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 replies

  1. 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)

  2. 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.

  3. I think it is pre-mature to talk about a Measure R extension. While I understand the point of trying to accelerate projects, it also ties future tax revenues and our hands on how to meet future challenges.

    • Hi Andy;

      Also an excellent point. And I suspect that’s one of the key things that the Metro Board will look at — how much can we safely borrow against future revenues and to what degree can we spend money that won’t flow into county coffers for many years?

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. Extending the Crenshaw line to Hollywood may be expensive, but it will be well worth the investment serving one of the densest parts of LA county and hitting many key destination points not currently served by metrorail. The line will be very well used as it can serve key areas including Hollywood, West Hollywood, the Fairfax district, Melrose etc. all while connecting directly to the red, purple, expo, and green lines, as well as LAX. Simply put, I believe this would be the most important north-south rail line LA has ever built. Maybe even more important than the Sepulveda Pass line (which is pretty darn important). Both of those lines really need to be built as those together would add an enormous amount of connectivity to our slowly growing metropolitan rapid transit system.

  5. […] The transit activist group Move LA hosted the LA on the Verge event on Friday at Union Station, wher… (the extension was proposed recently by Assemblyman Mike Feuer). If Measure R is extended, it could help pay for currently far-off projects like 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.” [The Source, fantasy map via LA Taco] […]

  6. Instead of a sales tax, would it be outright impossible to institute a congestion tax? West Hollywood/Beverly Hills is an area that surely could fit the definition of congested. That way, if there were to be an expensive Crenshaw line extension, the people who lived or worked in that area would be the ones to pay for it.

  7. Mayor Zane was among those who promised us a Subway to the Sea, then shafted us.

    He should not be trusted with even more billions in tax revenue.

  8. I like Move LA’s list, but Crenshaw all the way to Hollywood is going to be very very expensive as is a line all the way to LAX from the Valley. The thing to worry about is the South Bay and SE LA County will be upset that too much money would be going to the Western half of the County and not their areas Also, the San Gabriel Valley was upset last time and they likely would have the same concerns this time. A ten year extension would only allow for a few expensive projects and not everyone can be made happy. Finally, I like the idea of extending the Purple Line to Bundy. The VA is not a good area to have an end station due to its limited access on a highly congested street.

  9. I’m torn on this. Because I can see why continuing to tax ourselves in a recession for the sake of delivering transit projects quicker may not be the wisest idea, especially with LA/California’s already high tax burden. But on the other hand, if the projects take a lot longer (which they certainly would without measure R) the cost would go up immensely over time due to inflation, which would be another form of a high financial burden in itself. Also, if these projects are not built soon, mobility in this city will be at a near standstill in the not-too-distant future. Metro needs to broadly expand its scope in how it gets funding. Distance based fares maybe? Private funding?

    Regarding the Valley to LAX line or lack thereof; It is very disappointing to see that Metro has no plans for that as it would have been the only full north-south line on the west side of LA county. Without it, anyone wanting to travel south of Santa Monica via rapid transit will have to go all the way to Crenshaw and practically double back. If the plans for the sepulveda pass line are to at least go to expo, then how hard would it be to extend it further south to LAX (via 405 median running) to link up with the south bay line?! Again, it will be a missing link that makes absolutely no sense!!

  10. I’m fully convinced that Measure R should be extended.

    After reading all of the comments on the turnstiles, I’m thinking some money should be added for improving the TAP card, adding Red Line station attendants, converting turnstiles to fare gates, making RFID tickets available, adding more fare gates and adding TAP to Metrolink.

  11. Taxing ourselves 27 years is one thing, but taxing ourselves indefinitely for speeding up transit projects is probably not something I’d vote for.

    For one thing “the basic concept is to borrow against future revenues” is misleading. As we build more projects, that means increased cost for maintenance and upkeep of existing and newer stations.

    The Expo Line was built with Measure R, and the supposed plan is to use revenues from the Expo Line to pay for it. But has anyone given any thought to the increased costs to maintain the upkeep of the Expo Line as well? The stations may look clean now when first opened, but take a look at how Imperial/Wilmington looks today; it’s a dump with trash and smell of urine. These things aren’t going clean on their own.