By Beth Cone Kramer, August 8, 2016
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Just when you thought the November ballot was
splitting at the seams with volumes of initiatives and measures, the
Board of Supervisors has stuffed in another, agreeing unanimously last
week to add the MTA’s proposal, asking county voters to approve a
half-cent sales tax increase that would continue indefinitely to
bankroll a major expansion of SoCal’s transit network.
Back in June, MTA directors greenlighted the “Los Angeles County
Traffic Improvement Plan,” which would add at least $860 million a year
to expand the county’s rail network through the San Fernando Valley, San
Gabriel Valley, and the Sepulveda Pass. The funding isn’t limited to
rail; the proceeds from the tax would fully or partially fund ten new
highway projects, which would include a State Route 71 expansion and a
new carpool-lane interchange between the 405 and 110.
What does this mean to your wallet? The county’s base sales rate
would be pushed to 9.5 percent and 10 percent in cities like Santa
Monica and Commerce. Ouch. And if that isn’t enough to break a sweat,
the half-cent tax would double to one-cent in 2039 to replace revenue
lost when Measure R expires. That one-cent increase would also continue
We all know that the traffic jams, Sig Alerts, and smog in these
parts are among the worst in the country, especially on that parking lot
otherwise known as the 101/405 interchange. Though the measure seems to
have support from labor groups and municipalities, Supervisor Don Knabe
expressed concern about what is now the third tax to fund Metro that does not have an expiration date.
If the measure is approved, Metro will get two cents on every dollar
spent in LA County, a mighty steep allowance. However, the measure faces
some uphill battles, including a ballot already jammed with a tax
initiative and a two-thirds pass threshold. Other taxes on the ballot
for county voters include a parcel tax for parks and a community college
bond measure; LA City voters will be voting on a $1.2 billion bond
measure to fund housing for the homeless.
Giving any entity unlimited access to our credit and debit
cards for eternity is always a dicey move but add in the fact that the
MTA doesn’t appear to be doing a bang-up job with what’s already in the
coffers just further raises our eyebrows.
Getting Angelenos to ditch the Prius for a ride on the Metro
is a challenge. Two months after the Westside light rail extension,
riders have been waiting for hours for a train because the MTA doesn’t
have enough rail cars to accommodate the Expo Line’s ridership, due to a
year-long delay in acquiring additional cars. As it stands, rail cars
don’t have adequate space for bikes, wheelchairs, sometimes even
passengers during peak hours. Waiting twelve-minutes for the next train
doesn’t make riding the Metro more of a draw to commuters who are on a
Westsiders have been turning to the Metro during the week; trips have
increased by half since the trains began running in Santa Monica but
logistical issues have not allowed the Metro to keep up with demand for
Back in 2008, LA County voters approved a half-cent sales tax
increase to fund almost thirty miles of light rail tracks and rail cars;
the first fifty from Italian company Ansaldo/Breda came in years behind
schedule and overweight by almost three tons. The MTA deal with the
company collapsed and the transit authority was left scrambling for a
replacement, this time giving a $900 million contract to Japanese-based
Kinkisharyo International back in 2012 for 235 new cars. Kinkisharyo
delivered the first silver and yellow cars expediently but tests are
taking longer than planned. Of the 41 cars delivered, 13 still need to
be tested. While the goal is to run trains every six minutes by year’s
end and three-car trains by 2017-2018, platform length limits trains
greater than three cars, which means not everyone will get a seat.
The challenge of continuing to encourage commuters to trade in their
gas cards for a Metro Card and to attract new riders needs to be
balanced with the blank check sales tax proposal put up by the MTA. If
the MTA is not up to the challenge as of yet, handing over the checkbook
does not seem like a prudent plan.
Metro in trouble.
Lousy planning. New Westside extension short on train cars. Riders
left standing at stations for hours because trains are jammed.
Our question is, if they can't -- with years to do it -- manage to
prepare for the extension, then why should we trust them to handle the
new sales tax they're asking for?
Obviously, they're not ready for growth. So why would people give up their cars to stand in line for hours waiting for a train?