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L.A. MTA's Snoble presents balanced budget with increased service

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to spend $126 million less in fiscal-year 2003, which begins July 1, than it did in the current fiscal year — while delivering more bus and rail service and not increasing fares.

MTA Chief Executive Officer Roger Snoble — who took the helm Sept. 1 — balanced the proposed budget by reducing administrative overhead, driving down bus and rail operating costs, and decreasing worker’s compensation expenses through an aggressive safety management plan.

"By controlling costs, we will be able to deliver a record amount of bus and rail service next year as well as fund new street and highway, and other regional programs," said Snoble in a prepared statement. "We also will decentralize Metro Bus operations into five service sectors in an effort to provide better customer service and be more responsive to local communities."

Overall, bus operations would remain MTA’s highest priority — with 46.8 percent of the total budget ($1.216 billion). In addition to subsidizing municipal bus operations and paratransit services, funds would be used to expand Metro Rapid bus service, build a 14-mile busway, and introduce a regional pass valid for travel on all Metro buses and trains, and 11 municipal bus lines.

Another 19.1 percent of the proposed budget ($497 million) would be used for highway and other regional transportation programs, such as constructing freeway carpool lanes, widening streets, separating grades at railroad crossings, and improving traffic signal coordination.

Rail operating costs and construction would receive the next-largest portion of the budget ($422 million or 16.2 percent). Funds would be used to begin constructing the Eastside extension of the Metro Gold Line from Union Station to Atlantic and Beverly, which is scheduled for completion in 2008 and would connect at Union Station with the Metro Gold Line extension to Pasadena, which is scheduled to open in summer. MTA’s proposed budget includes $16 million to test the new Pasadena line next spring, and hire and train operators and mechanics.

The proposed budget also calls for 573,000 Metro Rail revenue service hours, which is a 29,000-hour increase compared with FY 2002. MTA states Metro Rail will cost $267.81 an hour to operate, down from $269.76 this year. Meanwhile, cost per passenger mile for the rail line already has reached 35 cents vs. 43 cents per passenger mile for bus operations.

An additional $38 million (1.4 percent of the budget) would go toward Metrolink commuter rail operation.

Finally, MTA also budgeted $111 million for governmental programs, such as transportation planning, MTA’s customer information service, and maintenance of regional buses.

Authority officials expect MTA’s debt service next year would be $315 million (12.1 percent of the total budget), down from $339 million this year.

MTA’s board plans to hold a budget workshop May 13, as well as a public meeting to discuss the budget May 16, then consider adopting the proposal at its regular board meeting May 23.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/6/2002