The warm and friendly Westwood Village Rotary Club of District 5280 of Rotary International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bradford LLC, started gathering at noon, in our zoom meeting room. After our social get-together, PP Tom Barron started our meeting at 12:30pm, with the ring of a fake bell.
PP Chris Bradford brought to us a thoughtful and deep reflection on our abundance of God’s gifts. It was very well done and much appreciated by the Club members.
Ed Gauld was next on the agenda and brought his famous voice for all of us to sing “Let’s go out to the ballgame” in honor of the Dodger’s wild card game win.
Kelly introduced as the President of UCLA Rotaractors by Past President and Emmy award winner and Queen in some tribe in Uganda, Marsha Hunt.
John O’Keefe introduced Dr Chuck McCreary, who was a past speaker several months ago, and speaks to John’s church. He also works with John on meditation and offered us all some insights on the value of meditation today.
November 6th is our District’s Foundation annual celebration “Ball Gowns and Bow ties”. Ed and Kathy Gauld signed up for the foundation dinner making us just shy of a full second table.
- Camp Pendleton donations are needed for the families of our servicemen, such as diapers, school books, backpacks, etc.
- Phil Gabriel spoke about the Pageant of the Arts and our annual Holiday Shopping spree – people should start planning for it, but in a different format because of COVID-19. We will meet with the kids by zoom or one-on-one. Let PP Diane Good or Phil know if you want to participate.
District breakfast is coming up October 19th and PP Tom is hoping for a strong turnout from our Club.
- PP Tom announced that the planned Luskin in-person meetings are now delayed until February 2022, due to a delay in the opening of the Luskin Center.
- Be sure you are on “mute” once the pledge is announced
- Adjust your camera so we see your full face (except Dwight because that would be too scary)
- Your space bar or your mouse allows you to unmute when asking questions
- Don’t take telephone calls during the meeting
- Be careful what is going on behind you because we see it too
- Wear your Rotary pin!
John O’Keefe proceeded to introduce our speaker, Goeff Forgione, Assoc General Counsel for the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), Headquartered in downtown L.A. and “Southern California’s principle commuter train”, transporting 50,000 riders/day on 521 miles of track in six counties. Graduated from Univ of Delaware, and cum laude from Notre Dame. Geoff served under Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. He specialized as an attorney in business litigation ending up in the Jones Day law firm before coming to Metrolink as one of two in-house legal counsels.
Geoff was involved in LA5 downtown but got pulled away due to a growing family and work responsibilities. To his credit, he admitted how much he misses it and hopes to renew his membership in Rotary sometime in the near future. He was speaking to us from the Torrance courthouse on the matter of a $35M wrongful death lawsuit that had just been decided in Metrolink’s favor.
The LA Metro light rail (Exposition line) reaches westside of L.A. and not part of Metrolink. It’s the county metro LA Metro line.
Metrolink is a partnership of five Southern California transportation agencies. Covers “double decker long haul commuter trains from Ventura to Oceanside, and inland to San Bernardino and Riverside.” Their board is covered by representatives from the five agencies and he is one of two attorneys serving Metrolink. The heart of the Metrolink mission is to bring about 50,000 people per day to the financial center of downtown L.A. and then return them home later in the day safely. Next year is the 30th anniversary of their operation.
Metrolink covers 521 miles of track and more than 60 stations. They constructed it by buying excess capacity of the freight rail lines in early 1990s through “shared” service agreements. Amtrak and Surfliner and Metrolink serve the community on the freight line tracks.
The California High Speed Rail Initiative (the high speed bullet train) was approved by voters in 2008, connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles. But the need was to build new track, involving the purchase of a lot of land for the lines, through the use of eminent domain. This strategy caused a lot of strain on the funds and could not have been done in the 1990s.
At the height of the pandemic, Metrolink lost 90% of its ridership. It has been building back up since then, including aggressive cleaning of the cars and installation of new air filters. Metrolink is still not back to the peak of ridership but slowly making progress in that direction. To their credit, they stayed open throughout the pandemic in order to service the first responders. “We expect to see ridership return as the economy opens back up.”
The 2028 Olympics will be here soon. Metrolink secured significant funding through the Southern California Optimized Rail Program which has infused $10B in the rail systems in southern California, all in the runup to the Olympics. The event locations range from San Bernardino to Redlands to Perris Valley to UCLA to DTLA and the Coliseum.
Before the pandemic, Metrolink could take credit for taking 10M car trips off the road annually.
We are in a golden age of transportation. First was the blue line down to Long beach on the light rail line. There is the Green line expansion to LAX. The Purple line leads to Santa Monica from DTLA. The shifty line leads to Tom Barron’s house (with free haircuts on board). The various agencies are creating an intermodal transportation system throughout southern California. You can ride from Santa Monica to DTLA in 20 minutes.
The ridership numbers have dropped almost 90% from their pre-pandemic peak and even now have only reached 50% to 60%, and will need another 12 to 18 months to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Questions opened up from our Rotary members. (that’s always a scary scenario)
PP Tom Barron asked about the overall objective of the system.
Phil asked about the use of Interstate 5 for the bullet train tracks instead of wasting money on the purchase of farmland. And also if the subway is under his jurisdiction. LA Metro (the county) runs the light rail lines and the subway coming to Westwood. He was not a part of the original decision on whether or not to use Interstate 5 but says the agency underestimated the cost of land acquisitions.
Metrolink and Amtrak are supposed to be cooperative services. They cooperate together so they don’t compete for riders. Metrolink has more stops but Amtrak has the “bar car”.
PP Gordon Fell asked about the difference between Amtrak and Metrolink cars and the amenities of each and the amount of stops. Metrolink trains are “generally newer” and comfortable, but Amtrak has the “bar car”.
PP Tom Barron asked about the availability of parking around the stations. And they are working with Uber and Lyft to cut down on parking required.
Metrolink and Amtrak have different pricing structures, with Amtrak being more expensive. But the fairs collected never come close to meeting the expense of Metrolink, and the balance is provided by the five transportation agencies that are the partners. Whatever is not collected in the fair box comes from taxpayer funds from the five agencies.
The one and only Bill Roen asked about security and the safety of riding Metrolink. Our speaker explain that crime is “negligible” because they have the same people on the trains as commuters and, there are security personnel on board all trains.
PTC is a $245M and 10 years sophisticated system that allows the system to override human error. This was born out of a horrific accident on a Metrolink train where the engineer was looking at his phone and missed a red light.
PP Richard Thompson asked about the pandemic oriented work from home scenarios and Jeff expects that to be a part of commuter behavior for a while.
PP Tom Barron announced that a donation was being made by WVRC in Geoff’s honor for being our speaker today.