By Dana Bartholomew, September 27, 2015
When voters across Los Angeles County approved a half-cent sales tax
seven years ago to ease traffic gridlock, the San Fernando Valley lost
out to a lion’s share of new rail stops.
Score: Greater Los Angeles south and east of the Santa Monica Mountains, 78. The San Fernando Valley, 2.
why Valley elected and business leaders are calling for a greater share
of transportation fixes from a proposed extension of the Measure R tax
and a fairer stake in a tandem transit tax proposal known as Measure R2.
If both half-cent sales taxes make the November 2016 ballot, they could
inject $121 billion for new people-moving projects for decades.
“We’re not getting an adequate level of service,” declared state
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, co-host of a Valley transportation
summit next month. “I want to make sure that the people in the Valley
are taken care of, because that’s my job.”
The public drumbeat for more voter-approved transit money began early this year when mass transit boosters held a rally at the Van Nuys Civic Center to appeal to Valley voters for another tax.
win their support, they are having to address a shortcoming of bond
Measure R, a 30-year half-cent sales tax that narrowly passed in 2008.
Of its $52.4 billion in current Measure R budgeted
projects, according to Metro, the Valley share was $2.5 billion — or 5
percent, while the Valley residents make up 15 percent of the county’s
population and an estimated 23 percent of its tax base. And while nearly
half of Los Angeles residents live within a quarter-mile of a regular
bus stop, only 20 percent of Valley residents do.
So when it comes
to a proposed 1 cent sales tax for transportation upgrades, Valley
leaders hope to see some serious local fixes.
“The return has been small” of the current tax, said former
Assemblyman Richard Katz, the newly appointed chairman of the Valley
Economic Alliance, which with Hertzberg and the Valley Industry and
Commerce Association will co-host the Valley transportation summit on
Oct. 26 at Valley Presbyterian Hospital. “(We) are trying to make sure
that this never happens again.”
For a new sales tax to pass, he said: “You’d need the support of the Valley, or this measure will not happen.”
Measure R2 is given the green light for the ballot box by the Los
Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, it may
generate $75 billion over the course of 40 years. A renewal of the
current transit tax could bring in another $46 billion in transit
Half the combined $121 billion would be distributed to the
region’s 88 cities for local transportation needs according to a formula
based on local populations and jobs, Metro officials say. The other
half would be dealt out to nine subregions, including the Valley, based
on a limited list of transportation priorities submitted by nine local
councils of government.
Earlier this month, the San
Fernando Valley Council of Governments submitted three transportation
proposals to now cost $3.4 billion, which with inflation could cost $8.7
billion years down the road upon completion.
The plan, hatched in conjunction with a Valley on Track coalition
launched by VICA, all include rail tracks and could end up costing far
• A light rail system to replace a slow and crowded Orange
Line bus way. Cost, said Katz, a rail transportation expert: $1.5
• A light rail system along a so-called East San Fernando
Valley Corridor, a 9.2-mile link down Van Nuys Boulevard from the
Sylmar Metrolink station to the Orange Line. Cost: $2 billion, or $450
million if employing bus rapid transit.
• A light rail train tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, to run 9
miles from the Orange Line to UCLA in Westwood. Designed to take traffic
off the notoriously jammed 405 freeway, it could be combined (and
partially paid for) with car toll lanes. Cost: $6 billion to $8 billion,
or $1 billion for bus rapid transit.
officials say the Valley Council of Governments projects, as submitted,
come to 15 percent of available Measure R project funds. The Metro board
is expected to decide the criteria for the sales tax measure on Oct.
22, then review the projects and fine tune them over many months. Public
hearings could take place next spring.
If approved, the dual Measure R extension and Measure R2 half
cent sales taxes would be submitted in July 2016 for a vote during the
November presidential election. A two-thirds majority vote is needed to
“Everybody is very enthusiastic about this,” said Pauletta
Tonilas, head spokeswoman for Metro, which serves nearly 10 million
residents across more than 1,400 square miles. “People are engaged.
We’ll go back to the (councils of government), as we go forward, to
continue to share information and have a dialogue.”
Critics of the sales tax measures say when to build
the proposed transit projects is almost as important as their initial
funding. If a rail project is planned for the third decade, for
instance, it may get superseded by inflation and other projects. And
that’s what happened to the Sepulveda tunnel planned for Measure R,
which is now in doldrums.
They also say nearly 150 Valley transit
projects proposed for Measure R2 were left off the table — from rapid
bus lines, to rail links to Bob Hope Airport — with the three proposed
rail projects gobbling up most of the funds.
The Orange Line could first be speeded up by building
grade-separate crossings, Katz said, that might cost $300 million and
prepare the way for light rail.
And while the proposed Measure R2
rail projects would do much to shuttle students to UCLA, they would do
nothing to ferry students to Cal State Northridge, which now serves
nearly 50,000 students and faculty without a nearby rail stop.
do we make transportation options (work) for students across the San
Fernando Valley,” Katz said. “That has to be part of the plan.”