. You just made your point – Foothill is in Measure R so why should we care about its cost effectiveness? A narrow-minded, selfish group of suburban home owners decided that they want light rail to boost their property values in an area where there are seas of parking lots in the midst of a built environment that punishes anyone who decides to walk or bike or take transit anywhere. Albert knows Foothill is a weak project (ridership estimates are actually under 10,000 for the phase that will supposedly be built with Measure R funds) and he knows that there are many corridors in LA County that DESERVE RAIL before a corridor like Foothill. Albert, you have proven you know nothing about transportation planning or HOW and WHERE mass transit works. You obviously have no background in this area and are only seeking to advance a project that will directly benefit yourself. You have yet to address many issues brought up here, including the fact that all urban and transportation planning professionals and academics know the Foothill Extension project as a COMPLETE JOKE AND WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY. I know several planners at Metro, PB, as well as professors at UCLA and USC and they all could go on for hours about why Foothill is such a terrible project. Thanks for advocating such an inferior project in a region that suffers from a lack of investment in VIABLE public transit. I invite all of LA County to ride the Foothill Extension when it opens – oh wait, it doesn’t go anywhere most people of this County WANT OR NEED to go to!!!

  20. Peter says:

    Ricardo is right – Albert obviously does not know a thing about mass transit. He is clearly only trying to secure taxpayer money for a project that will have VERY low ridership and will benefit himself and a few individuals out in the sprawling San Gabriel Valley. I have also spoken with transportation planning officials, as well as representatives from various electeds’ offices, and they all have nothing but disgust for this project. Albert knows this project is not cost effective and he knows that projects like the Westside subway are much more vital to this region.

    He clearly does not have a solid education in any realm realted to rail planning, or even basic math skills, since he has proven he doesn’t have a clue about simple cost-benefit analysis.

  21. Albert says:


    Click it. Read it. The comments from San Gabriel Valley residents seem to paint a very different picture than you’re trying to portray.

  22. Peter says:

    Albert, you have once again shown you know nothing about transportation whatsoever. How is a bunch of people writing statements that they use the Foothill Extension any indication of its actual potential success?? OF COURSE there should be lots of people who say they will ride – in fact, hundreds of thousands of people should be saying it if the line is to be a true “mass transit” line – anyone could get easily over ten times as many people to say they will ride the Westside subway or regional connector. You truly live in your own little fantasy world where huge public projects that use valuable taxpayer money are decided simply by a few people claiming they will use it. How about looking at the actual MODEL and RIDERSHIP DATA. Westside Subway – 80,000 new riders. Foothill Phase 1 (the MEASURE R PROJECT): less than 10,000! Hopefully you have even the most basic of math skills – get a clue, your project is a WASTE OF MONEY and it will NEVER get federal funding (the FTA would simply laugh at the application based purely on the cost vs. ridership and the land use patterns and density of the San Gabriel Valley).

  23. Nate says:

    If the San Gabriel is paying so many awesome taxes to the County as whole, why is every town its own municipality, and keeping all its own money? Basically every time I want to eat in Monterrey Park, I can be assured that poor communities will never see a dime of those sales taxes. So don’t pretend like the poor poor rich SGV is getting some short end of the stick. In normal places, taxes are paid and redistributed, thats called a stable democracy.

    You all choose to build in that sprawly suburb way and choose to move there and then clog up our freeways with your loco commutes. Why not except a Metrolink or similar commuter rail which is much more appropriate for your bedroom communities.

    Foothill was in Measure R, but only a certain sum. Now you want more because you can’t get federal match. You can’t get federal match because your project is redonk.
    Its really simple, your project is an epic fail. Theres no point in all this. Its like saying, I want a subway to my house! I said I need it! So it must be true!

  24. Albert says:

    Peter, Ricardo, Nate: the Westside Subway will cost hundreds of millions more per mile to build than the Foothill Extension, so it should carry a lot more riders. Again, I do not disagree that the Subway is an important regional project. However, I do believe that we should be building transit in areas that are able to accept growth in the future. Southern California continues to receive millions of new residents and we need to prepare for the future with smart growth around transit, and not just take care of the problems we created in the past. I believe that the Foothill Extension provides a great opportunity to do just that. At this point, I think we should agree to disagree.

    Ultimately, I hope we all get what we need, a comprehensive public transit system that takes us at least 40 years into the future.

  25. Peter says:

    Thank you Nate! You hit it right on – these selfish “I will ride” members would like any rail line, as long as it served them (and them only). Who cares if it is cost effective! Who cares if only a few thousand people will ride! As long as THEY will ride, that’s all that matters for our region, right?
    Albert: even if you consider ridership per $ spent, the subway and regional connector are still superior projects BY FAR (much more valuable for the amount of ridership we gain on our system and for the hundreds of thousands of people that will gain greater access to the jobs on the westside (and downtown). Foothill might be a great project, IF ten or twenty OTHER PROJECTS got built first! Projects in areas with greater density of jobs and residents! You still do not understand this fundamental point and you will never know why Foothill is such a ridiculous project (deemed so by transportation planners, professionals, academics, urban planners,…basically any expert in the field). You BUILD PROJECTS THAT WILL BENEFIT THE MOST AMOUNT OF PEOPLE – this is such a basic idea even a 5 year old could understand it. Apparently, the selfish SGV residents cannot (or refuse to not understand it). Here’s to rail lines to the door step of every single family home in every sprawling suburb in the entire region!!! (but first for the sprawling suburbs of SGV, of course)

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