Would You Vote for a Measure R2.1 with No Dedicated Walk/Bike Funding?

UCLA researchers found that new Multi-Modal Level of Service metrics are not so great for measuring what's helpful for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt
Will Metro’s new sales tax serve people who walk? Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Metro has five rail lines under construction today, with new Gold and Expo Lines set to open this year. Metro’s recent rail infrastructure expansion was fueled by countywide sales taxes. On top of existing Prop A and Prop C sales taxes, in 2008 voters approved the roughly $40 billion Measure R.

Forty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California rail.

Twenty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California freeways.

What percent of Measure R is dedicated to walking and bicycling?


There should probably be a small asterisk on that “none” because a small percentage of Measure R funding has made its way to walk and bike projects. There is a fifteen percent “local return” that goes to cities to fund transportation projects, and some cities, notably Los Angeles, spent a modest percentage of their local return on walk and bike projects. Most local return throughout the county goes to car infrastructure.

Metro is gearing up for Measure R2.1. The new sales tax initiative is expected to be on the November 2016 ballot. Early estimates showed Measure R2.1 raising $120 billion over the next 40 years. Recent estimates anticipate about $100 billion. Metro is still nailing down what will actually be in Measure R2.1, through a complicated trying-to-sound-neutral process of weighing regional project requests, which will ultimately be shaped by politics and polling. To get to the two-thirds majority necessary to pass a new sales tax, Metro needs to strike a number of delicate balances. Projects need to span various regions and appeal based on voters’ current travel modes as well as their future aspirations.

Though Metro has not dedicated sales tax initiative funding to walking and bicycling, other transportation funding measures throughout California have. These include measures in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Marin, Alameda, and San Francisco counties. Measure BB in Oakland’s Alameda County, with twelve percent reserved to walking and bicycling.

In 2015, walk and bike advocates estimated L.A. County’s unmet need for walking and bicycling infrastructure at roughly $20 billion. In a Metro staff report released this week, the agency basically concurred with advocates’ estimates. Metro estimated the countywide annual walk and bike funding needs to be between $550 million and $1.5 billion. Multiplying those estimates times 20 years results in $11 to $30 billion total; this range matches advocates earlier $20 billion estimates.

19 percent of county commuters primarily walk or bike. Will Metro’s new sales tax support and expand these active transportation modes? Chart via LADOT Vision Zero

A coalition of active transportation advocates is pushing for ten percent of Measure R2.1 to be dedicated to walk and bike projects.

Move L.A.’s latest straw man proposal dedicates five percent for walk and bike, with more first/last mile funding that could support walk/bike facilities.

Metro has not weighed in yet.

But you can weigh in right now – via comments below.
What would make you support or reject a November 2016 transportation sales tax measure? Would you vote against it if there is less than ten percent set aside for walking and bicycling? Can Measure R2.1 spark the complementary expansion of biking and walking the way that 2008’s Measure R did for rail and freeway expansion?
  • Transpo Voter

    Voted no on Measure J due to 710 Freeway. Would hate to vote no on Measure R.2 because of no dedicated funding for walking and bicycling. While local returns from Measure R “can” go to walking and bicycling facilities, the reality is that most cities in the county have chosen not to spend much money active transportation.

  • Los Angeles Bikes

    I hate to say it, but I’d probably still vote yes on R.2 even with 0% dedicated to walk/bike. The draw of increased metro rail construction and more BRT is simply too much for me to resist. I also think of expanded metro rail as being bike infrastructure in and of itself in a way. Much more so than buses, the metro amplifies the area that is accessible via bicycle.

    R.2 with 0% walk/bike funding won’t make it any safer to walk or ride a bike in Los Angeles County, nor will it cause a spike in bike riding as a mode share, but it’s still better for the walkers and bike riders of the county than no R.2 at all.

  • “Southern California rail”? I can’t say that I’ve seen any Metro subway or LRT service pop up near me here in Colton recently…

  • GlobalLA

    Would definitely vote YES for Measure R2.1 WITHOUT dedicated walk/bike funding. I wholeheartedly support more walkable streets and biking, but the overall infrastructure needs to be prioritized to some degree. Rail needs the most priority as such key investments have already been hijacked decades ago by L.A. County Board Supervisors, NIMBYs, and even the Bus Riders Union.

    I will even vote for Measure R2.1 WITH the closure of the 710 fwy gap. Connecting the gap will increase network effectiveness of our current freeway systems and mitigate the congested streets that flood Valley Blvd.

    Los Angeles needs mass transit CONNECTIVITY. While we have large gaps to close such as the first/last mile access to mass transit, every new transportation extension brings that goal closer to reality.

  • GlobalLA

    True, but this Measure is more an LA County thing than a San Bernardino County thing… ;-)

  • Mike

    I’m with Global.. I think it will be easier to implement bike / walking infrastructure after a more comprehensive buildout of our rail and bus systems. Cities that have great transit systems are more conducive to walking and biking anyway, I’m fearful that in LA, devout motorists would see a under utilized publicly funded bike path and disregard to notion altogether; even though the problem is the surrounding infrastructure, not the bike infrastructure.

    For the record, I gave up my car almost a year ago and make at least 75% of my trips by bike.

  • chairs missing

    “I will even vote for Measure R2.1 WITH the closure of the 710 fwy gap.”

    Spending $5-10 billion to shave seconds off commutes is just madness. We can’t even afford to properly maintain the roads and highways we already have… why on earth should we build more and dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the red?

    We could speed up freight movement through the region for next to nothing by simply painting rush hour truck-only lanes on our existing highways. After all, that’s kind of the main point of the interstate highways.

    LA County needs to focus on land use, first and foremost. There’s no point in connecting the whole city by rail, if the adjacent land isn’t pedestrian friendly, mixed use, etc. We’re just putting the cart before the horse. If a neighborhood wants light rail, they should first demonstrate they actually have an interest in urban infill and complete streets.

  • calwatch

    For the record, I continue to be skeptical of Measure R2.1 for reasons that have nothing to do with the measure itself – I just think that 1.75% in sales tax for transportation is enough, and I think a greater priority is in education, water infrastructure, and health care. The road maintenance funding crisis can be dealt with through an increase in gas taxes and a vehicle miles traveled fee for electric and plug-in cars, and if there is a need for new capacity, it can be built, operated, and maintained with tolls.

    On the other hand, I would support redirecting the local return share to walking and bicycling projects. There is precedent for this in Proposition A, which forced the local return to be used for transit purposes. While some cities use it appropriately, like Los Angeles DASH, others use it for useless shuttles that don’t connect to the regional rail system and don’t take the TAP card (West Covina, Bellflower, Downey), and others use it as a way to give rides to political contributors or favored voters through “recreational transit”.

    Any new measure should also amend Proposition A to allow for the dedicated transit share to be used for walking and biking as well. I think many cities would love to jettison their poorly ridden services which are just to meet Prop A requirements and instead spend that money on capital projects to add dedicated walking or biking infrastructure. So out of the Measure R2.1 15% local return, 2/3 of that is for walking/biking projects, and change the 25% local return of Prop A to make it eligible for walking/biking projects in addition to transit, as long as they have a nexus to transit (i.e. new sidewalk, ped lighting within a half mile of a transit stop).

  • davistrain

    And Metrolink trains do serve the “Inland Empire”.

  • GlobalLA

    Yes that’s correct..

  • For bike infrastructure the main barrier isn’t money, it’s political will, specifically the will to reassign space from cars to bikes. Money helps, but doesn’t force cities to stripe bike lanes. Maybe dedicated funding for competitive grants for bike projects is a better approach than every city getting local return for bikes. Cities that want to do bike projects will get a disproportionate share of funding that way. Part of the appeal of local return is the flexibility. I think dedicated bike and dedicated ped funding should be in the proposal, but alongside unrestricted local return. 10% might not be the right amount either.

  • I agree. So it should be “LA County rail”, not “Southern California rail”. Just because LA is the big city in the region doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t exist, especially since the IE would be the 27th in terms of population if it were a state. Not the biggest, but certainly not nothing either.

  • GlobalLA

    Agree as wail. You also bring up an interesting point. As the Southern California region develops, there will be indeed further integration of counties as mass transit, housing, and employment centers grow. I foresee a need for more County Boards to collaborate and plan ahead for a more unifying growth strategy. However, it seems unlikely anytime soon as even local jurisdictions can’t seem to work together in supporting smarter growth.

  • GlobalLA

    I respectfully disagree with you on the first point and agree with you on the latter point.

    – It might be mere seconds to shave-off by one driver, but multiply that by tens of thousands of drivers every month and we are looking at millions of hours wasted on our freeways and local streets every year.

    – “There’s no point in connecting the whole city by rail, if the adjacent land isn’t pedestrian friendly, mixed use, etc. We’re just putting the cart before the horse.” Agree with you here but that argument has been fought and lost more than a decade ago. You see, the real root cause in your argument doesn’t fully lie from poor decision-makers from Metro or city council members, it’s how money is flowed down from available resources down to the end-user (us). As you know, our transportation measures are funded by county-wide taxes and that includes cities that aren’t pedestrian friendly. To add more insult to injury, even those cities who don’t want rail question why they should be taxed in the first place (even though rail invested elsewhere would have important regional ramifications in terms of traffic). How do you think Measure R passed in 2008 with buy-in from San Gabriel Valley constituents? You can thank Congressman David Dreier (R-San Dimas) for some of that help in gathering additional Federal funds. If SGV voters dissented, Measure R most likely would have never passed. Imagine that. Now, it’s repeating again…


    So whether some cities are more deserving or not, because this is a county-wide measure everyone wants a piece of the pie.

  • chairs missing

    That’s the kind of fuzzy govt. math I find puzzling… try to apply that logic to anything else that causes a negligible delay in our daily lives, and no rational person would draw the same broad conclusions.

    For example: http://cityobservatory.org/cappuccino-congestion-index

  • GlobalLA

    Interesting link. I think hours wasted on roads (wasted productivity, vehicle emissions, etc.) has far bigger impact in our communities than those relatively fewer coffee drinkers…

  • BC

    Billion dollar transit projects do not need any advocacy help from anyone, including alternative transportation advocates. Advocacy is amply provided for by the companies and millionaires who want to keep on getting billion dollar contracts to build. That includes influence on alternative media websites and semi-anonymous commenters.

    Biking and walking, however, need all the advocacy they can get.

    Mike says: “…easier to implement bike / walking infrastructure after a more comprehensive buildout of rail and bus systems.”

    London, and other British cities have some of the ** worst ** bicycle infrastructure in the developed world, and not very good pedestrian conditions. Yet they have some of the most extensive rail and bus systems in the world, with some of highest transit use in the world. And they are within spitting distance of the best bicycle and walking infrastructure in the world (Netherlands).

    The way to have good bike and walking conditions is to fund and to build good bike and walking infrastructure.

  • Phantom Commuter

    Wouldn’t vote for Measure R.2 regardless of what is in it. Extending the current measure (J.2 ?) is another matter. Sales taxes are regressive and already too high.

  • Phantom Commuter

    Same goes for the Antelope Valley, Gateway Cities, Santa Clarita, San Fernando Valley and South Bay,,,

  • Phantom Commuter

    More people live in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties (combined) than in Los Angeles County.

  • Yes, that is something that really irks me a lot. Instead of working together more to improve the Inland Empire, RCTC and SANBAG continue to push projects that focus primarily on easing the connections to the surrounding counties. In doing so, they are literally leaving countless opportunities at the wayside, especially in terms of transit. It takes nearly four hours to get from San Bernardino to Perris via transit, a trip that could be slashed in third by working together to integrate the rail services coming online to serve both counties. It’s asinine.

  • But the IE funds those the lines that do come out this way. Will Measure R2.1 funds be used to increase Metrolink services to the IE and/or to graciously donate another $150mn to finish the Gold Line all the way to Montclair? If not, then it doesn’t deserve to be called “Southern California rail” as the benefits are all focused on LA County.

  • calwatch

    Phantom, you live in Orange County anyway so couldn’t vote on R2 in the first place.

  • Ray

    If it’s anything like measure J, it’s a big NO! There no way I’m voting for a sales tax 60 years into the future, when we have better funding mechanisms that could be used today. I am completely for creating tolls on road use to pay for public transportation. This will be much for beneficial and lead to better built projects. The sales tax funding for roads and public transportation is nonsense and leads to pipe-dream projects only designed to support construction companies.

  • Azunyan

    Voting no either way. They don’t need more taxes to build and run rail, we already have three from Prop A, C, and Measure R. Three is enough, we don’t need a fourth or fifth or who knows how many more down the road.

    Metro needs to get off the welfare mindset and start running their system like a profitable business. Charge for parking, add retail spaces, collect rent, develop Metro owned property, move to a more profitable fare structure, all of these haven’t been done. As Rand Paul would say, “the biggest problem in America today is our debt.” No more debt.

  • effron

    I wouldn’t vote for an R measure which did not explicitly make significant accommodations for bikes or pedestrians. The city is sorely in need of this infrastructure and will remain hobbled until it does.

  • Joe Linton

    That’s why I stated it as “Southern California” – funding for Metrolink

  • ubrayj02

    I wouldn’t vote for another sales tax and I will never vote for another sales tax.

    Hell to the no.

    Put fare gates up on the freeway onramps and maybe we can talk afterward.

  • ubrayj02

    The road maintenance issue can be dealt with by dumping maintenance in places that have little to no collective value and letting the locals pay for maintenance themselves or go to gravel and dirt roads again. We can’t afford to maintain all this crap.

  • PFT Future

    I agree with you in general, although I disagree with 710 project. As one reads the EIR, those few seconds cost billions of dollars and the time savings is only for specific pass through drivers. Some comment letter brought into questions the degree of time savings that would be experience depending, on which highway alternative you review. I say highway because multiple options are tolled, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but their was little study on what diversion rate could be in connection with the amount of said toll. The study also did a very pour job, much like the 405 widening, for projecting for induced demand. I think the region can get better use out of 3.2 to 5.6 billion, that’s also a low end estimate when comparing it to other projects like the big dig or the Seattle viaduct project.

  • GlobalLA

    Well PFT, I live near this proposed project site and I can tell you all I see is more TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC, and more TRAFFIC. Traffic on Valley Blvd, Traffic on I-10, Traffic on Fremont Ave… These are not only a few seconds we are shaving off, but millions of hours on an annual basis spread among the millions of drivers who drive our freeways every year.

    I can wholeheartedly agree with you on your arguments of diversion rates and induced demand for the 710 project but only under one rule – the 710 gap closure doesn’t affect other freeways. But guess what, IT DOES.

    I would expect induced demand for the 710 gap closure as that would proof the traffic demands already burdening the rest of the transportation grid. Induced demand means providing traffic strain relief along other congestion bottlenecks and gives intra-regional commuters more options to best strategize their routes. The gap closure would mitigate and absorb further growth not only as a trunk-line, but as a branch line to absorb congestion along connecting freeways.

  • Caltransylvania

    NO ON MEASURE R2 unless it Kills the 710 toll tunnel and reappropriates the remaining 740 million tax dollars culled from Measure R to study the 710 to use toward MULTI MODAL- BIKES/BUSES/RAIL.
    PAY ATTENTION: The plan is to green light the boondoggle of the 4.5 mile no-exit 710 Toll Tunnel. 40 million has been spent studying it. 740 million left in the Measure R fund to spend on it. METRO should kill that project since the study came back stating that the Toll Tunnel will have NO IMPACT on air quality or traffic flow and congestion.That 740 million should be released into multi modal transit.
    Perhaps the 740 million is being used as a Caltran$ $lush fund to $upport beefy pension$ and retirement benefit$. In that case The 710 Toll Tunnel will be never built,yet never ending. Think about it. It may be a grift of epic proportions.

  • Nolan Haener

    do your homework. not everything is combined in 1 all the time.


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