A Clean, Green, Vertical Los Angeles – The 30/10 Love Train

4_30_10_map2.jpgThese were the place mats awaiting guests at yesterday’s conference.  Nice work Transit Coalition – DN

(Since leaving the LA Weekly, where she did everything from review bands to serve as transportation writer, Gloria Ohland has been heavily involved in the transit reform scene.  Most recently she worked with the T.O.D. advocacy group Reconnecting America.  You’ll be seeing more of her writing here in the very near future…DN)

Let’s be clear: The “30-10” transit plan to build nine new
rail and three new bus rapid transit lines over a decade is a really big deal.
That infusion of investment ($18 billion for transit capital out of a total $30
billion for capital and operations) and jobs (166,000) could jolt LA County at
least part-way out of the recession. But even more importantly, the coalition
that has come together in support of 30-10 – business, labor, enviros, elected
officials, Metro board members – is also a big deal. Some say it’s the first
time the L.A. County Congressional delegation has ever united in support of
something.

And if the Move LA coalition can mobilize this “30-10” transportation
and economic development game-changer what’s to stop the coalition from going
even further?

I refer you to this map that was passed out at Denny Zane’s
Move LA confab on Thursday at the downtown Cathedral, which was attended by
some 300 people including everyone from Mayor Villaraigosa to California
Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Bonnie Lowenthal. Not all the new lines
on this map are funded by Measure R. But those that aren’t are either under
construction or under serious consideration. Add to that the bike lanes and
pedestrian infrastructure that could be funded by the $6 billion of Measure R
funding that’s allocated for Local Return to cities. This represents a massive
investment in non-auto infrastructure. Suddenly LA looks a lot like a transit
metropolis.

But there’s more: Because of SB 375 most cities in LA County
will be seriously considering “going vertical” around new rail stations to
reduce VMT and GHG emissions. Former Urban Partners developer Dan Rosenfeld,
now deputy to Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, told the audience he thinks projects
near stations should be able to move ahead “by right” if they’re green, have an
affordable component, and no more than one parking space per unit. He suggested
a height limit of 200 feet in neighborhoods along Wilshire, for example, and 80
feet in neighborhoods like downtown Pasadena ­­– the same as the Moule and
Polyzoides designed Del Mar Station that Rosenfeld developed.

Admittedly,
30-10 is not the perfect plan. For example, it’s
expediting $10 billion for highway projects. And never mind whether you
believe
LA Metro will actually be able to do a good job of concurrently
managing 12 new
transit projects, or that we’ll be able to find the money to operate
them. “It’s
a little like mounting a mission to the moon and invading Europe at the
same
time,” Richard Little, director of USCs Keston Institute for Public
Finance and
Infrastructure Policy, told the audience. And it’s true that the
political coalition supporting 30-10 is a little fragile, as was noted
by Inglewood Councilmember Danny
Tabor as well as other elected officials who won’t see rail lines
getting built
anywhere near their cities.

But meetings in Washington DC have intensified and the next
60-90 days are considered critical; something needs to happen before Congress
adjourns for the summer. Senator Barbara Boxer, considered politically
vulnerable in Southern California, is working hard to get LA the money – maybe
with a bridge loan or a loan guarantee that could help leverage funding from
the private sector.

The federal government appears sympathetic. And why not?
L.A. County is the only place where residents have voted to tax themselves
three times in order to build a transit system; in L.A. County we now pay 1.5
cents of the sales tax to transit. No other region in the U.S. has come to the
federal government and been so bold as to ask for a $9 billion loan for transit
and offered to pay it back. That is
exactly the kind of behavior that the Obama Administration should be encouraging.

Thirty-five speakers representing the Move LA coalition were
arrayed across the large room facing each other in two large half-circles,
brainstorming about ways to fund the infrastructure that the U.S. so badly
needs to stay competitive with countries like China, for example, which is
building 46 high-speed rail lines. There were conversations about investing
pension fund money from CalPERS, CalSTERS and SEIU. And allowing transportation
commissions to add a $30 “congestion fee” to the cost of a car license;
multiply that by the 7 million cars in LA County and it could raise $200
million a year to pay for transit operations. And by reducing parking
requirements for developers who buy lifetime transit passes for their renters
or buyers – providing Metro with a steady stream of money for operations as
well as riders.

“Imagine how many votes we would have gotten for Measure R
if voters knew that we’d build all the rail lines in 10 years,” said Zane, who
moderated the day-long discussion. “If we also lowered the votes required to
pass local sales tax measures from 67 percent to 55 percent it would be a new
day for transportation in California.”

The
gathering also provided Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with an opportunity
to be triumphant. "People laughed at me when I said Los Angeles would
become the cleanest,
greenest U.S. city. But we could attain that goal if we go vertical and
build
transit villages around all the new stations,” said the Mayor. "I told
President Obama that it’s important that we build these new transit
lines during his administration."

  • Why condition eliminating off-street parking requirements on developers buying transit passes? Are they really supposed to pay for that for the next 100 years of residents in the building?

    Eliminating regulations that increase driving, traffic, and pollution is a win in and of itself. The cost of the transit passes (which are already subsidized by tax revenues) will just increase the cost of housing.

  • Joseph E

    Chewie, I agree that there should be no parking minimum.

    But I think having the developers of new apartments and condos provide “free” transit passes for say, 10 years, would be a good idea. New construction is inherently more expensive than older buildings, and will always attract moderate to high income families, compared to older construction. Many of the new residents may be young people who are used to driving but would be willing to try transit. But having to find $1.50 in change every time I want to take to bus certainly discourages me from taking some trips.

    With the price of transit passes for 10 years (perhaps a county-wide EZ Pass) included in the price of the condo, we would only see $10,000 or so added to the sale price, much less than the cost of a parking garage space for another car. And with a pre-paid transit pass, it would be easy to consider commuting to work by transit, or taking transit to go shopping or for entertainment. This would help reduce the traffic and parking congestion that gets NIMBYs riled up.

    Including bike parking would be an even cheaper option, probably adding less than $1000 per bike parking space (even at $100 a square foot).

    Perhaps what is needed instead of regulations is a source of financing for developers that does not demand minimum parking requirements. If HUD or the State could provide loans for projects that included low amounts of parking, many more developers might consider it.

  • joshua

    this is, hands down, the best map i have seen yet for the la subway system. please, please, please, PLEASE build this in 10.

  • If I’m not mistaken, this map goes beyond what 30/10 would actually build.

    But certainly, none of these projects are outside the realm of possibility.

    All of them make sense. We need the Harbor Sub as both a light rail line to Crenshaw and as a quick path from downtown to LAX. We need that LAX to Santa Monica connection and the Westside to Valley rail, too. And even that Red Line extension south of Wilshire.

  • James

    http://www.the-signal.com/news/article/28016/

    This article makes it sounds like “highway improvements” are the main objective of the 30/10 plan. And please tell me Antonovich is only one of many that are going to DC. The 30/10 plan is a transit-based initiative–it better not be hijacked by those who have nearly destroyed this region through their incessant highway building

    I really hope this is just some twisted spin from the Santa Clarita Valley newspaper…

  • S.S. Sam Taylor

    @ James I looked over the article that you are concerned about. Mike Antonovich is doing nothing wrong or bad. If you read more about 30/10, there is a highway piece. There are projects such as the High Desert Corridor, that will divert trucks off of Highway 14 and Interstate 5. That is a good thing. The truth is that to get a complete buy-in with all 13 of the Metro Board Members, there had to be some road pieces. It is the price that needs to be paid to get some Metro Directors to stay out of the way from blocking funding for Subway Towards the Sea. Frankly, having Antonovich working for the piece that he is interested in means that we have the chance to gain bi-partisan support. That is major in bringing the California Delegation together. We can’t afford ABC (anybody but California) actions any long. I hope you can see the point here.

  • James

    Ok, I hear you, as long as none of the transit lines are compromised. Im fine with some highway pieces added, as long as none of the light rail, subway, or BRT lines are affected, and as long as it doesnt change the timeline for the transit.

    I still don’t like the way this article presents 30/10 as being half-highway/half-transit (or even mostly highway).

    30/10 is clearly about better PUBLIC TRANSIT faster, with a few highway pieces added on the side.

  • In The Neitherhood

    Beautiful. I searched around and can’t seem to find a larger version of this image–might such a thing exist? I’d love to pore over the details, as non-final as many of them are.

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