To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Americans are apparently not as infatuated with cars as we thought 


We may gripe about taxes and subsidizing Amtrak, but when it comes to getting around, Americans are apparently looking for alternatives to sitting in traffic in our beloved automobiles. Don’t believe me? Look at the election results.

This year has seen more transit-related ballot initiatives than any year in at least a decade, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence in Washington, D.C. While two of the highest-profile measures failed — including Los Angeles County’s Measure J, which was defeated yesterday, and another that bombed in Atlanta last summer — in more than two-thirds of the contests this year, voters opted for more buses and trains.

“Atlanta and Measure J were very closely watched around the country. Both were not successful, but that obscures the broader trend,” said Jason Jordan, the center’s director. While he was still waiting for the results of two races, Jordan said transit came out on top in at least 62 percent of the races yesterday. For the year, the success rate will be above 70 percent.
Successes yesterday included votes to approve transit funding in Orange County, N.C.; Arlington County, Va.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Stephenson County, Ill., among others. (Jordan’s group keeps a full tally here.)

Another positive sign: Voters in several suburban counties beat back efforts to withdraw from regional transportation authorities — a tool that transit opponents had hoped to take nationwide, Jordan says.

Nonetheless, the defeat yesterday in Los Angeles was a major disappointment. Measure J would have extended a special sales tax that raises billions for transit, highway, and bus projects. It would have allowed the city to borrow money to build more rail and bus routes, and pay for them over time. The measure fell just short of the 66.67 percent supermajority it needed to pass.

Other losses for transit yesterday included a measure in Memphis that would have increased the cost of a gallon of gas by a penny to fund the Memphis Area Transit Authority. Races in Pierce County, Wash., and Richland County, S.C., were too close to call at press time.

Still, Jordan was upbeat. “When the case is made to people about specific benefits [of public transit] in their community, people are consistently willing to step up and help pay for it,” he said. “There is a clear demand for transit. There is a clear demand for alternatives.”

Those alternatives include more than just buses and trains. Take, for example, Measure B1 in Alameda County, Calif., which a reader called our attention to yesterday. The measure, which passed handily, will raise $7.8 billion over 30 years. Of that, $3.7 billion will go to public transit. But a whopping $387 million will go to bike lanes, hiking trails, and other cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Boom!

Still don’t believe that Americans can live without their cars? Check out this graph from economist Joe Cartright that comes to us via Stephen Miller at Streetsblog. The graph shows how American driving (measured in “VMT,” or vehicle miles traveled) rebounded after the past five recessions. Not so much after the most recent one — charted in light blue. Apparently more Americans are discovering the joys of leaving their cars behind.

Measure J’s “Rejection” Was NOT an

Anti-Transit Vote

Maybe a two-thirds local threshold is just too high a bar to cross, maybe the No on J Campaign did its job too well, maybe voter turnout for the top of the ticket was too low. Whatever the reason, Measure J received “only” 64.7% of the vote last night, a full 1.95% short of the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass. “Only in California is 65% a defeat instead of a landslide victory,” wrote Denny Zane on his Facebook page. “…and that has to change.”

Measure J was a proposed extension of the 2008 Measure R sales tax that dedicated a half cent of L.A. County sales tax to transportation projects. Measure J would have extended the tax from 2039 t0 2069 allowing Metro to bond against the new revenue and “build 30 years of transit projects in 10 years.” The Measure needed the support of two-third of L.A. County voters in yesterday’s vote to pass.

There are many lessons that can be inferred from last night’s results, none of which point to a lack of support for transit expansion by L.A. County voters. We will conduct a better analysis after the election results are broken down geographically.

First, credit needs to be given to the No on J Campaign. On a shoestring budget, the group pulled together a county-wide campaign of opposition and planted stories and opinion pieces in newspapers and media outlets both large and small. The campaign also ran a grass roots effort of door knocking, phone banking and handing out literature on buses. Compare the No on J Campaign to the Bus Riders Union’s muddled “No on the 6″ campaign in 2008 and their improved organization could be one reason for the small tilt in support.

For anyone who believes the Bus Riders Union is a political relic, yesterday’s win marks the second time in two years the group has expanded their coalition and pulled off a victory. Working with the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the No on 710 Coalition, the BRU is showing it knows how to work with groups outside their traditional allies to pick up headlines grabbing victories. The first time would be the stopping Westside homeowners groups from exempting the entire Westside from the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project.

Or, as the Crenshaw Subway Coalition put it on Facebook this morning, “How do you like dem apples?”

But the organized campaign against Measure J wasn’t an anti-transit one. If anything, it was an anti-highway, anti-gentrification, and pro-transit operations campaign that included an element that is also opposed to the Westside Subway. The elected officials opposed to the tax extension complained
that not enough was being spent on transit in the areas they represent.

Graphic by Crenshaw Subway Coalition. Note, graphic is calling for more, not less, funds for transit

It’s an article of faith among Metro Board Members and many in the media that ballot measures need to have freeway funding to pass, but most of the opposition to Measure J was because not enough was being spent on transit projects and operations. In the San Gabriel Valley politicians were clambering for more funds for the Gold Line.

In South L.A., they wanted more money for the Crenshaw Line. In the San Fernando Valley they wondered why support a transit tax after the Orange Line was built. In the San Gabriel Valley the No on 710 Coalition was fighting funds for the Big Dig. There was no opposition arguing for an 11th lane for the I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass or a new carpool lane on the I-10. The only opposition to Measure J that is also opposed to a transit project and used that as a reason to fight Measure J was the Beverly Hills Unified School District, and they maintain they would support the project if there were a route that did not go under Beverly Hills High School.

Some proponents look at the nearly 65% of voters that voted for Measure J as a moral victory. After all, Proposition 30 barely received 50% of the vote and is widely being touted as proof that Californians support public education. If the voter threshold were lower, even down to what passes as a “Super Majority” in legislative houses at 60%, we would be writing a different piece today.

In the coming weeks, armchair quarterbacks will doubtless attack the Yes on J Campaign and the text of the Measure itself. Most of the criticisms of the Yes on J campaign is speculation at this point as we don’t know how their millions of dollars were spent outside of the paid media campaign. Given the huge funding advantage the Yes on J campaign had, it out fundraised the opposition campaign by $2,000,000 to $5,000 in the most recent campaign filings, many expected the Yes campaign to be more visible.

One example of the Campaign’s failure is that the difference between a “sales tax extension” and a “sales tax increase” was lost on many people. For example, when NBC 4 held a forum on Measure J on its Sunday morning talk show, neither the host nor the Measure J proponent, a representative from the Chamber of Commerce corrected the Measure J opponent who called Measure J a “new tax.” In fact, the host actually began repeating the incorrect claim.

Depending on who you talk to, the language of Measure J either went too far or not far enough.

Fiscal conservatives railed against Measure J because it extended the sales tax until 2069 or “until my children are receiving social security” as one Mother of grade-school aged children posted on Facebook. Conversely many opponents were angry the new tax didn’t actually fund anything new. While the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Los Angeles Walks both backed the measure, some on social media grumbled that the tax extension didn’t actually guarantee new funds for bicycle or pedestrian projects. We’ve already discussed the opposition by some in South L.A. because the Crenshaw Line as approved by the Metro Board runs at-grade for a certain stretch and does not have a “Leimert Park Station.”

Of course, there might not be any lesson to be learned at all as far as transit and L.A. County voter opinion is concerned.

In 2008, 3,001,783 were cast in the Measure R vote. This year, only 2,112,667 did.  It could well be that there was nothing the pro-Measure J forces could do without bigger ticket races drawing in casual voters as they did four years ago.

Villaraigosa Ties Measure J Loss To Voter Confusion, Preoccupied Unions


 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa blamed the likely loss of a ballot measure he helped oversee to speed up the construction of L.A. County transportation projects on voters incorrectly seeing the proposal as a sales tax increase.

In fact, Measure J sought to extend an existing L.A County sales tax surcharge for 30 more years, to 2069. Cautioning that he wasn't a pundit and that an analysis of election results wasn't complete, the mayor said voter confusion might have been an issue. He also brushed aside the notion that Measure J suffered as he diverted focus to Barack Obama's campaign. The mayor served as one of Obama's re-election campaign's co-chairs and was in swing states in the days leading up to the election.

Measure J needs 67 percent support to pass. With only provisional ballots and late vote-by-mail ballots left to be counted, support sat at 65 percent.

"I'm hopeful," Villaraigosa said about the uncounted ballots. "But this isn't my first election. I'm realistic."

Villaraigosa and other public transit advocates in L.A. designed Measure J to allow the county's transit agency to borrow more money over the next few years to start constructing more than a dozen projects authorized by voters through Measure R in 2008. Measure R just crossed the 67 percent barrier.

"We are going back to the toolbox," Villaraigosa said. He called Measure J a "plan D" after he failed during the past three years to get a divided Congress on board to support other transportation financing solutions.

"We have some very innovative ideas to accelerate public transit projects in the state," he said. "Like me, my staff is daring and unconventional."

 The Measure J campaign also saw about $1 million fewer in campaign contributions to pay for TV ads than the Measure R campaign four years ago. The mayor said unions, a key supporter of public transit projects, were preoccupied with their successful quest to defeat Proposition 32. The Los Angeles County Transportation Authority also devoted fewer resources.

Effort to Speed Up LA's Transit, Freeway Projects Narrowly Fails





The county ballot initiative known as Measure J, which would've extended the Measure R transit and freeway tax for at least 30 years, failed to get the necessary two-thirds approval for a win, receiving a yes from 64.72 percent of the electorate, The Source reports. If it had passed, Metro planned to sell bonds against the anticipated tax monies and open projects like the Purple Line subway extension and a rail link to LAX much earlier than anticipated. Like any tax increase in California, Measure J needed a supermajority to pass--never easy--but unlike 2008's Measure R, its sequel caught the ire of groups around the county. People from Beverly Hills, furious over the Purple Line going under their high school, campaigned against it, as did South LA residents and activists like Damien Goodmon, who are upset the Crenshaw Line will be built partially at street-level and that a station in Leimert Park Village remains optional. Meanwhile, some in the San Gabriel Valley were upset that Measure J wouldn't fund a Gold Line extension into Claremont (the line is currently being built out to Azusa), while others near Pasadena feared the money would enable an extension of the 710 Freeway.

The pre-Measure J timeline for Measure R projects is now our reality. One positive note is that with a Democratic president, the feds may be amenable to showing us a little love (with money) for some of these projects. Mayor Villaraigosa's plan to use low-interest federal loans to pay for transit projects was also included in the last transportation bill.

But the pace of these projects does remain frustrating. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Business Journal (sub. req.), David C. Murphy of Angelenos Against Gridlock, lamented how long infrastructure takes to build in southern California: "We need to speed up planning and project review; increase manpower for construction; and address delays caused by utility companies, other agencies, and lawsuit-abusing third parties." Murphy's words ring true for two huge LA transportation projects--the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and the Expo Line light rail to Santa Monica--which are both dodging a million bullets to stay on time.
· Measure J unofficial results [The Source]

Measure J Fails: Transportation Sales Tax Extension Fails To Get Necessary Voter Support 


 Measure J, the proposed 30-year extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax in LA County, failed to receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass Tuesday.

The tax extension earned 64.72 percent of the vote, two points shy of what was needed to pass. However, the Registrar's Office was still receiving provisional ballots as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, and an official tally will not be available until about 3 p.m.

Measure J would have accelerated the completion of the subway to LAX and of the 'Subway to the Sea', as well as other transit projects, according to Metro.

“There is quite literally nothing on the ballot that will improve Los Angeles more dramatically and faster than voting for Measure J,” Measure J Campaign Director Matt Szabo, said to the City News Wire. “At a time when unemployment in the county is up above 10 percent, this measure will create 250,000 jobs in next decade.”

However, the measure was met with strong opposition from the Bus Riders Union, which says that the Metro is prioritizing expensive subway extensions for businesses and middle- and upper-class Angelenos while ignoring Angelenos who depend on the bus every day for transit.
Szabo disputed the claim, saying 20 percent of Measure J revenue — or about $18 billion — would have gone towards buses. “This will be the biggest shot in the arm for a first-class bus system we could possible provide,” he told City News.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District also opposed the measure because the westside subway extension would involve a tunnel underneath Beverly Hills High School, which would interfere with the district's renovation plans. The school district has sued to block the subway extension.

L.A. County Transit Tax Measure Too Close to Call



No on Measure J Facebook Page

Posted by Charles E. Miller on the Facebook page

We created this Facebook page so the Metro Authority would recognize they are an organization in service to the public, and not above it.

We will demand clear communication, full transparency and hold them accountable for bringing us value for our transit system to serve those that rely on it.

Metro's patronizing attitude just cost them $90B so perhaps this experience will give them a moment to reflect on a different approach.

Thank you, everyone for all you did in opposition to Measure J.

Each of you made the difference!

Posted by Weston DeWalt on No on Measure J Facebook page

Voters in Pasadena on Measure J: 3,489 (Yes) - 1,900 (No) - 64.7% (Yes)
Alhambra: 2,992 (Yes) - 1,278 (No) - 70.1% (Yes)
San Marino: 1,953 (Yes) - 2,060 (No) - 48.7% (Yes)
South Pasadena: 5,250 (Yes) - 3,124 (No) - 62.7% (Yes)

Measure J fails to pass


The measure to extend the transit sales tax beyond our lifetimes in order to pay for projects now got almost 65 percent of the vote, but needed 66.67 percent. LA County Democratic Party chair Eric Bauman blamed the loss on "the special interests and conservative forces."

Also uncertain early this morning was Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure for education. It ended up passing easily, with 54 percent of the vote. Polling near the end of the campaign had shown it with support under 50 percent. Mark Lacter looks at how it came back at

The No on Measure J campaign

Posted by Gretchen Knudsen on No on Measure J Facebook page
The No on Measure J campaign can now be called "The Little Campaign that Could." Absolutely astounding that concerned citizens banded together to defeat a multimillion dollar back measure! I realize Gloria posted quote a few weeks ago, but it seems particularly fitting today.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only think that ever has."- Margaret Mead

Measure J, L.A. County transportation tax extension, fails


 Measure J, the proposed 30-year extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax in Los Angeles County, failed to receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass during Tuesday's election, falling short by about 2 percentage points.

With 100% of precincts reporting, support for Measure J reached 64.72% while those opposed tallied 35.28%, according to the county's registrar-recorder.

"I think this clearly for us was about trying to show from the community that we were not going to give a vote of confidence to (the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and obviously MTA could not pass the [two-thirds] threshold," said Sunyoung Yang of the Bus Riders Union, a group that strongly opposed Measure J.

"We're very happy about it," Yang said. "We had pretty much a grass-roots guerrilla campaign where we had to compete to get into the media and on the radio waves. ... We had to generate a lot of events and media, as well as phone banking."
While the Yes on Measure J effort raised millions in campaign contributions, the groups opposing it raised only a fraction of that.
Four years ago, county voters narrowly approved Measure R by a two-thirds majority, the original half-cent sales tax for transportation efforts that is projected to generate between $36 and $40 billion over 30 years.

Measure J would have extended that tax another 30 years, until 2069, and advocates said it would have allowed transportation officials to accelerate several transit projects by borrowing against future tax revenues.

Advocates also said Measure J would have helped stimulate the economy by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the near future.

But opponents, including Yang's bus union, said transportation officials would be accelerating those transit projects at the expense of many bus riders, who make up a much larger overall share of the system's users.

Before all the votes had been counted, Metro board member and Measure J supporter Richard Katz said Tuesday that lower voter turnout compared with 2008 could have hurt the effort.

"I'm sure the turnout this year will be less. If we fall short, turnout will have a lot to do with it," Katz said, who added that it was still remarkable that nearly 65% of voters in L.A. County supported the vision of Measure J, even if it didn't quite muster enough to pass.

— Ari Bloomekatz

Measure J Transit Tax Election Results: Mayor Villaraigosa's $45 Billion For Rail Falls Just Short of 2/3 Vote

 L.A. Measure J -- 4,993 of 4,993 precincts reporting (100%)
Transit Tax

Yes 1,367,35765%

No 745,31035%