Claremont Insider: Gold Line News Continued

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gold Line News Continued

We received a response to yesterday's post about the Gold Line that pointed out that readers might come away with the mistaken opinion that Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich is opposed to extending the Gold Line from Pasadena to Claremont.

In fact, Antonovich has been supportive of the extension, as a recent editorial by the supervisor demonstrates. In the piece, Antonovich argues for equitable revenue sharing for the $40 billion or so that would be generated by a proposed half-cent increase in Los Angeles County sales tax that would fund transportation projects in the county.

Antonovich points out that in 2006 California voters passed the $19.9 billion Proposition 1B transportation bond partly with the help of residents and elected officials from so-called county subregions like the San Gabriel Valley. (In Claremont, Prop. 1B funds will be used to pay for the Claremont Trolley.)

Antonovich writes that once Prop. 1B passed, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) gave the lion's share of the fund allocated to the county to projects in the City of Los Angeles:

So what happened? Prop 1B passed and Los Angeles city took over 48 percent of the $3.16 billion in funding the county received from bond categories designed for highway, rail, bus, streets, roads and traffic signal synchronization projects.

By contrast, the San Gabriel Valley only received 5 percent of this funding, the South Bay Cities 2 percent, the West San Fernando Valley Cities 0.05 percent and the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys 0.7 percent.

This result was well below these subregions’ fair share of funding based on any measurement of equity, most notably population. Once again, they were a victim of Los Angeles city’s greed.

From the three major Prop 1B funding categories for highways, transit and traffic signal synchronization, the city of Los Angeles took home a whopping 61 percent, 52 percent and 94 percent of the county’s share, respectively.

So, the Gold Line's fate is now linked to the successful passage of a half-cent county sales tax increase in November. Unfortunately, MTA is once again in charge of the allocation of those funds, and there is no guarantee that money would be shared fairly with residents outside of the city of Los Angeles. Antonovich says in his article that voters in the San Gabriel Valley, who passed Prop. 1B with 70-percent of the vote, may not feel like getting burned again - fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

There are other problems facing the proposed sales tax measure, as an article in the Daily Bulletin notes. The measure must be approved by the MTA board at its meeting next Thursday, July 24th, and then it a similar version must be approved by the state legislature. All this must be done before the August 8th deadline to get the measure to the county for the November ballot.

The Bulletin article laid out the possible roadblocks to getting the sales tax measure on the ballot:
The county version of the measure might not get passed at next week's MTA meeting, either. Several board members of the MTA said they had objections to the expenditure plan that still needed to be worked out.

Michael Cano, the transportation deputy for county supervisor and MTA board member Michael Antonovich, said his boss would introduce amendments to the proposed ordinance at the meeting.

He said Antonovich wants language that guarantees each region receives a percentage of the sales tax money that is equal to the percentage of the county's population in each region.

The San Gabriel Valley is currently allocated 16.4 percent of the money, while the MTA estimates it has 18.3 percent of the region's residents.

Cano added that the MTA should commit to funding the full $1.4 billion cost of the Gold Line.

He said Antonovich also has concerns that projects on the expenditure list that are not yet approved, like the 710 Freeway tunnel, might end up not being built.

Antonovich will likely not vote for the measure in its current form, said Cano. If the measure does not get passed next week, he said, the only recourse will be for the board to schedule an emergency meeting before the Aug. 8 deadline.

Part of the opposition the MTA and the City of Los Angeles might face in getting this sales tax increase passed is the result a blowback against MTA's track record of project mismanagement and waste (and in some cases accusations of possible fraud) and LA's record of stiffing its neighbors.

Of course, another problem is that what's really needed to move people effectively from the our area to Pasadena and Los Angeles is not a light-rail but a real commuter train like the Metrolink. As the Foothill Transit board could tell you, in a city like Paris, to get to many areas outside the city you take a regional express train (the RER). The smaller metro trains are used mostly for shorter hauls, like a bus system on rails.

But, the Gold Line is what we're left with, so we'll have to take what we can get. Or just choose not to have it.