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Measure M’s first impact might be improved bus service

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Local operators will receive millions of dollars in first-year funding

When Metro’s voter-approved Measure M sales tax hike goes into effect on July 1, 2017, the first changes LA County residents are likely to notice will be at the cash register. When it comes to a return-on-investment, though, bus riders may be among the first beneficiaries of the new tax.

As the San Gabriel Valley Tribune explains, local bus operators like Foothill Transit and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus will begin receiving Measure M dollars right away and will be in the best position to put that money to use. That means hiring more operators, creating new routes, and increasing the frequency of service along lines that already exist.

Long Beach Transit, for instance, will receive nearly $10 million in Measure M funding this year and is tentatively planning to use the money to speed up service along its bus routes. Norwalk Transit plans to revive discontinued routes and potentially add a new line linking the local Metrolink station with the Green Line (something that seems like it should already exist, but hey, baby steps).

Meanwhile, the Big Blue Bus will receive $8.4 million in badly-needed financing to help pay for its stepped-up service around the newly-extended Expo Line.

Foothill Transit will receive $11.1 million from Measure M next year—more money than any other regional transit agency aside from Metro itself. While the bus operator isn’t quite sure how it will spend that cash just yet, one possibility is that the money could be used to help finance a new operating facility—something that could make Foothill’s service more efficient and greatly increase the operator’s ability to add more buses to its fleet.

Overall, nearly 20 percent of Measure M funds go toward improving service on buses around the county. While the measure’s impact on LA’s rail system is likely to be its lasting legacy, all those new lines are going to take some time to build. In the meantime, improved bus service will be a huge benefit to both current and future users of the city’s growing transit network.