In advance of the 900-person Mobility 21 Summit next week, we asked M21 executive director Marnie O’Brien Primmer to speak to us about transportation and traffic in Southern California. The Summit is a gathering of Southern California leaders who meet annually to create solutions to our mobility problems. Primmer’s responses follow.
Though most transit riders have not heard of Marnie O’Brien Primmer, she is among the folks on the front line, working with legislators in Washington and Sacramento to keep Southern California transportation issues at the forefront of legislative and fiscal consideration.
Primmer is executive director of Mobility 21, a below-the-horizon group of transportation providers, elected officials and local business leaders that work as a team to determine key issues and keep them on the radar of lawmakers and the public. Founded in 2002 by Metro and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California, Mobility 21 has grown during the past 10 years to represent seven counties: L.A., Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.
Primmer was appointed executive director in July 2008 and brings with her experience in public affairs and transportation infrastructure planning and development. As a part of her responsibilities, she coordinates the annual Mobility 21 Summit, California’s largest single day transportation conference. This year’s summit will be next Tuesday, Sept. 6 at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.
How is Mobility 21 making a difference and what do you see as the priority issue facing Southern California today?
Mobility 21’s strength is bringing together the public and private sectors, with their diverse interests and priorities, and unifying them so that they speak with one voice in the fight for smart investments in Southern California’s transportation system. I think at the end of the day we all want to spend less time in traffic or waiting for a bus and get home to our families sooner.
A strong long-term federal transportation bill that includes adequate funding for transit, highway and goods movement infrastructure tops our priority list. We also strongly support efforts like America Fast Forward and Breaking Down Barriers that are designed to provide much needed flexibility from the state and federal governments to expedite project delivery and give Southern California the ability to leverage the local sales tax dollars our voters have approved for transportation.
What huge transportation challenge should be getting a lot of public attention but isn’t?
The 18-cent federal gas tax you have been paying since 1993 to fund transportation improvements is set to expire Sept. 30, 2011. I think most people think higher gas prices translate to more taxes, but that’s not true. It’s a flat tax, and it hasn’t been modified since big hair, acid wash jeans and “grunge rock” were hip.
The federal gas tax is the primary source for transportation funding California receives from Washington, D.C. Without it, there is no Federal Highway Trust Fund to supplement increasingly scarce state and local dollars for traffic relief. California state law will partially supplement these lost transportation funding dollars by increasing the state gas tax by up to 9.3 cents, but there is no guarantee the increased state tax would be used to fund much-needed transportation system improvements and not get siphoned off to pay for general fund relief.
What are three things everyone in Southern California can do to help ease traffic?
1) Join Mobility 21’s action alert e-list at mobility21.com. We notify our members when their voice is urgently needed for transportation. It takes less than a minute for you to make a difference.
2) Speak Up for Transportation. Let your legislators know that transportation matters. Lawmakers want to represent their constituents and if they don’t hear from us, transportation won’t see the investment it deserves. Check out the Take Action tab on our website for a sample phone call script.
3) Start the conversation. If you’re reading this we know you already care about improving mobility in Southern California. Take the next step and get your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to think about making it easier to move around the region.