Metro Explains Why Subway Will Take Forever

Yesterday, I asked Metro a few questions regarding their new timetables for several projects, including the Subway to the Sea. Today, Rick Jager from their Media Relations department answered:

1. Besides funding issues, why is the completion of the Purple Line to Santa Monica expected to take so long?

The next steps before subway construction could start are estimated to take 2 to 3 years. This includes full environmental review, approvals, engineering and design. We then estimate that construction could take about 7 years (1) depending on what the final project ends up being & (2) if all funding is available.

The funding generated by Measure R will come in over a 30 year period and therefore the schedules are based on an allocation of these revenues to many projects over the life of the sales tax. The schedule for the Westside project which identifies completion to Westwood by 2032 is driven more by the availability of funding than the time needed to construct. The actual time needed to construct the Purple Line Extension to Westwood would be considerably less than 23 years.

2. Does the projected completion date of 2032 to Westwood include the Pink Line extension from Hollywood/Highland (Alternative 11)? If not, how would that affect the Westside timetable?

Recent news stories about the funding for this and other projects relate to the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). The LRTP determines funding commitments over a long period of time. The specifics of projects – in this case, whether or not to include the West Hollywood leg – are determined through the environmental review and approval process.

3. With the city’s population expected to increase dramatically in the next 30 years, why aren’t there more projects on the drawing board, such as a possible SGV-SFV line connecting Pasadena-Glendale-Burbank-Universal-Sherman Oaks to connect with the 405 corridor?

Commitments to new projects are determined through the development of the LRTP. In developing the LRTP, Metro’s priorities for committing funds is to first maintain and operate the system we have, then build, maintain & operate new projects that already have standing commitments. At that point, any uncommitted funds can go to new projects.

I have a few thoughts on these answers.

1. The environmental review/public comment/let’s have a bunch of meetings process takes entirely too long for projects that needed completion yesterday. A viable public transit network should be a top priority for Los Angeles, and every rail line should be fast-tracked. In yesterday’s comments, a reader pointed out that “The Washington DC Metro system today got federal funding approved for a new train line to Dulles Airport. 23 miles long. First half will be done in 2013, second half in 2015.” Someone at City Hall needs to shake things up.

2. Although the question wasn’t directly answered, it should be a no-brainer that a West Hollywood leg would be included. The much-discussed Pink Link has overwhelming support in WeHo, and is crucial to making Metro Rail a more complete transit system. I’m no engineer, but I’m pretty sure building both lines would have some effect on the completion schedule. This 2032 date sounds like they mean the Wilshire alignment. Would both legs mean 2039? I’m still fuzzy.

3. I have a serious issue whenever Metro mentions “standing commitments” regarding any of their projects. This smacks of political posturing by city council members, each of whom thinks his or her district is more deserving than the other. Knock it off. Start thinking about the region as a whole, and let’s start putting it all together. The only standing commitment Metro and the city of Los Angeles should be concerned about is the promise to build a public transit system worthy of this world class city.

Your reaction?

7 Replies to “Metro Explains Why Subway Will Take Forever”

  1. The question I would ask is: “Given that the timetable appears to be driven largely by questions of funding, what specific steps are you taking to secure funding beyond what has already been approved (Measure R, etc.)? What possible sources of funding have you identified? How would receiving money from each of these sources affect the projected timetable?”

  2. Well their #3 tells me a metro rail of use to me won’t happen while I’m alive, maybe, just may grandchildren may see something.

    Your #3 I agree with on all levels on a lot of things. I am so tired of the finger pointing and vote gathering on both sides while the point fingers and we are just stuck waiting for important matters to be dealt with.

  3. Re: #1 – I agree that all these things take too long and should have been done yesterday, but this might actually be one of the few things that Metro does not have control over. Local, state, and federal statutes all have varying requirements regarding environmental impact reviews (EIRs) that Metro will have to meet, and based on my limited personal experience helping agencies do their EIRs – it is an enormous pain in the ass. And it takes for-ever. No one is ever satisfied.

    Even when these EIRs pass muster, Metro will have to publish its proposed plan; it is required to leave this open for public comment for a certain period of time, usually at least 30 days. After that, it must respond to these public comments, which can take any period of time. It then has to issue another proposed rule modifying its earlier position, or issue a final rule with full explanation of its plans. This process alone can take anywhere from 1-2 years. Shit takes forever, it really does.

    Regarding the DC metro, they started the process to plan for the extension and to obtain these federal funds back around 2000. That the construction will be completely done in 2015 is consistent with Metro’s timeline that it will take 7 years to complete once all the red tape is cut.

  4. This is why I voted NO on Measure R.

    I want to see progress on existing projects before dumping more money into the MTA’s black hole.

    In the meantime, for your consideration, I suggest a nomination for both the MTA and L.A. County voters for the Capt. Louis Renault award for best actors in a supporting role.

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