Officials from the South Bay's 15 cities will meet tonight to discuss hiring a full-time coordinator to address the area's transportation needs.
The move was prompted by scheduled cuts in an aerospace company's employee transit service and proposed reductions in public bus lines, officials said.
"Transit is tailor-made for a joint cooperative effort for cities," said Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Jacki Bacharach, who is leading the effort. "Cities are immediately parochial, but this is something that is important to all of us."
Bacharach, who is also a member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, has asked each of the cities to kick in $3,000 to pay the salary of a full-time coordinator for the South Bay Corridor Steering Committee, a 15-city panel that makes transportation recommendations.
5 Agree, 3 Say No
So far, Torrance, Lawndale, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach and Rolling Hills have agreed to the request, she said, while Lomita, Carson and Palos Verdes Estates have said no.
The South Bay Corridor Steering Committee has been in existence since the early 1970s when there was talk of building a freeway through the South Bay along Hawthorne Boulevard. The freeway was never built, and since then the committee has served primarily to share information among the cities. It has no staff or offices.
Bacharach said a coordinated approach to the South Bay's transportation problems is needed now more than ever because the Southern California Rapid Transit District is cutting routes from the Palos Verdes Peninsula and San Pedro to the aerospace employment centers in El Segundo. In addition, Hughes Aircraft Co. in El Segundo is scaling back its commuter bus service.
"We can no longer afford the time or the fragmentation of proceeding separately," Bacharach said in a letter to the cities. "All of our cities have a stake in the South Bay's mobility, and we can and should all participate in the solution."
Torrance Councilman Mark Wirth, who represents the city on the committee, is optimistic that hiring a full-time coordinator will strengthen the committee.
"I don't think there has been any great effort to pool their money in the past," Wirth said. "I would hope that all cities would join in the effort. We're still at the study stage in all this."
Bacharach said four projects that could be started immediately have already been identified by the county transportation commission:
- A joint telephone information service on South Bay transit services and those provided by RTD.
- A study on the travel patterns of South Bay residents.
- A South Bay commuter bus service to El Segundo and other major employment centers.
- A coastline light-rail fund.
Bacharach said the cities have about $6.1 million in uncommitted funds from Proposition A, the half-percent gasoline tax designated for local transportation needs. She said cities without major transit systems have in the past used those funds for street repairs or bus shelters or have traded them at a discount to other cities for uncommitted general-fund dollars.
Funds for Hughes Service
Bacharach said the steering committee could try to get some of that money to save the Hughes commuter bus service.
The El Segundo City Council on Monday agreed to provide as much as $49,000 of its Proposition A money to match an equal contribution by the county transportation commission to keep the service going.
But the money may not be enough. Neither El Segundo nor the county is willing to run the program because of liability insurance concerns, spokesmen said. A Hughes spokesman said his company could not insure a bus service that would carry employees from other companies.
"Our attorneys have flat out told us that we cannot get the liability insurance," said Verne Wochnick, a spokesman for Hughes. "We are not a public transit company. We would be more than willing to continue marketing the program if either the county or the city or someone else would assume the liability."
Lost More Than $300,000
Wochnick said the company is eliminating the bus service because last year it lost more than $300,000 operating 46-seat buses on 11 routes in the South Bay and the West Los Angeles area, partly because only half the seats were being used.
He said nearly 300 employees pay about 85 cents per trip to use the buses, but the service brought in only about $156,000 last year. He said the company plans to offer subsidized van pools to employees currently using the buses. Wochnick said that the company now runs about 30 10-seat vans for employees in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Bacharach said she is hopeful that the Hughes buses can still be saved by opening the service to other employees in El Segundo. A random check of other major employers in El Segundo found a mixed response.
"There certainly is interest here," said Irv Jones, a spokesman for The Aerospace Corp., which employs about 3,800 people in El Segundo.
Unsure of Employee Interest