15
Sat, Jun

Sepulveda Pass Transit – Metro Public Outreach Fails Due To Withheld and Trivial Information

LOS ANGELES

LA TRANSPO - 

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

This follow-on to last week’s article looks at the missing half of Metro’s answer to the eighth of my 20 questions to Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins: “What actions did Metro employ to implement its ‘partnership with the public’ that former Metro CEO Phil Washington promised in his December 2016 letter? In his heartfelt letter after voters passed Measure M, Phil Washington stated: ‘We look forward to our continued partnership as we move forward to deliver Measure M to the people of LA County. We are committed to keeping you updated and engaged in our progress as we implement this world-class program.’ Looking back today, it seems like Metro never tried to realize such a partnership and certainly never implemented it. This further detracts from Metro as a trusted steward.”

Metro’s answer addressed only the quantity of their outreach, which at best earned a D-plus grade, and ignored the quality. This article focuses on the failed quality of Metro’s public outreach due to withheld information, trivial information, and unrebutted misinformation.

Withheld Information – The information that Metro hasn’t told the public about this project exceeds what they have told. They’ve withheld important basic information the public needs about the project’s six alternatives, such as how much each will cost, how long each will take to build, how Metro will finance their construction, and where eminent domain will be required. The long list at the right is only some of the basic information that Metro has never presented but keeps promising soon. We haven’t seen any of it yet.

Metro currently has the information. They’ve spent more than $100 million over the past 3-1/2 years with Bechtel, SkyRail, and their environmental contractor HTA Partners to study the project alternatives – about three times more than they have spent on any prior project. Yet they continue to withhold basic information from us.

A good example is withholding safety and security features. SkyRail’s monorail trains can improve safety because they are fully open from end to end, allowing security personnel access to an entire train, not just a single car. Metro never explained this to the public, but SkyRail highlighted it at a recent local meeting. The public deserves this type of information, especially about safety.

A diagram of a schedule

Description automatically generatedTrivial Information – Much of the information Metro presents at its pubic meetings is trivial, such as useless schedules and tiny no-detail route drawings. A great example is the “schedule” at the right that Metro presented at their May 2024 public meetings. This is not a schedule – it’s a cartoon with no dates and no scale. The public deserves a real schedule showing where the project is today and when it will be finished for each alternative – because some alternatives will take 10+ years longer to build than others.

Unrebutted Misinformation – Metro’s public outreach has also failed by not immediately rebutting misinformation, which has further confused the public. Several years ago, a misinformation campaign convinced many people that monorail stations were in the center of the freeway – but this was never true. Skyrail’s August 2020 proposal to Metro had no such stations. Yet a few months ago, a person told me they hated monorail because its stations were in the center of the freeway. Metro finally presented station locations at its January 2023 public meetings, but it was too late, and they failed to simply state that monorail stations are not in the center of the freeway. Many still believe this lie.

The quality of Metro’s public outreach earns an F grade. They’ve withheld too much information that the public needs, insulted the public with trivial information, and failed to rebut misinformation. No matter how much outreach they do, Metro’s public outreach is a failure – as is their partnership with the public and their ability to be a trusted steward.

(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].)