Is Los Angeles on the “verge of a transit breakthrough” as Move L.A. states in the promotions for Friday’s all day conference featuring Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other political leaders, labor organizers and environmental groups? Or, is Los Angeles decades away from fulfilling the dream of a workable rail system promised by Measure R?
If you talk to Denny Zane, the executive director of Move L.A., the county is on the verge of something big, but if politicians and voters don’t act quickly we might be years away from real change.
“Now is not a time to get shy. We are at a transformational moment, and votes have shown they are ready to make a transformational investment in the economy,” Zane states.
He’s talking about what transportation watchers are calling “Measure R+,” a possible extension of the Measure R sales tax passed by voters in 2008 that helps fund Metro operations, a slew of highway projects, 12 transit expansion projects, and “local return” to help municipalities with their own transit projects. Before such a plan could go to the voters, it would need the blessing of the legislator, Governor, Metro Board of Directors and L.A. County Supervisors. Even then it would take a 2/3 vote of the electorate to pass the measure.
Seem like a long shot? The odds of passing Measure R were even longer in 2008. After all, an extension of the 30 year tax doesn’t add an additional burden to today’s taxpayer, but to people paying taxes thirty one years from now. If it seems unfair to dedicate decades of taxes to people not even born, it seems doubly unfair to leave the next generation with a transportation system in shambles.
So how does extending a tax make projects happen faster? How does it move L.A. from a long-term expansion plan to “on the verge?” By being able to tax farther out, L.A. can secure more bond funding now meaning projects that wouldn’t open for decades can open in years.
But Zane and Move L.A. aren’t just talking about speeding up the existing program, but seeking funds to enhance the program. “Put another way, is this an opportunity for the 30/10 plan to be the 50/15 plan,” Zane says, referencing the stalled plan to change federal law to allow L.A. to receive low interest loans from the federal government to put more shovels in the ground more quickly.
But if politicians succeed in getting a new ballot measure extending the sales tax on the ballot, for it to succeed it’s going to need a project list and vision to attract new voters. In other words, a new project list is going to be drawn up and a new spending plan is going to be devised. If there’s a dream project you want to see moved, now is the time to speak up. Here’s a sample of how I would devise a “Measure R+” funding program.
My Fantasy Project List for Measure R+
Transit Expansion – 25%
Expand Crenshaw Line all the Way to Santa Monica and through West Hollywood
Westside Subway Moved Closer to the Sea
Gold Line Eastside Extension Moves Farther East
Extend Metrolink all the way to Ontario Airport
Leimert Park Station for Crenshaw, Flower Street Station for Regional Connector
Sure, let’s throw in the Park-Mesa tunnel as well
Metrolink Max? Rail Line Connecting Valley to Westside? Anything to make the Transit Coalition Happy
Highway Projects – 20%
Instead of proposing highway expansion, Measure R+ becomes the “Fix-It-First” bill for highways. A massive repaving effort so that every L.A. County Highway is as pothole free and efficient as possible.
Transit Operations – 25%
You might note the list of projects above is smaller than the Measure R project list. That leaves money to increase the operations set aside.
Local Return – 15%
The broad local return fund remains set at the current amount.
Active Transportation – 10%
Similar to the “Call for Projects,” billions of dollars are set aside for capital improvement projects for bicycle and pedestrian projects that exist in city’s master plans.
Project Management/Staff – 5%
The staff needed to make projects happen and keep people writing at The Source.
Of course, all of this will be discussed in greater detail on Friday. To join the fun at Move L.A.’s “L.A. on the Verge” click here for details. In the meantime, leave your ideas for “Measure R+” in the comments section.