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.