Sunday, September 2, 2012
New Comments Below:
Abira Ali at 9:35 PM September 2, 2012
I'll start by saying that I'm 100% behind mass transit. I used light rail to get to work in another city and it's great. I'm also a resident within the San Gabriel Valley town of Monrovia. However, I am voting no on Measure J and urge Los Angeles County voters, especially Gabrielenos, to do likewise.
Tony V. ran for mayor largely on the basis that he wanted to be the "transit" mayor. Los Angeles needed mass transit, was too spread out and dependent on cars, and lacked the dense concentration of urban amenities characteristic of other cities (think New York, Chicago, San Francisco) he said. Building mass transit would alleviate traffic congestion and stimulate transit-oriented development (TOD) along its routes, thereby transforming Los Angeles into a more lively and efficient place to live and work.
So far, so good.
The only problem is that this type of commitment takes money...lots of it. Consequently, he and other politicoes on the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board (MTA), as well as West Side people like Mike Feuer, developed the sales tax initiative, Measure R, that would raise county sales taxes by 1/2%. The money generated by this tax would be allocated to mass transit and other transporation projects in Los Angeles County. The campaign positioned Measure R as a solution to REGIONAL transportation problems and was successfully adopted by the narrowest of margins as stipulated by law.
Let's look at the list of mass transit rail projects that are on the priorities list of the MTA. These projects are the ones that are in the planning stages and are the ones that will receive the benefit of Measure R (or Measure J) money. They include the "Subway to the Sea," second phase extension of the Expo Line, Cresnshaw Line, downtown rail connector, Green Line extension to LAX. There's a pattern here. All these projects are within the city of Los Angeles. Don't see the second phase extension of the Gold Line in this list. As a matter of fact, the MTA has recently said that the soonest that it will even consider this extension will be in the neighborhood of 2039!
Now, Tony V. wants Measure J approved to extend the 1/2-cent sales tax for another 30 years so that he can go to the federal government and borrow money against projected future tax receipts to get these priority projects built now rather than later. Where is regional interest in all of this? He wants rail in LA and comes to county voters to pay for it. Yes, I know what the traffic is like, especially on the West Side. But I also think that a truly regional fix to transit is in the planning and implementation of a system that benefits residents countywide, especially if county taxpayers are footing the bill. The Gold Line has nothing to apologize for as its average daily ridership is 47,000 and is a testament to the success that mass transit has in outlying areas. Yet, the building of this route has been like pulling teeth...the original Gold Line plan was that the route be an extension of the Blue Line. If this original plan had been implemented, there would be no need for the "downtown connector" that's on the drawing board now.
The first phase extension of the Gold Line is currently being built with Measure R funds but now there are allegations that a deal was made to get this approved by the MTA. I don't know the truth behind these allegations, but I do know that Antonovich, who heads the MTA board, is cooking a scheme that will allow money generated by Measure R and allocated for highway projects within the San Gabriel Valley to be diverted for the second phase extension of the Gold Line. One of the problems here is that this initiative will only ALLOW the funds to be legally diverted. The actual transfer and implementation of these funds must be subsequently APPROVED by the MTA board, a body where many of the votes are from Los Angeles interests. And to make matters worse, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Goverments has endorsed this plan. It stands to reason that such a plan will only invite further political machinations and opportunities for deal making.
As taxpayers and users of public transit, don't we deserve better than this?
Proponents of rail projects in Los Angeles like to talk about how everyone will benefit from using the planned lines. But how efficient will these trains be if people have to drive or take a bus for miles in order to get to a station? This is just a continuation of dysfunction within the region and discounts the needs of county residents outside the corporate city limits of Los Angeles, many of whom rely on public transit not just to go to Los Angeles but to places like Pasadena, another major area of local employment.