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Posts from the "Measure R" Category

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Guest Editorial: Dreaming Big About Rail Lines, Grand Boulevards, Bus Rapid Transit and Measure R2

The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org

The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org

(Move LA’s mission is to build a broad constituency that will advocate for the development of a comprehensive, diverse, robust, clean and financially sound public transportation system for Los Angeles County. Denny Zane is the executive director. Gloria Ohland is the policy and communications director.)

More and more people — from elected officials to bike and pedestrian advocates — are talking about projects that could be funded if a transportation sales tax measure is put on the November 2016 ballot.

Most recently, for example, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian stood in front of the TV cameras with a host of heavy-hitting transportation leaders from San Fernando Valley to advocate conversion of the super-successful Orange Line to light rail, and an extension to Bob Hope Airport, then Glendale, then Pasadena.

Other cities and their councils of government are dreaming big as well.

It’s all possible if voters have the opportunity to approve the right measure. Move LA is using a “strawman” proposal of funding ideas to gin up a “let’s dream big” conversation about the sales tax, which some are fondly calling “Measure R2” in acknowledgment of its predecessor — the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008 that is building the five new rail lines underway now.

The proposed 45-year half-cent sales tax “strawman” could generate $90 billion for transportation. The centerpiece is, as it was in Measure R1, significant expansion of the rail system. But we have another favorite in our strawman proposal — a transformational “Grand Boulevards” program. We propose taking 5-10 percent of the $90 billion for cities and councils of governments to invest in reviving and reinventing several-mile, multi-community-long stretches of maybe 15-20 arterials around L.A. County as transit-oriented boulevards that promote economic development as they pass through more than one community.

This money could fund both conventional and sustainable transportation improvements, from repaving and signal synchronization to clean, green, cool, and complete streets with more bus service,  better bus stops with real time arrival info, and wider sidewalks and bike lanes. It could fund landscaping and other community improvements that would make the boulevards appealing places on which to live and shop, and there would be incentives for transit-supportive mixed-use community development. Funding it could help leverage and implement L.A. Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets program!

It’s important to remember that this is a transportation sales tax and must be used for transportation purposes. But what if 30 percent, a significant share of the funding in the Grand Boulevards program, were set aside in a competitive pot for cities willing to promote transit ridership by permitting moderate-density mixed-use transit-oriented development (TOD) along these grand boulevards?

This extra funding for transportation projects could be made available to those cities willing to permit apartments over shops and other housing that’s affordable and appealing for young people, aging Baby Boomers and others who want to be able to live without a car — and who can do that because it’s easy to walk and bike and take transit instead. Read more…

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Move L.A.’s Measure R2 Draft Proposal, Including Their Rail Fantasy Map

Move L.A.'s draft breakdown for a possible 2016 transportation funding measre. Source: Move L.A.

Move L.A.’s draft breakdown for a possible 2016 transportation funding measure. Source: Move L.A.

Last week, Move L.A. convened its annual transportation conversation conference under the banner of “Imagining Measure R2.” The daylong conference was profiled in the L.A. Times and at the Source. Today SBLA takes a look at Move L.A.’s “strawman” R2 proposal presented that day. It’s a draft for purposes of discussion, very likely to change some before it would reaches the ballot in 2016. It looks a lot like Measure R, but there are also a few big differences.

Measure R was a 30-year county-wide half-cent sales tax narrowly approved by L.A. voters in 2008. Measure R funding has been key to Metro’s rail expansion underway, including the Gold Line Foothill Extension, Expo Line Phase 2, Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail, the Regional Connector, and the Purple Line Extension. In 2012, a subsequent transportation bond proposal, Measure J, received 66 percent approval, but narrowly failed to pass the two-thirds needed.

Measure R2, under Move L.A.’s initial strawman proposal, would be a 45-year county-wide half-cent sales tax, with project revenues approximately $90 billion. It would run concurrently with Measure R for R’s remaining 20+years, which presents some issues with overall sales tax limits in some L.A. County cities. R2 is anticipated to be on the 2016 ballot and would need to pass by a two-thirds majority.

The overall R2 breakdown (see pie chart graphic at top of post) is somewhat similar to Measure R.

category 2008 Measure R 2016 draft Measure R2
New rail & BRT capital 35.00% 30.00%
Metrolink capital 3.00% 5.00%
Rail capital existing lines 2.00%
Rail Operations 5.00%
Bus Operations 20.00%
Transit Operations 20.00%
Highway Capital 20.00% 20.00%
Local Return 15.00% 15.00%
Active Transportation (bike-ped) 4.00%
Goods Movement 6.00%

There are a few important differences. The strawman proposal includes funding for active transportation: pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

Read more…

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Expand Your Streets Knowledge at Upcoming Conferences

Move LA imagines the next transportation funding measure - details below

Move LA imagines the next transportation funding measure – details below

Over the next couple months, there are number of upcoming local conferences that L.A. Streetsblog readers might be interested in:

UCLA Lewis Center’s Digital Cities Smarter Transportation
Thursday, March 20th, 2014, 8 am – 7:30 pm
Japan American National Museum, DTLA
This conference explores the way mobile technology is changing transit, parking, food, and more – and the role of public and private institutions in managing these technologies.
Registration $179Streetsblog special: limited quantity of $129 tickets available – use discount code “sbla

Move L.A.’s Imagining Measure R2 … and Thriving L.A. County Communities
Friday, March 28th, 2014, 8:30 am – 4 pm
Cathedral Center, DTLA
This conference explores how Southern California communities can come together around investing in a robust transit system.
Registration $25-$75; scholarships available

Open Streets Project’s (with CicLAvia) Open Streets National Summit
Friday, April 4th – Sunday, April 6th, 2014
Line Hotel, Koreatown, L.A.
Learn the ins and outs of hosting open streets ciclovía events – from marketing to outreach to fundraising to route selection. Includes observation of and participation in the April 6th Iconic Wilshire Blvd CicLAvia festival.
Registration $395 (earlybird rate good until midnight tonight)

Urban Land Institute’s 14th Annual Urban Marketplace 
Wednesday April 23rd, 2014, 7:30 am – 12 pm
Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, DTLA
This conference and expo are designed to explore development strategies for L.A.’s lower income and higher poverty neighborhoods. Topics will include infill development, L.A. River revitalization, and development around USC and UCLA. More information as Urban Marketplace approaches. (L.A. Streetsblog is a media partner.)
Registration $70-$120

And, a couple of conferences hosted a bit farther away:

If you’re hosting a similar event, let us know – and consider promoting your event via an advertisement at L.A. Streetsblog.

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Measure R++? Maybe in 2014. Probably in 2016

When Should Metro Push for a Measure R or Measure J Type Ballot Initiative

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In November of 2012, the Measure J ballot initiative went down to a narrow defeat despite garnering over 66% of the vote. Measure J would have extended the 2008 Measure R sales tax so that further bonding would be possible and promised transit projects could be completed sooner. From pretty much the moment the final vote was counted, transit watchers have wondered when Metro would try to pass another funding measure on the ballot.

The 2012 initiative received 66.2% of the vote. It needed 66.67%. The successful Measure R initiative in 2008 funds almost every rail transit expansion project now occurring in L.A. County.

A staff report discussed at yesterday’s Planning and Programming Committee of the Metro Board of Directors examines the major questions surrounding a proposed future sales tax to fund transit expansion. As The Source notes, nobody on the Metro Board of Directors is saying they support such a measure, yet, but pretty much everyone who watches the agency believes that a new transit funding ballot initiative is just around the corner.

A read of the report raises many questions, but two stand out:

1) What makes more sense, a 2014 or 2016 ballot initiative?

2) Should the initiative fund an extension of the existing tax and project acceleration or should their be a new project list? Read more…

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Garcetti to Mobility 21: We’re Planning for the Next Measure R Campaign


Video provided by the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

This morning, Eric Garcetti delivered a video message to the 1,000 attendees of Mobility 21′s 12 Annual Transportation Conference. The Mayor, in Washington D.C. to try and raise more funds for local and regional transit projects, stressed some familiar themes: America Fast Forward, Great Streets, Measure R…

But what grabbed my attention was about 20 seconds of text that may serve as the unofficial public kickoff for the next transit expansion ballot initiative campaign. Until there’s a more formal name, let’s call it Measure R++

This is why my first action as mayor was to call together a meeting of regional mayors from across the county to discuss the issues of future development. One common theme that emerged from that gathering back in August was that we desperately need more transportation investments. Currently, all the cities across L.A. County are submitting their ideas for investments as part of another transportation investment ballot initiative. These efforts will ultimately expand our transit system while at the same time increasing planning efforts to deliver vibrant neighborhoods across our transit network.

Read more…

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This Could Be the Biggest Year Ever for Transit at the Ballot Box

Next month, 19 transit-related measures will come before voters. If the rest of this year is any guide, 16 of them will pass.

The "Transportation Penny" in Richland County, South Carolina will fund some pedestrian improvements, along with roads and transit, if voters approve it November 6. Image: Richland County

Despite a high-profile loss in Atlanta a few months ago, transit referenda have an 86 percent success rate so far this year, according to the Center For Transportation Excellence.

It strikes some as counterintuitive: During an economic downturn, in a virulently anti-tax climate, why are voters deciding time and time again to tax themselves to support transit?

CFTE Director Jason Jordan says the lousy economy is one reason so many of these measures keep popping up — more this year than any other since CTFE started counting in 2000. With states crying poverty and the federal government, for the first time ever, passing a transportation bill that was no bigger than the one that preceded it, local governments have had to take matters into their own hands.

Jordan says the most unique of all of next month’s ballot initiatives is a gas tax measure in Memphis. Almost all the initiatives we see are sales taxes or property taxes, with a handful of bond measures and vehicle fees. Most cities don’t have the authority to raise gas taxes independent of the state — but Memphis does, and it’s trying to increase the tax by one cent to raise $3 million to $6 million for the transit authority. “Here we have an example of communities being pushed to be as creative as possible,” Jordan said.

No other local gas tax measure is on the ballot. Indianapolis has a citywide income tax hike in the works, which will also be novel, but they didn’t make it happen for this year.

Another one to watch is the half-cent sales tax in Orange County, North Carolina, which includes the city of Chapel Hill. If it succeeds, the three counties of the so-called Research Triangle will likely join together to improve their regional transit system. If it fails, the whole thing falls apart.

Read more…

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Metro Board Can Move Measure R Funds with Two-Thirds Vote

Despite near unanimous opposition by a parade of public speakers, the Metro Board of Directors voted with near unanimity. In fact, there was more disagreement among the present Board Members over grammatical changes to the ordinance that will allow voters to vote on extending the Measure R sales tax than there was over Duarte City Councilman John Fasana’s plan to allow the Board to move Measure R funds dedicated towards highway projects to transit projects. You can read the Board

The Metro Board of Directors, led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, are proposing to extend the Measure R transportation sales tax passed by L.A. County voters in 2008.  Currently, the tax is set to expire in 2039, but under “Measure R+” it would expire in 2069. By extending the tax, Metro can bond against future revenue to build transit and highway projects faster.

The Fasana motion will allow funds to be moved from highway projects to transit projects, and vice versa, within a funding region. This motion will allow funds generated for highway projects in the San Gabriel Valley to be split between the Alameda Corridor East Grade Separation Project and the Gold Line Foothill Extension if two-thirds of the Metro Board of Directors approves the change. The motion was key to earning the endorsement of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments for the sales tax extension on the fall ballot.

A full list of the Metro Measure R project list and current funding plan is available here.

The only Board Member in attendance to vote against the motion was Metro Board Chair Mike Antonovich. Antonovich argued that because the Mayor of Los Angeles controls four votes on the Board of Directors, he could stop any transfer by just getting one more person to vote with him.  Of course, one could also argue that the entire five member Board of Supervisors could veto any swap themselves. Read more…

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Metro Board Meets Monday to Vote on Measure R Amendment Allowing Highway/Transit Funding Swap

The Metro Board of Directors will meet in special session on Monday to debate a motion put forward by Board Member and Duarte City Councilman John Fasana. The motion would allow the Board of Directors to move Measure R funds between projects within a region and makes further funding of the Gold Line Foothill Extension a possibility.

"I Have Fought for the Gold Line Since 1991," says John Fasana (pictured) on his campaign website.

Responding to concerns by politicians in the San Gabriel Valley that continue to argue that Measure R funding is “only for projects on the Westside,” Fasana proposed a motion that would allow funds to be moved from highway projects to transit projects, and vice versa, within a funding region. This motion will allow funds generated for highway projects in the San Gabriel Valley to be split between the Alameda Corridor East Grade Separation Project and the Gold Line Foothill Extension if two-thirds of the Metro Board of Directors approves the change. A full list of the Metro Measure R project list and current funding plan is available here.

The Fasana Amendment is widely expected to pass and was key to earning the endorsement of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments for the plan to extend the Measure R transit tax until 2069. The tax is currently scheduled to expire in 2039, but extending it will allow Metro to bond against future earnings and build the twelve transit lines funded by Measure R in a much shorter timeline.

Fasana has already outlined a plan to transfer $623 million budgeted for highway projects to the Gold Line Foothill Extension.  This new funding would provide over three-quarters of the funding the Foothill Extension needs to complete construction all the way to Claremont.  The plan has the overwhelming support of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.  Another $200 million will go to grade separation projects along the Alameda Corridor.

Of course, the amendment could have unintended consequences in the long-term. It “will allow funds, by a two-thirds Board vote, to be transferred between the Transit Capital and Highway Capital Subfunds within the same sub-region without the specific timing restrictions originally imposed by Measure R.”  This means that needed transit projects in a region could end up going to a highway project. There are probably few people upset to see these highway funds moved to light rail and grade separation, but would people feel the same if the Gold Line Eastside Extension Phase II is sacrificed to shovel more money at the I-710 Big Dig?

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Metro Board: Let the People Vote on Extending Sales Tax

How will Measure R+ revenue be spent? The same way Measure R money is spent. Image via Metro presentation to SCAG

Just after high noon, the Metro Board of Directors voted to place a ballot proposition on the November 2012 ballot to extend the Measure R sales tax’s horizon year from 2039 until 2069.  Los Angeles County voters passed the Measure R half-cent sales tax in 2008 to pay for a massive extension of the county’s transit system and specific highway projects.  The measure still needs approval from the full State Senate and Governor Brown before going to the ballot.  Once on the ballot it needs a two-thirds vote of County voters.

The vote was not unanimous.  Of the thirteen member board, several speakers spoke and voted against the proposal.  L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas referred to the proposal as “way premature in the balance of our priorities.”  While Supervisor Don Knabe lamented that extending the sales tax would give too much power, and funding, to Metro.  ”Once you give the agency an open checkbook…you lose the discipline.”  You can read Knabe’s full statement, here.

In order to increase support for the proposal both with the Board and with November’s voters, Board Member Richard Katz, an appointee of Mayor Villaraigosa, ammended the original motion which would have left the sales tax open ended.  Instead of relying on voters to repeal the extension at some future date, the current plan would expire in 2069.

Which is not to say that nobody was in favor of the proposal.  Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Villaraigosa, Lakewood Mayor Diane Duboise, Katz and Director John Fasana all spoke in favor of the motion to allow the extension on the fall ballot.  They were bolstered by testimony from Move L.A., the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.

As expected, the Bus Riders Union formalized their opposition.  Eric Roman, the BRU’s communications director, kicked off a team of speakers in yellow by arguing, “There’s something wrong with building a coalition by promising things to various parts of the county while ignoring the needs of the actual riders.”  The BRU argues that such a large tax should focus on keeping fares low for bus riders and increasing bus service before funding rail projects or highway projects.

Also speaking in opposition was Damien Goodmon and a group of residents concerned with an at-grade Crenshaw light rail line and its impact on local business.  Residents and leaders from the Santa Clarita Valley concerned that they weren’t receiving their fare share of local return and allocated funds.

There were four ammendments that drew major debate. Read more…

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Measuring the Odds for Measure R+

Image from Metro Board reports via The Source.

The issue of whether or not Measure R+, our temporary name for a proposed ballot initiative to extend the 2008 transportation sales tax, will be on the fall ballot will be much clearer in a couple of days.  The Metro Board of Directors will vote on whether or not to place the initative on the fall ballot this Thursday.  The initiative still needs the approval of the State Senate and the Governor’s office, but if the measure passes muster on Thursday, it will most likely go before the voters.

Whether the voters will pass it is another story.  As in 2008, extending the sales tax would require a two-thirds vote of those voting.  The 2008 ballot measure passed with 67.2%.

In other words, it barely passed.

While the coalition that worked to pass Measure R in 2008 is coming back together under the stewardship of Move L.A., the opposition to the transit tax extension already appears stronger than last time.  The campaign for Measure R+ could have a tougher road to travel.  The plan calls for no new projects, just a “speeded up” project schedule.  In other words, if it matters to you whether the airport connector is completed in 2023 instead of 2028, then you’ll likely support the project.  If you wanted a Leimert Park Station for the Crenshaw Line, there’s nothing in this proposal for you.

Leading the opposition is Supervisor, and soon-to-be Metro Board Chair, Mike Antonovich.  The Supervisor famously compared the plan to “gang rape” of his constituents despite his Supervisor District receiving the lion’s share of the highway funding portion of the sales tax.  Antonovich voted against placing the initiative on the ballot in Committee.

Noting that rail transit generally requires a higher subsidy than bus transit, thus causing an overall increase in transit fares, the Bus Riders Union led the charge against Measure R four years ago. The civil rights group seems poised to repeat that role this time around.

“The original Measure R has offered nothing good to transit-dependent Black and Latino bus riders, who have seen close to one million hours of bus service cut and a 20% fare increase since it took effect in 2009,” explains Barbara Lott Holland, Chair of Bus Riders Union.  ”Extending Measure R indefinitely will only accelerate the destruction of the bus system and the civil rights crisis that LA Metro now finds itself in, and will plummet the agency into a debt that the poor will be asked for pay through more fare increases and even deeper cuts to their service for decades into the future.”

The Los Angeles Times puts voice to a fiscal argument that extending a sales tax indefinitely out into the future doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense long-term.  What if the transit needs of the county change in the next fifty years, and voters are paying a tax for a completed transit system with no revenue going towards future expansion?  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa argues that these future voters will have the benefit of a completed transit system, but that argument could be a harder sell than the argument for any transit expansion made four years ago.

Another group that opposed the 2008 tax was a loose coalition of legislators and municipal governments in the San Gabriel Valley.  These lawmakers gave perhaps the least articulate opposition demanding funds for a local project that was funded by Measure R at the same time they opposed the overall Measure.  Getting more funds for the Alameda Corridor continues to be their top priority, and there is little opportunity to close the $260 million funding gap in Measure R+. Read more…