City’s Measure R Plan a Test for Villaraigosa

1_5_09_villaraigosa.jpg
Mayor Villaraigosa Mugs for the Cameras at Opening of Dodger Trolley

Back when Metro was preparing its project list for the potential funds that would be generated by what now is known as Measure R, there was a grassroots effort to get the agency a small set aside of the billions that will be raised by the sales tax over the next 30 years for bicycle and pedestrian projects.  While the Metro Board ignored the 200 people that made the ask, unfortunately we don’t have a high-powered lobbyist; they did go out of their way to repeatedly tell us that we would be able to lobby the individual municipalities for non-motorized transportation projects from the 15% of the budget set aside for "Local Return."

Mayor and Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa was particularly adamant that municipal governments would be lining up to paint bike lanes and widen sidewalks.

Well, now it’s time to see if he meant it.

At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, the Council will direct the LADOT and the Department of City Planning to put together a list of projects that would qualify for Measure R funds.  If the list looks anything like the city’s proposed stimulus list, the Mayor’s promise of programming Measure R funds for bicycle or pedestrian projects would be reveaked as a farce.

Despite the car-centricness of the transportation projects on the list, a close look of the city’s list of "ready to go" projects that they hope to get funded by a federal stimulus package show there are a lot of projects that would enhance communities and provide a safe alternative for those who choose to travel without an automobile.  Some of these projects include streetscaping in Chinatown and along Pico Boulevard, an extension of the L.A. River Bike Trail, accelerating the schedule for the Expo Line, and  a city-wide grating replacement project.

As Board Chair, Villaraigosa promised the hundreds of signators to our sign-on letter that Measure R would be a boon for cyclists and pedestrians.  As Mayor, he’ll now have a chance to prove just that.

Photo: Phil Schilaci Kropoth/Flickr

  • Yay! Damien is back! Hope/Change ’09 may begin.

    As for Tony – This is what I have to say to him:

    Do the right thing! Smile for the GREEN PR photo-op and lay that paint down for some sharrows. Go team GREEN LA!

    Get some kids in the shot too… maybe paint some sharrows around some schools!

    SMILE!

  • Wow, $143,659,000 to resurface the 210 freeway (pg. 21)

    $35,152,000 to widen three bridges at Tampa, Winnetka, and Vanowen in Council District 3 (pg. 22). Oh, and add a bike path along the LA River near these bridges (Yay?). I wonder if the neighbors have been consulted about the increase in vehicle traffic being planned with this?

    $74,526,620 to pay for among other non-transportation projects an ELEPHANT EXIBIT AT THE ZOO! WTF?!

    And there is the Sepulveda Blvd reversible lane “bike lane” project (a safety hazard, death trap, and opposed by the local community) clocking in at a $14,310,000. Only $14 million? What a bargain! Bad planning usually costs a lot more!

    This $4 Billion dollar list could be considerably trimmed by eliminating all the car pool lane, freeway resurfacing, bridge widening projects. The port-a-john budget for these projects could make ALL of the sidewalks in L.A. better, or build a complete bikeway network on-street, and we’d have billions left over.

    I read through the City of L.A.’s list of projects they submitted to the MTA in 2007 and I am as bummed out now as I was back then.

    The mayor has a lot of control over department policies, and he could amend the formulas the engineers in Public Works and the DOT use to recommend projects. He is the chair of the MTA board, and could revise the funding guidelines the MTA uses to distribute Local Returns money.

    The mayor needs to use his power to get us off of this half a century car-crazy spending spree!

  • Josef!

    Tsk, tsk, tsk!

    Elephants have long been considered a superior transportation choice. Imagine Hannibal trying to cross the Alps on a mountain bike. Let’s be creative here!

  • Good point. Well, I’ve got to go run some errands and Babar is waiting downstairs for his second half-ton of African grass to be unloaded.

  • How many times do I have to say this before it sinks in?

    The vast majority of non-motorized transportation projects are not ones under Metro’s control. They are initiated and implemented by the local cities.

    They are also of such low funding amounts, relative to the major projects such as rail lines and highway improvements, that they had no place as specific line items in Measure R.

    There are, of course, exceptions, such as the bikeway that was built adjacent to much of the Orange Line, but those are almost always cases where the non-pedestrian improvements were a component of a large project.

    I should also point out that the process of getting a project approved at the local level, with local return funds, is going to be much faster than the process at Metro.

  • Uh, this project list was from the City of L.A. to the Feds, not the MTA.

    How many times do I have to say to you, Kymberleigh, that the local agencies actually read the Local Returns funding guidelines.

    The MTA’s Local Returns funding guidelines specifically single out pedestrian and bicycle projects as “non-transportation:, and weight those projects much lower than large budget road widenings.

    So, the MTA’s policies dictate what sorts of project local politicians tell their city staff to prepare and submit. What is so hard about that to understand?

  • C’mon…if Metro can run commercials about how Measure R is going to sync traffic signals during the election, we can certainly expect that it can help with the problems faced by cyclists and pedestrians.

  • I think the push here is to convince both the MTA and the City that Bicycles are a viable mode of transportation.

    If they somehow, very magically, become convinced of this and follow their own guidelines or perhaps even amend them (an idea that Brayj has been floating for a while) then we ought to be able to access some of the local return moneys for bikeway projects.

    To review:

    “the MTA’s Local Returns funding guidelines specifically single out pedestrian and bicycle projects as “non-transportation:, and weight those projects much lower than large budget road widenings.”

    If this were amended by explicitly defining bicycles as transporation, something that would happen as a result of political pressure, then I see no reason to not go after it. Any and all avenues for culture change and for finding funding for bikeways projects should be explored.

    They might not even be *good* projects….with the track record we’ve got set here in LA…I’d be surprised if someone out there actually had the rocks to create a full-on bicycle boulevard.

    And I’ve already heard the 10 reasons why bike blvds wont work in LA….trust me.

    However….

  • Interurbans

    As I was to understand measure R was for transit and road improvement to help move people. Mayor V’s list is mostly normal public works projects and has nothing to do with transit and only a small percentage of the requested funding is going to highway projects and how many of those projects should be at the top of the list. Where is the funding for major rail and transit projects such as the Expo Line second phase, the Crenshaw LRT or bus project, the Green Line to the Airport, or out of the city projects like the Gold Line Foothill Extension which needs to be at the top of the list.

    Measure R funding should NOT be used for general non transit public works projects. Is that what you voted for?

  • Interurbans,

    Mayor V’s list is mostly normal public works projects and has nothing to do with transit and only a small percentage of the requested funding is going to highway projects

    No, you are wrong. The massive, overwhelming, majority of the projects in “the mayor’s list” are highway projects or local road widenings. In terms of cash per project, the highway projects are super duper expensive, and make up the bulk of the amount of money requested.

    You obviously did not read, or even skim, through either the list Damien linked to above, or Measure R.

  • Jerard

    Here’s a very important question, which projects have their studies completed(or even require a study) and are ready for bids within 60 days and under construction by August 2009?

    That is the one thing the road lobby has gotten down cold. They keep planning even when the economy is bad so when a windfall does come it’s way they’re ready to build.

    The process for the Transit/Bike advocacy is two fold; Create a list of ready to study projects and emphasize the need an importance of bikes/peds in the mindset of LADOT/Metro so that is an ongoing and continual process.

  • My apologies to Umberto and anyone else that noticed my inadvertent use of phrasing in my last sentence making it appear that I expected local return funds to be used for bike and ped projects.

    The point remains, though, that those types of projects are typically much smaller in scope than what Metro is involved in planning and programming funds for.

  • The whole discussion about the use of local return funds left me with an uneasy feeling that I did remember something but too quickly agreed with posts to the contrary.

    Ms. Peterson is correct in quoting the local return funds usage policies … as they apply to the existing Propositions A and C sales tax revenues.

    However, I confirmed with Metro staff on Friday that the local return component of Measure R funds will not have the same restrictions, and can be used for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

  • Sorry, I should have said that it was Mr. Brayj who quoted the existing guidelines. (I’m fighting a sinus condition and not necessarily proofreading well.)

  • “I confirmed with Metro staff on Friday that the local return component of Measure R funds will not have the same restrictions, and can be used for bicycle and pedestrian projects.”

    Wow, really? Kymberleigh, thanks for sticking with this issue.

    Prop A & C Local Returns are still off limits, but Measure R’s Local Returns is open to bike and pedestrian project?

    I’ve got to find a copy of Measure R to read, I suppose. Any chance their Measure R local returns funding guidelines are available yet?

    If they do allow Measure R Local Returns to go to bike and pedestrian projects, then why not money from Prop A and C? That smells like a bike advocate law suit in the making.

  • Wad

    Brayj wrote:

    If they do allow Measure R Local Returns to go to bike and pedestrian projects, then why not money from Prop A and C? That smells like a bike advocate law suit in the making.

    The Bus Riders Union tried the same thing, but it got a consent decree.

    Just as getting the tax increases required a public vote, changing the terms of the original taxes would also have to go before the public. Not only that, but the taxes might have to be put up for a referendum as well — cancel the original terms, then vote back the tax under new terms.

    If bike advocates wish to pursue this matter in court, the plaintiffs would have to show some kind of damages or statutory or regulatory violation. I am not familiar with how much weight bicycling is accorded to transportation planning by Metro, the state or local areas. You might be, and you’d have to argue how bikers were violated by the flouting of these laws or regulations.

    Keep in mind that in the Bus Riders Union case, it had sought a claim of racial discrimination. However, if the BRU were to win in a precedent-setting judgment, the court would have the power to declare both taxes null and void. They could not, though, demand that rail capital be rolled over to bus operations, as this would violate the original terms of the taxes put before voters.

  • Wad,

    You bring up a good point, but I don’t think bicycles are restricted (in the wording of Prop C., at least) from local returns money. I’ll have to double check, but that is what I recall. It has been the MTA’s policies and guidelines (not the wording of both Prop’s A and C) that has kept pedestrian and bike projects from proper funding and scoring in their Call For Projects.

    Another avenue for money from the MTA for bike and pedestrian projects: Transportation Demand Management. The MTA funded a bizarre sounding electric scooter program with the City of L.A. in 2007’s funding cycle using millions in TDM funds. If bike and ped use of the right of way is officially considered “TDM” – then we’d have a big pot of money available.

  • I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but whatever the legal restriction is on Prop A & C funds, it has been in place for 18 years, so I suspect that any legal challenge has already been investigated and rejected by now.

    May I suggest that, rather than screaming about perceived unfairness on the previously authorized funds, the efforts should be focused on getting bike and ped projects ready within the local municipalities so that when the Measure R funds start to flow, they will have something useful to put them toward?

  • Wad

    Brayj, you have the right idea. While bikes don’t have an explicit line-item in those propositions, the projects can be funded through other dedications.

    Kym Richards also makes a good point that bike projects have a better shot at being funded locally. The Metro-level items, marked to capital and operations, are very restricted since both are expensive and Metro needs all the cash it can get. The Call for Projects is a giant feeding frenzy, but there might be a great possibility that a small, progressive city like Santa Monica might lead the way.

  • This is a bit off topic, but I have a bike now and I don’t know the rules about parking and locking it up, such as where I might legally park it, or if I may use the sidewalks or streets. Is there a “So now you’re a cyclist” primer anywhere?

  • I wondering if Los Angeles’ various neighborhoods councils might be helpful here. Would they not be more likely to have grass roots activists who know where the most desired pedestrian and bicycle improvements in their neighborhoods might best be placed?

  • The City of Los Angeles, for example, read through the MTA’s Local Returns project funding guidelines. They therfore rejected, prior to submitting proposals to the MTA, projects that did not match the MTA’s criteria. The MTA’s criteris for project funding are the choke point for Local Return money to go to bike and pedestrian projects.

    Further, there are plenty of law-suit worthy places for a bike advocate to sue the City and County, and I hope work in the next few years to assemble the resources and coalition to do just that. It is one piece of a larger movement, but using the courts can be very effective.

    Both Kym and Wad are right, however, about local general funds being better suited to bike projects – as it allows the smaller bike movement to place pressure where they have the resources and ability to influence the process. Bike amenities are VERY cheap – so $4 to $5 million per year could give L.A. one of the premier bike networks in the world in about 8 to 10 years.

    And Dan, about a primer on bike riding, I think the folks at CICLE.org have what you’re looking for:

    http://www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivot/entry.php?id=697

  • Marcotico

    Hey UBrayj,

    Another “go big” approach might be to work on a identifying one major piece of bike infrastructure, such as 1-3 major bike corridors. Lobby local cities and neighborhood councils along the route to get invested, then lobby Metro to plan, coordinate, and fund the studies, and engineering. Then the local councils and city could focus on feeder routes, and amenities. After reading about Bike Boulevards, I’ve always thought of route like 6th, 3rd, Beverly or Melrose on the Westside (sorry that is where I once lived) as having great potential as a crosstown bike highway.

    Also on a side note, since I live down in the OC now, I discovered some great roads for bike commuting with low vehicle traffic. the problem is the roads (and bike lanes) are in a crappy state of disrepair. I wonder what the prospects are for improving bike lanes on a road without improving the road itself. This might be an interesting strategy to pursue.

  • Marcotico

    by prospects I mean technical/engineering feasibility and political acceptance.

  • And Dan, about a primer on bike riding, I think the folks at CICLE.org have what you’re looking for:

    http://www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivot/entry.php?id=697

    —————

    Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for.

  • Kym stated in comment #13: “However, I confirmed with Metro staff on Friday that the local return component of Measure R funds will not have the same restrictions, and can be used for bicycle and pedestrian projects.”

    Perhaps you might want to cite your source, i.e., the “Metro staff” that confirmed it for you? To be sure, I think many folk reading this would like to know a name or names.

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