By Steve Scauzillo, September 5, 2014
Justin Beck, of Pasadena, reads while waiting for the westbound Metro
Gold Line at Lake Station in Pasadena Tuesday morning, April 26, 2011.
Metro officials say 3,000 more people per day rode the Gold Line this
March as compared to March 2010, a 10 percent increase as gas prices
topped $4 a gallon in Los Angeles County.
Southern California leaders are anticipating a $2 billion windfall in
transportation dollars from the state’s expanding cap-and-trade program
that could be used for building more pay lanes or funding the county’s
growing bus and rail system.
As dollars from the gasoline tax
drop, transportation planners will turn to polluters — including oil
companies — who will begin to pay into the state’s cap-and-trade program
in 2015 set up in a market-based exchange.
The program was part
of the state’s AB 32 laws passed in 2006 to substantially reduce
greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
State officials predict the cap-and-trade fund will grow from
about $1 billion to $5 billion next year, when oil companies begin to
pay for carbon emissions. Of that, about 40 percent would flow to
transportation for everything from a rail line into LAX, to light-rail
across the foothills to Claremont to pay lanes on the 105, 134, 5 and
“This is huge,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive
director of the Southern California Association of Governments. “This is
the only new source of transportation funding we have.” Ikhrata was
part of 1,000 leaders from seven Southern California counties who came
here Friday to discuss transportation solutions as part of an annual
Mobility 21 Summit.
“Traffic doesn’t care about borders, so we need to work together
as a region to expand our transportation options and help people get
around more easily,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a guest
“The regional approach is the only way for us to move
forward. Traffic has never been worse. It is probably the No. 1 concern
for all of our constituents,” said Garcetti.
The group calls
Southern California one of the most congested regions in the country.
Motorists driving in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Orange County region
waste 502 million hours each year in traffic in total, or about 61 hours
per year per automobile commuter. Drivers in the Inland Empire waste 51
million hours per year or 38 hours per automobile commuter, according
to the Mobility 21 group.
To address basic needs, Southern California needs $26.6 billion to
repair state highways, $44.3 billion for streets and $1.8 billion for
local bridge work in the next 10 years, the group estimated.
Garcetti was asked what projects Los Angeles would apply for under new
cap and trade transportation funds, he answered: “It should not just be
for capital projects. I would hope it is also for operational costs.”
who is also chairman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan
Transportation Authority known as Metro, was referring to the giant
agency’s $36 million operating deficit. Although the board voted to
raise fares effective Sept. 15, it won’t be enough to lift the agency
out of the red. Some have suggested raising fares again in 2015 or 2016.
“I want to keep those fares down,” he said.
percent of cap-and-trade funds will be reserved for transportation,
including 25 percent for the California high-speed rail project. The
remainder can be spent on local transportation projects and 5 percent
can go toward ongoing transit operations, said Brian Kelly, secretary of
the California State Transportation Agency, a luncheon speaker.
monies — about $216 million — has been allotted for bicycle and
pedestrian projects throughout the state, he said. Of the 148 projects
funded, 82 of them were in Southern California, Kelly said.
Cap and trade remains controversial because it could translate
into higher gasoline prices, many speakers said Friday. Another perhaps
more touchy potential revenue source is a mileage-based tax on
motorists, something Kelly said the state is exploring.
“We need a long-term funding source for California to meet our demands,” he said.