Streetsblog L.A. Endorses Measure M

There is a lot to like about Measure M, the Los Angeles County sales tax that would fund a mix of transit and other transportation projects throughout the county. For all of the transit, mobility, walkability, bikeability benefits – not to mention health, environmental, and job benefits – across the region, Streetsblog Los Angeles endorses Measure M.

Measure M rail and BRT network. Image by xxx
Measure M rail and BRT network. Map by Adam Linder

Start by taking a look at the fully-built-out transit map that SBLA reader Adam Linder created based on Measure M’s expenditure plan. This is huge. This rail and rapid bus network would change the way that L.A. County moves. Frequent, high quality transit would extend to the San Fernando Valley, Pomona, the South Bay, the Sepulveda Pass, West Hollywood, Glendale, and to the edges of San Bernardino and Orange Counties.

There is plenty more for livability in Measure M’s expenditure plan: bicycling and walking especially for the first/last mile connection to transit, Metrolink, complete streets, fare subsidies for those in need, ADA paratransit, and hard-to-come-by maintenance funding to keep Metro’s facilities in a state of good repair.

Measure M is not perfect.

State law makes it nearly impossible to pass a ballot measure with any sort of tax except a sales tax. This means that despite the best intentions of the authors of the initiative, the funding mechanism for this revolutionary proposal is still a regressive sales tax. Distressingly, it offers the least promise to the lower-income residents of L.A. who will be disproportionately impacted by the sales tax and who rely on bus service the most.

Measure M would also fund outdated freeway and road projects. We can look past this spending as a pragmatic move to appease the voting public to get the measure passed. Among the early opposition to Measure M, though, are groups that find the measure’s highway funding to be insufficient. These backward-looking interests want to see more freeway widening sooner, no doubt continuing Southern California’s sad expensive spiral of more widening and more congestion.

Outdated highway projects are unsustainable in many ways, including fiscally. With state and federal gas tax revenues failing to cover ongoing transportation expenditures, it is a critical time for Los Angeles County to continue to step up and fund our own transportation future. Measure M would create an indefinite funding stream that gives L.A. County control of our future spending. Local control helps ensure that spending prioritizes local needs, even as those needs change and grow.

In 2008 and 2012, Streetsblog L.A. and our parent non-profit the Southern California Streets Initiative did not formally endorse or oppose Measure R or Measure J. Measure M is significantly better and more holistic than either of those prior propositions.

Lastly, the leadership of Metro CEO Phil Washington at the helm gives us greater confidence in supporting Measure M. Washington, his team, and plenty of continuing dedicated Metro staff, are taking strides to ensure that Metro is well-managed, fiscally prudent, and responsive to its riders and their communities. With the significant changes that transit and transit-oriented development are already bringing to many areas, Washington’s Metro will need to prioritize building stronger relationships with affected communities as it continues to build its networks. Metro needs be proactive in ensuring that all communities benefit from this growth, especially lower-income communities of color that continue to be the core of Metro’s ridership.

Streetsblog strongly endorses Measure M, and urges all our readers to vote yes on M on November 8.

  • antiqueshopper

    I would definitely agree with your last paragraph, in particular the comment that Metro CEO Washington’s leadership instills the confidence to vote yes on Measure M. Mayor Garcetti definitely did the right thing by bringing him on to head Metro in a better, more transit oriented direction than with the previous CEOs who seem to be stuck on promoting bad highway projects over the good projects.

    Fiscal responsibility and prudence has to be the first priority if M passes.

  • Ray

    When is the public going to realize that directly funding transportations systems using road fees would be a much better choice then sales taxes. I know that it’s politically unpopular, but we need to start advocating for this. New cars already have built in tracking and it would be easy to charge people a greater fee to use the most congested parts of the road system. This money would then be used to fund the best alternative transportation systems in the most needed areas. A county wide sales tax will never achieve reducing congestion and pollution, only road pricing will achieve this ideal that everyone really wants.

  • neroden

    Honestly California funding will never be straightened out until Prop 13 is repealed and the dumbass “2/3 requirement” is removed from state law.

  • Nate

    “This rail and rapid bus network would change the way that L.A. County moves.”

    This is a bold stance to take, and I’d be interested in seeing Streetsblog expand on this thought in a future article. To quote from an earlier Streetsblog article:

    “…despite overall U.S. transit service nearly tripling between 1970 and 2013, overall ridership has remained flat. In 1970, Americans took 0.68 trips per person per week. That number remains level over the following decades: 1980/0.72; 1990/0.68; 2000/0.64; 2004/0.64; and in 2013/0.65.” (http://la.streetsblog.org/2016/04/29/quantifying-transit-ridership-some-lessons-from-uclas-transit-conference/)

    Does Streetsblog think that LA is outlier here? If so, what evidence is there to support such a view? Can Streetsblog cite any scholars who predict a boom in ridership as a result of Measure M? Is there anyone asking the Metro CEO where he is getting the data to support the prediction that in 20 years 25% of the LA population will be using transit?

    Or is Streetsblog making a more subtle point that if the same proportion of transit ridership now have a higher quantity and quality of public transit options, this improvement would fit the criteria of “chang(ing) the way that LA County moves”? I’ve seen this point made before, but if the mode share doesn’t move, I don’t see how one can make the argument that any bold change will have occurred.

    There is a nod to the regressive nature of the tax, but it’s telling that no dollar figures are present. Usually when analysis this lacking in rigor is offered up by conservatives on topics like climate change, it is mocked by progressives who pull out the graphs and data showing sea level rise, etc.. Why does the opposite occur in public transit, in which transit advocates are the ones bending over backwards to explain why ridership charts and graphs don’t tell a grim story? (Remember that dust-up over the LA Times graph? http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ridership-slump-20160127-story.html)

    There are ways to back Measure M without resorting to wild promises- look at the factual, sober endorsements of Measure M coming out of Investing in Place:

    (https://investinginplace.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/investinginplace-measurembrief1.pdf)

    (https://investinginplace.org/2016/09/21/measure-m-will-help-keep-our-buses-trains-and-infrastructure-in-good-condition/)

    I’ve probably said enough here, but I’d really like to know how the people who think Measure M will “transform” LA transportation justify such claims. Personally, I think unfounded claims about what Measure M will do for transportation in LA ultimately undermine our long-term goals because they undercut the credibility of transportation planning and public transit itself. We can’t do the many important small things needed to boost ridership if even our most active public transit advocates think that simply increasing the supply of public transit will revolutionize transportation in LA.

  • Nate
  • calwatch

    Measure M has structural issues that basically think inside the same box. More public transit funding means, for better or worse, more wages for public transit operators, especially since Metro signed a deal with the drivers union to ban contracting or transfer of services to municipal operators for five years. Union operators will have the leverage to strike not just for wages, but for changes that may streamline working conditions and make the system more efficient (i.e. automation on routes such as the Orange Line). It means keeping fares low, when we have the lowest senior/disabled fares in the country (short of places like Philadelphia where the lottery subsidizes senior fares). It means funding wider freeways (like doubling the size of the 71 freeway through Pomona), and not making the new lanes Express Lanes and not making HOV 2+ lanes HOV 3 or higher (the new I-105 express lanes proposed would not be HOV 3). And it presumes that we should spend 2.25% of sales tax revenue on transportation, when I would argue education is a much more pressing issue.

  • jojopuppyfish

    One thing on the map missing I’d like to see is the Green line extension west to Dockweiler State Beach. It could also have a stop at El Segundo for those residents.

  • I agree, but, there is a open rail right of way that the Green Line does follow south of the LAX area, that can be further followed to San Pedro/Long Beach. Property costs money to acquire, and we already bought that corridor in the early 1990s with Prop C funds.

  • Except there is no 71 Freeway through Pomona. It stops at the UP tracks and does not resume until the SR60 junction.

    #RoadGeek

  • jojopuppyfish

    Do both. But its important it goes to the beach and its not being discussed

  • Pitman

    Interesting how there are always cheerleaders commenting favorably for CEO Washington. I guess nobody wants to look at him to closely or his handpicked staff he brought from Denver. Metro is once again a house of cards. And the money trail should be followed.

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