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According to the Metro website, there are currently 10.2 million people in L.A. County with an expected increase of 2.3 million in the next 40 years. Also according to their website, commuters spend an average of 80 hours in traffic each year. Thus, the need to address current and future transportation gridlock as well as provide additional public transportation options.

What: Countywide November 8th, 2016 ballot measure that would increase sales tax by a half cent and extend the half cent sales tax approved by voters in Measure R in 2008 (due to expire in 2039) both in perpetuity. This sales tax extension and new tax would pay for various Metro transportation projects and programs across the county. The revenue would be allocated as follows:

  • 65% for public transit, including new and extended rail lines, bus and rail operations and maintenance
  • 17% for freeway upgrades, major road improvements and bicycle lanes
  • 16% to every city and county for local road, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian projects and programs
  • 2% for bicycle and pedestrian facilities

A list of the specific projects and timeline for construction can be found here.

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How: The projects identified to be paid for with this tax were selected by Metro based on projects submitted from the cities in the County.

Economics: Countywide, the sales tax rate would increase to 9.5% with 2% of that appropriated for transportation. It has been estimated that the average LA County consumer would pay an additional $24 per year for each half cent increase. It is expected this measure will raise more than $120 billion through 2057, with average annual raised at about $860 million. An independent oversight committee and regular audits are part of the measure to provide funding protection.

Supporters of this tax increase state that this tax would expand and improve public rail and bus transit, fund much needed freeway and local road improvements, and fund bicycle lanes and programs throughout the county.

From Metro’s website on their past projects:

“Thanks to revenues from Proposition A, Proposition C and Measure R along with local, state and federal funds, Metro has extended the Gold Line to run from East LA to Azusa; opened the Silver Line from El Monte to Harbor Gateway Transit Center; opened the Expo Line Extension to Santa Monica; extended the Orange Line to Chatsworth; added ExpressLanes on both the 10 and 110 freeways; started construction on the Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension rail projects and expanded bike and pedestrian programs throughout the county. But the region has more unmet critical transportation needs than there is money to meet them.”

One criticism of the measure is that funded projects are not distributed fairly throughout the County. It is not clear how the individual projects submitted by cities were decided on, but they may not be based on trying to building projects based on equity, unlike what Measure A is based upon (LA County Parks Needs Assessment).

Another criticism is that this is more out of pocket money needed to be paid by county residents, many of whom are still struggling financially to recover from the recession.

Opponents include the Cities of Carson, Rancho Palos Verdes, Torrance, and Signal Hill, Santa Fe Springs, Commerce, Norwalk, as well as the South Bay Council of Governments, the Mayor of Beverly Hills, and the Bus Riders Union.

Why the Bus Riders Union is against the measure can be found here.

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The southeast cities are against the measure because the main project in the measure, a freeway widening project, isn’t scheduled for decades and their residents are then paying for the rest of the county’s transportation plan. More details about their arguments can be found in this article.

Proponents include the AIA-LA, AARP CA, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, and TreePeople, amongst others.

Because this measure involves a tax increase, it will need not just need approval by the voter majority, but approval by two-thirds of voters, to pass.

Of course, any additional funding for projects involving landscape architecture services provides work and funds for those in our profession. These type of public projects also present opportunities for landscape architect professionals to lead and be a member of design teams. Many of these projects (see link to full list of Metro M projects above) include elements of Landscape Architecture design and planning – landscape renovation along renovated highways, new plazas or corridor design along new or renovated at-grade transit corridors, at new bus and rail facility yards or maintenance facilities, and for pedestrian projects as well. Long-term revenue will be available for use for both Metro projects, and directly from City projects as part of their local return revenue to all the cities.

This ambitious measure would increase public transportation access and choices throughout the county. The various types of projects funded would help individual vehicle users by improving repairs to roads as well as fund public transportation and provide funds for alternative, non-motorized transportation as well, though that percentage is small at only 2%. And though many groups have lobbied for more funding for alternative modes of transportation as part of this measure, this money can still be significant to build and create more of these active transportation opportunities for the county’s residents.

As a citizen I believe this measure can expand public transit options to the various populations in our county. All citizens – regardless of age, income, or physical abilities – need accessible public transportation options to get to work, school and to visit family and friends. And this needs to happen throughout the county, not just in my own work or home neighborhoods. I understand that the County is a large place and we need to implement various modes of transportation throughout the county to help all residents improve their quality of life.

So, I am encouraging my fellow County citizens to join me in voting Yes on Measure M.

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