By Damien Newton, October 30, 2013
Projects such as Carson's bike plans may be funded by ExpressLanes.
When Metro first proposed converting HOV Lanes to congestion pricing lanes where drivers could choose to pay cash for a congestion free trip, some politicians and news paper columnists were outraged. Some where so outraged at the “Lexus Lanes” they worked tirelessly to get them moved somewhere else. Others were so outraged they wrote research-free opinion columns standing up for all of the poor people that wouldn’t be able to buy in to the toll lanes every day.
Those people were nowhere to be found last week when the Metro Board of Directors advised staff to allocate roughly 40% of toll funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects, injecting literally millions of dollars into the systems surrounding the ExpressLanes on the I-10 and I-110.
“Bike paths and walkways are important components of the ExpressLanes project, and the communities along the Harbor and Santa Monica Freeways—where the pilot project is in place– will see the benefits of the projected $16 million to $19 million in revenue,” writes County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The guidelines for reinvesting these funds take a holistic view of transit.”
After the federal government granted enough funds to Metro to dramatically increase bus service along the freeway corridors impacted by ExpressLanes, the program now has direct benefits for the car-free and transit dependent. Some of whom have even less fiscal means than the car owners being defended by hysterical politicians and out-of-touch newspaper columnists.
And the representatives of the areas that are seeing the benefits of ExpressLanes are ecstatic.
“It’s wonderful to see Metro invest toll revenue in local communities,” writes Lauren Grabowski, the HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Project Manager for Connecting Carson, the City of Carson’s Active Transportation Plan.
“Carson City Council has already approved of a bike plan which identifies projects that can connect Carson residents and workers to two I-110 Express stations, Carson Station and the Harbor Gateway Transit Center. But finding funding is always a challenge. Developing these projects will encourage people to use the Metro Express Buses on the I-110 as well promote community healthy through increased physical activity and cleaner air. It’s a win-win.”
Carson City is located just on the I-110 Corridor. Similar enthusiasm can be found along the I-10 ExpressLanes corridor.
“Although the San Gabriel Valley is in the midst of developing a regional bicycle master plan, funding for projects is always an issue,” writes Javier Hernandez, with the advocacy group Bike SGV. “The Congestion Reduction Demonstration has exceeded expectations to generate a local funding source for such projects. BikeSGV is extremely excited about this opportunity to fund projects that will improve current biking and walking conditions sooner than later.”
Grabowski and Hernandez were two of a team of advocates who testified at last week’s Metro Board Meeting that included Eric Bruins from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Hilary Norton with Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic, Tafarai Bayne with Trust South L.A., and Andres Ramirez with Community Health Councils. One of the leaders of the effort was Jessica Meaney with the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership who is also well known as a steering committee member for Los Angeles Walks.
“We’re excited to see Metro’s sustainability planning policy applied to investment decisions,” Meaney explains.
“With only 1% of all Metro’s funding currently going to walking and bicycling investments in LA County which represent over 20% of the trips, this is promising finance policy step forward, and helps start conversations and policy links to Metro’s forthcoming Countywide Complete Street Policy which will come before the Board in early 2014.”