The following article appeared in the print editions of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star-News on July 16, 2014.
PROJECT PRIORITIES: A regional take on transportation planning – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Cynthia Kurtz | July 16, 2014
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is updating its Short Range Transportation Plan. The draft released a few months ago didn’t include the “Gold Line Light Rail Project to Claremont” — which is how voter-approved Measure R described the project. Instead, it terminated the project at Azusa. Everyone got ready for a fight.
Sometimes you are so sure you know what someone is going to say, you don’t even bother to ask. That is often the way SGV folks — yours truly included — think about the city of Los Angeles. We assume that it wants every transportation dollar for its own projects without regard for the rest of the county.
Wisely, Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, didn’t assume he knew what the new mayor of Los Angeles would say about the short range plan. Instead, he invited Mayor Eric Garcetti, also the newly elected chair of Metro, to a forum about San Gabriel Valley transportation priorities. Garcetti accepted the invitation, and what he said surprised many of us.
Garcetti called for a new page in regionalism. “I can’t explain history,” he said, “but it is time to start from a new place. Leadership is to widen the conversation so it isn’t about one project against another or one region against another.” His message throughout the forum was that Los Angeles is the biggest city in the county but not the only city and that we are all better off if we work together.
As the chair of Metro he has a very straightforward agenda and one that immediately makes sense to a business person. First, he wants better oversight of Metro’s construction program. Metro spends hundreds of millions of dollars on construction every year and the mayor wants to be sure those dollars are carefully managed.
He wants the Metro board and the public to have a better understanding about the agency’s finances and he wants to make better use of public/private partnerships. Canada and Europe have been using P-3s successfully for years but California has been reluctant to move forward with these partnerships.
Three SGV transportation priorities were discussed: the Gold Line Light Rail to Claremont and Ontario Airport, and the Gold Line Eastside Extension along Route 60.
Garcetti said that building the Gold Line Light Rail to Claremont was as high a priority for him as building light rail to LAX. He pledged to work with the SGV’s representative on the Metro board, Duarte Councilman John Fasana, to make sure the short range plan reflects that priority.
While he doesn’t believe that L.A. has mismanaged Ontario Airport, he said he will support transitioning the airport to some form of local control.
Unfortunately, as Steve Scauzillo’s July 10 article in this paper noted, Garcetti seemed to lean towards the Eastside Gold Line Extension along Washington Boulevard over the Route 60 path that would serve the SGV. But he also called for government to “be braver” and not limit its thinking to just one alignment. “Why can’t we have both?” he asked.
It was a refreshing meeting. No one went home thinking that we don’t have to continue to be engaged in support of what is best for our region. But everyone went home thinking there is definitely a new sheriff in town!
Cynthia Kurtz is president and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org