The Timeline for Metro’s November 2016 Transportation Sales Tax Measure

Denny Zane speaks at the Move L.A. Conference. Photo: Roger Rudick
Denny Zane speaks on Measure R2 at last week’s Move L.A. Conference. Photo: Roger Rudick

There is a lot of discussion these days about a potential ballot measure for a new sales tax to fund transportation projects and programs for Los Angeles County. The non-profit Move L.A. has dubbed the future tax “Measure R2,” after the successful 2008 Measure R half-cent sales tax. Move L.A. first offered their “straw man” proposal on how to spend the money one year ago. More recently, they hosted forums in South L.A., the San Fernando Valley, and downtown L.A. to discuss potential future transportation funds and projects.

The ballot measure will not go before voters until next year’s presidential election in November, 2016. Coinciding with the presidential election likely means a higher voter turnout, which gives the tax a better chance of meeting the “super majority” two-thirds threshold it will need to pass. Even in a presidential election, however, the two-thirds needed will be difficult to achieve. For example, see Measure J, which, despite receiving a strong 64+ percent approval, still fell short of passing in 2012 by a narrow margin.

Even though the election will not take place until 2016, there is a lot happening right now to shape Measure R2. Metro compiled what are called “Mobility Matrices” [PDF] which are basically a massive laundry list of 2,300+ projects and programs. Just like Measure R, the matrices projects are not all trains, buses, and active transportation which Streetsblog readers tend to favor, but lots of freeways, road widening, goods movement, road widening, and more road-widening.

The list totals about $300 billion (where a Measure R2 might optimistically be projected to raise $90 billion) and will be analyzed and subsequently winnowed down to produce a proposed expenditure plan. The winnowing is, of course, a political process — the final project list needs to be geographically balanced enough to draw votes from all parts of the county.

One way to test that voter appeal is polling, which is currently underway at Metro, but has not been made public yet.

After the polling and horse-trading have shaped the expenditure plan, Metro staff will release a draft version, anticipated in June. The draft expenditure plan will be further shaped in committee, and approved by the Metro Board in late July.

From there, more polling and more politics will likely follow, with a final Metro board vote anticipated in June 2016.

There are lots of competing needs – maintenance and operations vs. shiny new projects, bus vs. rail, rail vs. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and whether any of the funding will be specifically designated for walking or bicycling. Measure R + Measure J totaled exactly zero percent set aside for active transportation, though some cities, notably Los Angeles, have used Measure R local return funding for bike and pedestrian projects.

It also remains to be seen how Metro Board Chair and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and incoming Metro CEO Phil Washington will make their marks on the process underway. Streetsblog will continue follow and report on Measure R2, including on the community groups campaigning to ensure that any measure achieves desired outcomes.

Below is Metro’s most recent “Potential Ballot Measure Schedule” from page 7 of this staff report handout [PDF].

General Public Polling Results – Mid-April 2015
COG Executive Directors Meeting – Mid-April 2015
COG Project/Program Priorities – Due May 22, 2015
Non-COG Stakeholder Input on Project/Programs – Due Early June 2015
COG Executive Directors Meeting – Mid-June 2015
Special Board Staff Meeting – 1st week of July 2015
COG Executive Directors Meeting – 1st week of July 2015
Expenditure Plan Framework Considered in Committee – July 16, 2015
Metro Board Meeting to Consider the Expenditure Plan – July 24, 2015
Post-Expenditure Plan Framework Analytical Work – August through March 2016
Metro Hosted Community Outreach Workshops – September through October 2015
Stakeholder Briefings on Analytical Work – April 2016
Metro Board Briefing: Update Polling and Ordinance – May 2016
Metro Board Considers Final Ordinance and Go/No Go – June 2016
Final Due Dates for November 2016 Ballot –  July 2016

  • calwatch

    The San Gabriel Valley COG has posted the following information:

    The bottom line: Metro is projecting two tax measures on the ballot – one to increase sales taxes by 0.5% permanently, and one to extend the existing Measure R tax end date from 2040 to 2058. For the tax increase, fifty percent of the taxes go to local return (block grants to cities and the County), transit operations, and “state of good repair” (aka normal maintenance). The other half go to capital projects.

    On page 24 they summarize results of focus groups on the tax increase and extension. The general public is not knowledgeable of the improvements from existing tax increases. When presented the program, about 3/4 of focus group participants would support the tax increase.

    Every region can split up the 50% capital improvements as they wish. In the San Gabriel Valley, for the new tax increase, the San Gabriel Valley COG Transportation Technical Advisory Committee has recommended that 55% will go to transit lines, 30% to “system efficiency” on freeways, and the rest to the other categories. The breakdown for the tax extension is 60% to system efficiency and the rest to other categories.

    The politicians on the San Gabriel Valley COG still have to ratify these proposals, and could adjust the percentages per category up or down. In the other regions, their politicians will also need to identify the percentages for their categories and adjust them up or down based on their local preferences. This will happen within the next few months. In the San Gabriel Valley, the process starts Thursday at 4 PM at the COG Transportation Committee.

    This means that those who want to have their say into what projects get funded, or what share each mode or category gets, need to go to the COGs and let their preference be known. I foresee a situation where each COG basically sets priorities for their share of the pot. COGs are obscure collections of cities and Board of Supervisors’ reps but they are where the meat of priority setting and project picking is going on.

  • Thanks for posting that example of sausage making. Why am I not surprised that the chairs of the SVGCOG Transportation Committee (Pedroza and Fasana) are of course also on the board of the Foothill Extension Construction Authority (where Padroza is the Vice-Chair). And then note that this Transportation Committee meets at the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Office which is conveniently right next door to the Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

    Why does this matter? Becasue the other project that the SVGCOG should be lobbying for is the Gold Line Eastside Extension, especially given the potential to connect employees to the job centers along the SR-60 corridor and certainty to revitalize downtown Pomona when it ultimately reaches there.

    But instead, the die is cast and there will not be any equity in the reach of frequent rail transit along the SR-60 corridor as comapred to the I-10/I-210 corridor.

  • LAifer

    Minor correction: Measure J received 66.11% of the vote in 2012. Just about 16,000 votes shy of 66.67% (or a switch of 8,000 votes from “no” to “yes” of many million votes that were cast).

    What will be interesting to see is the degree of specificity included in any potential ballot measure. One of the key appeals of specificity is having a set of definitive projects that we all agree are important. One of the key drawbacks is that the list will necessarily exclude many transportation priorities (and also likely include things that people will be able to shoot down).

    This is going to be a big challenge, no matter how it proceeds.

  • Phantom Commuter

    Two taxes ? Good luck with that…

  • Joe Linton

    Investing in Place reports: “We anticipate at least a two-month delay with the draft sales tax expenditure plan to be heard by the Metro Board in September, instead of July as previously expected.”


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