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Sun, Apr

Sepulveda Pass Transit – Prejudicial Survey

LOS ANGELES

LA TRANSPO - [This is the fifth article in a series examining whether Metro can be a trusted steward for the Sepulveda Pass Transit project.]

Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins’ final March 26th email to me, in response to my 20 reasonable questions, was short and sweet: “The information provided in our earlier correspondence remains current and accurate.” She’s referring to Metro’s 20 answers where I demonstrated only one was acceptable. Once again, Metro abruptly shut down a potential opportunity for the public to learn vital information about the Sepulveda Pass project – information that a trusted and transparent project steward would be more than willing to share. What are they hiding and why?

I decided to focus this article on my Question 18 because Metro’s answer was so outrageous: “Why did Metro publish a misleading Metro Summer 2022 Survey about the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project based on untrue assumptions provided to public respondents?” Metro’s survey contractor told the 1,032 interested adults taking the survey that “The funding for this project is already in place.” Most people would assume this meant Metro’s budget was sufficient to build any concept in the survey. But that’s far from true. Metro’s Measure M Expenditure Plan budget for the Sepulveda Pass project is today about $8 billion. Metro’s heavy rail subway concept alternatives will cost two-and-a-half to three times this budget – or more. The funding for this project is NOT in place today.

Metro’s answer to Question 18 stated: “The survey was agnostic as to the specific alternatives and sought to solicit views about various project elements assuming funding was in place. The question was designed this way to remove potential prejudice against raising taxes to fund this project, which would not be necessary given its placement in the Measure M Expenditure Plan together with other funding strategies.” In plain English, I guess this means Metro was willing to tell a “little white lie” to people taking the survey. Some might call this fraud. Why not instead be honest and tell people that Metro is just trying to survey the public’s preferences without consideration of how much one concept costs compared to another. It seems honesty is not Metro’s best policy.

It's odd that the survey is buried in a December 7, 2022 Board Report on Metro’s website, but you won’t find it mentioned in any Metro public presentation. Maybe that’s because some of the survey findings weren’t so palatable. One key finding notes that 66% of those surveyed said: “... they had not read, heard, or seen anything as of yet about the Project.” This is a damning statement about Metro’s so-called “wonderful” public outreach. Another interesting finding is: “Residents are about evenly split on whether they prefer a station on the UCLA campus or on Wilshire Blvd, ¾ of a mile from the UCLA campus with transfer to the campus.” I thought Metro said that there was overwhelming support for an on-campus station.

The real problem here is that Metro and its bureaucracy are totally out of control – an agency that benefits from a never-ending two-percent countywide sales tax funding stream. The Metro Board is not minding the store. But in all fairness, how can thirteen busy officials with full-time jobs and few staff be expected to control the Metro behemoth. Maybe it’s time Metro Board Chair Karen Bass calls for an outside audit of just how effectively and honestly Metro works.

(Bob Anderson is a nuclear engineer with 50 years engineering and business development expertise in the aerospace and high-technology sectors. He is VP and Transportation Committee Chair of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. Contact him at [email protected].)