by Meta L. Maxwell and Charlie Rojas
The City of Eugene and Lane Transit District are advancing multi-million dollar transportation infrastructure plans without transparency, accountability, or participation by the community.
We strenuously object to MovingAhead’s “Locally Preferred Alternatives” and encourage you to sign our petition. Those petitions—now being circulated and already signed by 500 residents, businesses and property owners on all corridors—show the plans that MovingAhead has failed to share.
The petitions state, “NO ONE has consulted us with details of the plans or gained our acceptance of plans that would affect our properties.” Each petition states that there is NO NEED for plans to be implemented as they are being advanced. The specific reasons are stated on the petition for each corridor. The petitions also suggest alternatives that would address NEEDs at lower cost and without adversely affecting the homes, businesses, and property owners along the routes.
The petitioners draw attention to numerous recent transportation and government studies, that reveal private transportation will continue to be the preferred means of transport in the foreseeable future — for convenience and health and safety reasons. Additionally, the reports project an increase in private and ride-share vehicles, including electric vehicles, which will require parking and charging stations. None of these projects are accommodated by MovingAhead’s plans.
The MovingAhead Project Management Team (including Lane Transit District and City of Eugene) has been lying to and misleading the public, LTD Board of Directors, and Eugene City Council regarding the degree of public engagement and plans being advanced for five major corridors in Eugene: River Road, Highway 99, Coburg Road 30th Avenue, and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The MovingAhead Project Management Team has NOT shown people living, working, and owning properties on the five corridors the detailed multi-million dollar plans that were developed as “EmX,” and “Enhanced Corridor” alternatives in 2017.
The MovingAhead Project Team has NOT consulted with residents, businesses, or property owners regarding how the plans would affect their homes, businesses or properties. Instead, the Team has engaged with hand-picked special interest groups and corridor members by sharing select general information, and holding “focus groups” and town halls in a manner designed to satisfy the need to say they have engaged with the public, without honesty or transparency.
The meetings have NOT resulted in modification to the multi-million dollar plans first developed in 2017 and hidden until 2019. MovingAhead has engaged in a steady marketing campaign to promote plans they developed that are unnecessary, unaffordable, and detrimental to the community at large.
On December 1, 2021, the MovingAhead Project Management Team mailed SOME property owners along the corridors a letter stating that the MovingAhead project, which began in 2015 and had been set aside since October 2019, would accept feedback on the project’s “preferred corridor alternatives for 45 days, from December 1, 2022 through January 14, 2022.”
Due to the short notice, holidays, surge in the pandemic, and huge volume of information needing review in order to properly comment, this is unrealistic for any serious review or thoughtful response.
Not only is the timeframe unreasonable but so is the notice. LTD’s website does not include any deadlines or timelines for public involvement or comment on the MovingAhead Project, nor does the Eugene City Council’s website. Given that hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds will be needed to implement, operate and maintain any of MovingAhead’s plans, and MovingAhead’s stated goal of public engagement, it should be expected that the plans and opportunity for public input would also be reported by local newspapers, radio and television stations to reach as many members of the public as possible.
Of even greater concern, when anyone desires to learn more about MovingAhead’s proposals and attempts to access the website for MovingAhead through LTD’s website, a disclaimer box appears. It reads: “www.ltd.org says, “By clicking on this link, you will leave the LTD website for a third-party site not operated by Lane Transit District. Although it has been approved as a reliable partner site, LTD does not represent the third party. Lane Transit District is not responsible for third-party website content. Privacy and security policies may differ from those practiced by Lane Transit District.”
LTD needs to disclose who the third party is that runs the MovingAhead website, why they do not represent LTD when their employee manages the MovingAhead project, why LTD is not responsible for content on the site, and how privacy and security of the site differ from that on LTD’s site.
MovingAhead has conspired with BEST (Better Eugene Springfield Transportation, a 501c3 non-profit that refuses to reveal their donors) to promote and market the MovingAhead project. BEST has been engaged to schedule public meetings, and has regularly distributed misleading and incomplete information about the alternatives being promoted. BEST’s contributors seem to include individuals, special interest groups, contractors and suppliers who will financially benefit if the MovingAhead plans go forward.
Given their involvement with BEST, the LTD Board of Directors and Eugene City Council need to insist that the names and interests of donors and affiliates of BEST be publicly disclosed, along with the interests of any other parties they are affiliating with to promote the MovingAhead plans.
Shamefully, at the public work session for MovingAhead held with the Eugene City Council on May 26, 2021, ALL Councilors said they were for the MovingAhead plans. They gave their support while admitting they had not reviewed or considered the community input through 2019 that was detailed in a 293 page “Comment Response Report” they were given by the MovingAhead Project Management Team before the meeting.
The Eugene City Councilors endorsed MovingAhead despite the Councilors and public having unanswered questions regarding costs, ridership, charges for bus service, feasibility of feeder services, and other concerns needing to be addressed. Furthermore, they lent support despite the fact that MovingAhead’s detailed plans developed in 2017, had not been modified to address any of the concerns and adverse impacts on individual properties that were identified to LTD, the City Council and/or MovingAhead.org prior to the work session.
In effect, the Eugene City Council was stating their support for plans they did not understand, had not reviewed or vetted. They abandoned their duties to act in the best interest of their constituents — all members of the community.
MovingAhead Project Management Team is pushing the LTD Board of Directors and Eugene City Council to approve the “Locally Preferred Alternatives” (detailed in the MovingAhead plans Dated 2017 and posted at http://www.movingahead.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/23-CH2M-2017.pdf) trusting that the individuals running the MovingAhead project will at a later date make changes to the plans to address the public’s concerns.
Implementation of the recommendations would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to expand, operate and maintain new bus, biking, and walking infrastructure for which NO NEED has been documented and which homeowners, businesses and property owners along the corridors do not want. There is no reason for the Board or Council to vest such trust in MovingAhead Project Management given their pattern of lying and deception to date, and the fact that the proposals being advanced would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars that could be better allocated not only for transportation, but also for other needs in the community.
The LTD Board of Directors and Eugene City Council need to fulfill their fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the public, by refusing to endorse or vote on MovingAhead’s plans until the actual need for changes to the existing corridors has been documented; the plans are reviewed with residents, businesses and property owners along the corridors; the detailed plans are modified to address concerns; cost and sources of funds for building, operating and maintaining the proposals are identified; AND that the public is given ample notice to access and comment on the modified plans before votes are cast.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Meta L. Maxwell
I am an accountant by training who worked for the outside auditor/CPA firm, Kenneth Leventhal and Company, in Los Angeles during the 1980s when we were hired to do the forensic investigation of Charlie Keating’s criminality in the savings and loan scandal. I have been an LTD passenger on both conventional and EmX buses for over a decade.
From my experience, it is obvious the EmX has NO internal controls in order to verify either ridership or revenue. Regular buses have drivers confirm that passengers have paid their fare, either by showing a day pass, or electronically with a monthly pass. Along with that, a mechanical cash box will collect the fare, and the driver will hand over a ticket – simple and highly effective. The EmX has none of that. Drivers have no contact with passengers because passengers exit and enter from the side or back, not the front where the driver is located. No mechanical or electronic method of fare verification is used on the EmX. Prior to lockdowns, Fare Officers would occasionally board the EmX, demand payment verification, and then ride the route to check passengers payments at stops along the way. But, that wasn’t constant, those officers weren’t on every EmX, and they weren’t available on weekends.
After several months of free bus service, fares were again collected on LTD buses starting in February 2021. But EmX fare oversight has become even less reliable than before lockdowns. Every so often, a Transit Officer boards EmX at the Eugene or Springfield station for payment checks. But, they do not ride the length of the route, meaning for the bulk of the EmX Eugene-Glenwood-Springfield loop, there is no fare enforcement. Without that, LTD has no verifiable data regarding ridership or revenue. No one needs an accounting degree to realize a gigantic hole exists in LTD’s reporting of the answer to the single most important question for management. Where’s the money?
LTD had more than a year to rectify the major problem of a lack of accurate accounting, but has not. Now, more than ever, the public, as well as state and federal agencies LTD and the City solicit funds from, need accurate, verifiable ridership and revenue data to evaluate the efficacy of spending tax payer money on EmX and MovingAhead infrastructure. The shutdown of our economy, now approaching two years, has created the worst economic downturn in Oregon and Eugene history. LTD and the City have an obligation to report to us the financial situation of LTD and EmX corridors. LTD’s outside auditors, Moss Adams, had to have made LTD aware of this major issue, and if they did, and LTD’s management didn’t fix it, serious internal controls and oversight are missing.
Furthermore, state and federal agencies are going to ask LTD and the City to provide accurate, verifiable ridership and revenue data. That’s standard operating procedure, and it looks as if there’s nothing accurate to give them. MovingAhead proposes to eliminate five conventional buses that have internal controls, and replace them with those that don’t. This despite the fact the current EmX is a haven for fare evaders, and ridership is near non-existent past the university, and the bulk of the Glenwood-Springfield loop. If truth in advertising is required, this boondoggle should be called “The Empty X.”
On Wednesday, February 23, 2022, a packet of nearly 500 signed petitions was delivered to the City Council, all of which indicated STRENUOUS objection to the proposed “EmX” and “Enhanced Corridor” build-outs. Of that, over 150 signed petitions against EmX were collected from people living, working, and/or owning residences, businesses and commercial properties directly on River Road. Business owners were outraged that they hadn’t been informed of these proposals. Many barely survived lockdowns, and quite a number won’t make it if they have customer accessibility curtailed, hence the anger.
I urge the City Councilors to visit individual businesses in your wards to properly gauge their sentiments regarding EmX. Please bring the CH2M Hill plans completed for the River Road corridor in 2017, available from Planning, which display the amount of damage possible to their properties and businesses. Indicate to them what’s to occur if YOU and the Council vote to approve, and note their reactions. Focus groups and tightly controlled PR sales pitches, which has been the extent of public engagement, are worthless.
Also, a high percentage of those who provide housing and jobs on River Road are NOT located on the corridor. Many owners of residences, businesses, and properties are found elsewhere in the city and even out of state. Nevertheless, they are vital to our community. They need to be contacted by retrieving their addresses available in the Lane County Tax records.
It’s imperative that the Council and LTD have a proper understanding of what constituents think of the EmX prior to your vote to advance plans that will demolish their properties and livelihoods.
– Charlie Rojas
The Eugene City Council schedule includes a “MovingAhead Deliberation and Action (Work Session & Possible Action)” Mar. 14, 2022, 5:30 p.m.
The Lane Transit District Board of Directors is also expected to take up MovingAhead at its regular meeting Mar. 16, 2022, 4:30 p.m.