A kerfuffle about marathon traffic

When the LA Marathon first announced its new point-to-point course last summer, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke to the significance of transporting participants for free on the Metro on race day. Yesterday, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, in her capacity as MTA Chair, said in a committee meeting that marathoners should not be provided with free race day transportation and withdrew the agenda item from next week’s MTA board meeting. Mayor Villaraigosa plans to take this matter directly to the MTA board meeting on February 22, 2007.

Please email Supervisor Molina and ask her to explain herself. Let her know that runners are going to be making traffic hell enough already without taking away this free pass!

Update: I sent an email a few hours ago and recently received a very interesting response. Continue reading for Supervisor Molina’s email reply.

Dear L.A. Marathon Participant:

Thank you for participating in the L.A. Marathon. It is a cherished Angeleno tradition that thousands of people participate in annually-with millions more watching on television-and it is a custom that keeps the Los Angeles civic family together.

I received your correspondence regarding my insistence that the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) not subsidize the L.A. Marathon-a “for-profit” business-to the tune of over $300,000. I feel compelled to explain plainly the reasoning behind my decision. It is truly unfortunate that a totally avoidable incident is tarnishing this much-anticipated, internationally renowned event.

It is critical to point out that L.A. Marathon organizers never received MTA approval for this subsidy. They promised a free ride to you, the participant, without obtaining the necessary clearance. They lied and they are now feigning outrage when confronted with the truth.

Their action is especially outrageous since the MTA is a publicly funded agency. It is currently facing a nearly one billion dollar deficit over the next five years. To avoid a fiscal disaster, the MTA Board of Directors is seriously considering raising fares. The cost of a day pass may rise from $3.00 to $5.00. Monthly passes may jump from $52 to $75. Monthly passes for seniors may climb from $12 to $37.50. Student monthly passes for children in grades K-12 may increase from $20 to $45 and monthly passes for college students will jump from $30 to $50.

These are increases of between 44 and 212 percent-and they will only cover our first year’s deficit. They might-and, most likely, will-rise even more.

Now the L.A. Marathon-a private entity-is asking these same taxpayers to foot an additional $300,000 because marathon organizers dropped the ball in obtaining a private sponsor. Already, the L.A. Marathon is charging you up to $105 to participate. That is quite a hefty sum. The lowest cost marathon entry fee, for the record, has grown from $75 in 2004 to $85 in 2007. That’s a 21 percent increase. L.A. Marathon organizers apparently feel this is the cost of civic participation-and now they want to charge the public another $300,000-or you-to subsidize a $1.25 fare per L.A. Marathon participant and their family.

As Chair of the MTA Board of Directors, I refuse to let this happen.

Indeed, $300,000 could pay for a great deal of public transportation services, including:

  • 25,000 senior monthly passes
  • 666,666 senior cash bus fares
  • 857,000 senior night bus fares

Public agencies are increasingly asked to provide more services without raising taxes and fees. I strive to achieve this goal to the best of my ability every single day. This means that every penny counts-and those public dollars must go toward paying for public services. I have dedicated my political career to this principle and I will not stop now.

This debacle is unfortunate for everybody. It isn’t fair for you, the L.A. Marathon participant, to be blindsided with this extra cost because event organizers made false promises they couldn’t keep. But neither should L.A. County taxpayers.

I urge you to contact Bill Burke, the head of the L.A. Marathon, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to request that they fulfill their commitment to providing you with free shuttle service. They can be reached using the following contact information:

Bill Burke: drbburke@aol.com, (310) 444-5544 Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: mayor@lacity.org, (213) 978-0600

Thank you again for contacting me.

Chair, MTA Board of Directors

Well that certainly makes the story more interesting. While I commend Molina’s desire to save money, and while I am equally enraged to learn that the Marathon organizers are, in fact, the ones that are guilty here, I am still of the opinion that runners should get free rides. There is not a municipality on Earth that suffers as much from the mismanagement and poor planning of its traffic infrastructure. For the love of God! It seems like there are more left turn arrows in Gainesville, Florida (pop. 120,000) than there are in all of Los Angeles (pop 13,000,000)! If the MTA is currently facing a “one billion dollar deficit over the next five years” then it is BROKEN and was obviously MISMANAGED. That is a rotten excuse.

The LA Marathon makes the already-unbearable driving conditions in this city even more insultingly abominable on the day its run. Its organizers should be made to pay, yes. I agree. But runners should get free rides. If it makes the traffic .001% easier to manage on that day it will have been worth it.

Do you really want to know what my California taxes were last year? Except for the fire and police departments, the ROADS are the only part of the state towards which I want my money to go!

2024-02-16: Broken links in this post have been removed and/or updated.

There are 4 comments on this post

  1. I don’t live in LA but I do agree with the mayor and you on this issue. What is the MTA Super thinking?!

    On a slightly different note, I’ve been meaning to get back into running since I’ve put on a few pounds. I’ve never really enjoyed running for running’s sake, and in the past it was mostly for sports related fitness (such as soccer).

    What sort of tricks to you play on yourself to keep motivated? I’m debating getting a garmin forerunner and add some technodazzle to the routine but I saw in a previous post 2004 was a bad year for you, what did you do to get back on the wagon so to speak?

  2. Apparently she’s trying to make a point and save money. I no longer think she’s a horrible evil woman, but I have to disagree with her desire to teach a lesson and / or try to be fiscally responsible at the expense of making traffic on that day worse than it already will be.

    As for running … I have probably run less than 15mi since I ran the marathon last year. I’ve been hitting the gym quite a bit, but just haven’t managed to get out on the pavement.

    I’ve actually started a website — the-upgrade.com — that I use to track my exercise routines (including cardio). It’s still in heavy beta mode, but you’re welcome to help me get it off the ground! I sincerely think that keeping a log is the best motivational tool for me.

    And I rebounded from my lackluster 2004 by looking in the mirror at the start of 2005. It wasn’t just the scales that said I was up to 195lbs.

    Ironically I am now 197lbs. A lot of that is muscle, though. I’ve been weight-training / lifting for most of the last twelve months. When I ran the marathon last year I was down to 185lbs.

    This is the longest comment I’ve ever written on my own blog. Odd, that.

  3. Okay. Y’know what? The more I think about this, the more I’m inclined to think that the bus fare should just be deducted from the marathon entry fees.

    I’m paying $100 to run. I can handle paying $101 to run and get a ride back to my car. But I better not be forced to pay for parking, too.

    What a mess.

  4. Awesome post. I’ve been a marathon or bike tour participant since 1994 (screw Molina’s outrage over the $75 entry fee; back my first year it was $35) and I’ve done both events in 2003, 2005 and again this year.

    I’m not sure if it corresponds with the recent change in ownership of the marathon, but this year the lack of organization is readily prevalent. Up until January they hadn’t finalized the route of the bike tour, and then unceremoniously axed (also for lack of a sponsor) their innovative “Spa On Wheels” program begun in 2003 that provided support and transport to that small and weird band who dare to ride their bikes 21 miles and then walk/jog/run/crawl 26.2 miles. And given the distance between the two events this year, such a program is needed no more than the last two years when the bike tour finish and the marathon start were only four miles apart.

    Given the marathon’s showcased lack of comprehension with the whole ass/elbow concept, it doesn’t surprise me at all that this free subway ride initiative was mishandled and now is in danger of not happening. I’m destined to Red Line it to Universal City after I complete the bike tour if I’ll have any hope of getting across the marathon’s start line any time near its scheduled go time. I agree with you that the rides should be free and I’m guessing something will be done in the 11th hour that ensures they are, but I’m going to be packing an MTA token with me just in case (especially if the resolution is at taxpayer expense).

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