Bus Riders Union: Transit Justice, Not Corporate Welfare – No on Measure J

(This is the second of four op/eds on Measure J that Streetsblog will publish this week. Yesterday, Gloria Ohland of Move L.A. made the case for Measure J. – DN)

Framing the public debate on Measure J as between a progressive vision for regional mass transit expansion versus parochialism and anti-tax conservatism conveniently obscures several inconvenient truths about Measure J. Measure J is Mayor Villaraigosa’s swan song for LA as he makes a move for higher office, but the panoply of negative human, environmental, and fiscal consequences will be felt long after he is gone.

Given Metro’s torrid civil rights record dating back 20 years, we have real reason to believe LA’s working class Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander majority will be hardest hit. Given Metro’s pattern of mismanagement and crony dealings with powerful corporate interests — the very interests funding the Measure J campaign — the agency cannot be trusted with a blank check from tax-payers. Serious advocates for sustainable transportation and livable cities have an obligation to examine these inconvenient truths and ought to see Measure J as a huge setback, not the leap forward that its promoters promise.

Inconvenient truth #1: Measure J advances a corporate-driven, Disney-fying and gentrifying vision of the city at the expense of low wage workers and communities of color. Why would the Yes on J campaign receive enormous campaign contributions from the likes of multi-billion dollar companies like Westfield Corporation, NBC Universal, and AEG? Precisely because these companies see Measure J as integral to accelerating their vision of Los Angeles, where public transit’s primary role is to bring people to and from their corporate theme parks and malls. Real estate developers and Metro’s own Real Estate Department like Measure J because it “leverages development.”

But that development – packaged as “transit-oriented development”  — has in neighborhoods as diverse as Hollywood, Boyle Heights, and Downtown followed a now-documented pattern of gentrification: working class transit-using residents are displaced and overall transit ridership around rail stations decreases. Metro’s willingness to let developers dictate projects to the complete exclusion of working class community residents gives us no reason to believe this pattern will change. Boyle Heights is one example. Another is the Crenshaw Corridor, where repeated demands from Black community leaders that Metro invest resources to ensure new light rail not endanger the lives of residents and preserve local businesses have fallen on deaf ears.

Moreover, Measure J will likely accelerate the pattern of service cuts and fare increases, imposing real and unnecessary suffering on transit-dependent employed and unemployed low wage workers — janitors, security officers, domestic workers, hotel workers, etc — struggling to survive the Great Recession. At best, Measure J’s rail expansion vision has the effect of substituting one type of transit rider – a choice rider, a tourist, an urban professional – for a transit-dependent person, generally Black or Latino. It will generate short-term construction jobs at the expense of hundreds of thousands of other working class people. At worst, it’s facilitating a whitewashing of the city.

Inconvenient Truth #2: Measure J is a construction bonanza with no operations plan and therefore not a sustainable transit vision.  Proponents of J take the “If you build it, they will come” attitude, but ignore that with only 5% of the funds for rail operations Measure J – like Measure R before it – lacks a viable plan to operate and maintain the system it intends to build. Measure J’s lack of restrictions on how much can be borrowed to finance construction and how funds can be spent only enable politicians’ addiction to exorbitantly expensive “legacy” construction projects.

These kinds of projects are also favored by construction giants like Parsons Brinckerhoff and CH2M Hill, who are backing Measure J with their eyes on the prize accelerating the doling out of hundreds of millions in Metro contracts. In this context, operations funding to pay for service for current transit riders – 90% people of color, with an average annual household income of $14,000 – becomes completely expendable and gets raided to feed this addiction. How else to explain MTA’s bait and switch with Measure R’s dedicated bus funds — one million hours of bus service slashed and fares raised 20% despite $120 million annually in new bus operations dollars. The civil rights consequences of Metro’s decisions – namely a federal civil rights investigation of Metro and evidence that the agency violated federal law – are well known.

The problems don’t stop there: bus and rail maintenance funds are also sacrificed, leaving the existing system in a state of disrepair in the name of expansion. (See the Blue Line crisis).  Those who claim bus riders should be happy to have 20% for bus operations from R and J rather than nothing at all shamelessly ignore that Measure R has been a disaster for these riders so far.

Inconvenient Truth #3: Despite billions spent to “expand the system”, Measure J will not make a significant dent in transit ridership levels. As Measure J accelerates construction of rail, as inevitable construction cost overruns and debt service pile up, Metro can be expected to follow a familiar pattern: resolve its self-imposed “operations crisis” by slashing service and raising fares. (Note that Measure R promised a short-term fare freeze, but Measure J contains no such promises and CEO Art Leahy has nodded toward increases in the near future.) Metro officials want to argue about fare subsidies being too low, but any serious transit advocate knows that fare increases are a surefire to drive down ridership. And a transit agency genuinely committed to boosting ridership in the long-term would choose to avoid fare hikes when the financial flexibility clearly exists to do so.

On the service side of things, Metro’s bus system currently serves 1433 square miles of the county while Metro’s rail system covers only 87.7. Even if the current rail network were to triple in size, Metro’s bus system would continue to be the backbone of mass transit in sprawling LA County. As such, slashing the existing bus system while expanding rail will at best shift riders from one mode to the other. At worst, it will price out the core low-income riders from the system altogether and make the $40 billion Metro plans to spend on rail construction seem like a horrible investment of our tax dollars.

Inconvenient Truth #4: Measure J involves a deal with the highway devil, and will do little to create a bike, pedestrian, and transit-friendly sustainable future for LA. Measure J doesn’t offer a dime of dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Meanwhile, it gives 20% to freeway construction — including disastrous mega-projects like the 710 expansion and tunnel extension. In the end, Measure J will leave future generations with a mountain of debt, yet do nothing to break with LA’s auto-centrism. With the public health crisis of air pollution and global climate crisis both requiring bold and genuine responses, it is sad to see some environmental and public health advocates fall in line behind the city’s political and corporate powers.

There is a different path for LA: a bus, bike and, pedestrian-centered transportation system, with bus lanes and bike lanes on all major streets, auto-free zones and auto-free days all throughout the year, and environmental justice-oriented development serving the city’s working class majority. This people-centered vision can be built in a short time frame and doesn’t require a $90 billion advance from taxpayers. Rejecting Measure J will put the brakes on the current runaway train and send a message to our political leaders that we demand a far better vision than the pork-barrel currently on offer.


  • Not so sure you get the backbone analogy… your backbone doesn’t cover the majority of the area in your body. It is the heavy-structural part holding you up with all sorts of other bones and things spreading out from there.

    Similarly… just because busses cover more area doesn’t make them the “backbone.” That would still be the rail network, even moreso with an expanded rail network.

    You’re not going to make LA a bus, bike, and pedestrian centered city by only catering to those who currently ride transit. Like many, I originally started by being enticed on a train… I now ride trains, busses, and bike and walk every single day. Expanding the rail network will be transformative for the city AND help out those who currently ride the system. Not expanding (or not accelerating the expansion of the network) will not help anyone, and certainly won’t transform the city.

  • Britnay

    The Westside is crying of unfairness because Metro has no rail lines on the Westside. These people are VICTIMS of inadequate transit service and they deserve a rail line just as much as people living in the privileged areas of Boyle Heights and South LA. Metro has spent lots of money in Boyle Heights and South LA building lines and they haven’t put in any money for Westside service. How dare Metro stop building the Westside Subway in the past, we should sue Metro because they stopped construction instead of suing them to stop construction. The people in West LA are deprived of transit service and they should receive the same service people are getting where current rail lines are. Yes on Measure J for making sure everyone is equal in LA County! Rail lines should be in every part of the city! Vote Yes on Measure J to provide faster construction of rail lines to areas deprived of rail service! Demand equality and JUSTICE for the Westside, where many people are deprived of adequate rail service. Say NO TO TRANSIT RACISM! It doesn’t exist! It exists on the Westside so vote YES to end transit racism on the Westside! 

  • Roadblock


    There is no such thing as a “bus/ bike centered transportation system” for LA. Buses and bikes both serve local destinations best. Neither are particularly feasible for anything more than 5-8 mile trips.

    Buses have racks that hold 2-3 bikes per bus and they are usually full, the driver hates you for holding him her up and the racks are always ready for thieves to raid.

    The future of LA is rail for regional (4-15 miles) and bus or bike for local (0-3miles). Instead of pushing for more buses everywhere we should be pushing for more regional rail with more Smaller quieter local buses accompanied by bike paths lanes and streets engineered for speed calming.

    Big buses beat up our streets and in return the streets beat up the buses. Expensive maintenance doubled. CNG is now being harvested by “fracking” the earth which pollutes ground water. That’s still a problem that buses won’t solve.

    The bus holds 1/4 the amount of passengers per pensioned union-protected driver that trains do and 1/50th the amount of bikes per driver.

  • Heather

    Preventing positive progress from happening in neighborhoods and intentionally keeping neighborhoods back doesn’t solve a “gentrification” problem. You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Instead of trying to stifle projects that will provide a larger good for ALL people in the county, black, brown, white, rich, poor, you should be lobbying developers to make sure projects built include the low-income requirements needed. Be that providing low income housing or making sure the workers on the project are locally based.

    But to say that investing in LA County’s transportation future, and making sure that it is a fully integrated transportation system (which includes rail and bus) is somehow racist, is just bananas. 

    Just buying more buses isn’t going to solve the very real problems our infrastructure system has. It’s naive to think so at best, and deliberately idiotic or self-destructive at worst.

  • Heather

    Preventing positive progress from happening in neighborhoods and intentionally keeping neighborhoods back doesn’t solve a “gentrification” problem. You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Instead of trying to stifle projects that will provide a larger good for ALL people in the county, black, brown, white, rich, poor, you should be lobbying developers to make sure projects built include the low-income requirements needed. Be that providing low income housing or making sure the workers on the project are locally based.

    But to say that investing in LA County’s transportation future, and making sure that it is a fully integrated transportation system (which includes rail and bus) is somehow racist, is just bananas. 

    Just buying more buses isn’t going to solve the very real problems our infrastructure system has. It’s naive to think so at best, and deliberately idiotic or self-destructive at worst.

  • Erik Griswold

    Waiting for the Bus that can get me from Koreatown to Union Station in 13 minutes…

  • Erik Griswold

    Waiting for the Bus that can get me from Koreatown to Union Station in 13 minutes…

  • Matt

    Nothing new from the BRU here.  This opinion piece is emblamatic of why they have lost influence over the last 20 years.  They make inflammatory charges of racism when everyone knows that the rail system primarily serves poor minorities.  Fares are incredibly cheap at $1.50 thanks to Measure R as they are higher in virtually every other major American city.  Measure R and J may not be perfect, but no one wants the bus only transit system of 60s and 70s back.

  • Kymberleigh Richards

    So after one hour of comments, the score reads:  Real Transit Users 6, Bus Riders Union 0.

  • Chance

    “Westside victims”  I love it.  Everywhere does have metro rail.  And if you don’t have metro service and there exist no plans for you to get it, then you by definition live nowhere.  
    So to all you nowhere people, the millions of you, just vote yes on J and let the county spend your money on areas that give you little to no benefit.  If don’t like it, then abandon your homes and move to a new mixed use development near a subway.  What alternative do you have, to vote no on an increase in transit taxes?

  • PC

     I have to cringe every time I hear Eric Mann on KPFK talking about how nobody rides Metro rail.  I wonder how well that line works when they’re trying to recruit folks in, let’s say, Watts where the biggest problem with the Blue Line is not being able to get a seat because the trains are packed.

    How fucking heartbreaking that so many people devote so much blood, sweat, and toil to an organization that is so woefully and willfully ignorant not only about the basics of networked transit but also about the reality of transit, right now, in the city where they organize.

    That the BRU insists on being the Flat Earth Society of transit activism is really one of the bigger tragedies of progressive/left/whatever-you-want-to-call-it organizing in Los Angeles.  There have got to be ways to engage in class struggle in this city that *don’t* carry the risk that, if successful, they’ll doom multiple generations of working-class people of color to be dependent on a patently unworkable system of public transit.

  • Chance

    Good point about focusing efforts on housing instead of transportation.  However, the “ALL” people in the county assertion is a far stretch.  It may one day serve all people well, and should, but based on the current list of projects, it won’t.  And that is the biggest problem.  We’re asked to throw a bunch of money at other areas and maybe, one day, if our community’s political influence grows, we may get a connection and an alternative to gridlock… that is not a business plan I wish to invest in.  

  • Dennis Hindman

    Several different types of transportation expenditures were put into Measure R in order to get this approved by voters. There is something there for voters who would like to see freeway, bus, or train improvements. There is also 15% set-aside for each of the 88 cities in the county for local transportation projects such as bicycle, pedestrian and roadway resurfacing. If this Measure was more narrowly focused, then the odds of it getting 66% of the voters to approve it would have decreased. Without a ballot measure like this you would end up with not being able to maintain what already exists or make as many improvements.

    The Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services State of the Streets report in 2008 predicted that unless more funds went into maintaining the streets, their condition would move from a average level of “C” to a “D” within ten years. Measure R local funds helped stop further deterioration of these streets.

    Bus service would have decreased substantially more due to not having the 20% of Measure R sales tax revenue for bus service and the maintenance costs for buses would have increased from deteriorating street conditions.

    Measure R local funds  has enabled the city of Los Angeles to increase the rate of bicycle lane installation from an average of 6-8 miles a year to 51 miles in the last fiscal year.

    Pedestrian improvements will also be made in Los Angeles due to the citie’s share of local Measure R funds.

    Building an additional freeway lane, subway or creating a light-rail right-of-way or BRT that does not take away travel lanes from trucks or cars will increase the overall capacity along a corridor. Without this, as the population increases, the congestion on surface streets will be greater and this will create slower buses that cannot stay on schedule as frequently.

    Measure R has enabled Metro to maintain or increase the level of bus service compared to if they did not have these funds available.

    Measure J will enable that these levels of bus service funding can be maintained for another 30 years beyond Measure R and it will provide transportation improvements that Los Angeles County would be much less likely to receive otherwise.

    Putting in grade-separated rail substantially increases constructions costs and decreases the network size that can be installed for a given amount of money. Grade separation should only be done along high-density corridors or where it would make a major disruption in traffic.

  • Even after reading this argument, I’m not sure how voting no on J will help address any of the problems that are raised.  If I grant your point that rail is useless to poor and minority people, the only *harm* I see is the harm of making their neighborhoods nicer places to live (which has the unfortunate side effect of gentrification).

  • Davistrain

    Even the BART system up north, which was condemned by some as being only for affluent suburbanites, has a highly diverse assortment of riders.  All of the present Metro rail lines in LA have a “rainbow” ridership, and even the diesel-powered Metrolink trains have a lot more than just Yuppies on board.

  • Anonymous

    As I see it, this article presents some legitimate problems with Measure J, mixed in with some views that just seem archaic and inflammatory to me.

    On the legitimate side, we have the question of ongoing O&M funding, something common to pretty much all transit agencies – and highway agencies – in the US. We also have the “deal with the highway devil”, funding for freeway projects that many transit advocates do not like but are willing to accept in exchange for transit expansion. Personally, I think there are both worthwhile and worthless freeway projects, just like there are worthwhile and worthless transit projects, but I’m not going to go into that here.

    On the archaic/inflammatory side, we have the charge that rail is built to benefit rich white people at the expense of poor minorities. First of all, the unspoken implication here is that transit is for poor people, and if you can afford to drive you should just do that. This is not a modern way of thinking about transpo. It ensures that transit will always be just good enough for people who don’t have cars, and that as soon as people can afford a car, they switch. 

    Second of all, this just isn’t true, as both Metro’s ridership survey data and anecdotal evidence confirm. Bus ridership is 9% white, and train is 17%. Train does attract higher income riders ($14k to $26k) but those 17% that are white would have to be pretty damn well off to account for all of that themselves. To the extent that rail attracts a different mix of people who are better off, that’s a good thing, because it broadens the base of people who will argue for good transit.

    Lastly, doesn’t it seem a little perverse to argue against transit improvements in your own neighborhood on the grounds that it will make the place too nice? Yet that is what we have when we have arguments against “gentrification” and redevelopment. The lack of affordable housing is not caused by building new transit lines, it is caused by bad land use policies that make it extremely difficult to build anything other than single-family homes or luxury apartments. If we need to make sure there is affordable housing, then we need to make sure it’s possible to build modest apartments, not deliberately keep down the quality of neighborhood services.

  • calwatch

    I agree that the BRU conflates real points with their anti-corporate, anti-job agitprop. What if we invested the dollars generated by Measure J into an endowment that would pay for operating additional bus service? Why are we enshrining the current percentage breakdown of bus, rail, highway, local return not just for 27 more years, but 57 more years? Would the additional bus service and lower fares, by better attracting people off the margins of car ownership with their junkers spewing pollution in the air, actually do a better job at helping the poor than building rail that attracts people who have pretty clean cars to begin with? 

    Former RTD controller Tom Rubin makes this argument, and he has a valid point. The counterpoint to this is that transit becomes welfare and so is much easier to cut when the budget gets worse. Thus, by attracting middle and upper-middle class people to the system, you get greater political buy-in, including buy-in from the corporate elite that the BRU demonizes, by building rail which attract non-minorities and non-poor.The fact is that Metro’s nighttime bus service is some of the worst in a major city. Routes on the “15 minute map” drop to half hourly or even hourly service after 8 pm, and many routes on this map don’t operate during the owl period at all. (This is supposed to be the transit core of the city.) Meanwhile the Red Line has trains operating with a dozen people or less every 10 minutes until midnight five days a week. The operations issue is not targeted with J. Neither is the constructability of all these projects going on at once, when the Purple Line isn’t getting to Fairfax until the 2020’s and the Metro Gold Line to Azusa just pushed opening day back to 2016. No one has seemed to remember the debacle of the 1992 MTA 400 mile rail plan, which promised lines of dubious merit – carried to this day by the waste of space that is the West Santa Ana Corridor. I supported R strongly but I’ll turn down J for now.

  • calwatch

    Should we enshrine these percentages forever? Will future technologies or future systems displace these improvements and make them unnecessary? This is why I’m opposed to locking in things until 2068. It seems silly.

  • George Buzzetti

    What you have to know is that Measure J with Measure R the total bill is $130 billion.  With interest it will be at least $300 billion.  $300 billion is 3.25 times the state budget of California and almost 1/2 of the Department of Defense Budget of $642 billion. 

    No one knows what the requirements for transportation will be in L.A. County in the future until 2069 will be.  Once this building is finished there will be no more money for anything.  The Bus Riders Union, as stated in the Beverly Hills City Council  Meeting when they voted to not support Measure J, was prescient when the Bus Riders Union stated before Measure R that bus service would be cut and fares increased. 

    With busses you can easily change routes to fit the needs for the low to moderate income citizens who really need this transportatation.

  • Kymberleigh Richards

     “Once this building is finished there will be no more money for anything.”

    Not true, sir.  During the building period, the money from the other two transportation sales taxes, Proposition A from 1980 and Proposition C from 1990, will no longer be needed for bond obligations as those bonds come due and expire.

    In fact, Metro is already looking at what the next generation of projects will be, from the Long Range Transportation Plan.

    “With busses you can easily change routes to fit the needs for the low to
    moderate income citizens who really need this transportatation.”

    Buses go where the streets are, just as rail goes where the tracks are.  More than 90% of bus routes go in straight lines down major streets.  There are never major route changes as a result.  Your argument is specious.

  • Markken134

    I like how you compare the cost of war to the cost of transportation, well done, bullets for buses

  • Yolo Watefah

    I mailed in my No on J vote two weeks ago because any agency that shoves something like TAP down my throat can f** off.

  • Britnay

    F** off and move to Mexico you free rider. 

  • Gregory

     @46b8904dbc4a017a19852f1d4c12f9b3:disqus That was a rather racist statement. 

    Also, fares only bring in about 20-25% of revenue for metro.  Do you consider yourself a “free rider”?

    “Free riders” only amount to at most 5% of riders.  Adding fare gates cost what, 100 million dollars?  And how much increased revenue will it bring in?  According to metro’s own stats, it won’t pay for itself for 20 years, if at all.  Places with fare gates such as NYC and San Francisco still have lots of people jumping the turnstiles. 

    The only real rational for TAP is to track riders to better advertise to them and to start charging for distance traveled, like in Washington DC or San Francisco.

  • Your comparison is faulty in that you’re comparing a total 60-year bill to a single year budget in California and of the DOD. I’d absolutely take the bill for Measure R/J over 60 years… it’s a bargain when you compare it that way.

  • Gregory

    If “Dr.” Brian Goldberg is against it, I’m for it!

  • Yolo Watefah

    “Free rider”? Oh, you mean all the suburban twats who get free rides with Metro’s multi-million dollar free tow truck service? Or maybe a free rider like someone who gets roads widened and paved through the Call For Projects “Regional Surface Transportation Improvement” process using money that is set aside specifically for bus line improvements (while bus service is cut), violating the spirit (if not the letter) of Prop. C and A.

    Maybe a free rider like the car drivers spreading death and pollution who are having their purchases and leases underwritten by the US government while they literally destroy the health and happiness of residents in the most economically productive and valuable parts of Los Angeles County, to flee to their suburban economic sinkholes (paying, at most 17 cents on the dollar for all the infrastructure and services required to maintain their arrogant and abusive lifestyle).

    No on J, because ignorance and hate directed at the victims of transportation pseudoscience experiments has gone on long enough.

  • Yolo Watefah

    After several more hours: Choo Choo Boyz 10; People Who Have No Autism 0.

  • Anonymous

    I voted early too! Glad my vote could cancel out yours, friend.

  • Jerard Wright

    “Should we enshrine these percentages forever? Will future technologies
    or future systems displace these improvements and make them unnecessary?
    This is why I’m opposed to locking in things until 2068. It seems

    Calwatch, going by that logic Prop C (another funding source for Transit Capital operations) seems especially silly to you as it locks in the percentages you talk about.

  • The BRU argument amounts to making the perfect the enemy of the good. It’s a luxury we simply don’t have in a democracy, especially one so riven with veto points. I will vote yes on Measure J, enthusiastically.

  • Kymberleigh Richards

    I find it quite unfortunate that many of the commenters here failed to see the sarcasm in Britnay’s comment.  Or is it that their knee jerk reaction to Measure J, coupled with the continuing stream of rhetoric and less-than-factual statements from the BRU has shut off their humor detection abilities?

    Measure J has little, if anything, to do with TAP.  (Disclaimer: While I support an electronic fare collection system, I remain opposed to the Metro Rail gating system and hope for the day that they will be removed as a drain on agency resources that do not pay for themselves in imagined uncollected fare revenues.)  If your whole argument against Measure J is a dislike for TAP, I’m afraid I’ll have to put you in the “uninformed voter” category.

    If my vote and ChrisLoos’ vote are indicative of what the voters will do, then Measure J will get the two-thirds majority needed to pass. 

    What everyone, including the BRU, needs to remember is that the sales tax created by Measure R will exist regardless of the outcome of the vote on Measure J. But it will take a lot longer to get everything built that Measure R promised without the ability to bond against the sales tax revenues that Measure J would provide beyond the original 30-year limit.

    Everyone wants to get from here to there faster and more efficiently.  In a region our size, that dictates a multi-modal system where buses and trains work together.  Measure R brought a project list that will fill in the gaps where the rail component is missing from the equation … and we know from experience that a bus-based system without that component is far less efficient and far slower.  If you want to wait longer for those projects to be built, remember that you also are going to wait longer to get where you are going, every day of the rest of your life.

  • Dennis Hindman

    Measure J sales tax extension of Measure R is projected to bring in $90 billion. Of that, about $17.73 billion will go towards bus operations if it gets the same proportion of the revenues as it does under Measure R. Yet, this article states: “Measure J will likely accelerate the pattern of service cuts and fare increases”. How does increasing the funding for bus services do this? Taking this logic further,  if Measure J fails and this funding is removed, then there will be less service cuts and fare increases. It would also follow that if the amount of money going towards bus services from Measure R or J was doubled, then service cuts and fare increases would accelerate at an even faster rate. The final result of this thinking is that if these funds were increased substantially more for bus services, then this could ultimately eliminate bus service altogether and increase the fares substantially for this non-existent bus service.

  • 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:

    In fiscal year 2008, Metro figures show  $919.541 million on bus operating expenses.

    In fiscal year 2011, Metro figures showt $956.783 million on bus operating expenses.

    Thats an increase of $37.242 million. An increase of +4%.

    In fiscal year 2008, Metro figures show $153.267 million on light-rail operating expenses.

    In fiscal year 2011, Metro figures show $174.703 million on light-rail operating expenses.

    Thats an increase of $21.436 million. An increase of +14%

    So, the difference is a 10% higher increase for light-rail expenses compared to buses. That compares to a increase in length for light-rail of 10% more miles due to the addition of the Gold Line extension to east LA. Minus this Gold Line extension, that leaves a 4% increase in operating expenses for both light-rail and buses during this time period.

  • calwatch

    But there are key differences between A/C and J/R. First, A/C’s categories are very broad. Measure R, and J’s extension of R, has a very specific expenditure plan which makes it difficult to shift funds subregionally and fairly difficult to shuffle by project. Secondly, we’re bonding money in years 30 to 60 of the sales tax to pay for projects in the next ten years. If Metro thinks this is such a good idea, why don’t they bond existing A and C revenue, which is perpetual, now? (See a muni bond disclosure statement, with the bonding schedule, at http://emma.msrb.org/ER557036-ER431948-ER834349.pdf) Third, it doesn’t provide for the contingency of sales tax collapse due to changes in technology (i.e. shifts to services and digital goods, or the recent proposal to go to a value added tax instead of a sales tax), nor does it protect against spiraling costs and construction failures that led to the debacle of the early 90’s, when the MTA’s “400 mile rail plan” was cut back severely. The Expo Line and Metro Gold Line Eastside extension were delayed. The Gold Line will not open to Azusa until 2016, and may never open to Montclair. Expresslanes were supposed to open in mid 2011, and will not open until Spring 2013 on I-10. The Purple Line subway was pushed back. The Silver Line improvements were pushed back. Yes, MTA had a success on the Orange Line extension, but that was a much less challenging project. The jury is still out on MTA’s ability to deliver projects on time and on budget. 

  • Anonymous

    The Bus Rider Union of LA is one of the most egregious transportation NGOs I’ve ever come across.

    I’ve seen and read extremist Sierra Club-style groups against any new transportation, NIMBY on steroids everywhere, but the Bus Rider Union is one of the few that purposefully advocate keeping areas underserved with better transport just so that their neighborhoods will not improve and, then, God forbid the poorest ones no longer “rule” the place.

    By opposing all rail-based projects (and Metro got plenty of them) on the ground such projects actually improve the area around them and make the surrounding of stations more desirable, the Bus Rider Union is acting with a typical gang mentality that sees a project to replace broken street lights or to remove clutter from a property as bad for business because they will attract “strangers” to “their” area.

    The BRU also ignores many relatively low-income families, particularly does that have been living in the county for 2 or 3 decades, benefit a lot from real estate effects of rail, since there are many home-owners in the county that are not high-paid, wealthy. 

  • Matt


    Quite a few of your points are incorrect.  The Metro Gold Line on the Eastside actually opened ahead of its budgeted date.  It was going to open nearly a year ahead of schedule and then had some signaling problems that made it more like 6 months ahead of schedule..  Measure J really bonds years 5-40 not 30-60.  They couldn’t really bond against A and C, because that is what runs the bus system  Measure ER never set a schedule for extending the Gold Line to Montclair (which is in San Bernadino County not LA County BTW).  The whole idea that Measure R promised an extension to Claremont is a fabrication by the SGV.  If not, please show me Measure R material showing otherwise.

    As far as providing for a sales tax collapse, there has never been a serious plan in CA to replace the sales tax with a value added tax and what do you expect them to do.  Say if the sales tax collapses then an income tax would replace it?

  • Jerard Wright


    One of the contextual pieces missing is what happened in 1998 when Prop A and C ban for underground construction passed. That restricts the uses of these funds for Underground construction either through Pay-as-you-go or via Bonding. 

    So with the Regional Connector and Westside Subway and potentially with the Airport Metro Connector, West Santa Ana Corridor and Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor will involve underground construction so that will effectively limit exactly how much that could be bonded legally through these funding sources you indicated. 

    Extending the Measure R pot which does not have this restrictive ban, we could potentially better use the Prop A and C bonds to say extend the Foothill Gold Line towards Montclair and expand and double track Metrolink services, extend more of the Green Line to Torrance and towards San Pedro or for more and better first mile-last mile pieces of Pedestrian and Bike.

  • Jerard Wright

     Well Sierra Club Angeles Chapter supports Measure J and endorsed Measure R

  • calwatch

    Matt, the FY04 adopted budget had the Eastside Gold Line beginning operation in FY09, that is before June 30, 2009. It was scheduled to open for the June shakeup but failed to do so, resulting in that ham handed temporary bus but also resulting in service cuts to the Line 30 and 68 that Eastside residents ended up stopping riding Metro until recently. Although the schedule was later revised in FY06 to open in FY10, it did not “open ahead of schedule by one year”. 

    Although the TIFIA bonds are 35 year bonds, in the Planning Report article linked on the Streetsblog Measure J page MTA could sell their own bonds against Measure J money, plus TIFIA bonds would be sold during construction. So you would have bonds sold in 2025 for money in 2060 to construct the Sepulveda Pass project, for instance. 

    I never said the Gold Line to Montclair was funded with Measure R. What I said was that the Gold Line never gets to Montclair, either in R or in J. J just accelerates existing projects in R. It gives us no additional projects, but we pay more for these projects since we are bonding against future revenue rather than paying as we go. What happens to the money generated in the out years of Measure J, if we can’t bond against the money from 2050 to 2068? 

    The Commission for a 21st Century Economy, a State-chartered commission, looked at different tax regimes in the future – http://www.cotce.ca.gov/ – and recommended a business net receipts tax (B&O tax) to replace the sales tax. There were also proposals for a VAT researched, which would combine with a VAT or something like the FairTax (national sales tax to replace the income tax). Even without those proposals, sales tax collapse would happen naturally as people shift purchases to digital goods and services. The 3% year over year growth is just as fanciful as the 3.7% year over year growth predicted in 1992 by the LACTC’s Long Range Plan. How many of these projects exist today? http://libraryarchives.metro.net/DPGTL/maps/1992_400_mile_metro_rail_plan_map.jpg


Beyond the Spin, Breaking Down Measure J

On Monday, October 15, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was feeling good. The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which includes the Daily News, Daily Breeze, Long Beach Press-Telegram, SGV Tribune and Pasadena Star-News, had endorsed Measure J. In front of the hundreds of transit advocates and professionals at Railvolution, a sales tax extension […]

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 […]

No 710 Coalition: No on Measure J

(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 and Wednesday Streetsblog Board Member Joel Epstein did the same. In between, the BRU made their case for a no vote. – DN) Only in the car capital of the world could […]

Tuesday’s Quiet Transit Victories

Yesterday was a relatively quiet election day for transportation-related ballot measures, but of the six transit initiatives that came before voters yesterday, five six passed, with a sixth seventh too close to call. That’s in line with last year’s 79 percent success rate — 71 percent since 2000. When asked, voters overwhelmingly choose to raise […]

Move L.A.: Why You Should Vote Yes on Measure J For Jobs

…And what the New York Post and LACBC founder Ron Milam have to say about Los Angeles and public transit Los Angeles County is darn big and densely populated, a complex conglomeration of neighborhoods, multi-centered, and with complicated commute patterns. It’s hard to believe policy and funding still prioritizes cars when it seems so obvious […]