Manuel Pastor’s Recommendations for Metro’s 2016 Ballot Measure

Professor Manuel Pastor at yesterday's Move L.A. event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Professor Manuel Pastor at yesterday’s Move L.A. event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At Move L.A.’s Transportation Conversation 8 yesterday, USC professor Manuel Pastor had a list of recommendations for Metro as the agency seeks to finalize and pass its anticipated $120 billion November sales tax measure. For many years, Pastor has been an important voice for equity and justice. Adopting his recommendations would go a long way to truly embedding equity in coming decades of Metro expenditures.

Note: Pastor ticked off this list fairly quickly. I took notes and embellished slightly, adding some background. The good ideas here are Pastor’s; any improper embellishment is mine. 

1. Keep Fares Low

Pastor stressed that keeping transit affordable means it can serve those who truly need it. Interconnected with that, low fares are a big factor in minimizing declining ridership. Pastor emphasized that even small hikes, like Metro’s 2014 25-cent increase, can make lasting dents in ridership and can really harm the quality of life of low income riders.

2. Goal of No Net Displacement

Pastor outlined that Metro’s large construction projects can adversely impact the adjacent communities, displacing both residents and businesses. Pastor welcomed Metro’s programs to jointly develop affordable housing and to assist impacted businesses, but these are somewhat limited in scope. These programs are current Metro policies and practices applied only to selected projects. Pastor urged Metro to expand programs, including extending transit-oriented affordable housing assistance beyond just Metro-owned property. He urged Metro to make a robust commitment to prevent displacement in all significant Measure R2 projects.

3. Let All Students Ride for Free

Pastor urged that all students, from elementary to middle to high school through college, should ride Metro transit for free. Free. This is an investment in the education of the next generation. Pastor joked that young people want to spend their time texting anyway, but made the point that making transit available to students will ingrain transit ridership habits during Angelenos’ formative years, paying off in greater sustained levels of ridership as many students grow into transit-riding adults.

4. Deepen Career Programs

Similar to business assistance programs, Metro currently has some exemplary construction career programs on some of its high-profile projects (thanks in large part to the leadership and perseverance of boardmembers, prominently including Jacqueline Dupont-Walker), but these are current practices on limited high-profile rail projects. Pastor urged Metro to embed career development in all significant Measure R2 projects. He said that this should include career paths for individuals re-entering society from the criminal justice system. (Pastor did not say this, but I would add that this really needs to include Metro-funded highway projects. In rail construction, Metro is currently ahead of Caltrans in terms of Project Labor Agreements – PLAs, which include apprentice programs, local hiring practices, and more. Metro-funded Caltrans highway projects should rise to Metro standards on these issues, not fall to Caltrans standards.)

5. Include a Serious Nod to Active Transportation

Pastor recommended that Metro put more into active transportation – bicycling and walking. He stressed that the first/last mile is a key component of Metro’s transit system, and that these projects create healthier communities.

6. Prioritize Transit Over Highways

Pastor acknowledged the “political needs” of funding some highway projects, but questioned which highways are really needed. Does the high desert really need another freeway? Pastor argued that Metro needs to think strategically about which freeway projects are truly crucial.

7. Connect Transit to Parks

Pastor noted that State Parks have a big last-mile problem. He asserted that while mass transit can’t go to every single park, Metro should commit resources to ensure mass transit connects low income people with some prioritized parks.

Pastor emphasized the urgency of these recommendations by concluding with an Eminem lyric:

Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

Metro’s ballot measure will set transportation expenditure practices for the next 40+ years. Can Metro leadership craft a plan that will both be popular enough to get the necessary two-thirds majority and will commit the agency to truly do the right thing for disadvantaged communities? Readers – what do you think? What key equity commitments would you like to see in Measure R2?


  • The points about low fares and free rides for students are interesting. When I was an undergrad I could ride the bus free and then very cheaply because of subsidy programs.

    However, cheap fares have downsides as well. Less money into the system means the system may not have the funds to be as convenient and well-maintained as it should be. In other words, cheap fares can also mean a cheap service that nobody wants to use once they can afford a car. Is that social equity? In the real world resources are limited and everything comes with a trade-off.

  • calwatch

    Ultimately, I think everyone is larding way too much into this initiative. Unfortunately, you almost need another half cent sales tax in order to keep the same rate of progress. The sales tax base keeps declining as people shift their consumption from stuff and dining out to non-taxable things like digital goods, housing, travel, and health care.

    Making transit free for students is going to be a nonstarter, because many people, especially seniors, don’t like the boisterous behavior of some of them, particularly younger teenagers (college age students are generally OK). While Pastor mentions the need to put highways in “for political purposes”, he fails to recognize that about 2/3 of the registered population in LA County does not live in the City of Los Angeles. So yes, people in Downey, Pomona, Torrance, Santa Clarita, and Lancaster want to see some bang for their buck too.

  • stvr

    What is this guy a professor of? Concern trolling?

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The sales tax base is not declining in LA county. There were an estimated 4,,246,008 workers aged 16 or over in LA County according to estimates by the Census Bureau. That increased to 4,623,817 in 2014. A 8.8% increase. The half-cent sales tax revenue received in LA county through Proposition A from 2005 through 2014 increased by 20.8%.

    Its the increase in capacity to move people during peak commute hours in LA county that is not keeping pace with the growth in the number of workers. From 2005 through 2014 there was an increase of 377,809 more workers in LA county. Th motor vehicle lanes and mass transit capacity added during that time has not been enough to keep up with the growth in the number of workers .

    The additional sales tax revenue proposed for the November ballot to be used for additional motor vehicle lanes and increased mass transit capacity would still not be enough to keep with the growth in the number of workers in LA county. It wouldn’t be enough to fix the congestion problem, but if it isn’t approved at the ballot box the congestion will become much worse than if voters had approved it.

    The city of LA is not increasing the average condition of roads due to not enough revenue going towards maintenance. That is costing each motorist hundreds of dollars per year in lower mpg and higher maintenance costs for their vehicle. An additional half-cent sales tax would cost each person in LA county about $25 a year, or 7 cents a day. There would be enough local return in this proposed sales tax measure for the city of LA to start increasing the average quality of roads. Which means the average motorist in the city of LA would spend less money per year if the proposed sales tax measure is approved by voters than if it is not approved.

  • jdslater

    Agreed. I work for London Underground and when you start offering free or discounted journeys it also starts getting confusing.
    All over 65s get a “Freedom Pass”. This is form the local council and paid by local taxes, not central government. Mobility and sight impaired people also get this free pass.
    After that we have discounts for kids of various ages, people looking for jobs, etc. The list goes on.
    Added to that the money coming from the government has been reduced so the company has been looking at making the extra money by looking into more retail space, making cost cutting where it can.
    It can be a steady decline.

  • Joe Linton

    Maybe if L.A. just keeps widening streets it will get ahead of this problem. No?

  • calwatch

    When you consider inflation, that 20.8% gain over ten years evaporates completely, and does not keep up with population growth. The Legislative Analyst identified this problem several years ago, even though you may not recognize it. The spread between taxable sales and income growth keeps expanding, which will jeopardize the ability of sales taxes to keep up with inflation.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Looking at the problem objectively, most traffic congestion occurs during peak commute hours. A light-rail train line has the ability to carry much more people per hour in one direction than even two lanes on most freeways in the LA area during peak commute hours.


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