Potential future ballot measure discussed at Move LA conference today

I spent the morning at Move LA’s annual conference, held this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The activist group led by Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica mayor, this year focused on Measure R 2, an interesting choice given that the Metro Board has yet to decide whether to put an extension of the existing Measure R or a new sales tax on any ballot.

That said, some Board members have certainly voiced support and Metro is in the process of collecting transportation wish lists from cities across Los Angeles County for a potential ballot measure that likely wouldn’t happen until November 2016.

Four Metro Board Members spoke at the conference:

•Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants to pursue more regional transportation solutions and that he wants to lead a more humble city of Los Angeles that can work with other cities, both following their advice and taking the lead when appropriate (perhaps in that spirit he indicated his support earlier this week for extending the Gold Line to Claremont). He indicated he was open to a ballot measure but didn’t dwell on it.

Garcetti also said he wants to get a rail connection in our lifetimes to Los Angeles International Airport and that he supports the LAX Connect proposal by the airport to bring Metro Rail into a facility where passengers could check their bags and then transfer to a people mover that would run every two minutes and stop at each terminal. 

•Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois said any new ballot measure would be on the 2016 ballot in order to give time to build a consensus across the country. She said she wanted a process that was transparent, inclusive and followed a bottoms-up approach focusing on the needs of neighborhoods. Any potential measure, she said, must include subregional mobility projects.

Chairwoman DuBois also urged a note of caution, saying it’s appropriate to consider the impact of higher sales taxes and how they might impact retail sales and where businesses decide to locate. “Please don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m not opposed to asking if the voters of L.A. County to decide. However, I do believe that we should fully consider the impacts of increased taxation.”

•Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, serving on a long panel discussion (literally — the table was at least 100 feet long and the discussion lasted longer than a Hobbit movie), also talked about the Airport Metro Connector project as being one of his top priorities. As he has said before, he explained his support for the LAX Connect idea, believing it will be the most convenient way for passengers to travel from Metro Rail to the individual airport terminals, and thus the option with the ability to attract the most riders.

In a discussion about possible alternatives for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, Bonin offered a couple of interesting nuggets. First, he said he would have preferred to see a transit project built instead of the current I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project that is adding a northbound carpool lane. Second, he said he would be leery about any public-private partnership deal that would prioritize building a toll tunnel for vehicles over a transit tunnel — his concern being that the transit tunnel may never materialize due to funding woes.

•Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said that any potential ballot measure must be fair, equitable and clear with a laser-like focus on what it would accomplish. He said that while building big transit projects is a worthy goal, it can also be enormously disruptive for local businesses and that any kind of Measure R 2 must include a business mitigation program and a local and targeted hiring component to gain his support.

Ridley-Thomas was also more specific about the type of projects that he wants funded and built. Saying he was still haunted “by the ghost of the Green Line,” he indicated his support for further study of bringing light rail all the way into LAX. “You can’t get the best option unless you study all the options,” he said.

Ridley-Thomas also said it is time to consider extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north to a junction with the Purple Line subway — an idea, he acknowledged, that has been kicking around for a quarter century and which would make it far easier and quicker for Crenshaw/LAX Line riders to reach Westside destinations such as Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and UCLA.

There was also considerable discussion from a wide variety of panelists (did I mention it was longer than a Hobbit movie?). My takeaway: among those interested in transportation, there certainly seems to be some interest in funding a wide variety transportation projects, but it’s also obvious that list will likely grow long and may have to be narrowed at some point in order to not spread the money too thin.

6 replies

  1. I’m not sure if it was mentioned in the conference, but a major opportunity would be a light rail spur along Cesar Chavez/Sunset Boulevard from Vermont/Sunset to Union Station. The area has the density to support transit, and a major regional draw: Dodger Stadium. It seems like it would make sense to connect these communities east-west to Downtown and then north-south along Glendale Boulevard to employment centers in Burbank, Glendale and loop in with the gold line in Glassell Park and Chinatown.

  2. The Orange line conversion should be done the way they do this in the Netherlands where bus lines with expected growth beyond their capacity are build with Light Rail conversion features. You convert the busway in segments one lane each time. You lay the track as an in street track or the way rail street crossings are done with removable panels. When one lane is done you change to the other lane while the finished lane can be used by the bus until the line is complete to be converted into a rail line. During the construction of the segment there should be traffic control in that segment to allow two way service on one lane. The overhead power lines can be build on the side instead of in the middle. Doing it this way would make the track after it’s finished suitable for emergency vehicles and police and even short segments can be shared with bus lines if necessary.

  3. Largely agree, although the Westside Mobility proposals for a Green/Expo connection via either Lincoln Blvd or Sepulveda Blvd inking to Sepulveda Pass corridor should be on the list too. The Westside Mobility Venice Blvd Streetcar should probably come out of LA/Culver/SM municipal rather than countywide taxes. I think the Green Line South Bay extension will be redesignated as part of C/LAX once that’s done, with the northward turning part remaining Green.

    Pink Line would be tough – HRT is expensive, lots of NIMBYs would block LRT (and possibly HRT too). Not going to happen until West LA and Beverly Hills get the Purple Line and realize that transit is something good that they should be voting for and not suing to stop.

    Sepulveda Pass would be by far the most expensive transit project in LA history – mountains are undeveloped, yes, but tunnelling is really, really expensive wherever you do it and there are active faults in the area so high seismic safety costs. I think a Sepulveda Pass Subway makes sense, but you probably want a premium fare after it opens because it’s going to crowd out everything else if you try to pay for it with sales taxes. I think the Metro guess was $10bn. With that much going to one region, you won’t be able to get a countywide 66.67%.

    And you need to add Santa Ana Branch from at least the Green Line to the OC border (and possibly to DTLA) to get the votes, I think. From what I hear, the Gateway Cities were very clear about feeling underserved by Metro so far; not sure how much Measure R provides for the Santa Ana line, but I don’t think it would be fully funded under any of the realistic proposals.

    Plus Metrolink (double-tracking? electrification? more frequent service?) to try to get some votes from places not served by Metro rail).

    And there will probably have to be some highway $$$ too to get the votes. Some of those might be soundproofing/mitigation (though I think things like cap parks in Hollywood and/or Downtown wouldn’t be good candidates for countywide funding – too localized in impact), but at least some will be widening.

    I’d love it if they found a way to get other sources of funding, like congestion mitigation fees and tax increment financing, too. But with Prop 13 limiting property taxes and a lack of will at the federal level to fund transportation properly, LA County may have to go it alone. Short version: persuade your friends in swing districts to vote for Democrats so the GOP doesn’t slash New Starts even more.

  4. R2 should be almost all about extensions of existing projects

    Purple Line acceleration and extension from VA to the Sea. Having a subway to nowhere as currently planned would be an international joke, Metro’s number one priority must be completely the last mile of the subway, rather than half-assing it, as planned.

    Crenshaw phase 2. Crenshaw extension from Expo to the Red Line at Hollywood Highland via La Brea, profoundly amazing network effects by taking it all the way to Hollywood Highland. Again, not half ass it only to the purple line.

    Red Line Burbank Airport extension. This would be a single stop, single station extension and would let a proper terminus station be built for the Red line.

    Gold Line Eastside Extension Phase 2 – politically this will be built. Measure R doesn’t have enough money, so R2 will of necessity supply the difference.

    Gold Line Foothilll Extension Phase 2 – politically this will be built.

    Green Line 2nd south bay extension (a current south bay extension funded by R should be delivering it’s DEIR soon)

    Orange Line conversion. Politically a conversion can’t happen if they stop down Orange Line Service (or put it on nearby streets) for five years to destroy the roadway and install a track, so this one is quite interesting of how they will make the disruption work.

    New lines:

    Pink Line HRT from Hollywood Highland to Century City via Santa Monica blvd. Powerful network effects in play.

    Orange Line to Purple Line 4 station Sepulveda Pass project (phase one) – stops at Orange Line, Ventura, UCLA, and the Purple Line. should be cheap since they are tunneling under undeveloped mountains for 80% of the route.

    Orange Line to Gold Line Burbank/Glendale line.