Move L.A. Hosts “L.A. on the Verge” This Friday, What Would You Do with Measure R+

The current "Measure R" map.

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?

For more on Friday's conference, click on the image.

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.

  • Davistrain

    I remember what a “nail-biter” the Measure “R” vote tally was.  As a San Gabriel Valley native, it was an uphill fight to convince my fellow SGV residents that some of the money would help us and it wouldn’t all be sucked into the City of Los Angeles.  The start of the Gold Line Foothill Extension project has (I hope) relieved some of these fears.  Now we have a chance to build on this progress, even though I probably won’t be around to see most of it.  If fuel prices keep jacking upwards, “Measure R+” should be a lot easier to “sell” to the voters of LA County.

  • Anonymous

    Move LA’s map omits about $500 million worth of projects for those San Fernando Valley north-south rapidways — i.e. BRT along Van Nuys Blvd, Lankershim, etc.

  • Legandaryedition

    Personally, I’d like to see a few more things happen with Measure R+. A big one is more grade separation amongst existing light rail routes. By the time Measure R becomes enacted, both Expo and Blue will be extremely congested. Grade separation would relieve some of that congestion, and make it so those lines could increase frequency. Now, there are two (ish) subway lines I would like to see built. Yes, subway. These would be very high-capacity, and very busy. One is a line down Vermont. This street has very high bus ridership, second only to Wilshire. Moreover, it would provide students at USC a quick way to get to Hollywood and wherever the Purple Line will go via a quick link to the Wilshire/Vermont station. USC is 18,000 students, many of which use primarily transit to get around. The other subway line would be a line all the way down Santa Monica Blvd, starting downtown and ending in SaMo. Now, how, you ask, does this line connect to Hollywood, as it must somehow connect to Hollywood. Simple, I say. A short ‘shuttle’, similar to what New York has. This shuttle will run from one of the Hollywood stations to the corresponding Santa Monica Blvd station, for easy transfers. Now, besides those two lines, I would also like to see a station in infill City West.

    The last thing I want to see is the most… unusual. Driving around the other day (driving, I know) I was struck by how ugly L.A.s main streets are. As such, I would like to see a complete re-do of those main streets. This means wider sidewalks, buffered (Europe style, so this would be in the sidewalks) bikelands, and landscaping in both the medians and the sidewalk. This treatment would be on Pico, Olympic, Wilshire, Santa Monica, La Cienaga, Vermont, Venice, and Normandie (what I consider the main streets in L.A.). This would not only beautify the city, but provide a great backbone bike network, something that I assume anyone on this site would want.

  • in an ideal world this would be funded by a gas tax rather than sales tax:

    A light rail line to link the gold line in pasadena with the red line in north hollywood- passing through eagle rock, glendale and burbank and burbank airport.

    billions for more bus only and rapid bus lines

    billions for road diets and livable streets

    a billion for a 1000 miles of protected bike lanes

  • How much would a decade’s worth of inter-agency cooperation on TAP cards and transfers cost?

    Measure R++ would consist of “keep building rail, and don’t stop until you hit seaweed or yucca”

  • Josef Bray-Ali

    First, i would stop building anything other than transit. Every project that got built would need to sell real estate development rights, leases, etc. at stations to pay into a maintenance account for the eventual upkeep and replacement of the station.

    Second, the rest of Measure R I would redirect to a long term maintenance fund to cover the un-covered financial liabilities of an agency as precariously over-leveraged as the MTA.

    We need a solvent transportation system that grows our local sales tax base directly around its projects, and doesn’t create more unfunded maintenance liabilties by going big and pretending like the 1950’s will return if only we dump enough cash into new projects.

    I would shift the focus to increasing property values, and growing the tax base locally, instead of moving people as fast as possible. It sounds counter-intuitive but the MTA does have one of the largest bodies of regional planners and controls the funds for the use of the public carriage way (the largest public landholdings in the region). They can have a significant impact on the long-term financial sustainability of a region that is almost uniformly heading for default on bonds and loans required for the most basic maintenance projects.

  • Grieg

    Extend the Green Line from LAX/Lot C to Downtown Santa Monica, along Lincoln Blvd  —  giving Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey Direct access to LAX.

  • calwatch

    Measure R+ is not a good idea, not until some of the Measure R projects, like the Foothill Gold Line and Expo to the Sea, actually open. I guess no one has lived here long enough to remember the debacle of the mid-90’s when MTA canceled much of the rail system after the Consent Decree and recession hit, and the Eastside Subway, Pasadena Blue Line, and many other rail lines were eliminated. Or how about San Jose’s tax extension for a BART extension to Santa Clara that may never get built because of its low ranking under the FTA formula?

    I’d like to see success first before we burden more people down the line with a 1.5% sales tax for transportation in perpetuity, the highest in the state and probably the country (Texas has many cities at 1%, but LA is the worst). 2012 is a horrible year to do this with a stagnant economy and the stench of the Expo delay (yes, I know it wasn’t ALL the EMLCA’s fault, but still) in our minds. By November 2016 the Gold Line will be open to Azusa, the Expo Line to Santa Monica, groundbreaking done on the subway to La Cienega and the Regional Connector, and the public will be in a better mood to extend the tax.

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