By Joe Linton, April 28, 2015
Denny Zane speaks on Measure R2 at last week’s Move L.A. Conference.
There is a lot of discussion these days about a potential ballot measure for a new sales tax to fund transportation projects and programs for Los Angeles County. The non-profit Move L.A. has dubbed the future tax “Measure R2,” after the successful 2008 Measure R half-cent sales tax. Move L.A. first offered their “straw man” proposal on how to spend the money one year ago. More recently, they hosted forums in South L.A., the San Fernando Valley, and downtown L.A. to discuss potential future transportation funds and projects.
The ballot measure will not go before voters until next year’s presidential election in November, 2016. Coinciding with the presidential election likely means a higher voter turnout, which gives the tax a better chance of meeting the “super majority” two-thirds threshold it will need to pass. Even in a presidential election, however, the two-thirds needed will be difficult to achieve. For example, see Measure J, which, despite receiving a strong 64+ percent approval, still fell short of passing in 2012 by a narrow margin.
Even though the election will not take place until 2016, there is a lot happening right now to shape Measure R2. Metro compiled what are called “Mobility Matrices” [PDF] which are basically a massive laundry list of 2,300+ projects and programs. Just like Measure R, the matrices projects are not all trains, buses, and active transportation which Streetsblog readers tend to favor, but lots of freeways, road widening, goods movement, road widening, and more road-widening.
The list totals about $300 billion (where a Measure R2 might optimistically be projected to raise $90 billion) and will be analyzed and subsequently winnowed down to produce a proposed expenditure plan. The winnowing is, of course, a political process — the final project list needs to be geographically balanced enough to draw votes from all parts of the county.
One way to test that voter appeal is polling, which is currently underway at Metro, but has not been made public yet.
After the polling and horse-trading have shaped the expenditure plan, Metro staff will release a draft version, anticipated in June. The draft expenditure plan will be further shaped in committee, and approved by the Metro Board in late July.
From there, more polling and more politics will likely follow, with a final Metro board vote anticipated in June 2016.
There are lots of competing needs – maintenance and operations vs. shiny new projects, bus vs. rail, rail vs. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and whether any of the funding will be specifically designated for walking or bicycling. Measure R + Measure J totaled exactly zero percent set aside for active transportation, though some cities, notably Los Angeles, have used Measure R local return funding for bike and pedestrian projects.
It also remains to be seen how Metro Board Chair and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and incoming Metro CEO Phil Washington will make their marks on the process underway. Streetsblog will continue follow and report on Measure R2, including on the community groups campaigning to ensure that any measure achieves desired outcomes.
Below is Metro’s most recent “Potential Ballot Measure Schedule” from page 7 of this staff report handout [PDF].
General Public Polling Results – Mid-April 2015
COG Executive Directors Meeting – Mid-April 2015
COG Project/Program Priorities – Due May 22, 2015
Non-COG Stakeholder Input on Project/Programs – Due Early June 2015
COG Executive Directors Meeting – Mid-June 2015
Special Board Staff Meeting – 1st week of July 2015
COG Executive Directors Meeting – 1st week of July 2015
Expenditure Plan Framework Considered in Committee – July 16, 2015
Metro Board Meeting to Consider the Expenditure Plan – July 24, 2015
Post-Expenditure Plan Framework Analytical Work – August through March 2016
Metro Hosted Community Outreach Workshops – September through October 2015
Stakeholder Briefings on Analytical Work – April 2016
Metro Board Briefing: Update Polling and Ordinance – May 2016
Metro Board Considers Final Ordinance and Go/No Go – June 2016
Final Due Dates for November 2016 Ballot – July 2016