Metro: Sales Tax Proposal Has Overwhelming Support

So, maybe the death of Mike Feuer’s legislation to lower the voter approval threshold for a sales tax increase from 67% to 55% isn’t such a big deal after all.

Buoyed by recent support by business owners and west side rail riders, a new poll by Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin & Associates (FMM&A) on behalf of Metro shows that support for a half cent sales tax increase in LA County, provided that all funds go directly to transportation, is at 73%.

Metro CEO Roger Snoble believes the surge of support is directly tied to the increase in gas prices. From Metro’s press release:

"The sales tax initiative to relieve traffic congestion has an incredibly high level of support across the County," said Metro CEO Roger Snoble. "With gas prices rising through the roof and our roads growing more congested by the
day, residents are calling out for an improved public transportation system."

The news of high support for the sales tax increase comes at a good time. The Metro’s Board of Directors is expected to vote on the increase at Thursday’s monthly Board Meeting.

Photo: Damien Newton

  • Robert

    a sales tax increase is a hard one to swallow.

    although I am all for metro, and want it to succeed. It’s extremely hard to believe that raising our already ridiculously high sales tax rates is necessary.

    I will probably begrudgingly vote for the proposition, I think it sends a bad signal, and the metro should look to rum more efficiently.

  • Wad

    Robert, efficiency means cutting any and every bus line that doesn’t carry more than 30 passengers per hour. And not replacing them with municipal service, either.

    Metro would be more efficient with about 30 fewer lines.

    That, or voluntarily ask every worker to take a 20 percent pay cut and convert their pensions to defined-contribution plans.

    I just don’t think these efficiency measures are likely to happen.

  • I know that the political class in L.A. County is going to push for mass transit, and likely succeed in getting this sales tax increase on the ballot. I’d like to throw out this mini-proposal, just to piss pro-tax people off:

    How about making bus service more efficient by putting toll lanes on every MTA funded highway? The reduction in car trips, and the revenue generated by cars, could help eliminate the 25-30% share of the MTA budget that goes to cars and send more money to transit while improvin transit times. That would mean more money for buses and more secure roads.

    I mean, if toll booths work at train stations, why not on the roadway as well?

  • I will enthusiastically vote for the sales tax increase.

  • calwatch

    The other way to get efficiency is to contract service, which is kryptonite to the powers-that-be. While I would not contract all service, something like the Denver RTD model where about a third of fixed route service is contracted, including a variety of both heavy use trunk routes and suburban routes (not the exclusive suburban service which is currently contracted by LACMTA), would be good. If Metro attempted to impose this, though, you would have a three month or longer strike, and they would be pilloried by the labor unions and their representatives in local government. After that, though, the service would be resistant to labor unrest, as the last RTD strike was ineffective at shutting the city down.

    I will consider the funding plan and judge accordingly before voting. All options need to be on the table: fare increases (while not the draconian 2007 plan, something a little higher than the fares we have today), contracting service, and trip thinning on lesser used routes.

  • Robert

    Do you trust that this money will actually be used the way it is intended? I think we’ve all been there before, and also to my knowledge there is no sunset clause in this proposal so once this project is built we are stuck with a sales tax hike.

    I would support a bond measure that would be paid back through revenue, or even the other initiative which is essentially a use-based carbon tax. Look at the High Speed Rail initiative, this is a $10Bn bond, to pay for a $40Bn system, and the expectation is that revenue generated here will be $4bn / year. Those numbers are a lot easier to swallow, and doesn’t involve a tax.

  • “I think we’ve all been there before, and also to my knowledge there is no sunset clause in this proposal so once this project is built we are stuck with a sales tax hike.”

    ——————–

    There are 50 years worth of worthwhile transit projects to fund as we are decades behind. We won’t be needing a “sunset clause” any time soon.

  • John F. in Minnesota

    It is the right thing to do at the right time. Build it and they will come.

  • Robert

    I agree we have a lot of transit projects to fund, but if they are not managed properly we should have the opportunity to revaluate the usefulness and effectiveness of the tax at some point, which is why I think a 10-20-30 year sunset clause ($15BN later) is appropriate.

    In any case, this will take a 2/3rds majority to pass, I highly doubt it will, whereas the additional vehicle tax and or gas tax will only need a simple majority.

  • The Feuer bill has a 30 year sunset clause, unlike the perpoetual Props A & C already in place.

    Here is the audit that shows local money is spent as promised.

    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2008/04_April/20080414OtherICAOC_PH_Item2b.pdf

    It isn’t a done deal but the subway to the sea may actually happen in a reasonable timeframe if we can get this measure passed.

  • Part of the reason things take so long isn’t just local, it’s how long it takes to get federal money, especially on rail projects.

    The key is to have as much of your own money as possible. The federal government isn’t gonna come in and fund 100% of your local transportation needs, so if this tax passed, I personally would expect lots of small improvements quickly but bigger stuff like the purple line not to really be ready for eight or nine years. This is infrastructure we’re talking about, massive, huge infrastructure, and it takes years, but more importantly, it lasts for hundreds of years and the construction and eventual transportation improvements pump billions into the economy for the entire life of the project.

    Eight or nine years sounds like a horribly long time, but you’ve got to fight people every step of the way to build something in LA, so you can expect environmental delays, community opposition, and other factors we can’t imagine, and then you have to expect those delays to themselves cause delays via inflation raising the price of building materials and people successfully altering the route.

    The key (besides passing the tax obviously) will be to keep the momentum going. It’s tough to sell infrastructure projects because the timeline is so long, but we need to remember what happened to the last subway, how its design was perverted and ruined and then it was strangled in the crib. By the time this subway is nearing completion, we could be on our second completely different mayoral administration. I’m, however, optimistic. If this thing actually passes with 2/3rds of the vote (knock on wood), then I suspect we’ve reached a turning point in the city’s psyche, and I also suspect that a half cent sales tax and the end of the Bush department of transportation will be enough to build the subway the right way the first time.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Metro Board Passes Sales Tax Proposal

|
Asm. Mike Feuer and Boardmember Richard Katz Chat With the Press After Tax Proposal Passes After hours of debate, the Metro Board passed a virtually unchanged proposal to add a half cent sales tax increase, dedicated to a specific project list, to the fall ballot.  Only Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Duarte City […]

City Council Endorses Sales Tax Plan

|
Despite opposition from several key members, the Los Angeles City Council endorsed Metro’s sales tax proposal and expenditure plan.  An earlier motion called on Metro to fund certain projects, such as a streetcar for the downtown and a Green Line extension to the airport, but an amendment offered by Council Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel […]

What Factors Are Causing Metro’s Declining Ridership? What Next?

|
In my circles, there has been a lot of discussion swirling around Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times article, Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California, by Laura Nelson and Dan Weikel. The Times’ authors cast a disparaging light on recent downturns in ridership: “Despite a $9-billion investment in new light rail […]