As former chair and a current board member of the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line Construction Authority, I write to properly put into context Howard Fine's recent article, "Ridership Projections Raise Questions About Light Rail" (Jan. 10). After a number of exhaustive studies on the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line's potential ridership, it is important to keep in mind that these projections are simply "best-guess estimates" and not hard and fast numbers.
The Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line's original Environmental Impact Report estimated 42,000 daily riders in the first year and 68,000 by 2010. Two MTA ridership studies, the first of which was conducted in 1995, estimate daily ridership at 32,000. These numbers were then revised in 1999 to a "best guesstimate" of 19,000 first-year daily riders, with 27,000 per day in 2010. Finally, the city of Pasadena recently conducted a more detailed ridership study that, unlike any of the other ridership estimates, takes into account specific land-use elements at each Blue Line station. This study estimates 44,000 daily riders in the line's first year.
Add to this mix the accuracy of past MTA ridership studies on the Long Beach Blue Line and the Green Line, and one can easily see why these projections are virtually meaningless. The MTA, in its past ridership studies, grossly underestimated the ridership of two extremely popular light rail lines. The Long Beach Blue Line is one of the busiest and most successful light rail lines in the United States. Additionally, the Green Line, which goes "from nowhere to nowhere," has shocked transportation planners with its steady ridership and increasing popularity, with 26,000 daily riders.
Therefore, I fail to see what's all the fuss about a "new" ridership projection by the MTA, especially due to the inaccuracy of past MTA studies and the numerous other studies that outline a higher projected daily Blue Line ridership. Given this history, even a cursory look at other, more important facts will quickly demonstrate that the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line will have a steady and regular ridership that is closer to the original ridership projections (40,000 daily riders) than supposed "new" MTA estimates.
Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line Construction Authority
As chief executive officer of the Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority, I wish to put into the correct context the statements I made during my interview with Howard Fine in his Jan. 10 article, "Ridership Projections Raise Questions About Light Rail."
While I stated, "most light rail projects open at around 20,000 to 25,000 passengers and build from there," I was talking in general about light rail projects, not the Blue Line specifically. The most recent consultant reports on ridership estimate that when the MTA begins operation of this line in 2003, ridership will be approximately 32,000 daily, a number that may go as high as 44,000 riders per day in the line's first year of operation! Considering that the Salt Lake light rail system carried 30,000 last Saturday in only its second month of operation, I believe the Blue Line will do even better given the higher density along the Blue Line Corridor.
Another point that requires clarification is the cost of this project. First, it should be noted that the original billion-dollar project budget was significantly reduced through a series of peer review and value engineering exercises. The current $413.7 million cost to complete the project is extremely competitive on a cost-per-mile basis with other light rail projects across the country at similar stages in their development.
MICHAEL D. THORPE
Chief Executive Officer
L.A. to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority
School + Retail for Ambassador
With the school board's recent decision to abandon completion of the Belmont Learning Center, all eyes will be turning to other options in the city to serve the needs of Los Angeles' growing student population. We in Wilshire Center recognize that the site of the Ambassador Hotel will be the focus of much attention.
Those of us who have spent years and numerous resources improving our community are deeply committed to continuing to build Wilshire Center's vibrant and successful future. It has been a frustrating and difficult 13 years, when we have watched this important piece of property sit fenced and unused, providing no benefit to the hundreds of thousands of individuals in Wilshire Center.
We know that a big part of building a true urban center is to provide good schools for our student population and offer retail and entertainment options to the people living and working in our community. The Ambassador site presents a great opportunity for both. The portion of the property between Seventh and Eighth streets may be developed as a school site to serve area students, while the portion fronting Wilshire can be improved to provide entertainment and retail amenities that are needed in Wilshire Center.
It's time we all look to the future and recognize the greater good that can be served by improving the Ambassador site, thereby creating local projects that will truly meet the needs of the many people who live and work here every day.
Wilshire Center Business Improvement
Salespeople Posing as Journalists
Regarding your Jan. 10 cover story on documercials ("All the News That's Not Really News"), TVA Productions attempts to portray "Business World News" as legitimate journalism not only to its (limited) audience, as your story pointed out, but also in its solicitation of companies it hopes to feature.
We have been "invited" to participate in an upcoming show nearly a half dozen times in the past two years. Each time, TVA solicitors have phoned our CEO or president directly, represented "Business World News" as a legitimate TV newsmagazine, and indicated they were looking for businesspeople to interview on their program. To further perpetuate the impression of a media query, TVA requests that companies submit background documents so they "can be considered for inclusion by our editors." The fact that there is a cost associated is mentioned last and only as if it were truly incidental: "We will need your assistance in defraying some of our production costs."
While I am concerned about the confusion clearly wrought by commercials that pose as news, I am more unsettled by salespeople who present themselves as journalists. Local executives who may not have benefit of corporate communications counsel should be advised: Legitimate news organizations never ask for money.
MARK H. LEAF
Public Relations Director
Editor's Note: Jeffery Goddard, president of TVA Productions, responds as follows:
It appears Mark Leaf is not familiar with TVA or has not seen our program. Pinkerton's Inc. was a repeat and satisfied TVA client from 1993-96 (under prior management). While TVA Productions tries not to make a habit of repeatedly contacting the same company to research its candidacy for a spotlight on "Business World News," the fact that Pinkerton's was invited to appear on the show more than once is merely a reflection that TVA Productions recognizes Pinkerton's Inc. as a successful industry leader.
TVA's initial contact with a prospective featured company is not a sales call and is not made by salespeople, but rather by research coordinators whose job it is to determine whether the company meets "Business World News" feature criteria and shooting schedule. Moreover, contrary to Mr. Leaf's suggestion, companies do not pay to be featured on the show, only for the commercial use of a corporate video version of the broadcast Spotlight (i.e. video reprints, CD-ROMs, Internet streaming, tradeshow loop tapes, etc.). TVA's research coordinators fully disclose these matters at the onset of discussions.
Wilshire Center Chamber of Commerce
Although physicians' salaries may not be what they used to be ("L.A. Physicians' Plight," Jan. 17), they still far exceed the compensation paid to teachers, who still for some reason remain one of the lowest-paid professionals.
I would like to believe that physicians chose medicine for the same reason that teachers still choose education; not merely for compensation but because of a passion and dedication to their profession.
As the proud parent of an elementary school child who is part of the public school system, I am continually in awe of the dedication and passion of so many of the teachers who provide one of the most important services to our society and provide the beginning education for some of our future physicans.
Physicians' salaries still afford them a very decent lifestyle in comparison to the ridiculous compensation paid to those who are guiding our most precious resources. Thank God we still have wonderful teachers who continue to teach without being compensated what they are worth, which is priceless.
Sue the Environmentalists
In regard to your story "Businesses Accuse Environmental Group of Blackmail" (Jan. 31): This has to be one of the most stupid laws ever. These judges and lawyers have way too much time on their hands.
You have to be nuts to open a business here in L.A. Tell me, how does suing someone, then giving the money to a charity (I'll bet there is very little that gets to charity after the deduction for the legal expense) give me cleaner water or make the bay cleaner? I guess I missed that day of logic class.
Since private citizens can sue, these companies should turn the tables and sue all the judges and everyone at BayKeeper.
Crazy, Crazy, Crazy!!!!
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