The fate of 40 years worth of future public transit projects will be decided at the ballot box this fall. The board of directors for the regional transit authority voted 11-2 today to place on the ballot in November a measure seeking to raise more than $120 billion through sales taxes.
The measure, which will likely be called Measure M, will ask voters in Los Angeles County to agree to a permanent half-cent hike on the sales tax.
The money from that tax revenue would fund a wide-range of upgrades to roads, highways, bus lines, light rail, and subway systems throughout the county.
Highlights of those upgrades would include:
- Creating a rapid bus route from LAX to Santa Monica via Lincoln Boulevard
- Widening I-5 from the 605 to the 710 freeways with the addition of two lanes in each direction
- Construction of the Airport Metro Connector Station which connects the future Crenshaw Line stop at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard to LAX via People Mover
- Extending the Purple Line westward along Wilshire Boulevard from Avenue of the Stars in Century City to Westwood/VA Hospital
- Building 6 to 9 miles of light rail through West Hollywood, from Exposition and Crenshaw to Hollywood and Highland
- Closing an eight-mile gap in the LA River bike path from Elysian Valley through downtown and the cities of Vernon and Maywood, for 31 miles of continuous path
- Adding 11 miles of light rail through Claremont, Glendora, La Verne, Pomona, and San Dimas
The timeline for each of the projects varies. Some wouldn’t break ground for decades. Work on that bus route along Lincoln Boulevard, for example, wouldn’t start until 2043.
The two opposing votes were cast by Don Knabe and Diane DuBois, who represent the southern portion of LA County, and who say their communities are being neglected.
To pass, the measure needs approval from two-thirds of county voters. If approved, the sales tax hike would not expire.
In the next four and a half months, Metro will have to sell voters on this massive spending plan. Metro plans to allocate $10.9 million from the 2017 fiscal budget to pay for "election related and public information costs."
Metro's name for the measure is the "Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan," but whether it will actually improve traffic is up for debate. As KPCC reported this week, "transportation research – including a study commissioned by Metro – shows adding car lanes or taking cars off the road with more transit has minimal effect on congestion and traffic delays in crowded cities like L.A."
Voters have approved three other similar measures that remain in effect, meaning we're already paying 1 1/2 cents in sales taxes for transit projects. Proposition A and Proposition C have been generating funds for Metro since 1980 and 1990, respectively and were responsible for the development on LA's first local rail system since the Pacific Electric Red Car. Both still generate significant revenue for Metro. But, in 1998, restrictions were put in place that limit how Metro spends that money. It can't put it towards the costs of "planning, design, construction or operation of any 'new subway,'" for example.
With Measure R, a half cent sales tax passed in 2008, Metro was able to set its sights on several large scale transit projects: the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica, the Gold Line foothill extension, as well as the downtown regional connector project, which is under construction now.