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Pam O'Connor - 6/18/08

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at noon PT

Metro Board Chair
Pam O'Connor

Live chat transcript:

Question: Good morning Pam. With Staycations the newest buzzword in these days of high gas prices, where can you go on Metro to tour Los Angeles?

Answer: With "staycations" we get to explore interesting and fun places in our own back yard of LA County. One fun trip is the Metro docent lead tours of the rail art programs ... along the Red and Purple subway lines and all the light rail lines. It would take several days to do every line ... but go to metro.net for info and sign up for one...and if you like it, there's always next weekend...

Question: The metro Blue Line from downtown L.A. to Long Beach is a great day trip. It lets you off downtown, where you can walk to the Pike restaurants and shops, the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, or the downtown Arts District. From Ocean Ave. in Long Beach, you can also catch a "Passport" shuttle bus for about $1 and ride up and down along the coast to the beach, shopping in Belmont Shore, or to the Seal Beach Marina shops and restaurants. Lynnae

Answer: That's the hometown of our Metro Director Bonnie Lowenthal and she's always talking about her wonderful city. Sounds like a great trip. Points out that there are lots of choices. If one wants a more active "staycation" experience and checking out the sights and exhibits to laying back at the beach or experiencing the range of food types, seems Long Beach would be a "repeat" trip. But, hey, what about Santa Monica? Right now to get to Santa Monica your options are by bus (Wilshire Rapid if you're coming from the east; check out the Metro trip planner at metro.net for the best way from your starting point), but the Expo Light Rail Line is under construction. It's broken into stages with construction underway to Culver City and pre-construction work going on for the segment to Santa Monica. SO, in a few years you'll be able to get there by light rail.

Question: On the weekends there are lots of kids and parents riding their bikes along the Orange Line. And during the summer in the park near Warner Center they have free jazz concerts (lots of families). I think they also show free movies outside. It would be fun to take kids on a bike ride to get there and then take the Orange Line home afterward, when they're tired. You can also take bikes on the Orange Line to Balboa Park -- a great place for a bike ride. Get off at Balboa Station. Karin

Answer: I haven't been to Balboa Park but it sounds like a great spot for a respite or a bike ride. I hear the park is a short walk from the station.Thanks for the suggestion.

Question: Is Metro looking into ways to create bike paths from city to city? I live in Monterey Park, and would not mind biking into work downtown L.A. but there does not seem to be a safe path to get downtown. Eddie

Answer: Metro doesn't have the "land use authority" to make it happen but we provide incentives -- funding -- for cities to develop bike systems. In southern California we're not as bike friendly as other areas of the state, so we do need to catch up. The issues involve multi-modes sharing streets. Some streets might be candidates for dedicated bike lanes, others for shared use with "sharrows" (signage to remind folks in cars to share the road and watch out for cyclists). Just last night Santa Monica started to discuss a bike network and other cities are starting to work on it as well.

Question: When comparing Driving costs vs. Mass Transit costs, people should consider ALL costs associated with driving, not just Fuel: - Auto Repairs - that can cost you thousands of dollars per year! - Monthly Leasing / Financing / Registration and Insurance costs! - Parking tickets, speeding tickets, or other violations! SUMMARY of Savings: Overall you could spend on Mass Transit $750 a year, while yearly Driving expenses could easily add up to $4,000-7,000 or more, depending on the car. Alek

Answer: You hit the nail on the head! We often forget about the associated costs with driving... let alone aggravation and mental health. And we're not paying the real cost of parking but that could change. Keep educating folks about the real costs of driving, Alek. And Go Metro!!

Question: What about taking bikes on the Green Line to the end at Redondo Beach and then taking a ride on the new Redondo Beach Bike Path. Other options are Hermosa Pier or Redondo Pier for something to eat. But the best thing is to ride along the ocean, which is particularly beautiful around here. Jean

Answer: Sounds like a lovely ride. All Metro buses are equipped with bike racks that can be used at all times. Bikes can't be taken on certain rail lines during rush hours, so check before you start your trip. Keep on peddlin'.

Question: This is not a question but perhaps a statement. Employers need to encourage workers to take Metro to and from work. Many do not provide incentives but it would help thousands of people if an ordinance suggesting incentives and stipends for workers and transportation alternatives to get to job sites from the train or bus. How can we get the employers to contribute and less the cost to workers? Viviane

Answer: Metro has stepped up outreach to employers to let them know about the employee pass program and the vanpool program. The employees might also start asking their employer about getting the program at their jobs. Look on metro.net under "commute services" for more info.

Question: Metro Gold line rides from downtown up to the Southwest Museum in Mt. Washington, and then further up to South Pasadena, where there are great walking streets with museums, restaurants, and shops for the whole family. Lynnae

Answer: Right!! Explore the Arroyo culture of the early 20th century. The Charles Lummis House is a gem (he was the City's first librarian) and the Arts and Crafts movement and Craftsman architecture of Greene and Greene and others exudes from South Pasadena and Pasadena neighborhoods. Before you go, you could spend a weekend at the City of Los Angeles' wonderful Central Library and check out the architecture and cultural history of the area. And they have travel books on the Los Angeles region.

Question: I'm Tony from Whittier and would support a one cent sales tax if it went towards light rail +. The Gold Line extension is going well and will most likely have a large ridership with gas prices being what they are today. Wouldn't it be cost effective to pay out a bonus to the contractor to finish ahead of schedule? I'm looking forward to some day visiting you in Santa Monica...by light rail! Tony

Answer: The proposal is for 1/2 cent increase, but share your enthusiasm and educate your friends and family about the need. Then, bring 'em all along for a picnic at Palisades Park in Santa Monica.

Question: I heard that the original plan for the Red Line section that is now known as the "Purple Line" was supposed to reach all the way to UCLA, with a stop at Century City. When will this become reality? Is MTA actually looking to extend the Purple Line to Century City? This would definitely help with the traffic congestion along streets like Olympic, Pico, Santa Monica, etc. Robert

Answer: Metro is studying the range of transportation alternatives, including subway, along the Wilshire/Santa Monica boulevards corridor. The need is real, but like Tony from Whittier said, we need the funds to build it ... and a new sales tax dedicated to transportation projects would get this and other important transit projects going.

Question: Concerts at the Music Center, Hollywood Bowl, Universal Studios and the Disney hall are all accessible from the Red Line ... and great fun.

Answer: And with summer coming there are many venues for free outdoor concerts around our region. We'll have to check out the schedules for places. Karin mentioned the concerts in Woodland Hills, and there are concerts at the band shell in Pasadena, and at the Pier in Santa Monica. There are many possibilities for inexpensive summer fun by taking transit there.

Question: I take the Metro every day. I think the bus drivers are nice & helpful. I take line 166 to Sun Valley and Line 158 on Devonshire to Metro Bus line 901 to North Hollywood Station and the Metro Red Line to Will/Vermont to Line 720 or 920. Vincent

Answer: Good to hear that, Vincent. I might try the Sun Valley trip just for fun. Sometimes I like to watch the world from the bus and see the sights and lay of the land and get ideas for places to explore.

Question: Hi Pam. What do I need to do to ask for more buses on a particular route?

Answer: There are five geographic sector councils made up of bus and rail riders. You can find the meeting dates, schedule and contact info for your sector at metro.net under "Board Agenda." The sector councils want to hear from you!

Question: In Los Angeles County, millions of dollars continue to be spent on widening freeways and building new interchanges to increase the number of cars driving around. This mid-20th century policy has obviously reached a dead end. Is it not possible to redirect those funds to transit and other sustainable transportation modes? Paul

Answer: Well, we think the roads are free, but we all pay for them and they are costly. It is an important part of the transportation infrastructure but we can do more to better manage and get more out of them, and we have to maintain them in good working order. Right now about 2/3 of Metro's funds go to transit. Over the past 20 years that investment has built the rail network to date. During that same time the county has added almost 2 million more people. And more folks are being born, so we have much to do to keep pace.

Question: The Metro DASH runs from Downtown up to Sunset and Echo Park Ave., in Echo Park. From there, you can walk to shops, bars and restaurants in Echo Park or Silverlake. Or you can take the DASH from Echo Park toward downtown for shopping, a visit to China Town, Little Tokyo, or Olivera Street. Lynnae

Answer: It's lunch time and you're making me hungry thinking of all the dining options in that area! The DASH is operated by the City of Los Angeles and that points out that you can use a range of transit systems to make a trip. Just get yourself to downtown LA whether it's via Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus, Foothill Transit, Metro's buses and rail, or if you live close enough, by walking to a DASH bus stop. I've never tried the DASH up to Echo Park -- another neighborhood to explore! Thanks for the idea.

Question: I just read the question on the bike route issue: Where can we find information on what is being done for future bike paths/routes, as well as established ones? I live in Mar Vista (90066) and go to school at Santa Monica College, and it takes me almost 40 minutes by bus mid-day to get there, when it is only a 15-minute drive. I also go to Highland Park quite often, a forty-minute drive that takes an hour and a half by bus and rail. I don't have a license and don't plan on driving regularly anytime soon, and with my lifestyle, I am allowed the ample bus riding time, but I know most other people aren't. If there was a better bike route system, I could combine it with bus riding to cut down on time until the expo line is in place. Nat.

Answer: Just found out about a new source (well new to me) and that's bikemetro.com and that may help you find a route. And be sure to tell your city council member that bike paths and bike networks are important!

Question: Gas-guzzling cars can and should be replaced with sustainable transportation for shorter trips, specifically biking and walking, yet only 1% of the funding in Metro's proposed Long Range Plan is allocated for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and no funding is proposed for sustainable transportation in the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax initiative. Have you or Metro given any thought to providing a percentage of the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements? Sumi

Answer: Metro just held a Sustainability Summit to bring together cities, special districts (community college, schools) and the county to collaborate on sustainability issues and we anticipate much happening in the near future. Regarding the sales tax proposal, it's anticipated it will specify a "local return" amount for cities to spend on projects that support other sustainable modes, like pedestrian and bike improvements.

Question: I favor a comprehensive extension of our rail system and am willing to pay higher sales taxes, fees and fares to get it. I would also like to see rush hour bus-only lanes on Wilshire, Santa Monica, Pico, Western, Vermont, Ventura, Van Nuys, Hollywood to START. Taking lanes away from single-occupancy motorists for public transit on major boulevards during rush hour is politically tough, but necessary. What can we do to expedite creating a bus-only lane network, not as a replacement or alternative to rail, but as a supplement to our mass transit system as a whole.

Answer: Remember, this is my opinion, not necessarily Metro's ... but one problem is that current environmental review focuses on the movement of the single occupant vehicle and "mitigations" to keep those moving often have a detrimental effect on the movement of transit (much less pedestrians and bicyclists). We need to analyze proposals not on "level of service" based on how long a car is delayed, but on the "level of service" for transit and other modes.

Question: I'm a UCLA student and I take the bus everywhere. One of my favorite trips is down Sunset boulevard on the bus to Will Rogers State Park. It's a great place to hike. Relaxing and beautiful. Thanks.

Answer: And luckily the early state budget proposal to close Will Rogers Park was rescinded! Good work on the part of all the advocates for Will Rogers Park!

Question: Why don't you take a picnic on the Orange Line to the Balboa stop, get off and go to Lake Balboa. You could buy some ice cream and take a boat ride and feed some ducks. Alex

Answer: Hey, Alex. You're getting me really interested in that trip.

Question: How will the half cent sales tax increase help LA County transit projects? The trips using Metro have helped considerably with the increasing gas prices, Pam. Thanks, Metro. Arthur

Answer: The sales tax will help to build and operate more transit projects.

Question: Well, Pam, we're out of time. Any final thoughts on Metro, gas prices or things to do while you're staying home this summer?

Answer: Whew...another hour has gone by quickly. We started out the Live Chat and had a few technical glitches...but we've worked them out and had a lot of fun...even with the many interesting and challenging questions. But we have challenging issues to work on and although my year as Chair of the Metro Board is coming to an end, I look forward to continuing to work on these issues, and especially sustainability, over the next few years as a Board member. Tomorrow is Dump the Pump Day...so try transit and GO METRO! And I have my list of "staycation" trips to try out this summer. Have a great summer! --Pam from Santa Monica.