Update: Metro continues to explore 2016 ballot measure

As many of you know, Metro is updating its long-range plan and has been exploring the possibility of a ballot measure in November 2016 to raise more money for transportation projects and services in Los Angeles County. Before this post goes any further, I want to make it abundantly clear that no decision has been made yet about going forward with a ballot measure.

That said, Metro has been looking into the possibility of a new half-cent sales tax and/or the possibility of extending Measure R beyond its expiration date in 2039. The proposals are designed to raise enough money to deliver major projects and provide funds for projects involving transit, highways, local streets, walking and biking and other transportation improvements.

Part of the ongoing planning has also involved asking the 88 cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County to prioritize transportation projects that they want funded. In response, the nine Council of Governments (COGs) that represent cities and unincorporated areas in the county submitted an initial list of about 2,300 projects. That number is indicative of the great need for transportation improvements in the county.

In addition, Metro conducted a general public survey of county residents to determine if a new ballot measure has a chance of getting the two-thirds approval necessary to pass. That’s a big consideration. Ballot measures take time, effort and money. There’s not much point in pursuing something that has slim chances of passing.

The survey results were cautiously optimistic with more than two-thirds of those interviewed saying they would support a ballot measure with a new tax and a possible extension of Measure R.

The survey also involved asking respondents about particular projects, some of which are already in Metro’s long-range plan. This doesn’t mean that any particular project or service will be in an updated long-range plan or ballot measure. That will be determined later. The survey was done to provide some initial feedback for Metro’s potential long-range plan update.

Yes, I’m using a lot of conditional language. The reason I’m tip-toeing: the decisions to update the long-range plan and to go forward on a ballot measure will ultimately be made by the 13 members of the Metro Board of Directors, the elected officials and their appointees who have the final say on decisions involving Metro.

To this point, the Board has been supportive of studying the long-range plan update and ballot measure. That’s not the same as actually pulling the trigger on it. Ballot measures, in particular, are always challenging with their fate often tied to voter turnout, the economy, local politics, voter perception of Metro and other variables.

Metro still must perform a considerable amount of outreach to the COGs and other stakeholders about the potential ballot measure and what could be in it. Metro is also pursuing state legislation that would allow the agency to put a ballot measure before voters next year.

Here are the documents Metro sent to the COGs and Board staff last week:

13 replies

  1. It seems to me at least that an extension of Measure R money would be more appropriate on the ballot rather than asking for a new sales tax.

  2. When is Metro going to start paying attention to the North San Fernando Valley? When is the Orange Line going to be extended to Porter Ranch and Granada Hills?

  3. Why would a ballot measure for Metro cost a lot of money? Ballots have to be distributed every 2 years anyway to elect Congress and to elect either the president or the governor. Printing a few more lines on the sample ballot for a Metro bond issue should not be that much of an expense.

    • It’s not like “ok we decided to go with it, put it on the ballot and we’re done.”

      More time and money has to be spent exploratory committees, meetings, discussions, getting endorsements from groups, hiring poll workers, asking for volunteers, putting up ads to support the ballot all have to come from somewhere. And since Metro is a government agency, that money comes from taxpayers. It’s like basically using our own tax money to put convince our ourselves to put more taxes towards ourselves.

      The money for a ballot initiative can cost upwards of millions of dollars, one which is a large amount of money to a cash strapped agency like Metro, in which there is a risk that it may not pass (like the previous Measure R2 ballot).

      IMO, the same millions that are going to be spent on a ballot initiative can be better spent elsewhere than this. They can use the same amount of money to convert free parking to paid parking or look towards adding retail space to stations. That’s a more wise use of our money instead of using it on a ballot measure that can just end up being wasted money if it doesn’t pass.

  4. When are we going to get relief from the 24/7 grid lock from the Westside into Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood and Silverlake? Governor Brown killed the planned and soon to be built Highway 2 Freeway that was the basis for the massive development on the Westside including Century City.

  5. Disappointing that so many people still seem to think that widening freeways will “reduce congestion.” Wasn’t the 405 Sepulveda Pass project the definitive nail in that coffin?

  6. Why should I say yes to something when Metro hasn’t tried alternative ideas to raise revenue on their own?

    It’s like Metro is addicted to being dependent on taxpayers. Go make your own money. Start posting more revenue by getting rid of free parking, curbing fare evasion, adding retail to stations, and moving to a more profitable distance based fare system.

  7. The whole thing is a political farce and a waste of taxpayer resources if you ask me.

    The only reason Metro wants to try again is because Measure J failed by a very narrow margin back in 2012 and they’re thinking that in 2016, since it’s a Presidential election, more people will be voting therefore they might have a second chance at it.

    Good luck, it seems voters are getting tired of taxes under Obama, and increasing number of people are looking toward libertarian leaning GOP candidates such as Rand Paul and Ted Cruz next year. It seems polls for Hillary are slipping and Rand Paul are winning swing states as of today:

    http://news.yahoo.com/rand-paul-clinton-down-2016-presidential-poll-133940057.html
    http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/09/politics/2016-elections-rand-paul-hillary-clinton-swing-states/

    They already wasted tax dollars on something that didn’t go through the last time around, so they want to waste more tax dollars in hopes that it might go through because there’s more voters voting next year? How much millions were wasted in getting this ballot proposal? How much are they risking again if it doesn’t fall through again? It seems that people here are tired of more taxes and would rather see it fit that Metro find alternative revenue sources instead.

    Well go right ahead, waste the money on another ballot. I’m voting no anyway when it comes up next year. Metro needs to learn a hard lesson that they can’t continue to be dependent on taxpayers forever to run their bureaucracy and that they should stand to learn how to run it like a business.

    Fails again once, if it fails again twice, there will not be a third time. May I suggest that if it fails again, that the next proposal will be not raising taxes, not raising fares, not cutting bus services, but cutting your own salary and pension benefits? Funny that option is never on the table.

    • I don’t think it’s a farce. I think it’s a matter of L.A. County and its cities and unincorporated areas having an extremely long list of transportation projects, from transit to active to highway. So it becomes a public policy decision about whether it’s worth taxing ourselves to build them sooner or wait and assemble the funds and likely build them later. A ballot measure is potentially a way to give voters a direct voice in that decision.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • As long as the MTA ignores where traffic is grid locked 24/7 and a light rail line would partially solve the problem I am voting no and will encourage others to do the same. Do we really need to expand or build lines meandering thru the suburbs while those in the central city sit in traffic for hours?