Overview of Measure M projects and programs

One of the items on the Nov. 8 ballot in Los Angeles County is a half-cent sales tax ballot measure by Metro called the Los Angeles Country Traffic Improvement Plan (web page here). The ballot measure asks county voters to raise the countywide sales tax by a half-cent and to continue the existing Measure R half-cent sales tax in perpetuity or until voters decide to end the taxes.

Metro officials say the idea is to create a sustained funding stream for mobility projects crucial to the region’s mobility, economy and quality of life. Measure M would fund about 30 transit and road projects, as well as a number of programs: transit operations, State of Good Repair, freeway bottleneck improvements and freight movement projects.

Metro officials say that the plan was crafted in response to feedback from the public and elected officials, cities and stakeholders on an earlier draft for a 40-year ballot measure plan. The most frequently heard sentiment, said Metro officials: people wanted more from the spending plan.

Thus, Measure M would continue in perpetuity, like most laws and taxes approved by government. Of the three sales tax increases approved by L.A. County voters for Metro, two continue until voters decide to end them (Prop A and Prop C) whereas Measure R is currently set to expire in mid-2039.

The expenditure plan approved in June by the Metro Board by a vote of 11 to 2 is located at the bottom of this post. It’s an important document for voters, showing the timing of projects and programs to be funded by the plan. Some other things worth knowing for voters:

•The new ballot measure would add money to projects previously approved as part of Measure R in 2008. That would make it possible to build more expensive alternatives sought by stakeholders on some projects. For example, a bus lane project on Van Nuys Boulevard could potentially become rail under the new plan.

•The new funding plan would also be used to build projects faster than they would under the Measure R timeline. For example, the Purple Line subway extension to Westwood under Measure M is targeted for completion to Westwood by 2024-26 compared to 2036 under Measure R.

•Measure R in 2008 returned 15 percent of all funds collected to cities on a per capita basis. Measure M increases that amount to 17 percent from 2017 until 2040 when it increases to 20 percent. These ‘local return’ funds can be used by cities on their own local transportation projects — i.e. street repair, traffic signal synchronization, bike lanes, curb bumps, etc.

•The new plan also dedicates two percent of all funding for walking and biking projects (called ‘active transportation’ in the above document) that Metro would oversee or help fund. That’s in addition to any local return money cities spend on their own projects

The initial spending plan released in March was followed by 12 community meetings and 14 Telephone Town Halls organized by Metro; agency staff also attended and/or spoke at 84 other meetings with cities and stakeholders. In response to the initial plan, Metro received 1,567 written comments and 91 letters from elected officials, cities and other stakeholders.

Here are excerpts from Phil Washington’s media briefing in early June on the expenditure plan:



39 replies

  1. So how much of the proposed sales tax will ultimately end up in Metro pay checks, its pension fund, contractor and union bank accounts and the 710 toll tunnel to nowhere? Hello! We The People are are still in a recession those of us who are not otherwise riding the Metro, DPW, LA City, Alhambra, etc. gravy train. Until Metro finally lands on planet earth (What, a new freeway in the desert?!), the sales tax scheme will be DOA at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital as Jack “Sgt. Joe Friday” Webb would have said.

    • Show me where this is new funding in this measure for the 710 north and I will change my mind about the incoherency and ignorance of your “post”.

      • As Phil said at the media briefing today, there will be no funding whatsoever for the SR 710 North project in this ballot measure.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

        • I believe the new Metro budget calls for further study of the 710 North project–where will those funds come from or is this a slight-of-hand act? There are many without enough income and who are still in recession mode yet Metro wants to raise taxes on everyone–including for a new freeway in the desert! Regardless what Metro does with our money, this is not the time to raise taxes on the people, particularly the lower income riders that make up a big part of Metro’s community. As for addressing the name calling of citizens, it is pointless to answer such rubbish–that’s the duty of the moderator.

      • I like Phil Washington, he seems to be the kind of decent guy you’d want for a neighbor, but Phil is just one paycheck away from joining Art Leahy at Metrolink sort to speak. It is the Metro Board that makes 710 toll tunnel policy. And until the Board publicly repudiates the 710 toll tunnel project, I’m not buying into any 50 year sales tax jump. And beware, agencies have shifted funds to unpopular projects since before Washington had whiskers, I know, I did so under direction at the Parks Department. Metro might well fund “studies” on the 710 toll tunnel thru its Graphic Arts Dept. for all we know–who would look there? Raising the sales tax for decades is like giving carte blanche to politicians for decades, and Metro’s Board are all politicians. PS: I love and use public transit, but I like thrifty, transparent and democratic government more.

  2. OK, so the mode has not been determined on either the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor or the Sepulveda Pass Tunnel? GOOD. Keep it loose for now. My colleagues and I on the Panorama City Neighborhood Council will continue to push for the Light Rail option, and we have gone on record in favor of this option on the ESFV Transit Corridor. The ESFV Transit Corridor and the Sepulveda Pass Tunnel should be harmonious and interconnectable. We understand that BRT is popular with Metro because of diminished costs, but both of these projects will likely attract huge ridership along the lines of the Orange Line BRT, which maxed out capacity two years after launch. We want a future-proof solution to our mobility woes. We don’t want half-measures. As long as we keep things loose and do not shut the door on a rail option for these projects, I can’t see any reason to not whole-heartedly support the upcoming ballot measure.

  3. Metro has been delaying the East San Fernando EIR, and even with this new revised report, Metro will continue to delay. It’s now not scheduled to begin construction until 2021. This will be a no vote from me, and I hope from most people in the San Fernando Valley.

  4. I am wondering why there is not long term planning to take the Gold Line To Ontario Airport.

    • Hi Ernest;

      That’s up to San Bernardino County. Metro only covers L.A. County.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Voting no on this; first time in my many voting cycles to vote no on a “transit” bond. After experiencing the debacle that is the “Unicorn” Metro to Santa Monica. Never Again a transit measure that wastes money on light rail!

  6. Very excited to see this! Despite the conspiracy theorists who believe spending will go elsewhere, following this plan is a great starting point. We’ve dealt with too many deadly blows due to politics. Let’s approve this and get it started so everyone can get a piece of the pie! The subway pie!

  7. I have always thought highly of metro. In light of all the congestion and population growth i think this revised plan fits well. I am an urban development major and i have reviewed this plan and the new plan sounds better to finish key projects like the purple line phase 2-3 extension and the 96th street infill station for the airport connector sooner because those two projects in addition to the expo line phase 2 which just opened are the most important mass transit projects in the county right now. But we have to keep breaking ground on the projects and keep going because with the real estate boom and building boom in L.A right now and 2 million people going to move here in the next 30 years we honestly cant build fast enough so we really need to get together and pay the 24 dollars more in taxes a year for this so we can live to see this happen.

    • All on the Westside eh ? This is why the rest of the county will not support the measure. Two million people are expected to move to Nashville in the next 30 years. A much bigger impact than in a place as big as L.A. Maybe federal money should go there and to other cities that need it ?

  8. I see little mention on Automated Vehicle tech. Looking at project horizons of into the 2050’s I would hope to see Metro Light Rail and some buses to be driving themselves by that point. Savings on labor would open up loads of funds for additional capital, operations, and maintenance projects.

  9. Calling this a “Traffic Improvement Plan” may be the most effective way to sell this in the short run. In the long run though, I really worry that you are setting yourselves up for failure. LA needs better transit as a large, dense and growing global city. However, the notion that this will somehow lead to free-flowing freeway traffic during peak drive times is absurd. Only variable road pricing to match demand can do that (this would be relatively cheap but also controversial). To suggest anything else is not honest. If you set up the wrong expectations, the tax risks being judged a failure in the long run, even though it could produce a lot of real benefits.

    Also, this tax would take us into the post-2050 period, a time by which we are supposed to be not using fossil fuels in order to tackle climate change, yet the plan includes no specifics that I could discern on how to transition Metro’s massive bus fleet off of gas fuel. That’s a real problem if we’re going to be locking in these decisions for decades.

    • Exactly right! All we can predict for sure is that the tax will at least cover Metro’s payroll and pensions for the next 50 years (or until the tax proponents are safely in their graves). I have worked for many public agencies and their first focus has always been self-preservation. But that’s not the point. Consider this: two Icelanders have just turned coal burning fumes into harmless basalt rock–fossil fuel may bounce back or computer guided cars may ease congestion in much less than 50 years. Their test cars already drive better than most people I know.

  10. Steve,

    Can you help explain how “definite” the proposed plan is? If the measure passes, is Metro obligated to follow the plan in almost all respects? Or can it re-adjust priorities as necessary, including adding new projects, re-ordering timing of projects, etc.? While there are many great parts of the plan, one issue is that it is forecasting transit needs 50 years in the future. Obviously a lot about the city (demographics, population, other access to transport) in 50 years so I’m curious as to how much flexibility Metro has to change the timing and types of projects listed in the plan.


    • Hi Andrew;

      That’s a great question. The ordinance that would govern the ballot measure and use of funding is embedded in the blog post, but I’ll talk to staff this week and try to get a more plain English type answer.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. Sorry to post this here, but releasing this at 4:45 on a Friday puts reporters covering this in an impossible situation. I have some specific questions about how these “road improvements in the Malibu/Las Virgenes area”.

    What road improvements are those?

    The regional governments have in the past challenged the vast majority of the Measure R money to vanity projects … widening the overpasses over the 101 freeway in the Conejo Valley. $1.1 million went to a bike lane at Zuma, other than that, no money on PCH. No money to integrate Expo to points west or north.

    What will this measure mean to the 80,000 commuters daily on PCH west of SM?

    • According to the staff report, the money accelerated for the Las Virgenes/Malibu area would be for two categories of projects: ATP (active transportation) and highway efficiency. I’m not sure that the exact projects are defined yet — I’ll try to find out this coming week.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  12. Thank you for giving us a name for these “vanity projects” like the 710 Toll Tunnel that is a vanity project if ever there was one for the Alhambra highway construction lobby and the Port. Thanks, again!

  13. That’s the $64 Billion question Steve. Just how obligated is the Metro Board to follow thru in good faith with the pronouncements it makes to the public concerning the sales tax increase and the related questions on the table? I’m guessing in legal terms not too obligated, otherwise it needs a better legal team–remember “If it don’t fit you can’t convict.” But I’ll give the Board the benefit of doubt until you return with an official reply next week. Happy Father’s Day!

  14. What happened to the long proposed Burbank/Glendale to Union Station light rail and why wasn’t it included in this updated Long Range Transit Plan, the EIS was completed back in 1994 and this line was never built.

    Will this project be added to the updated Long Range Transit Plan?


    • Hi Michael;

      It is not included at this time — unless the Metro Board chooses to add the project to the spending plan and LRTP.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • I think I recall Metro is now considering extending the Red Line to Burbank Airport.

  15. At least we’re being honest by making this ballot measure indefinite. This will be a good opportunity for Southern Californians to determine if they really want to commit full speed ahead to transit or not. Personally, I think there need to be more highway projects, using toll money to support operating costs, but if we want transit, including gap fillers like Crenshaw North and the South Bay Green Line Extension, this is the one to do it.

  16. What about for Compton? We would love to see our streets repair. We need better streets. Also have the blue line extended to San Pedro or have more development near the blue line stations.

  17. I took a look at the latest ridership stats it seems apparent based on your numbers that the train has shaped up to be mainly a weekend means of getting around based on the assumption that most people do not work 7 day work weeks. If i were to subtract the average saturday from the average weekday it doesn’t look there is that much work related ridership. A good example is the green line there is little of entertainment value of that line so it drops of dramatically on the weekends. How come you want a perpetual tax why don’t you have smaller increments to judge the feasibility of the system

  18. Why would the Crenshaw extension to west Hollywood take so log when traffic in that area is HORRIBLE!! I don’t mean that to knock metro, I genuinely want to know why? Weho residents have asked for it and it seems to be an area of high economic activity. The more tax revenue the more money for other projects.

    • politics. Yes, you’re vocal now, but the residents of the other areas that are prioritized were vocal 20 years ago when the mid-city residents instead decided to pass legislature AGAINST rail development. It’s a very political plan, and naturally Im sure most people would agree the Crenshaw N extension is of utmost importance, but sadly you can’t tell the people who have equal aggression that their 20 years of fighting is nothing compared to WeHo’s sudden realization that they’re not alone. 😛

  19. This updated plan is totally unacceptable. To leap frog some projects that have been promised for years with new projects is just wrong. The I-710 is a project that cannot wait any longer. The Ports bring in over 40% of this countries importing. With the projected growth over the next decade or two, the traffic will be a nightmare of gargantuan proportions. It’s already intolerable. If the proposed “new plan” is not revised, I will not support the Measure R on the ballot. I will encourage my constituents to do the same. Why would my constituents support more taxes to, once again, support projects that make life easier for folks in more affluent areas while the constantly ignored residents of the Gateway Cities are pushed to the back of the line once again.

    • What does Gil mean by the “I-710 project”? Does he mean the I-710 South project from I-60 to the Port that is potholed like a Luna landscape from overweight and smoggy trucks? Or, is he including the I-710 North project, aka the multi-billion dollar toll tunnel to “affluent” Alhambra that would cut up the historic Latino community of El Sereno? If the latter then no thanks, there is already too much truck smog there. The Port’s trucks belong on trains, even if it will cost foreign importers a few pennies more to transfer their containers to train cars. In the end, the best road is the railroad!