Friday, August 21, 2015

The World Logistics Center debate has only started

Moreno Valley green-lights an expansion in middle class jobs. Good. But will the legit pollution and traffic issues be addressed too?

Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com



By a 3-2 margin, the Morneno Valley City Council voted to approve developer Iddo Benzeevi's proposed World Logistics Center complex in east Moreno Valley. Word of the approval was spread all over the media. The Press Enterprise ran full front-page coverage in Friday's newspaper. It may appear that this discussion is now closed, but not so.

Despite this milestone event, the World Logistics Center debate is far from over. Legit red flags stemming from the project include truck pollution and the need to expand transportation infrastructure. Despite these problems, the city green-lighted the project. Plus, there were some local issues brought up regarding the city's public works infrastructure in relation with the general land use plan change.

The opposition has promised to take this case to court.

The Transit Coalition has also taken a "no" position on WLC because of these issues, but I must make it very clear that I do agree that Moreno Valley badly needs this economic growth opportunity that Benzeevi has to offer.

What would be the net job growth be for the region? Benzeevi says 20,000 or something like that and 13,000 construction positions. That's if tenants do rent out the units within the development and staff the warehouses and delivery routes.

Yes, we're not seeing a Silicon Valley or Irvine Business Complex clone as opponents correctly point, but the hard-working middle class will stand to benefit from this investment if the logistics jobs do materialize. We are long overdue for a renaissance of the middle class where those who choose to work hard can make a decent wage with only a high school diploma, entry-level work experience, and truck driving training. Procurement, goods movement, and truck driving jobs can fulfill this. The PE editorialized the WLC as a "Victory for Moreno Valley."

Whatever the final job numbers will be once everything is built out, a logistics job hub in the Valley "Where dreams soar" can help rebuild the American middle class with the blue collar job expansion. While there is some valid debate over the current conditions of these jobs now, supply-and-demand economics teaches that robust job competition and more opportunities will force employers into taking better care of their workers simply because they will need to retain them as logistics demands increase. Increased jobs can force employers into improving benefits in order to de-incentivize productive team members from applying at a competitor.

One long overdue benefit is allowing cross-country truck drivers to spend more time with their families when they return home and improving the lodging conditions, social gathering areas, and mobile amenities at driver rest stops. Unlimited live video streaming and phone calls to/from home would be paid for so that drivers can network with their families at the break stops for the night. A strong job market can incentivize such investments for driver retention. More on this at a later time.

Graphite Business Park job hub in Corona
However, as I said, the intense WLC discussions, negotiations, and debates will continue. The "public hearings" have only started. The next chapter will likely involve what happens in court.

Benzeevi wants to invest in improving truck jobs here at home. Good. But now, the situation now deals with holding Benzeevi to account on the promise that the trucks will be cleaner so that WLC won't be a pollutant. The state must be held accountable to ensure that the extra transportation and truck vehicle weight tax revenue raised from WLC will go toward improving transit mobility in the area. Plus, if any local pandering is to be found and proven beyond a reasonable doubt, citizens need to hold their power structure to account with the power of the ballot.

While Benzeevi agreed to construct and improve local transportation infrastructure in and around the master plan, regional connectors must also be addressed. Consensus was "regional agencies should contribute more for projects in Moreno Valley" according to a PE report. That's were the state government needs to be held accountable.

Regional improvements could include the extension of the SR-60 carpool lane to the I-10 in addition with the proposed truck lanes and expanded services for bus routes 35, 210 and 220 that would use the HOV transit infrastructure. The combined freeway express services should be expanded to 15 minute headways during rush hour and 30 minutes at other times. The carpool lane usage policy could also be set up in a way that allows solo drivers to use the added lane for a toll if upgrade money falls short, but the state would be held to account of ensuring the extra transportation tax money goes to the infrastructure and expanded bus transit service.

Moving forward, WLC may be approved, but discussion to get Moreno Valley a first-rate middle class job hub, clean air, and transit mobility has only begun.

We'll see what takes place in court.

1 comment:

  1. The logistics industry is rushing toward automation both inside the warehouses and now in the trucks that run between them. The jobs won't materialize at the scale that they're promised. Also, expanding infrastructure is a perfect time to build dedicated transit infrastructure, including arterial BRT. That keeps all local roads from becoming unbelievably outrageous stroads through every community.

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