Measure J and the future of [transit in] L.A.

(This is the third of four op/eds on Measure J that Streetsblog will publish this week. Monday, Gloria Ohland of Move L.A. made the case for Measure J, yesterday the BRU made their case for a no vote. – DN)

I am writing this quickly as I pack for a return trip to the land of aggressive public transportation planning and construction.  By Sunday I will be back in Shanghai, a public transit mecca, where the sheer number of residents demands a world-class rail and bus network.  You know what?  So does LA.  And in a little more than a week we have the chance to help make that a reality.  Without the centralized planning that is the hallmark of infrastructure construction in China, it is up to the voters to authorize the building of the rail and bus projects LA needs to make life in Los Angeles more livable.

He voted.

This November there are at least 2 softball questions on the ballot.  The first of course is Obama for president.  There are a million reasons to vote for Barack.  But for my purposes I’ll keep the focus narrow.  If you care about life in the city there has never been a clearer choice for the White House.  Obama believes in the vitality of cities. Only Mitt knows what Mitt really believes and even then it’s subject to change.

The other thing you can do for yourself and your neighbors in November is to vote yes on Measure J.

Do you want a mass transit alternative to driving in perpetual gridlock on LA’s freeways and along its main arteries like Wilshire and Crenshaw?  Do you like the idea that our city may one day have a transit system that efficiently and cost-effectively moves the millions of us who commute daily from home to work.  Measure J does that within our lifetime.

When approved, Measure J will extend for 30 years, Measure R, the existing one-half cent sales tax that was approved in 2008 and is currently set to expire in 2039. The added funds will be used to secure bonds, which will allow Metro to accelerate construction of its needed transit projects.

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the projects accelerated by Measure J will speed the start of construction on seven rail and rapid transit projects.  Measure J also provides an extra thirty years of continued funding for local city transportation improvements, including countywide bus and rail operations, Metrolink, and Metro Rail capital improvements.

As has been written on Streetsblog and in less august publications, Measure J isn’t perfect.  It glosses over the needs of walkers and biker and pays too much attention to freeways and other obsolete transportation solutions.  Still, it makes more sense to take this half a loaf than to hold our breath waiting, perhaps forever, for the transformative revolution that brings us complete streets, endless greenways, perfectly conceived transit-oriented development, and 10,000 kilometers of protected bike ways.

Measure J and the expansion of public transit in Los Angeles is also critical to the region’s economic development. The passage of Measure J will help ensure that Angelenos have the cost-effective and green alternative to the freeways that they need today, and deserve, to get to their jobs and schools, and the region’s countless cultural attractions.  Measure J will help LA become the world-class transit-oriented city it is on the road to becoming.

I voted yes on Measure J by absentee ballot.  On Election Day you should too.  Xie Xie.

  • Chance

    “Do you want a mass transit alternative to driving in perpetual gridlock on LA’s freeways and along its main arteries”


    “Do you like the idea that our city may one day have a transit system that efficiently and cost-effectively moves the millions of us who commute daily from home to work[?]”


    “Measure J does that within our lifetime.”

    No, no it doesn’t. 

  • Dan Wentzel

    I enthusiastically voted for Measure J.

  • Heather


  • Jerard Wright

     It does it in my lifetime and I’m 31

  • Roadblock

    Sorry BRU. Buses will NEVER do it alone.

  • No way. More new taxes? (or in this case, extending a “temporary” one for another 30 years?) In 30 years that 1/2 cent tax isn’t going to fix a pothole, much less extend the Green Line to LAX. Our existing taxes should be more than enough to make LA a “transit-orientated” city. Hell, LA has some of the highest gasoline prices in the country, and our roads are shit. 

  • Davistrain

    Our high gasoline prices are not due to fuel taxes–the recent “spike” certainly can’t be blamed on taxes, which didn’t change a bit.  Getting more passengers onto rail lines means less battering of our streets by buses.  Now if we can just get more freight transport onto trains, and have fewer trucks pounding our freeways…

  • PC

    Well, it really doesn’t accomplish that in our lifetime. For that, you would need to build more rail than J is capable of paying for. But that’s not J’s fault; it’s LA’s fault for not starting thirty years earlier than it did. In any case, BRU’s inane and embarrassing “rail is racist, billions for buses” party line is really extraneous to the conversation–which is probably why they’ve chosen to softpedal it in favor of a somewhat more plausible “Metro wants to gentrify” angle in their recent op/eds.

  • Dennis Hindman

    To compare before and after Measure R spending on light-rail and buses, here are some figures from fiscal years 2008 and 2011 for Metro:Bus operating expenses:FY 2008:  $919.541 million FY 2011:  $956.783 million An increase of $37.242 million,  +4%.Light-rail operating expenses:FY  2008: $153.267 million FY  2011: $174.703 million An increase of $21.436 million, +14%The difference is a 10% higher increase for light-rail operating expenses compared to buses from fiscal years 2008 to 2011. This is during a time period when there was a 10% increase in total miles for light-rail with the addition of the Gold Line extension to east LA. Subtracting this six miles of new rail leaves a 4% increase in operating expenses for both light-rail and buses during this time period. Indicating that there was clearly not a favortism of light-rail compared to buses in operating expenses.

  • Dennis Hindman

    Fifteen percent of Measure R is given to each city by population for local improvements such to sidewalks, streets and for bicycling. Los Angeles uses part of their local  funds to fix potholes, pave streets, and make improvements for pedestrians and bicycling.

    The county is in a slow recovery from the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The housing market and consumer spending are both weak. This is the time when the county could use some financial stimulus from government to increase employment and improve the transportation infrastructure. The idea for putting  Measure J  on the ballot is to borrow against these future sales tax revenues to speed up the construction of roads and transit projects. 

    If Measure J is approved by voters, the city of Los Angeles would have enough future sales tax revenue to issue bonds that could be used to pave all of the streets that are in “C” or worse condition. Bicycle lanes could be put in as part of this repaving instead of stripping off lanes and striping on the weekends like they do now. This would lower the cost of bike lane installations.

    There would also be enough money to issue bonds to fix the sidewalks in addition to needed street repairs. The city would still have enough money left over to pay the interest on these bonds. Doing this work now, rather than later would lower the maintenance costs for both the streets and vehicle repairs from having smoother roads. Making sidewalk repairs would also lower the amount of money the city pays out from trip and fall settlements.

    Voting no on Measure J increases the liklihood that the roads, sidewalks, bicycling and transit in the county will not improve as quickly.  Voting yes gives the cities and Metro the ability to do this much quicker and improve the economy at the same time.