30/10 for America

Over the past year, Metro’s 30/10 Initiative has gained traction locally and in Washington. There seems to be sentiment in many quarters — including the Obama Administration — that using federal loans and other financing to accelerate construction of Measure R projects is a good idea that should be enshrined in federal law.

At the same time, the political reality — according to politicians and the media — is that we will be facing a fiscally constrained government in Washington for some time because of the federal deficit.

That doesn’t necessarily jeopardize 30/10. Part of the plan’s ingenuity is that it’s not your typical federal handout to one metro area. A 30/10 federal program could be structured to help any city or metro area that has dedicated local taxes for transit projects and can pay back the federal government.


Photo of Light Rail in Denver via Flickr user ercwttmn.

In the last decade, numerous communities have invested heavily in mass transit. And like L.A. County, many have taken matters into their own hands, voting to tax themselves or issue market-rate bonds to pay for these investments. Phoenix and Denver did it in 2004, as did Honolulu in 2007. The Center for Transportation Excellence has a complete list of cities here. With a 30/10-style hand-up, they too could realize their transit visions sooner, rather than later.

All of this will depend on creating such a program in the next multi-year federal transportation spending bill, which seems likely to be debated by Congress this year.

One of the challenges of the 30/10 Initiative is persuading other regions to help convince Congress that it’s not just a plan designed to help Los Angeles County. In the coming weeks our goal at The Source is to write about other regions that could potentially take advantage of a 30/10 plan.

The idea is simple: If we can show that Los Angeles County’s interests dovetail with those of Honolulu and Denver and Minneapolis — and many others — then we can make an even stronger case to Washington. We can show the Feds that embracing innovative financing reforms – e.g. creating an infrastructure bank and expanding Build America Bonds for rapid transit – will be a windfall for all Americans in terms of their mobility and having nicer places to live and work.

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