As many of you know, Metro is updating its long-range plan and has been exploring the possibility of a ballot measure in November 2016 to raise more money for transportation projects and services in Los Angeles County. Before this post goes any further, I want to make it abundantly clear that no decision has been made yet about going forward with a ballot measure.
That said, Metro has been looking into the possibility of a new half-cent sales tax and/or the possibility of extending Measure R beyond its expiration date in 2039. The proposals are designed to raise enough money to deliver major projects and provide funds for projects involving transit, highways, local streets, walking and biking and other transportation improvements.
Part of the ongoing planning has also involved asking the 88 cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County to prioritize transportation projects that they want funded. In response, the nine Council of Governments (COGs) that represent cities and unincorporated areas in the county submitted an initial list of about 2,300 projects. That number is indicative of the great need for transportation improvements in the county.
In addition, Metro conducted a general public survey of county residents to determine if a new ballot measure has a chance of getting the two-thirds approval necessary to pass. That’s a big consideration. Ballot measures take time, effort and money. There’s not much point in pursuing something that has slim chances of passing.
The survey results were cautiously optimistic with more than two-thirds of those interviewed saying they would support a ballot measure with a new tax and a possible extension of Measure R.
The survey also involved asking respondents about particular projects, some of which are already in Metro’s long-range plan. This doesn’t mean that any particular project or service will be in an updated long-range plan or ballot measure. That will be determined later. The survey was done to provide some initial feedback for Metro’s potential long-range plan update.
Yes, I’m using a lot of conditional language. The reason I’m tip-toeing: the decisions to update the long-range plan and to go forward on a ballot measure will ultimately be made by the 13 members of the Metro Board of Directors, the elected officials and their appointees who have the final say on decisions involving Metro.
To this point, the Board has been supportive of studying the long-range plan update and ballot measure. That’s not the same as actually pulling the trigger on it. Ballot measures, in particular, are always challenging with their fate often tied to voter turnout, the economy, local politics, voter perception of Metro and other variables.
Metro still must perform a considerable amount of outreach to the COGs and other stakeholders about the potential ballot measure and what could be in it. Metro is also pursuing state legislation that would allow the agency to put a ballot measure before voters next year.
Here are the documents Metro sent to the COGs and Board staff last week: