Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Measure J: Moving today for tomorrow
by Rabbi Mark Diamond and Marlene Grossman
How much would we like to do, but simply don’t, because of traffic?
Commuting questions plague us every day: How long will it take us to get
to work; to go to the doctor; to get to school; to attend events for
our kids or grandkids?
Over the past 4 years, community leaders have come together around the
notion that, in the words of Assembly Member Michael Feuer, “something
transformative is taking place in Los Angeles.” Over the past 20 years,
Los Angeles, once the freeway capital of the world, has quietly been
transformed into the third-largest transit system in the country. And on
Election Day, we have a unique opportunity to create new jobs and
better mobility with the passage of Measure J.
A brief history lesson: in 2008, a coalition of groups, including
Move LA and AJC (American Jewish Committee), united to support Measure
R, which passed with more than 67 percent of L.A. County voters. Measure
R will raise $40 billion over 30 years and build the subway to
Westwood, the Gold Line to Arcadia, an Orange Line extension to Canoga
Park, the Green Line to LAX and the South Bay and more.
Measure J does not raise taxes. Instead, it extends a half-cent 30-year
sales tax that voters approved in 2008 for another 30 years, from 2039
to 2069. This longer revenue stream would allow LA Metro to finance the
accelerated construction now, at a time when the cost of financing and
of construction is at an all-time low. Speeding up these projects would
also accelerate the creation of 250,000 jobs over the decade, according
to the private nonprofit LA County Economic Development Corporation
(LAEDC) — at a time when unemployment in the county is still at a
painfully high 11 percent.
While Move LA, AJC and many other organizations supported Measure R, 30
years seemed just too far away to appreciate this victory. We all are
committed to improving Los Angeles for many future generations to
come. And yet, wouldn’t it be great to ride and enjoy these projects
in our lifetime?
Enter Measure J: it would accelerate the construction of seven transit
and eight highway improvement projects across LA County, so that
construction begins within five years and is completed in 13 years,
instead of 27 years as is currently planned. If you were born today, you
could ride one of these projects to your Bar or Bat Mitzvah
celebrations. Wouldn’t that be a true transformation!
The transit projects that would be accelerated — and completed between 2019 and 2025 — include the Green Line Extension to LAX, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, the Westside Subway Extension, Gold Line Eastside Extension, Green Line Extension to the South Bay, the West Santa Ana Transit Corridor to Cerritos, and the Regional Connector, which connects rail lines in downtown Los Angeles to provide one-seat rides between the San Gabriel Valley, Gateway Cities and both the Westside and Eastside.
And yes, you read us correctly – there will be a rail connection to LAX and a (yet undetermined) public transit project through the 1-405 Sepulveda Pass Corridor by 2025.
Measure J also provides another 30 years of funding to cities and unincorporated parts of LA County to use for the transportation projects of their choosing, including fixing potholes, safety improvements, signal synchronization, street and sidewalk repair and local transit service.
In addition to the betterment of Los Angeles, Measure J is a particularly important issue for AJC and the entire Jewish community. Our dependence on oil from hostile nations has put a stranglehold on our national security. With every dollar that we pump into the coffers of despots in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and especially Iran, the more we become beholden to them. Many of the challenges faced by the United States and Israel in the Middle East are directly linked to oil, and much of it is used in the transportation sector.
Living in a city and a county known for its freeways and cars, our best bet to materially decrease our dependence on foreign oil is to get people out of their cars and on to other forms of transit – carpools, buses, rail, bicycles, and by foot.
Measure R set us on that path. Let’s keep moving down this path together.
Now City Hall wants to raise the sales tax too
By Kevin Roderick | October 30, 2012 1:38 PM
Measures to raise the California sales tax (Proposition 30) and to extend the already-higher sales tax in Los Angeles County (Measure J) are up for a vote on the November 5 ballot. Now City Council President Herb Wesson is floating the idea of an additional half-cent sales tax increase within the city of Los Angeles to be voted on next March. He says the extra tax hike will be needed to raise $220 million a year and ease the budget pressures on City Hall.
Why Wesson would bring up such a politically explosive suggestion now is mysterious, and he compounds it by calling on his Council colleagues to set the process in motion tomorrow with final approval in mid-November. Says Carol Schatz, president of the Central City Association, which represents downtown businesses: “You don’t surprise a whole city with a sales tax proposal with less than 24 hours' notice. Something like that needs a lot of discussion and evaluation.”If Prop. 30 passes and if Wesson's tax plan goes through, the sales tax in Los Angeles would be 9.5 percent if I'm reading things correctly. We currently pay 8.75 percent; many residents of California pay as low as 7.25 percent in sales tax now.
L.A. County Voters To Decide Fate Of Transit Tax Extension
Danny Lee October 29, 2012
The future of several Metropolitan Transportation Authority projects in Los Angeles County could be decided on Nov. 6 when voters choose whether or not to extend the county's half-cent sales tax to fund improvements to public transit.If approved at the ballot box, Measure J would tack on an additional 30 years to a sales tax for transportation projects set to expire in 2039. The measure, which requires approval of two-thirds of voters to pass, would generate an extra $90 billion in local sales tax revenue until 2069.
Measure J, supported by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in addition to several business, environmental and labor groups, would accelerate projects such as the Green Line extension into the South Bay, Gold Line extension into the San Gabriel Valley, the Westside Subway extension and the Regional Connector.
However, some unions argued that Metro's growing emphasis on rail has come at the expense of the county's bus system.
"[The measure] is going to benefit large real-estate and construction corporations, while impacting communities of color, especially bus riders who are going to see cuts in their service and fare increases," said Sun-Young Yang, lead organizer of the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union.
Yang contended that despite the additional funds for transportation created by voter-backed Measure R in 2008, Metro has scaled back on its bus service. She said the discontinuation of Metro Line 305, which provided commuters a direct route from South L.A. to West L.A., has "led to further financial burden" for working-class riders.
"After that line got eliminated, many of the domestic workers from South L.A. that worked on the Westside now have to transfer three times to get to their low-wage jobs," Yang said.
Those who oppose extending the sales tax are attempting to inform voters on the issue through the No on Measure J Web site. In addition to the Bus Riders Union, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have also come out against the measure.
But the measure's supporters claimed that a 'Yes' vote would create 400,000 new county jobs and provide necessary resources to invest in infrastructure improvements such as road repair.
"No matter what your politics, everyone benefits from traffic relief and putting people to work," said Matt Szabo, executive director of the Yes on J campaign. "Our hope is to allow those currently paying the transportation tax to actually realize the benefit of that tax by having the projects built within a reasonable amount of time."
Measure J has secured the endorsements of area newspapers like the L.A. Times and Daily News. Supporters have also ran television and radio advertisements to boost support for the initiative. Szabo said backers hope to secure more endorsements from local Chambers of Commerce and neighborhood groups in the week ahead.
Opponents said "it is a tough fight" going up against a campaign that has more than $2 million at its disposal thanks to donations from financial heavyweights like Anschutz Entertainment Group and Museum Associates, a nonprofit that operates the L.A. County Museum of Art, but the phone-banking will continue until Election Day nonetheless.
"We have a tiny, but formidable operation," Yang said. "We're up against a multi-million dollar, corporate-backed campaign. Hopefully we'll be able to swing 34 percent of the vote to defeat this measure."
Metro Hurdles and Hallelujahs—Progress Despite the Roadblocks
10.29.2012 Ken Alpern
GETTING THERE FROM HERE - It’s no secret that our economy, political
scene and public sector operations are all in play, and perhaps the
single most favorable result of our stumbling economy (no, folks, it’s
not zooming back…but it’s not falling apart, either) is our ability to
really scrutinize what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.
Fortunately, despite the obstacles and setbacks, our transportation
leadership at Metro (both at the political and staff levels) are making
Let’s start with the Expo Line—Phase 1 is too slow, the TAP card
system isn’t user-friendly as it ought to be, and the parking lot around
the Culver City station needs to be cleaned up. However, that latter parking lot is definitely being used, and the biggest problem with it is that it’s too small.
that parking problem is similar to the parking nightmares which faced
North Hollywood and Universal City when the Red Line Subway reached
those two locations—it means that mass/rapid transit has finally reached
the right locations to be of benefit to a region of the county that
didn’t enjoy access before. It’s arguably a sign of success, and with
the understanding that Culver City was always sort of a “Phase 1½”
because it linked Phase 1 and 2 and was always a step behind the rest of
Phase 1, it’s safe to say that the Culver City Expo Line at
Venice/Robertson will be a transit hub for decades to come.
unless Metro has had a sea change of operational paradigms from its past
10-20 years, it’s safe to say that Expo Line speeds and operations will
improve. Metro doesn’t take complaints lying down, and those who
ignore those complaints are usually out of a job or demoted. The
Foothill Gold Line was too slow, but now it’s quite fast and enjoys
excellent ridership that’s silenced the critics. And the TAP card
system is one that should be fixed sooner, and not later.
the west, where Phase 2 bridges and utility work are moving at rocket
speed thanks to the incredible work of Skanska/Rados (a go-to contractor
that Metro should embrace for the indefinite future), the dangers posed
by those seeking to put a halt to construction while they bring their
anti-Expo legal challenges to the State Supreme Court include damaging
the economy and the wallets of the taxpayers, as Supervisor Yaroslavsky has rightfully noted.
the Expo Construction Authority and the combined political leadership
of LA City and County are all opposing any work stoppage, and it’s hoped
that reason and courage rule the day with respect to moving the Expo
Line forward against those who’ve opted to drag their heels for the past
few decades rather than achieve helpful mitigation for the Westside.
as the Expo Line fights its way westward, and as the Crenshaw Line,
Foothill Gold Line and Downtown Light Rail Connector projects offer the
obvious next steps towards establishing light rail as a true network to
serve the greater county, the next light rail hurdle—connecting the
Green and Crenshaw/LAX lines to LAX terminals, are being tackled by the
The Metro Board, under a motion passed by
Supervisor Don Knabe, has requested that Metro’s chief executive come
back with a plan by late January 2013 to get the LAX/MetroRail
connection completed by 2020.
Clearly, the County of Los Angeles wants and needs a solid, user-friendly connection between MetroRail and LAX.
with the mayoral race of the City of L.A. heating up, a pointed
question must be raised to all four candidates (Garcetti, Greuel, Perry
and James) as to whether they intend to confront LA World Airports Chief
Executive Gina Marie Lindsey. Lindsey has unfortunately and
hamhandedly given the taxpayers a rude gesture by dismissing this
connection as a Busway, which is not desired by the taxpaying public and
which is more expensive to operate than a rail connection, despite the
greater startup costs for a rail system.
Of course, the need to
increase the $200 million seed money for a Green Line to LAX (now more
appropriately designated as a MetroRail to LAX because both the Crenshaw
and Green Lines need a singular direct or indirect rail connection) is
paramount for LA World Airports, Metro and the Federal Transit
Administration to know that the City and County of Los Angeles means
business with respect to creating a 21st Century rail network.
of course, our freeways, particularly in the Inland Empire, need
upgrading and widening whenever and wherever possible. Anyone who
experienced “Carmageddon East” when the SR-60 freeway was temporarily
shut down after a truck fire last December knows we need our freeways as
much as we do a rail system (more so, at this immediate time).
rail and freeway construction, now both conducted by Metro in L.A.
County, have been helped by Measure R but will be ensured and expedite
by Measure J, the county measure we’ll be voting on next week. Measure J
does NOT raise current taxes, but allows us to borrow from future and
extended sales tax revenues to build our needed freeway and rail
projects within the next decade.
Regardless of who wins the next
presidential election, and regardless of what happens in Sacramento or
Washington as they work to balance their budgets, Measure J ensures that
L.A. City and County’s economy and mobility continue to grow for the
indefinite future. More freeway and rail projects will change from the
realm of science fiction to undisputable fact—and they will be as vetted
and on budget as we’ve seen for our current Measure R projects.
there are hurdles, and there are legitimate complaints to throw at
Metro—and throw them we MUST. But to show that we’re willing to put our
money where our mouth is, we need to continue to fight to make sure our
transportation problems can be fixed with guaranteed funding. And our
economy will benefit no matter what political or fiscal challenges get
thrown our way.
The next thing we can do, and the only thing we
can do right now, to ensure quality rail and freeway funding,
particularly a MetroRail connection to LAX.
Pass Measure J! J as in Jumpstart!
Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council
(MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and
currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure
Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee
and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at
Alpern@MarVista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) –cw
Why You Should Vote No On Measure J
Claremont Officials Angry Over Measure J
The city was originally supposed a part of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension project, but recently learned the line would stop in Azusa.
By Gina Tenorio
Claremont officials are fuming over being excluded from the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension project and let them know it recently by voting to oppose the passage of Measure J.
The measure has been placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. “J” is a county measure that looks to extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax for an additional 30 years. It would collect some $90 billion over the next 30 years if passed.
Voters passed Measure R in 2008.
But recently, MTA officials announced the Gold Line, which was supposed to extend out to Montclair and possibly even Ontario International Airport, would stop at Azusa, city officials said.
The only word I can think of is, we’ve been bamboozled here,” said Council Member Corey Calaycay. “We’ve paid taxes on Measure R and it makes me angry because we were included in that Gold Line. That Gold Line should come all the way out here and out to the airport and now they’ve changed the game.”
“It’s not right,” he continued.
Mayor Larry Schroeder, and council members Joe Lyons and Pedroza voted to oppose the measure. Mayor Pro-tem Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali abstained. Calaycay also abstained despite voicing his opposition to the city being excluded.
Nasiali told the council members that he understood the concern over Measure J, but felt giving residents information and allowing them to decide should be sufficient.
Measure J funds would be used to sell bonds that will allow Metro to accelerate construction of transportation improvements, according to a Claremont staff report. A 2008 study by the private nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation determined the current tax costs residents an average of $25 per person per year.
The goal of the Gold Line is to create another way to bring in tourists and businesses that would contribute money to the city through the sales tax, officials said.
The measure allows transit and highway funding priorities to be shifted between projects within sub-regions of Los Angeles County if approved by a two thirds vote of the Metro Board, according to the report.
If passed, the tax would be extended to 2069 and are committed in Metro's current expenditure plan until that date, officials said.
Move L.A.: Why You Should Vote Yes on Measure J For Jobs
Los Angeles County is darn big and densely populated, a complex conglomeration of neighborhoods, multi-centered, and with complicated commute patterns. It’s hard to believe policy and funding still prioritizes cars when it seems so obvious we need to make every other kind of transport easy and safe — whether by foot or bike, scooter, skateboard, bus, shuttle, car and car-sharing, rail, baby strollers, wheelchairs, carpools, neighborhood electrical vehicles.
Rail will be the backbone of that new constellation of transportation choices, providing the clean, quiet alternative to the car that can travel through and connect up all of LA’s soon-to-be-walkable-and-bikeable neighborhoods. Even as we develop more local economies with retail, services and jobs that you can walk and bike to there will be a need to travel farther — to big job centers, the beach, museums, and airports.
Measure J would accelerate construction of this rail backbone, essentially accomplishing LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s much-vaunted 30-10 plan: Seven rail projects would begin within five years and be completed within 13, instead of 27 years as is currently planned. Measure J does this not by raising taxes but by extending the half-cent Measure R sales tax that voters approved in 2008 for another 30 years.
This longer revenue stream allows LA Metro to finance construction now, when the cost of financing and of construction is super low. Speeding up these projects would also accelerate the creation of 250,000 jobs, according to the private nonprofit LA County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) — at a time when unemployment in the county is painfully high (11 percent).
It is as if voters would be providing LA County with our own economic stimulus package, as the increased buying power from all those paychecks ripples out through the economy, also boosting tax revenues. While many jobs would be in transportation and construction, jobs would also be created in professional, scientific and technical services, in health care and social assistance, and in the retail sector.
In addition, Measure J would provide an additional 30 years of funding for bus and rail service — 20 percent of revenues go to bus operations and 5 percent to rail. Measure J also means another 30 years of funding for all 88 cities and unincorporated areas of LA County — 15 percent of revenues go to the “Local Return” program that allows cities to fill potholes, synchronize traffic signals, fund local transit service, sidewalk repair and bike lanes.
Moreover, Measure J, unlike Measure R, allows the “flexing” of funds from highway projects to transit (or vice versa), with a two-thirds vote of the Metro board. It is true that Measure J also funds highway improvement projects, but these are mostly ramp and interchange improvements to fix “hotspots,” safety upgrades, grade separations for freight rail, and some carpool and truck lanes.
The centerpiece of Measure J really is the expansion of the rail system, with seven iconic projects completed between 2019 and 2025: the Green Line to LAX, the I-405 Transit Corridor, the Westside Subway Extension, Gold Line Eastside Extension, Green Line to the South Bay, West Santa Ana Transit Corridor to Cerritos, and the Regional Connector, which connects rail lines in downtown LA to provide “one-seat rides” from the beaches to the inland valleys.
By 2025. That’s WOW! With a cost that is estimated, by LAEDC, to be about $25 per person per year.
All endorsers are listed on the Measure J website.
Passage of Measure R in 2008 ushered in a new era of transportation choices — making it possible to double the size of the rail system and the number of stations in LA County in 30 years. But Measure J would usher it in with a bang, making LA County more sustainable, healthy, walkable and bikeable within our lifetimes.
Yes the bureaucratic machinery is still focused on expediting car travel, but cities and agencies have begun acknowledging that people are demanding more transportation and housing choices — changes brought about by shifting demographics, rising gas prices, terrible traffic and air quality, concerns about the Middle East and climate change.
LA DOT has a study underway — to be completed in six months — to create multi-modal levels of service enabling routine consideration of the ease and safety of people traveling on foot and by bike. LA Metro has begun creating a strategic plan for first-mile last-mile connections to the county’s stations — now just 100 but soon 200.
Even the Southern California Association of Governments, an agency not known for progressive planning, passed a regional transportation plan and “sustainable communities strategy” (RTP/SCS) this year that got this headline in The Atlantic Cities: “Is SoCal America’s Next Environmental Success Story?”
California Senate President Darrell Steinberg and California Endowment CEO Robert Ross were so impressed with the RTP/SCS they came to SCAG in person to urge passage by the Regional Council. This plan — which would increase regional bike/ped funding by 350 percent — was adopted, unanimously.
The rest of the country is watching LA’s transformation: A recent headline in the New York Post claimed “Los Angeles is the future . . . check yourself New York!”: This has been a “decade that saw the city grow in all sorts of exciting and impressive ways,” Andy Wang and David Landsel write. “A decade of building real transit. (For the first time in generations you will soon be able to travel by rail between Downtown and Santa Monica; soon after expect a subway stop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.) Of creating truly walkable neighborhoods.”
As an aside, the LA County Bicycle Coalition was created in my office, when the national nonprofit I was working for offered to share office space in the belief that robust bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure was necessary to make the public transportation system work. How else could the rail system “extend” service into neighborhoods and serve the most residents?
I had lunch with LACBC founder Ron Milam a few months ago, and as always he tried to provoke.
We were talking about Measure J and debating the best ways to fix LA County’s transportation situation — whether rail, bus, car-sharing, cell phone apps, bikes, more walkability or what — and he said, “Do you really still believe that rail is the answer? Really?”
I’ve continued to ponder that question as we double-down on Measure J, and I have to say that I deeply believe the answer is yes — that rail is an essential component of a larger transportation ecosystem (for lack of a better word), that includes all of the alternatives listed up above as well as others that haven’t even been invented yet.
Smart mobility hubs, cell phone apps providing for informal carpools, arrangements allowing you to rent out your own car — we’re only just beginning to imagine a wealth of other choices. Consultants hired by LA Metro to develop a first-mile last-mile strategic plan talked about the importance of new alternatives that could more closely follow “desire lines” and “elephant paths” instead of street grids.
During the national Rail~volution conference in Hollywood last month, a transportation planner from Sri Lanka stayed at my house. I live in Mount Washington close to a Gold Line station, and during his stay here he traveled everywhere by train — visiting Long Beach, Santa Monica, Pasadena and El Monte.
As I rode with him to catch the Flyaway Bus to LAX I asked him what his major takeway was about Los Angeles. He said that he found it remarkably easy to get around. So we are making progress. It’s easy to see why the nation is watching us.
Five Things I’m Thinking About Transportation
When I last took a paternity leave, I returned with a brief column on some stories I would never get to flesh out that occured during my time off. Sometime after that, Steve Hymon started running an occasional “5 Things I’m Thinking About Transportation” series. I’ve rarely done it, but if it’s good enough for a Pulitzer Prize Winner…
1) With the election just eight days away, Streetsblog will be focusing on Measure J this week to try and provide as much information and opinion about the proposed sales tax extension. Over the next four days, Streetsblog will publish four op/eds, two in favor and two opposed to the sales tax extension. Today’s op/ed will be by Move L.A. Tomorrow’s by the Bus Riders Union.
Today also sees a major update to the Measure J Page, including many of the major news pieces on the ballot proposition from the last three weeks. Tomorrow, we’ll have a story by myself and Sahra Sulaiman going into greater detail on both the “yes” and “no” campaigns. And on Friday we’ll have the L.A. Streetsblog election ballot including Romney v Obama, Measure J, and Proposition 37.
2) How awesome is it that “getting Jerry Browned,” the year-old term for getting buzzed by a closely passing car, has mainstreamed enough to be featured in a Los Angeles Times cartoon? Click on the image to see the punchlines.
3) The L.A. Streetsblog editorial board took an informal vote not to endorse or oppose Measure J. However, the lack of endorsement should not be construed as opposition as say the Beverly Hills City Council’s lack of endorsement is. It’s been our tradition to not endorse, despite our legal ability to do so and the board decided to maintain that tradition. This got me to wondering…would anyone care if we endorsed or opposed Measure J? I know a lot of you trust as as a news source, and thanks for that, but I also know Streetsblog readers are very informed and very opinionated. Would an official endorsement give anyone pause in their voting decisions?
4) In one of their first editions of the year, the Beverly Hills High School Highlights, the student newspaper, took a stand against the ongoing campaign of the Beverly Hills Unified School District against the Westside Subway (page 4). It concludes, “Pouring money opposing a project that will likely benefit the city is futile, even if the board is correct in our abilities to regain the money after the case is solved.”
At a later meeting of the Board of Education, a handful of School Board Members (page 3) railed against the editorial calling it “borderline inane” and made sarcastic comments about the quality of the journalism at the paper. While I don’t expect people in power to agree with every editorial written against them, there’s something ugly about someone who’s an adult in age sneering at a student newspaper from the seat of the Board of Education. Student journalists should be taught the importance of speaking “truth to power,” by adults. Even if the journalists have come to a bad decision, the published comments by School Board Members Lisa Korbatov and to a lesser degree Lewis Hall are shameful.
Parents wrote to the Beverly Hills Weekly paper defending the students (pages 2 and 10), but I wanted to add my two cents. Editorials are opinion pieces. There was nothing wrong with the editorial. The quality of journalism at Highlights is actually superb. Just look at all the awards the staff has won over the last couple of years.
5) If I have to hear another anti-Measure J person complain that it doesn’t fund any transit projects in their region, I’ll scream. The reality is that both Measure R and Measure J spend money across regions proportionally, it’s just that some regions get more highway dollars than transit dollars. So if Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a chief opponent of Measure J, wants to see more money for transit projects, all he has to do is lobby for the High Desert Corridor, a freeway project funded by Measure R, to be a light rail project instead.
To sweeten the pot, I’ll go all Donald Trump for a minute. If he pushed for a transit option instead of the High Desert Corridor or the I-710 Big Dig, not only will I write a week of stories just about issues in his district, I’ll feature him positively in all of them.