Bike/Ped. Advocates Want Your Help To Get More Funds From Metro

21 leaders from the bicycle and pedestrian community have banded together to ask Metro to include a small set aside for better amenities for walkers and cyclists in the planned expenditures should the voters approve the half cent sales tax increase this fall. Many of those that have already signed will be familiar with readers of Streetsblog or those involved with either bicycle or pedestrian issues. However, their signatures alone will not be enough to sway the agency so now we’re asking for your help.

Below is a copy of our letter. If you agree with what you read and want your voice to be heard, send an email to and tell us you want to sign up.  Then, your signature will be added to the list.  Feel free to write comments below, but if you want your signature counted, please send us an email!  Oh, and don’t worry, your email won’t be added to somebody’s update list or sold to spammers.  You’ll only here from us if there’s a question about your signature.

Copies of the letter will be presented at Metro Board Committee meetings and their Full Board Meeting on July 24th. Signatures will be collected until the morning of the meeting.

Dear Metro Boardmember,

As currently proposed, Metro’s plan to spend the $40 billion that would be created by a half cent increase in the county sales tax includes no funds set aside specifically for bicycle and pedestrian projects. This is a critical mistake, both from political and public planning perspectives. Given recent headlines, it is impossible to argue that the county is meeting cyclists’ needs and after all, anyone that uses public transportation is a pedestrian at the beginning and end of their trip.

By not funding two popular and sustainable modes of transportation, Metro is unwittingly alienating people who would likely support both the proposed increase and many of the projects the increase would fund. To fix this problem, we propose setting aside 1% of the annual intake to fund bicycle projects and another 1% to fund pedestrian projects from the windfall that will be achieved by increasing the sales tax.

The case for better funding for pedestrian projects is an easy one to make. No matter one’s preferred mode of transportation, for part of every trip the traveler spends some time as a pedestrian. People who walk to and from transit stops deserve wide, flat, unbroken sidewalks and attractive and comfortable shelter at the stops. People who only travel by foot are engaging in the most sustainable form of transportation and should be encouraged by their government officials to continue to do so.

Tens of thousands of LA residents travel everyday on their bikes, and many of them aren’t doing it by choice, but because of economic reasons. While the law states that cyclists have equal rights to the road, the reality is they are not treated as equals by their fellow travelers. To not set aside funding for bicycles in a $40 billion budget just affirms what so many people erroneously believe, that bicyclists are second class users of our roads and should not be treated with the same respect as an automobile. Of course, the state of the bike networks in LA County varies wildly depending upon what municipality you happen to be in. Setting aside money for everyone to compete for would create an incentive for all municipalities to put forward deserving and well thought out bike project proposals.

At Metro’s June Board Meeting, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa compared those interest groups fighting for a favorite project to people fighting over who gets the biggest cookie. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky used the same analogy for pies. Taking their imagery to its logical conclusion, those fighting for better funding for bicycles and pedestrians aren’t even allowed in the kitchen. Instead, we’re being told to wait at the kid’s table to battle it out for the leftover crumbs, i.e. the 20% of the budget called "Local Return" funds that filter back to individual communities to be spent as they wish. With just 2% of the total budget, you would not only send the message that non-motorized travel is critical to Los Angeles County’s future, you also help create a future where cyclists and pedestrians have a safer and more enjoyable way to travel.


Colin Bogart, Enci Box, Stephen Box, Josef Bray-Ali, Jason Burns, Liz Elliott, Rob Galbraith, Aimee Gilchrist, Siel Ju, Jennifer Klausner, Erik Knutzen, Dorothy Le, Jessica Meaney, Ron Milam, Deborah Murphy, Damien Newton, Ingrid Peterson, David Pulsipher, Shay Sanchez, Alex Thompson

Photos: Jazamaripae, Atwater Village Newbie/Flickr

  • Dave Snyder

    I sent this letter just now:

    To whom it concerns:

    I’m a transportation policy professional with a San Francisco-based urban policy thinktank, called SPUR, and a long-time follower of transportation policy decisions. I’m writing in response to a new item on LA streetsblog. Congratulations on having the courage to go to the voters with a sales tax proposal to fund transit. Sales taxes to fund transit are not as regressive as many people claim, because the benefits accrue to low-income users, and good transit benefits everyone whether they use it personally or not.

    However, I strongly urge you to consider adding at least a 2% set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian transportation and safety. In Alameda County, CA, a few years ago, environmentalists opposed a sales tax proposal because, among other things, it did not include sufficient funding for bikes, and they won. Alameda increased the amount for bicycling and walking and voters approved the tax the second time. In San Francisco’s sales tax renewal, fully 10% of our funds were set aside for bicycling and walking. With gas prices what they are, people need the fully array of transportation choices, not just driving and transit, and a growing number of Americans, including folks in Los Angeles, realize this. Two percent is a very small amount to set aside to gain the support of this community, and avoid its opposition.


    Dave Snyder

    Dave Snyder
    Transportation Policy Director

    San Francisco Planning and Urban Research
    415.781.8726 x135

    Promoting good government and good planning through research, education and advocacy

  • i’m starting to send it around as well…

    great work!

  • Marino Pascal

    You lost me at “leaders”…

    You are pitying users of public transportation against themselves. A page borrowed from the Bus Riders Union suing MTA for trying to build subways instead of buying more buses.

    Whose transportation needs does Metro serve if not the pedestrians and bicyclists? If anything we can ask that the Metro line stop excluding bicycles during rush hour as they do now. If that is fixed then every mass transit dollar is a dollar for pedestrians and bicyclists.

    If you want to argue about distribution of tax revenue go after the gas tax revenue.

  • That’s absolutely not the case. 20% of Metro’s current proposed budget for the sales tax expenditures will go towards “Local Return.” One way to meet our request would be to say that a part of that will automatically go towards either bicycle or pedestrian projects.

    Or, they could say that part of the funding for the EXPO Line could go to make certain the entire mixed-use trail that runs parallel is built, instead of the current plan which has a half mile gap.

    Or, they could reduce the 15% of the current proposed budget that goes towards highway projects.

    There’s a lot of things that could be done to have a guaranteed set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects. We’re not seeking to divide anyone, but rather show what support already exists.

  • This is precisely how bicycle and pedestrian projects get put on the radar of the MTA board and other local politicians.

    I support this initiative, Damein, and I hope to push things further – opening up Transportation Demand Management funds to bicycle projects, and amending the MTA’s Call For Projects funding guidelines to allow Local Return sales tax dollars to fund non-car projects.

    Things are moving slowly in the City of L.A. – but who knows? In two years, this area could be moving in a very different direction. Bikes and pedestrian issues are going to continue to bubble up in local politics and news. With an intiative like this I hope we turn that into some tangible improvements to our streets.

  • Joe Linton

    Bicyclists should insist on bike funding… There are a few meetings coming up for this.
    Metro board committees this Wednesday and Thursday
    and the full Metro board meeting next week on Thursday
    See agendas at:

    I need to look over the agendas and see what’s the most appropriate forum… will post more later.

  • Whatever meeting we attend, we should do a little pre-game intro of the topic(s) we’ll be covering with the board members by emailing, faxing, handing, or otherwise conveying our small, bite-sized, talking points.

    Since they’re kind of like legislators for the MTA, we should have something specific picked out, like: 10% of Local Returns money dedicated solely to bikes, 5% solely to peds, the rest of Local Returns up for grabs by all modes.

    You know? Something that they can argue with us about over the details, while still agreeing with our sentiment. If we leave the creative thinking to them, we’ll get stuffed with another DVD of people biking and waling (like the LRTP video) and litte in the way of results.

  • Sorry, I just re-read this and I see that the proposal is to ask for 1% for bikes and 1% for peds.

    Sorry, I forgot the details of what I support!

  • Joe Linton

    The current proposal breaks down as follows. It’s complicated (Damien – can we do a whole blog on this sometime?) depending on state legislation, local politics, Metro decisions, and more – so this is a draft, subject to change (subject to political pressure – from bicyclists!). This is from a breakdown shown in the handouts at the June Metro Board Meeting:

    $ = billion dollars over 30 years, o&m means operations and maintenance

    $15.7B 40% new rail and/or bus rapid transit (mostly rail)
    $ 2.0B 5% new project o&m
    $ 1.1B 3% rail o&m
    $ 0.7B 2% rail capital
    $ 5.9B 15% bus o&m and expansion
    $ 5.9B 15% carpool lanes, highways, goods movement, grade separation and soundwalls
    $ 7.9B 20% local return (to cities and county for potholes, roads, etc.)

    So… when asked about bike funding, folks from Metro respond that the local return category is eligible for funding bike projects. I anticipate that perhaps more forward-thinking cities (like Santa Monica, West Hollywood and even LA), will spend some portion of their local return on some bike projects, but, basically bike advocates will need to go to each city and push for money for bikes. There’s more money in the proposal for freeway sound walls than there is for bikes.

    This bond is expected to be a major source of funding for the next 30 years… If we can get bikes into the measure, even at a low level – one percent – that’s a third of a billion dollars for bikes. That will begin to light a fire under local municipalities to actually plan and build bike facilities.

    What should a bicyclist do? Here’s my suggestion:

    1. Attend the Metro Executive Management and Audit Committee Meeting – this Thursday 7/17 at 9am – see . When they hear the report on the proposed sales tax, let them know that it needs 1% for bikes and 1% for peds.

    2. Attend the Metro Board Meeting – Thursday 7/24 at 9am and insist on 1% funding for bikes and 1% for peds.

    3. Write your Metro boardmembers – use Damien’s letter above as a template – get your letter in by early next week. Probably most influential would be Mayor Villaraigosa and the County Supervisors – but there are also electeds from other cities (Santa Monica, Long Beach, Glendale and Duarte) – see full list at

  • Thanks for that Joe.

    If the MTA says “apply for local return money”, I think a good strategy would be to see that the funding guidelines for local return dollars are amended.

    Right now, in the Local Return guidelines, any bike or ped project that takes place in or near a right of way that at any time in the future may need to be removed for a “transportation project” (i.e. rail or car project) will not be funded.

    In other words – they’ll fund a road widening “for bike lanes” (yeah, right), but they won’t fund the removal of a car travel lane (which is exactly what needs to happen).

  • Joe Linton

    I agree with Josef – the guidelines for previous local return monies aren’t necessarily good for bikes – and there’s no need to widen streets for bike lanes. The LADOT and LA Bureau of Engineering has justified road and bridge widening projects with false lines like “there’s no space for bikes” in places including bridges with 50 feet wide roadways. There’s plenty of space for bikes already on our streets. Widening just makes them cars speed even faster.

    I think that getting a set aside – real money for bikes for the next 30 years is critical now. That money is in the measure text as voted on by LA County voters (to modify that requires another vote, or, in some cases, state legislative action.) The guidelines aren’t as binding – they can be modified by local agencies… so that’s easier to do… once we have funding in place.

  • Marino Pascal

    Thanks for the breakdown Joe.
    Oh man I hate soundwalls.
    If there must be soundwalls someone should come up with a design of bike lanes on top / along soundwalls.

  • we need more people to sign on!

  • Lenise Bent

    I support this 1% for pedestrians and bicyclists. Please support this at the meetings for me as I am unable to attend. I avid am an avid urban cyclist, I ride to the west side for work and it feels so dangerous riding down Olympic Blvd. I can’t wait for the Expo line to be in place, I miss the Red Cars of my youth.


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