Transit advocacy group discusses Measure R extension

The activist group Move LA held its “L.A. on the Verge’ event at Union Station on Friday, with a big focus on transportation funding.

The group is headed by former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane, who clearly let the hundreds in attendance know his position: the Measure R sales tax increase that expires in 2039 should be extended by voters.

Such an extension could accomplish two things, according to Zane: 1) It could help accelerate the building of the 12 Measure R transit projects if Congress doesn’t fully adopt the America Fast Forward plan (and they’re not likely to), and; 2) It may help finance additional transit and highway projects beyond the original Measure R package approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Some of Metro’s key players were in attendance. It’s important to note that neither agency staff or any members of the Board of Directors have endorsed extending Measure R either this year or in the future. Here are a few key points that were made as part of a panel discussion on funding:

•Metro government relations staff said that the agency is currently crunching the numbers to see what a Measure R extension would be able to accomplish in terms of speeding up the building of transit projects. Those numbers will eventually be presented to the Metro Board of Directors. The basic concept is to borrow against future revenues.

•Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) explained the path his state bill would have to take, since that bill is necessary to get a Measure R extension on the ballot. If Metro pursues an extension this year, the bill will need two-thirds approval in the Legislature as an “urgency measure.” That’s never easy, considering the bill involves a tax and “tax” is never a popular word in an election year, even if it’s continuing a new tax and not a new one.

•Zane mentioned several projects that he would like to see funded by a Measure R extension, including the extension of the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Montclair, the Crenshaw Line north to a junction with the Red Line in Hollywood, pushing the Westside Subway Extension to Bundy and an extension of the still-to-be-defined Sepulveda Pass transit project all the way from the San Fernando Valley to LAX, among others.

As for those extra projects it’s important to stress that Metro does have a long-range plan that has a list of projects that are currently unfunded and are considered high priority beyond Measure R. Many of the projects that Zane mentioned are in the plan. A line from the Valley to LAX, however, is not.

Bottom line: At the end of the day, it’s up to the Metro Board of Directors and they are going to have to weigh many factors, including most notably how much Metro can borrow to accelerate the construction of transit projects.

14 thoughts on “Transit advocacy group discusses Measure R extension

  1. I’d be for an extension of Measure R, but only if the funds used from that extension are used to enhance more revenue earning opportunities for Metro in order to future proof ourselves from more tax hikes. And indefinite tax hikes during this poor economy is not the way to go.

    As it stands now, most of our stations are highly underutilized; they are full of dead empty spaces that could be put to better use. However there are no funds to build dedicated areas for convenience stores, coffee stalls and newspaper stands. The extension of Measure R funds can be used to convert existing stations to multi-modal use structures, which in turn, will provide a long term benefit of more increased revenue sources from increased tax revenue, profit sharing, and rental income.

    Many cities around the world make better use of stations as money makers so that agencies have an additional revenue source that they can tap into. Take a look at how Hong Kong is able to make their subway stations themselves as a center for business activity. It’s time LA Metro does the same.

    Why waste a good station just so people sit or stand there and do nothing? Those transit riders all are potential customers who could be buying books, newspapers, periodicals, coffee, sandwiches, bottled drinks, and even local gifts.

    Being business friendly will create more jobs and help the local economy. More sales mean more sales tax revenue. More amenities and services mean a more transit friendly environment. Additional revenue sources mean more available funds to use to hire station and janitorial staff, make constant improvements to stations and rail services, all without resorting to higher taxes.

  2. I’m all for extending Measure R. However, I do have a problem with some of the projects that could be funded. Purple line extension, Gold line extension and crenshaw/lax line are good options. I do think think their should be more of a focus in the southern and southeastern part of the county and how we can get projects going. Their also should be an emphasis on how ridership of the green line can increase and how to incorporated viable extension to line. (West Santa Ana Branch and Torrance extension)

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