Skip to content

Posts from the Measure R Category

No Comments

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…

12 Comments

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…

29 Comments

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?

7 Comments

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…

18 Comments

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…

13 Comments

Will Measure R+ Reach the Fall Ballot? At Least Two County Supervisors Need a Change of Heart

(Update: An earlier version of this post identified Don Knabe as voting against Measure R at the Metro Board and again at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors last year.  In fact, Knabe voted for Measure R with the Supervisors but against with the Metro Board of Directors.)

With yesterday’s election in the books, it’s no longer too early to look ahead to the November 6th election day and the very real possibility that a ballot proposition to extend the Measure R transit sales tax will be on the ballot.

This team of politicians from the San Gabriel Valley fought Measure R in 2008. Will construction of their favored Gold Line Extension translate to support for extending the sales tax in 2012?

Battle lines are already being drawn as A.B. 1446, legislation allowing Metro to vote on placing the initiative on the ballot, has already cleared the Assembly.  In the coming weeks, Metro will announce a proposed project list and timeline, information on what projects would be funded by the sales tax and a list of when the current and future projects could be completed.  To nobody’s surprise, Denny Zane and Move L.A. are “bringing the band back together” that pushed Measure R in 2008.  It was Zane who coined the term “Measure R+” to describe the proposed extension.

Mesure R passed with nearly 69% of the vote in 2008.  The sales tax is currently scheduled to expire in 2039.   Passing an extension would allow for more bonding to create those projects faster and increase the number of new construction projects.  The extension would need two-thirds of the vote to pass.

But first it needs to get to the ballot.  To do that A.B. 1446 still needs to pass the State Senate and get signed by Governor Jerry Brown.  Next, the ballot initiative itself needs to be approved by the Metro Board of Directors and L.A. County Board of Supervisors before the end of the summer.

Passing the Board of Directors is probably not a big problem.  In 2008 only three members of the Metro Board of Directors opposed the sales tax, Supervisor Gloria Molina, Supervisor Don Knabe and Long Beach City Council Woman Bonnie Lowenthal.  Lowenthal has moved on to state office and was replaced by Lakewood Mayor Diane Dubois.

Two other Supervisors have signaled opposition to extending the sales tax indefinitely.  Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sent out a press release outlining his concerns with an open-ended sales tax.  Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who will be the Chair of the Board of Directors beginning in July,compared passage of an open-ended sales tax as “gang rape.

It’s unlikely Mayor Villaraigosa, who is a big supporter of the extension, would struggle to get the seven votes still needed to pass the Metro Board of Directors.  The Mayor’s office controls four positions, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has already signaled his support.  Pam O’Conner sits on the Santa Monica City Council, which recently passed a resolution in support of the sales tax extension.  Transit supporters would need to convince only one more Board Member to clear the Metro Board.

The more difficult vote will be whether the initiative can pass the the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.  Thus far, Yaroslavsky is the sole member of the Board in favor of the proposed ballot initiative with Molina and Knabe having led the battle opposing the sales tax in 2008 and Antonovich and Ridley-Thomas voicing opposition today.

For the initiative to make the ballot, it needs two Supervisors currently opposed to the initiative to change their positions.  This puts tremendous pressure on Metro staff to create a project list for the project that excites two Supervisors.  We already know what would excite Ridley-Thomas, a grade-separated Crenshaw light rail with a station at Leimert Park.  Ridley-Thomas’ predecessor voted for Measure R at the Metro Board, Board of Supervisors and the ballot box.

But that would still have the measure failing 2-3 at the Supervisor level.  Of the three remaining, only Antonovich voted for allowing Measure R on the ballot, and he is the least likely of the three to join a potential Ridley-Thomas and Yaroslavsky alliance.

While Knabe fought the Measure in 2008, and vote against it at the Board of Directors, he did vote for putting the Measure on the ballot at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.  Knabe’s justification for the split votes was that he thought the sales tax was a bad idea (so he voted against it at Metro) but that voters should have the chance to vote on it themselves (so he voted for it at the Board of Supervisors).  In addition, he did Chair the Metro Board of Directors from July 2010 to June 2011 and may have had a change in heart in the meantime.  He has not made a public statement on the extension.

Molina is also unlikely to change positions, although a recent meeting of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments seemed open to pushing the extension despite its opposition to Measure R in 2008.  The San Gabriel Valley is a big part of Molina’s district, so she might also be persuaded with a project list that delivers for her district.

15 Comments

Pasadena Star News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Wrong on Measure R in 2008, Wrong on Extending It Today

Four Years ago, a pair of newspapers in the San Gabriel Valley opposed the passage of Measure R, a county wide transportation sales tax initiative that ultimately earned nearly 70% of the vote county-wide.  The Pasadena Star-News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune, both owned by the same company, followed the lead of their local elected officials and loudly urged voters to reject the sales tax increase citing that there would be no benefit to the San Gabriel Valley despite the money promised for a Gold Line Extension, 710 Big Dig studies, local return dollars, and other projects.

2008 Caption: This group of middle-aged and retirement age politicians wants you to vote against transit the Measure R transit sales tax.

The pols and papers may have led, but few people followed.  The San Gabriel Valley vote count was similar to the rest of the county with nearly two out of every three voters supporting the sales tax increase.

Now the papers are bringing the band back together.  Following Mayor Villaraigosa’s announcement that he would be pushing an indefinite increase to the length of the thirty year sales tax on this fall’s ballot, both papers printed identical editorials slamming the plan as unnecessarily tying the hands of future generations.

Over half of the editorial is a recap of the battle over Measure R and an update on Metro, on Villaraigosa’s urging, beginning a push to get the extension on the fall ballot.  After the jump, we’ll look at the second part of the editorial, laying out their reasons for opposing the increase.  Read the Pasadena Star News editorial here and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune version here. Read more…

15 Comments

Mike Antonovich’s Tortured Point and How the Mayor Should Have Reacted

Villaraigosa, Antonovich, and Frank McCourt in the Dodger Shuttle. For the past two seasons, Antonovich has found the funds to keep the shuttle running. Photo:Mike Antonovich/Flickr

Yesterday, at a meeting of the Metro Board of Directors Construction Committee, L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich became the first public official to throw cold water on Mayor Villaraigosa’s transit dreams by denouncing plans to place an extension of the Measure R half cent transportation sales tax indefinitely.

Much of the coverage of Antonovich’s complaints have focused on his choice of words and the Mayor’s reaction.  Even in the sometimes childish world of the Metro Board of Directors, “gang rape” qualifies as over heated rhetoric.  In response, the Mayor walked out.

While I understand the sentiment, it’s always better to disengage from a bully than roll around in the mud, the Mayor also missed a teachable moment.  Lost in the theatre of the day is that the idea that Antonovich’s rural and suburban Supervisor District is not being served by a thirty year transportation tax.  While I can appreciate the Mayor’s reaction, it would have been better if he had let the Supervisor have his say, and then responded with some facts.

Gang rape?  Really Mike?  Gang rape?

Let’s look at what the 5th Supervisor’s District gets out of Measure R, and then you tell me what is and isn’t ‘gang rape.’ Read more…

8 Comments

Antonio Villaraigosa, The Transportation Mayor

Five years ago, I was sitting at my desk in New York City reading about Los Angeles and wondering how I was going to adapt.  Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seemed obsessed with speeding up car traffic to the detriment of neighborhoods.  It’s hard to remember the Mayor’s talk of Tiger Teams, specialized LAPD units designed to punish cars parked in rush hour travel lanes, cars “blocking the box” or anyone else that dared impede traffic at rush hour.  His attempt to “Manhattanize” Downtown Los Angeles was widely mocked in media outlets.  His signature transportation project was The Subway to the Sea, which was widely considered a pipe dream.

Villaraigosa, with two key transit allies, on one of the Expo "preview" trains. Photo:Intersections, South L.A.

What a difference half a decade makes.

Last night during his State of the City address, the Mayor doubled down on what has been his signature accomplishment, the passage of Measure R in 2008 and the beginning of a slow transformation of Los Angeles from the car dominated punchline of “Los Angeles Story” to a transit town.

“The successful passage of Measure R taught us something about Los Angeles,” proclaimed Villaraigosa.  “This is a city willing to invest in itself. This is a city willing to lead and to chart a new path. And that is why today I am announcing that we will be asking voters to continue Measure R until the voters themselves decide to end it. “

With those sentences, the Mayor kicked off the 2012 election for many Angelenos.  If the legislature, the Metro Board and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors let it happen, L.A. County residents will have a chance to vote on extending a thirty-year half-cent sales tax that would allow Metro to build more and better transit projects now. The longer a sales tax, the easier it is to borrow against.  Via press release, the Mayor released a list of projects that would be accelerated and expanded by what is being billed “Measure R+.

  • Green Line to LAX would open 10 years sooner (2018)
  • The Subway to Westwood would open 13 years sooner (2023)
  • The Green Line extension in the South Bay would open 17 years sooner (2018)
  • Gold Line to Whittier or El Monte would open 15 years sooner (2020)
  • A new project in Southeast LA County – the West Santa Ana Branch – would open eight years sooner (2019)

Read more…

No Comments

Daily News: More Measure R Funds for Bikeways

The Daily News, which still appears to be the conservative alternative to the Los Angeles Times in many respects, published an editorial earlier today calling on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to bicycle planning.  The message: it’s not enough just to pass a bike plan, how about spending some of your own transportation dollars to make it a reality.

Click on the image to see the plan.

For too long, those doling out transportation dollars have given preference to projects that benefit motorists, ignoring projects that would encourage use of alternative and environmentally friendly alternatives such as human-powered bikes and scooters…

County officials absolutely should tap Measure R for the bike plan. Voters endorsed the half-cent sales tax in order to build projects that can ease traffic and offer community alternatives. This is one of the few that comes with a small price tag.

Measure R is expected to raise $40 billion over 30 years. Surely there’s a few hundred million for building the region’s first system of bike-riding routes.

Earlier this week, the Supes passed the county’s own surprising-progressive bike plan which includes over 237 miles of bike lanes, 23 miles of bike boulevards (not “bike friendly streets”) and 832 miles of total bikeway improvements in the unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County.

While it’s unlikely that the Metro Board of Directors will make a change to the Measure R funding scheme, the Daily News’ editorial could be an important tool for bike advocates making a case for a portion of the funding pie in any “Measure R+” sales tax measure that goes on the ballot this fall.