GUEST COMMENTARY - Brian Moynihan who is the CEO of Bank of America said in a speech last week and I quote "Hope is not a strategy"---something the executives and leaders of Metro need to take to heart. Metro's Charter is out of touch with today's reality--tighter funds, longer construction times, budget overruns and the changing riding habits of the public. The mission statement needs to change-- funds need to be used that are readily available and designated to provide public ridership to as many people as possible in a reasonable construction time frame---a concept that is clearly not followed to the detriment of the citizens of our city.
For example—let’s take the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project--which believe it or not was conceived of in 2014 and a decision on the solution is not expected until 2025----11 years in the planning. Think of the technological changes that have occurred in our lives in the last 11 years---the assumptions that were germane in 2014 have evolved and in many cases are no longer relevant. I have read many criticisms of our community's position on this project---and we are clearly accused of NIMBY. For the record, I do agree---but I spell NIMBI with an I which stands for a Numbingly Irresponsible Mentally Bumbling Idiocy. For all of those who advocate the tunnel as a solution, how would any of you feel if I told you that we planned to use part of your property or apartment for public use without you being consulted. In its most simplest form, that's what has happened here---no one reached out to our community to have a discussion or get our input--we were put on the defensive from day one---who does that in a democracy---probably in Russia--not here---does anyone remember history--the Boston Tea Party--where was our representation and our input--non-existent. Public agency's do not inspire trust when they ignore the constituency's they are supposed to represent---it’s an example of an agency that has been left alone for too long without proper oversight. We have every right to protect our community and we will. I know representatives of Westwood are advocating for the tunnel--of course they would---look what their leadership has allowed their community to evolve to---when I came here Westwood was a thriving community, with multiple movie theaters and a vibrant night life----look at it now--facts speak for themselves---we will not let our community devolve the way they have let theirs. Any criticism they direct at us is both invalid and irrelevant---consider the source.
I'm not going to use this communication to insult the members of Metro who have created this situation--I've made my opinion clear in prior emails and nothing has changed--they have all been there too long without sufficient leadership and oversight--and if this were privately managed 20 to 25% of the current employees in the Metro building would be replaced--look what's going on in tech and various industries today---how many people have lost their jobs at this agency?--I would assume--none-----too much money---inertia as a policy---not enough accountability. To be clear, the current CEO has been dealt a very difficult hand---it’s an entrenched bureaucracy seriously deep rooted and lost in 19th century technology--with no fear of being fired, held accountable or losing their job. To date--and I hope it changes---political oversight has meant that each politician's district gets taken care of---and there has been little to no oversight of what an independent Board of Directors duties are in public companies---which is desperately needed here. Ms. Wiggins needs the tools, the support, the resources and the will to make this agency more effective.
Look at Metro's operating results today---Union Station is filthy- the public considers busses and trains unsafe and dangerous--the homeless ride the trains and busses to the end of the line in the evening--and Metro can't bus them anywhere because the homeless shelters close at 7pm. How about setting up a shelter downtown that is open until midnight or 2am only for Metro---the money is certainly there to do that-- it would require coordination with the City, County and Metro---and there is no excuse for that not happening--where is the will? The trains and busses must me made safe for all our residents who need them for transportation (and shockingly--I believe all public transportation should be free and safe)---safety is not an option-- it’s a paramount obligation of every city and public agency---LA has gone from the music of Randy Newman--I Love LA--- to the latest record by Herman & the Homeless--WTF We Are Everywhere. (Much of this mess can be laid at the feet of our prior Mayor--who's lack of leadership is on display for all to see-and to be crystal clear, I am rooting for our new one). It's time for leadership and tough decisions--look what is going on in NY--if these problems aren't dealt with, the tax base of this city will seriously erode---it's a trickling exodus now--but people are paying attention--there isn't one corporate headquarter of any Fortune 500 company in downtown Los Angeles--not only is that unacceptable. it’s downright embarrassing. Not to mention Measure ULA passed in November--because people did not understand its commercial implications--it will keep serious commercial projects from being built in our city--and that's jobs and money for our tax base. Litigation is pending and for all our sake I hope its overturned. Spare me idealistic academics who do not live in the real world.
The facts enumerated below are all TRUE---whether you choose to believe them or not--other than politics, we do not live in the world of alternative facts--and as citizens we all face the same consequences of public actions--and I for one, as do many others, care about this city and its future....
- No tunnel project in Los Angeles has been built on budget and on time in the last 20 years--budgets have become estimates for these projects--and they always take longer because of what is found while tunneling and cost much more money--sometimes 50%, sometimes 100% or more
- No tunnel project in America has been built on time and on budget in the last 20 years...the last 1.6 miles of tunnel to complete the Second Avenue Subway in New York City cost $6.3B
- Metro has approximately $8B for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project---they currently state that the cost of the last 2 1/2 miles of tunneling they dug on the Purple Line was approximately $1.75B per mile. The length of the proposed tunnel for the Sepulveda Pass project is 14 miles long---and since no decision is going to be made until early 2025---for the sake of the discussion let’s call it $2B a mile which equals $28B---which means that's at least $20B that Metro does not currently have and with the economy, number of projects needing money (more than $100B in California) and with the state cutting the budget for funds available for mass transit, it’s highly unlikely--more likely a certainty---Metro will never get the funds it needs to even begin this option. This does not take into account the litigation that will absolutely occur which will prevent this project from even starting---which means you have to tack on another 3 to 5 years while the litigation wends its way thru the courts--and who knows what construction costs will be then---and that's assuming the litigation won't be successful. The end result is that even if the project could begin, it would not be completed until the middle of the 2040s---more than 20-25 years from now---just for laughs and giggles, why is this option even on the table--
- Tunneling is a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem---the reason Metro continually looks at this as a solution is that it is populated by too many engineers who have been there too long--and that's all they know-its inertia--and they are ill-equipped to face the future---just look at their track record---and its lack of distinction.
- Metro continually hides facts---let’s look at the way they present passenger capacity---or better yet. don't present it. You will not find a Metro document or presentation that provides passenger capacities for any of the six alternatives Metro is studying now--even though they have been working for more than a year and spending more than $100M on the studies so far. Instead, Metro presents how many passengers each car carries--probably because a single monorail car carries fewer passengers than a single heavy rail subway car--done intentionally to make the monorail look non-competitive. But the FACTS are that all three monorail alternatives carry at least 35% MORE passengers per hour than any of Metro's three heavy rail subway alternatives---because monorails have more cars in each train and more trains coming into a station in each hour. Based on information Metro presented at their January Open Houses, the monorail alternatives have a passenger capacity of 16,560 passengers per hour in each direction. The subway alternatives have 11,970 to 12,240. So let’s clarify the misinformation about lower capacity monorails and face the FACTS ABOUT lower capacity and financially irresponsible subways.
Today (it will take 10 weeks) Metro is drilling a hole about 7" wide and 465' deep on Chalone Road taking soil samples---this is the second hole its drilling for soil samples--one can only wonder how many millions of dollars are being squandered in this wasteful exercise---the tunnel is not going to happen---but--who knows-- maybe they will find Jimmy Hoffa--LOL
- Why should UCLA try to bend Metro to its will by advocating for an untimely to complete, fiscally inefficient and irresponsible solution---it does not need a direct stop--it needs a spur from the Monorail to their location---it’s the tail wagging the dog---all the Universities and hospitals in New York do not have a direct stop from any of the subway lines---and that includes the universities and hospitals uptown and downtown-----it’s not a logistics issue---UCLA is simply trying to hijack this project---time for people to know the truth.
- In my meeting with Bechtel in 2022--they advised me that their surveys showed that Angelinos do not like riding underground---that's a powerful fact.
Currently ridership is down on all subways in not only LA but all over the country. Tunneling as a solution will be a white elephant and obsolete before its proposed construction is even finished.
- Metro recently requested $1.9B from the State for 3 projects that need funding and are behind schedule---in January, they received $600M of the money they requested---which takes us back to the beginning of this communication---there is no hope to get $20B+ for this project--and as Mr. Moynihan stated "Hope is not a strategy"---it’s really time to face the truth and reality.
PS---To the students of UCLA who criticized Michael Beck in their resolution advocating for a tunnel for meeting with me---in America--it's always important to understand what your adversaries think and communication often leads to compromise----life is not a one way ticket---and while Michael and I don't currently agree and have seriously differing views on this project, he deserves credit for being open to meeting with me and a representative of Sherman Oaks (who is truly versed in both operations and costs of projects of this size). My view--obvious from what is stated above-- is that there will never be a heavy rail option--so get 70% of what you want --a monorail down the 405-with a spur to UCLA---100% of what you want leads to the 7th option which is that nothing happens because of the weight of the cost---that is a reality check--and a real option. There is a Rolling Stones Song that is totally appropriate for this issue---"You can't always get what you want--but you can get what you need".
PPS. Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all!!
(Fred Rosen is a retired businessman who resides in Los Angeles.)