More at Stake in City’s Measure R Debate than Just Bike/Ped. Issues

11_17_09_ten_percent.jpgThe city wants to use its Measure R Local Return for multi-modalism. Photo:

In the summer of 2008, when Streetsblog first announced its "1% for bikes, 1% for peds. campaign" in what would later be known as Measure R, we never thought that a year and a half later we would still be fighting that fight nor that we would be close to a partial victory.  

Tomorrow, the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee will be discussing how the city will program its share of the Local Return funds from Measure R.  Following the mayor’s promise that Los Angeles would set aside a portion of its Measure R funds for non-motorized transportation; the LADOT and Council Members have been living up to Villaraigosa’s promise by programming 10% of the city’s Local Return funds for these modes in every version of the budget that has come to light.  Building on the campaign launched here last summer, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has been organizing transportation, public health, and environmental groups to keep the 10% set-aside alive.

However, the process of actually allocating those funds has been a slow one.  It was back in May when Council Members Bernard Parks and Jose Huizar first proposed projects to be funded by Measure R and later in the month when then Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel outline for the city’s Measure R share.  Over the next six months, different reports from the Chief Legislative Office have arrived spelling out a dire economic climate and different proposals for the city’s Measure R funds.  Tomorrow, the city departments working on the proposed budgets are asking for another sixty day extension.  A copy of the proposal, with a project list to be funded at the end, can be found here.

So what’s the hold-up?  Unfortunately, the sad state of the city’s finances have complicated the issue of what to do with a new funding source.  The CLO’s report notes that the city is expecting shortfalls in various transportation funds and has to raise a "local match" for some Measure R projects within city limits.

When it comes to raising funds for "local match," the city has to raise 3% of funds for construction of:

  • Crenshaw Transit Corridor
  • Exposition Boulevard Light Rail Transit
  • Green Line Extension to Los Angeles International Airport
  • Regional Connector San Fernando Valley 1-405
  • Corridor Connection San Fernando Valley
  • North-South Rapidways (Canoga Corridor)
  • San Fernando Valley East North-South Rapidways Westside Subway Extension

According to the CLO, that comes to a cool $200 million.  Given the mayor’s stated goal of completing all transit projects within ten years, the LADOT and Council will be under pressure to front-load transit funding which could lead to a reduced ability to set aside bicycle and pedestrian funds.

In addition, the city is expecting shortfalls from the two transit taxes that make up the bulk of the city’s transportation budget which could lead to a delayed time lime for some projects and a combination of fare hikes and service cuts for the D.A.S.H. buses.

On top of that, remember those first motions by Parks and Huizar mentioned above?  Each of those motions directs Measure R funds towards specific projects.  In Parks’ case it would fund intersection improvements near the Foshay Learning Center.  Huizar wants further study for the Downtown Streetcar.

Despite all of these projects pulling what are quite honestly a limited amount of Measure R funds, just under $21 million dollars for the current fiscal year, it’s honestly surprising that the bicycle/pedestrian set-aside has lasted this long.  Maybe the tide is turning when it comes to setting aside money for non-motorized transportation at 200 Spring Street?  I guess we’ll have to wait another 60 days to find out for sure.