Transportation alliance eyed

BURBANK — Public transportation money usually allocated to Los Angeles County could soon flow to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena as the area considers forming a regional transportation alliance that would allow the three cities to apply for needed funds.

The Burbank City Council is scheduled to consider the possible Arroyo Verdugo Transit Alliance at a future meeting and, though the issue has not yet come to the floors of the Pasadena and Glendale councils, officials in those cities support the proposal.

The alliance would fuse the three cities into a single operator — though maintain the independence of each city’s transportation lines — so officials in Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena can apply for funds currently allocated to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Greg Hermann, chief assistant community development director, adding that no dollar amount has been set.

“We’re working with [Metro] to determine how much the three cities would be eligible to apply for in a lump sum,” Hermann said, adding that a meeting with Metro and Burbank officials is set for May 8 to crystallize how many dollars are at stake. “If for any reason . . . we have to combine our lines and detract from our individuality, we would not be interested in doing that. We want to maintain local orientation and hopefully add additional routes and expand service.”

Money would likely be divided among the three cities based on ridership, he said.

BurbankBus, established in 2002, averages more than 350,000 riders a year and about 30,000 riders a month, said Chris Daste, director of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.

Pasadena Area Rapid Transit System serves 1.7 million passengers a year and about 140,000 riders a month, Pasadena Transit Manager Cathy Cole said.

“We’ve had informal discussion with the city manager but no formal council vote,” she said. “But we’re very interested in exploring what is being looked at. There is a strong interest based on our city’s goals that would allow us to better serve our riders.”

The Glendale Beeline serves about 2.2 million riders a year, according to Glendale’s Traffic and Transportation Administrator Jano Baghdanian.

As the largest of the three transportation lines, Glendale stands to command the lion’s share of alliance funds if it is divvied up by ridership.

Pasadena’s and Glendale’s transportation lines are financially stable, officials said.

For Burbank, the impetus in forming the tri-cities alliance is economical and practical, as added revenue to BurbankBus would offset the projected deficit at which the Los Angeles County Metro-run transportation line is currently running, Councilwoman Marsha Ramos said.

“It’s a way of accessing more dollars that we’re going to need if we want to expand our transit system,” she said. “[Metro] is cutting services and moving in a different direction. If we’re going to have to pick up more of the load and expand services, this is a way of getting access to revenue.”

Last year, Burbank received $1.63 million in Proposition C and $1.88 million in Proposition A funds, money allocated to cities based on population, which pays for Burbank’s transportation operations. But the $3.55 million is not enough to offset the projected financial shortfall, forecasted to be about $1.09 million next fiscal year, said Hermann, adding that BurbankBus is not in danger of service reductions.

The roots of the alliance stretch back six years, when BurbankBus was in its infancy with a small share of riders that did not necessitate an infusion of regional funds, she said.

A year ago, the three cities determined it was economically feasible to consider an alliance, and on March 26, then-Mayor Ramos met with former Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich to discuss proposed Metro bus service cuts and what effect those might have on regional bus riders, Ramos said.

Rather than canceling service outright, Burbank suggested that Metro instead allow local agencies to assume operation of local service, in exchange for receiving a share of Metro’s cost savings as additional revenue to support the city’s transit operating expenses, she said.

At the time, Metro staff said there was no precedent for such a fix, suggesting instead that Burbank merge with transportation lines in Glendale and Pasadena that would allow the cities to apply for regional funds, said Michael Cano, transportation deputy for Antonovich.


 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@ latimes.com.

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