Fare Discounts for Students

IMG_0651Commuting to school is about to become easier and cheaper, thanks to a newly revamped Universal Student Pass or U-Pass pilot program being implemented by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority this fall.

Out of the County’s 1.4 million full-time undergraduate and graduate students, only 1 percent take advantage of Metro’s existing program for providing subsidized transit passes. It offered a 57 percent discount on a College/Vocational 30-day pass, but students balked at the lengthy application process and the requirement that undergrads enroll in at least 12 units


To provide students with a greater benefit, Metro acted on a motion by Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas to launch a U-Pass pilot program at up to 10 community colleges, where students would receive a heavily discounted TAP card.

Starting in Fall 2016, undergrads enrolled with as few as eight units will be eligible for the discount, and Metro will work with schools to encourage sign-ups through the academic registration process.

“These reforms are a win-win, giving students access to safe, efficient and affordable transportation while also giving Metro a great opportunity to grow ridership,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“If students get hooked, there’s potential for them to become lifelong riders, which would then benefit schools by relieving parking issues,” he added. “I anticipate that schools will also step up to the plate by increasing the subsidy and making the pass even more attractive.”

Supervisor Goes to Sacramento to Preserve Homeless Funding Options

Tasked with garnering support for a Board-approved motion seeking legislative authority to help fund the fight against homelessness, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas journeyed to Sacramento to speak with lawmakers about the crisis in Los Angeles County.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon

“We’ve polled extensively and we’ve learned from the people of the County of Los Angeles that homelessness is a top tier issue, second only to jobs and the economy,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas testified before the California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, chaired by state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). “Homelessness is the issue driving people’s conscience, stirring their spirits, causing us to know what we need to do.”

You will hear from the County of Los Angeles a cry of urgency,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added, speaking on behalf of the Board. “We need your help in allowing us to do what we need to do. We need to go to the ballot and we need your permission to allow us to do that.”

With 46,874 homeless in the County on any given night, the Board approved a Homeless Initiative to explore options for addressing the crisis this growing problem. After conducting 18 policy summits and collaborating with 25 County departments, 30 cities, and more than 100 community organizations, the Office of the Homeless Initiative developed 47 strategies.

LA Legislative Delegation

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas meeting with the LA Legislative Delegation

The Board approved those strategies in February and allocated $100 million in one-time funding for initial implementation. Now it is weighing options for funding, including redirecting Measure B revenue, imposing a parcel tax, a marijuana tax, a half-cent sales tax, or a half-percent tax on personal income exceeding $1 million a year. At present, the Board cannot use the last option as it requires a change in state law.

A recent poll has shown that a half-percent tax on personal income exceeding $1 million a year tax would be supported by 76 percent of likely voters. It would also generate $243 million each year, which, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, would cover about half the annual amount needed to provide services to the homeless population on an ongoing basis.

“I am asking this Committee to consider the Board’s directive to include budget trailer bill language that would provide counties with the authority to seek voter approval at the local level to impose a special tax on personal annual incomes over $1 million dollars for purposes of providing housing and services for homeless individuals/families,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in Sacramento.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 1.51.59 PM

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas testified before the California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee

He also expressed the Board’s support of the state Senate’s No Place Like Home proposal, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), which seeks to build affordable housing for the homeless and mentally ill.

“The No Place Like Home proposal is an excellent start – it will predominantly provide the resources to build the infrastructure,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Los Angeles County, however, also needs to find the ongoing revenue to support the services that homeless individuals will need, even after they obtain housing.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas met with several state lawmakers, and also urged the public to advocate for trailer bill language that would grant counties the authority impose a special tax on personal income above $1 million a year to address the County’s crisis of homelessness.


Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in front of the California State Capitol in Sacramento

ET Comes Home to Exposition Park

Crowds celebrated as NASA’s only remaining flight-ready fuel tank journeyed about 15 miles on the streets of Los Angeles and Inglewood to arrive at the California Science Center in Exposition Park. Dubbed ET-94, the massive orange cylinder will eventually be exhibited with the space shuttle Endeavour and twin solid rocket boosters – the centerpiece of the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center opening in 2019.

DFB_3919What a welcome home party for Shuttle Endeavour’s external fuel tank!” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “It was an amazing sight to behold as this massive component of the orbiter rolled into Exposition Park to the cheers of thousands who gathered for its arrival.”

“The California Science Center will be home to the only full-stack shuttle display in the world that will eventually be positioned upright as if it’s ready to launch,” he added. “It is my hope that this will inspire the next generation of scientists and encourage


Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mrs. Avis Ridley-Thomas

students to achieve in science, math and technology.”

From the New Orleans facility where it was built, ET-94 traveled by barge through the Panama Canal to Marina del Rey. It was then loaded onto a specially designed transportation device and driven to the museum. ET-94 is larger and longer than Endeavour, which made its own dramatic journey to the California Science Center four years ago, including piggybacking on airplane. Unlike Endeavor, however, ET-94 does not have wings, making it easier to maneuver on city streets.

ET-94 was designed to carry propellants that would thrust a shuttle into orbit before being jettisoned about 70 miles above the Earth’s atmosphere. ET-94 was built for flight but never used.


All Aboard the Expo Line to Santa Monica

IMG_0450Commuters can now travel by train to the beach, with the opening of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. The 1.5-billion dollar project features seven stations, including several in Los Angeles County’s Second District, and the last stop is only half a mile from the iconic Santa Monica Pier.

“After the Pacific Electric Streetcars were decommissioned 63 years ago, many never believed that public transit would ever return to the Westside,” said Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “But today, Metro has made the impossible possible.  Angelenos can now get from Santa Monica all the way to Downtown Los Angeles in just 47 minutes.”

IMG_0454 “Not only will the Expo Line extension improve mobility throughout the region, it will be an economic stimulus for all the neighborhoods that it passes through,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “Its construction has already created thousands of jobs, and I expect its operation will create even more opportunities for more people.”

Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Member James T. Butts said, “We are changing the transportation landscape of L.A. County and providing a transit system for generations to come.”

The Expo Line now stretches 15.2 miles between downtown Los Angeles and downtown Santa Monica, with 19 stations in all. The extension makes up 6.6 miles and 7 stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 27th St/Bergamot, 17th St/Santa Monica College and Downtown Santa Monica. Celebrations and ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held at each of the stations, as the people welcomed their new community asset. Ridership on the Expo Line extension is projected to total 18,000 to 20,000 weekday boardings after the first year of service.


Thumbs up at the Downtown Santa Monica Station

“For the first time in a generation, Angelenos and visitors from around the world can travel from our skyline to the shoreline without setting foot in their cars, bringing needed relief to some of our most congested corridors,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Second Vice Chair Eric Garcetti.

“This is a really wonderful day for me, partly because I had the privilege of carrying the legislation to create the Exposition Construction Authority,” said Metro Board Member and L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “But the real winners today are all the residents of LA County who can bypass traffic in yet another segment of our region, and look forward to even more!”


Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at the Palms Station

Service on the Expo Line begins each day at about 4:45 a.m. and continues until about 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Trains will run every 12 minutes until about 8 p.m., after which service will be every 20 minutes. A paved bike path runs adjacent to the tracks for most of the route between Culver City and the 17th Street/SMC Station.

A regular Metro fare is $1.75 and includes two hours of free transfers for those using a TAP card. A daily pass that is good for unlimited rides on Metro is $7 and monthly passes are $100. There are discounts available for seniors, the disabled, Medicare recipients and students. Please see taptogo.net for more information on how to apply for discounted fares.

“The opening of the Expo Line extension today is a great reminder that we have come a long way in a short time,” said Metro CEO Phil Washington. “But we still have more to do with easing everyday congestion. We will continue to strive to deliver our investments on time and on budget for the transportation network that Los Angeles County deserves.”

With the Expo Line extension, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail system now includes six lines spanning 105 miles.




Moving Forward to Fund the Fight Against Homelessness


Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to seek a change in state law that would keep all options open to fund the fight against homelessness.

“To address the profundity of the crisis and the depth of poverty and homelessness in the county, we have to do more,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during Tuesday’s Board meeting, where more than 150 members of the public testified in support of his motion.

“It won’t get better unless we have significant intervention,” he added. “Each member of this Board has said repeatedly that one-time funding isn’t sufficient. Now it’s time to get on with the rigorous exploration of the kind of funding that would be necessary.”


With 46,874 people living on the streets of Los Angeles County on any given day – up 5.6 percent from last year – Supervisor Ridley-Thomas called homelessness “the most compelling crisis that confronts us.” He added the County is “uniquely positioned and, therefore, specifically obliged” to take action because of its massive social services, health and public safety infrastructure.

Since adopting a sweeping set of strategies February to address the worsening crisis, the Board has been weighing options for funding. This includes redirecting Measure B revenue, or imposing a parcel tax, a marijuana tax, a half-cent sales tax, or a half-percent tax on personal income exceeding $1 million a year.

A recent poll found 76 percent of likely voters favor the last option – a “dramatic level of support,” pollster David Binder told the Board. The Board, however, does not currently have the authority to put such an initiative on the November ballot. Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl’s motion, which passed with the support of Supervisor Hilda Solis, launches the County’s efforts to seek that authority from the state Legislature and Governor.

“Our actions show that the Board is strongly committed to finding the long-term funding needed to implement the County’s innovative and comprehensive Homelessness Initiative,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “The friendly amendment I introduced this week also allows us to evaluate the interaction of this possible County tax with a new state bond proposal which could build housing in the County.”

The Board also approved Tuesday a measure by Supervisors Solis and Don Knabe that would delve into how the County uses existing funding to serve the homeless. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas expressed support, saying, “It continues our long-term efforts to always ensure we are leveraging existing resources as effectively as possible.”

More than 150 people testified before the Board to support continued efforts to address the homelessness crisis. Steve Renahana of the nonprofit Shelter Partnership told the Board: “Thank you for your leadership in passing a comprehensive set of strategies to address homelessness in the County, and thank you even more for beginning the heavy lifting of providing the resources that are necessary to implement those strategies.”

Marsha Temple, executive director of the nonprofit Integrated Recovery Network, added, “The cost of doing nothing is too high, both in terms of funding and human misery.”

“I’m so proud that you always remember who you’re working for,” said “Sweet” Alice Harris, an advocate for the homeless. “I’m glad you didn’t let God down. Thank you.”