Board approves taking Measure M to voters

Live updates of the Metro Board meeting once it begins at 9 a.m. will be posted here. The Board is scheduled to consider putting a ballot measure that would ask voters to consider raising the countywide sales tax by a half-cent and continuing the Measure R half-cent sales tax beyond its mid-2039 expiration date to fund a variety of transit, road/highway, pedestrian and biking projects. 

Monday, June 27: You can watch/listen to the meeting. And here is the official recap of actions.

3:25 p.m. Here comes the media coverage. LAT story here. And here’s Streetsblog L.A.Curbed LA and KPCC. From the LAT’s Laura Nelson:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors voted 11-2 to place a tax increase proposal on the November ballot that would generate at least $860 million per year for street repairs, highway improvements and new rail construction, including lines in the Sepulveda Pass and Van Nuys and extensions to Claremont and West Hollywood.

Metro’s proposal, one of the most ambitious in modern U.S. history, could transform a traffic-choked region that began building a modern rail system decades after other major cities. The expenditure plan calls for several north-south links in a rail network that runs largely east to west. 

1:45 p.m. The Los Angeles Traffic Improvement Plan’s main website is here:

1:44 p.m. Here’s the project map for the new ballot measure:


1:3o p.m…

The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday voted 11 to 2 to ask Los Angeles County residents to consider a sales tax ballot measure on Nov. 8 to fund a variety of transit, highway, biking and walking projects. The ballot measure is called the “Los Angeles Traffic Improvement Plan” and could raise north of $800 million each year if approved by voters. 

A majority of the five-member Board of Supervisors — all of whom serve on the Metro Board — still must formally vote to put the measure on ballot. Four of the five supervisors voted today for the ballot measure. If the ballot measure goes to voters, it would need two-thirds approval (66.6 percent) to pass.

Metro’s ballot measure — which awaits a ballot designation — asks voters to raise the countywide sales tax by a half-cent and to continue the Measure R half-cent sales tax beyond its mid-2039 expiration date. If approved, both sales taxes would continue until voters decided to end them. Most cities in L.A. County currently pay a sales tax rate of nine percent; here’s a list.

The only ‘no’ votes came from Metro Board Members Don Knabe and Diane DuBois, who both represent the southern portion of the county. During Board deliberations, both expressed concerns that the south county was not getting its fair share of projects.

At right is the full list of projects and programs that the ballot measure would fund. The list does not include the three Metro Rail projects currently under construction: the Crenshaw/LAX Line (2019), the Purple Line subway to Wilshire/La Cienega (2023) and the Regional Connector (2020-21) that will tie the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines together in downtown L.A. to reduce transfers and travel time for many riders.


Click to see larger version.

The ballot measure is intended in part to accelerate and/or fully fund some of the more expensive project alternatives in Measure R. For example, the new ballot measure would finish the Purple Line to Westwood by 2024-26, at least a decade faster than currently planned. It would also accelerate the construction of a new station near LAX where Metro Bus and Rail riders will transfer to a people mover connecting to airport terminals.

Along with those two projects, four other major transit projects in different parts of the county would also be built in the 2020s (in addition to other road and transit projects): the Gold Line to Claremont, the Green Line to Torrance, a new light rail line between Artesia and the Green Line and a potential light rail line or bus rapid transit project on Van Nuys Boulevard between the Orange Line and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station.

The ballot measure would also include a dedicated pot of funds for pedestrian and biking projects, along with a dedicated funding stream for State of Good Repair projects to keep existing and future transit in good working order. The ballot measure also promises to keep fares affordable for those who most depend on transit, including seniors, students, the disabled and low-income riders.

As with Metro’s prior three ballot measures, a portion of sales tax revenues would be returned to the county’s 88 cities and the unincorporated areas based on a per capita basis. Initially 17 percent of the ballot measure would be dedicated to these “local return” funds; that would rise to 20 percent beginning in 2040. The funds are typically used by cities for local projects that range from road repair to intersection improvements to sidewalk and bike projects.

Click to see larger version.

Click to see larger version.

Los Angeles County voters have previously approved three half-cent sales taxes to pay for transportation projects and programs: Prop A in 1980, Prop C in 1990 and Measure R in 2008, which received 67.9 percent approval. Those three funds are responsible for the 105 miles of Metro Rail that have opened since 1990 — and the three projects under construction — and provide funds for a wide range of projects and programs.

A ballot measure in 2012 that would have extended Measure R another 30 years received 66.1 percent approval, narrowly failing to meet the two-thirds threshold required.

Turnout will likely be closely watched as an important factor. In 2008, turnout across L.A. County was about 80 percent and fell to around 70 percent in 2012.

1:26 p.m. It is important to note that the Board of Supervisors still must vote to put the measure on the November ballot. Four of the five Supervisors voted in favor of the ballot measure today, with Don Knabe dissenting.

1:24 p.m. BREAKING NEWS: The Board approves taking the ballot measure to voter in November 11 to 2. No votes are from Supervisor Don Knabe and Lakewood Council Member Diane DuBois.

1:23 p.m. Motion 49.3 fails 3 to 10.

1:21 p.m. Motion 49.4 for a “fair share” analysis and revised ballot measure spending plan fails 4 to 9.

1:19 p.m. Motion 49.2 on including funding for bus rapid transit in the northern San Fernando Valley passes 13 to 0.

1:17 p.m. Motion 49.1 (see below) that would require Measure R projects to be built before new projects: motion fails 4 to 9, with Knabe, Butts, Ara Najarian and DuBois voting for.

Before the vote, Metro staff responds that the plan evaluated all projects with metrics and putting R projects first would result in a financial deficit.

Supervisor Hilda Solis speaks in favor of the ballot measure, saying it helps mobility, would create jobs, improves the environment and will improve her district on the east side of the county.

1:08 p.m. Voting about to begin. “We offer not perfection. We simply promote progress,” said Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I think what is before us is a statement of progress. Getting through November will require vast amounts of work from across the region…nothing can and should be taken for granted.”

There is the main item and four amendments to be considered.

1:02 p.m. Metro CEO Phil Washington points out that Measure R supplied $270 million for some type of transit project between Artesia and possibly downtown. The current ballot measure, however, expands the funding to $4 billion and defines the project as potential light rail.

12:56 p.m. Garcetti asks about the Crenshaw Northern Extension; Metro staff says that it has been accelerated to be completed eight years earlier in 2047. Garcetti says that each part of the county has a distant project that everyone would like to be built sooner. Garcetti also encourages everyone to think beyond city boundaries as many commutes cross many boundaries.

12:49 p.m. Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts is speaking in favor of a motion he co-authored to first accelerate Measure R projects before new projects are funded:

49.1. MOTION by Butts, Knabe and DuBois that the Board adopt the following policies: A. That the 2nd and 3rd decade Measure R transit projects be formally accelerated to qualify for 2018 PBM funding and that Measure R projects be advanced through the environmental and preliminary engineering phases to receive funding on a construction-ready status, as envisioned in the 30-10 Board approved policy, and not be superseded by new PBM projects; 1. In further keeping with the 2008 Measure R promises that the recently adopted Performance Metrics be applied solely to PBM projects and not retroactively to Measure R 2nd and 3rd decade projects; and B. That the Expenditure Plan accurately describes the modal category reflected in the proposed funding for that project. There will be many more compromises needed to be made in the subsequent months ahead, but this is a major start towards bringing to the voters the balanced and comprehensive approach we have promised over the years. CLARIFICATION of the Measure R Priority Implementation Policy: The goal of this policy is to mirror the 30-10 adopted in 2010 to use new money to accelerate the Measure R 2nd and 3rd decade projects ahead of any new projects that are listed in the Potential Ballot Measure. We are not amending Measure R to do this, similar to the 30-10 policy of 2010. We are simply using the new money to accelerate and finish Measure R Projects and keeping our 2008 promise to voters.

Measure R projects include the Purple Line Extension, Regional Connector, East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor (BRT or light rail on Van Nuys Blvd.), Green Line extension to Torrance, Artesia-Union Station light rail, Eastside Gold Line Extension, and Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor.

Metro CEO Phil Washington’s response: the new ballot measure would build the projects quicker than Measure R.

12:44 p.m. Lakewood Council Member Diane DuBois says that many people living in the region she represents do not feel that the ballot measure is fair to them.

12:39 p.m. Los Angeles Council Member Paul Krekorian praises the new ballot measure and amendment to expand bus service (see below) as being fair to the 20 percent of the county that lives in the San Fernando Valley, which he says has not been treated fairly in the past.

12:32 p.m. Los Angeles Council Member Mike Bonin says that he has spoken with many riders and non-riders in the past three years and hears a number of concerns: not quite convenient enough, not enough police patrols. “The thing I’ve heard over the last year and a half is that folks have a palpable sense that they want us to do more,” Bonin said. “…They want us to invest more in the system we have so that it’s cleaner and safer and more convenient.”

12:27 p.m. Duarte Council Member John Fasana receives clarification about the SR 710 North project: although this ballot measure would be prohibited from funding any project alternatives, the project could receive funds from other existing sources. Fasana also adds that he believes the new ballot measure would help fund many “badly needed” investments in transportation in the region.

12:19 p.m. Supervisor Don Knabe says that the Artesia-Union Station project will need to be a public-private partnership in order to be built as one project instead of in two phases.

Knabe also says that more “fair share analysis” is needed for many of the smaller cities in his district and says he will ask the Board for a continuance of the ballot measure until the Board’s next meeting (which is in late July).

Metro CEO Phil Washington says the “fair share analysis” can be done as part of the new long-range update next year. Washington also says that the ballot measure includes 18 major projects in the next 15 years in each part of the county and that Metro staff believes the plan to be equitable and fair.

Knabe also fears that the ballot measure ordinance makes it too easy to possibly change the plan in the future — an important consideration given that membership of the Metro Board will change over time. Knabe also adds that “I throw that out knowing where the votes are” on the ballot measure.

CEO Washington says that the ordinance gives the Board the chance to consider acceleration of some projects but such accelerations should not impact other project schedules.

12:10 p.m. Asked by Garcetti about the Artesia-to-Union Station light rail project, Metro CEO Phil Washington said that a technical correction has been made to the project list to make the project a “single project,” which will expedite the environmental review and to potentially break ground by 2022 and complete it by 2037.

12:07 p.m. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is distributing a motion that several Board Members have signed and that apparently addresses concerns raised by State Sen. Bob Hertzberg about transit connections to CSUN in the San Fernando Valley. The motion:

MOTION by Garcetti, Kuehl, Antonovich, Krekorian and Najarian that the Board direct the CEO to add a new “Multi-Year Subregional Program” in the Los Angeles County Transportation Expenditure Plan named “North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit Improvements” and provide for the following: A. Designate the “North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit Improvements” as a System Connectivity (“SC”) sub-regional category; B. Funds for the North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit Improvement will be programmed from the System Connectivity portion of the Transit Construction subfund at $180M under the “Measure_Funding 2015$” for this program; C. A “Schedule of Funds Available” in Fiscal Year 2019 and a “Expected Opening Date” of Fiscal Year 2023; D. Designate the modal code for this program as a transit category, or “T”; E. Add a footnote to state the following; a. This project will increase system connectivity in the North San Fernando Valley and the Metro transit system. Environmental planning work shall begin no later than six months after passage of Measure _; F. Remove the North San Fernando Valley BRT project from footnote “m” (Line 39) as an eligible expenditure.

High Noon Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas says he received a letter on June 16 from State Sen. Kevin de Leon asking for a postponement of a vote today until the Senate’s Transportation Committee could review the draft plan at a public hearing. Ridley-Thomas says that he responded asking for specific concerns and today he received the press release from Sen. Tony Mendoza (see below) about his bill to expand the Metro Board and saying that the public hearing scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed.

“This Board and staff has engaged in a very deliberate way on this plan. It is not that we have taken up over the last few days or evenings…As a matter of fact the public record will reflect the length of time and the breadth of resources that have effectively been put in place,” said Ridley-Thomas.

In other words, it looks like the Board intends to vote today whether to put the ballot measure to voters. Or, as Ridley-Thomas just said, it appears that Mendoza has dropped the public hearing and instead will seek to expand the Metro Board by 10 members via a state bill.

11:57 a.m. Public testimony has ended. Board deliberations beginning.

11:48 a.m. Public testimony is close to wrapping up. To summarize in one sentence: lots of support for the ballot measure, many calls to further accelerate particular projects, some outright resistance for a variety of reasons (i.e. wanting free fares).

11:07 a.m. By coincidence, the Sound Transit board in Seattle is considering going forward with a November ballot measure for a massive transit expansion plan. The Sound Transit plan is transit only; the Metro plan includes transit, highway, bike and pedestrian projects.

Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Armen D. Ross testifying to the Board on Thursday. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Armen D. Ross testifying to the Board on Thursday. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

10:59 a.m. Looks like about an hour remaining in public testimony. Elected officials have testified and now we’re on to testimony from individuals and community groups.

10:17 a.m. State Sen. Tony Mendoza has issued a press release saying that he is going to resubmit his bill to expand the Metro Board to 24 members (from 14) and that the state hearing scheduled for Friday has been postponed. The first version of Mendoza’s bill had been shelved by the Legislature earlier this month. Mendoza, who supports further acceleration of the Union Station-Artesia light rail project, writes that he wants the Metro Board to delay voting today on the potential ballot measure.

The project, btw, was accelerated by seven years in the revised spending plan for the ballot measure that Metro released earlier this month. See page five of the Metro staff report. Here’s the graphic:


9:58 a.m. Another project makes an appearance in public testimony with WeHo Council Member Lindsey Horvath calling for the Board to “prioritize” the Green Line Extension to Torrance and the Crenshaw/LAX Line extension to the Purple Line, WeHo and Hollywood. The project would allow trains to travel from Torrance to Hollywood.

Under Metro’s plan, the Green Line extension to Torrance would be done in 2030 and the Crenshaw/LAX northern extension in 2047.

Horvath and Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Member James T. Butts recently co-wrote an op-ed in the LAT calling for both projects to break ground in 2018.

9:45 a.m. I’ve been asked by several people about accountability — i.e. what guarantees are there that money will get spent as the ballot measure proposes? The short answer is that the ballot measure’s ordinance makes it a legal requirement. Here’s the language from the ordinance:

“For each project identified in the Expenditure Plan Major Projects section of Attachment A, Metro shall expend the amount of Net Revenues specified in the column entitled “Measure Funding 2015 $”for each project. Such expenditures shall commence in the fiscal year identified in the column ‘Groundbreaking Start Date’ or in the subsequent two fiscal years, except that expenditures for preconstruction costs may commence sooner.”

9:40 a.m. Public testimony is beginning. I’ll add a few excerpts but remember that you can watch/listen to the webstream for all the testimony. The first several people are talking about the importance of the Artesia-to-Union Station light rail project and asking it be built sooner. Under the plan it would be built in two phases: Artesia to the Green Line by 2028 and Green Line to Union Station by 2041. Here’s a map of routes from early studies:


9:34 a.m. “We believe the benefits allow us to take charge of our transportation future and keep pace with the growing needs of today and tomorrow,” Metro CEO Phil Washington tells the Board. He also likens the State of Good Repair program for transit to the oil changes and other maintenance car owners must perform.

9:23 a.m. Here’s the op-ed by L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Member Eric Garcetti in today’s L.A. Times. The headline: “To build more and faster, Metro needs a no-sunset tax.” What does that mean? Metro’s original proposal was for a 40-year tax but the revised plan — released earlier this month — is for sales taxes that continue in perpetuity or until voters decide to end them via another ballot measure.

9:18 a.m. The Board is going to tackle the potential ballot measure at the top of the meeting. Metro CEO is now giving a presentation on the potential ballot measure, saying now is the time to be “forward thinking” with Los Angeles County’s population expected to keep growing.

9:15 a.m. The proverbial gavel has dropped and today’s meeting has begun. You watch listen and watch the live stream here. As expected, all seats in the board room at Metro HQ are taken. Highly Informed Prediction: there will be LOTS of public testimony.

8:55 a.m. As some of you may know, State Sen. Kevin de Leon has set a hearing tomorrow to review the potential ballot measure and some lawmakers have asked the Metro Board to delay their vote. We’ll see if that comes into play today.

7:25 a.m. And here’s the expenditure list breakdown and the project list. These lists will likely be referred to often during the Board meeting.





7:20 a.m. Good morning! We’re still nearly two hours away from the meeting beginning, but let’s start by posting the ballot measure items scheduled to go to the Board today. The first document — which includes the ordinance that would enact the ballot measure — has the project list. I’ll pull that out in the next update, as that’s probably what most readers are interested in.


18 replies

  1. Steve,

    I think a lot of people are upset (and rightfully so) about the reduced rail service at night that was announced this week at the same time that Metro is asking for $120 billion. Asking for $120 billion means that Metro is looking to make a world class rail system, but reducing headways to 20 minutes starting at 8:00 p.m. on the rail you are building definitely sends the opposite message. My question for you is that if this measure passes, is there a commitment (either formally in the measure or informally) by Metro to reduce headways (and for that matter, train speeds)? Building out a large rail system is fine and good, but if it takes too long to be a convenient alternative then in my estimation we are digging our own grave.

    Additionally, you had said you were going to get back to me on the ability of Metro to shift projects around based on need (either shelve projects/green light new projects or shift time frames) given that we don’t know what the next 50 years will look like–did you ever get an answer on the extent that the measure allows that?


  2. Steve,

    In reaction to your comment about the binding nature of the commitment, a couple questions. Doesn’t that ballot language commit us to spend the specified amount of money, even if we can get a better deal (i.e. is there no option to spend LESS)? Second, if there are cost overruns for a project above its budget, what happens? Where does additional funding come from? Third, making these projects required (i.e. no option to change priorities) makes me less likely to vote for this measure–we don’t know what the city will look like in 50 years so it’s crazy to be planning transportation options that far into the future–is there really no way to change course?


    • Hi Andrew;

      Good questions. The short answer is there a review process every 10 years by the Board when adjustments can be made — it’s described beginning on page 14 of the ordinance:

      As for the issue of over-runs, there are contingency funds in the ballot measure, as well as other funds that Metro could potentially draw from.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Thanks for taking the time to Answer questions Steve. A follow-up question: if a project secures federal or other funding that offsets part of the ballot measure funding, can that money be redirected to another project?

        • Good question, Kyle. Not sure. Will add to the list. I know in the past that grants free up funds that end up getting used on the project’s financing. Keep in mind, too, that some of these projects have yet to undergo the environmental review process so that costs could go up or down depending on what alternative the Board chooses to build.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

  3. Thanks Steve. To clarify, do you mean those funds get used on the same project’s financing? Or on another’s financing? For example, if the Gold Line extension to Claremont got $500 million in federal grants and actual costs remained as projected, in the past situation you are talking about is the “freed up” $500 million in ballot measure funding used on Gold Line financing or redirected to another project’s financing?


    • Kyle:

      I think most often in the past grants have been added to a project. Perhaps the best example is the Regional Connector, which received a $670 million federal grant. That helped the project be built completely underground instead of an earlier alternative to build at street level.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • The way it works is that the freed up money goes to another project in the same subregion and for the same type of project (highway or transit). So in your hypothetical, that “freed up” money could then be used for another San Gabriel Valley transit project as capital funding.

  4. Steve,
    Perhaps I’m misreading this, but it SEEMS to me that because a few key voices in the San Fernando Valley made a stink about CSUN, they suddenly have a brand new, never before been studied by Metro, high quality transit project plopped to the front of the line to be opened by 2023.

    Meanwhile the Union Station to Artesia line which has been studied for YEARS, serves a dense transit dependent population, is projected to be perhaps second only to the Blue Line in ridership, and was promised to be built and operational by 2027 using measure R funds in the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan is still not planned to be operational until AT LEAST 2037.

    In what way can this be called either equitable, or an acceleration?

    Its like the Foothills extension all over again, where wealthier areas whine that they aren’t getting enough money for a service most of them won’t use anyway and suddenly their concerns are pushed to the front of the line. (yes, I know the foothills extension has exceeded expectations, but its still relatively low ridership compared to other lines both completed and planned)

    The need for Mendoza’s bill is becoming ever more evident.

    • Completely different. The CSUN project is just a bus project on the order of $100-$200M. The West Santa Ana Branch is a $4B light rail line.

      • A $4B LRT that has been in planning for years, and was originally billed as operational by 2027.
        And if $200M projects can be just thrown around, how about CSUDH gets a BRT? and CSULB? EVERYONE GETS A BRT!

        No, that would be ridiculous of course its still $200M. This was a pet project that was just granted on a fly because a wealthier region whined for it. Meanwhile, the project serving predominantly low income communities dependent on transit was shoved to the back.
        Just because it was then brought back in a few years (but still 10 later than originally billed) its supposed to be viewed as an improvement?

      • Measure R only gave the West Santa Ana Branch $240M, which means it would have been a bus project that would open by 2027. If this measure fails it will go back to being bus.

    • Esteban, your information is a bit slanted and inaccurate.

      Slamming the Gold Line is a poor choice. That line actually outperformed the Green Line even before the Foothill Extension was opened. Now it’s at 50,000 riders/weekday overall and growing. The ridership is incredibly diverse and serves all kinds of communities like Highland Park, East LA, and now Azusa, not just “rich, white” cities. That type of thinking just hurts your credibility.

      You do understand that when Measure R was put on the ballot it was not a light rail
      project? And that it only had $240 million allocated for the baseline BRT concept? The mode was not decided until much later. There was no design work done, nothing. So then Gateway comes back with a $4 billion project and demands it goes forward immediately??

      In the first 15 years the new measure will generate only $6 billion in transit construction funds. So you want 2 of every 3 dollars for transit construction for 15 years to go to your project which is heavily bloated and costs more like a subway than a light rail project?? Never going to happen.

      Once Gateway chose a project that was $3.75 billion more than available in funding, and way more than was expected when Measure R was created, that ended this nonsense that you were “promised” a project operational by 2027. Reality check time, and guess what? Not possible. Given where that project is today, I am not even sure it could even open in 2027 given the amount of environmental review, right of way acquisition where needed, design, and construction needed for this massive project.

      Maybe Sen. Mendoza should bring some money from the state to the table to help things out and accelerate the project even more, but we all know he won’t do that. But if he did, or if the Gateway area tried as hard to find new money as the other areas in the county have to advance their projects, you could see some progress.

      The sad thing is that this project will be a wasted right of way with a small bus project if the measure doesn’t pass. Not sure how Santa Ana Branch project supporters don’t realize that.

  5. It seems to me that Metro is overreaching in expanding so quickly. The Expo line is a mess, there’s no security at night and fare evasion is rampant system wise. I would vote NO to give Metro more money until they fix these basic issues.

  6. Sorry, I will vote no with my wife. We don’t even have enough trains to Santa Monica. You won’t get my vote.

  7. I’d like to ask: why is Santa Monica Blvd. continually left out of the picture? Is it because no one’s looking to pick a fight with Beverly Hills (I’m aware of their obstructionist history)? I ride the 704 everyday, and that right of way through BH is just sitting there, over-grown and unused (as is the median in West Hollywood to a lesser degree but no less glaringly). With all of the money being devoted to improving density in central Hollywood, how is the city/Metro planning on providing reasonable public transportation in & out of some of the densest parts of the city that aren’t served by the Purple line? I’d be curious to understand better why this right of way is regularly passed-up / why it’s not included in this plan. I’ll be voting yes on R2 and am really stoked to support this ambitious, long overdue push forward on public transportation, but am also concerned that some of the most populous areas of the city are being ignored simply because of the political realities/roadblocks involved.