A new Metro staff report is now available that details the agency’s ongoing work to update its long-range transportation plan (LRTP). As part of that effort, Metro is looking at a sales tax ballot measure in 2016 to raise money to build projects in the plan.
The measure Metro is contemplating would ask voters to consider a new half-cent sales tax for 40 years (from mid-2017 until mid-2057) and extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax until 2057 — 18 years beyond its current expiration date. More on that below.
Before we go further: I need to emphasize that nothing has yet been decided about whether to put a measure on the ballot, nor have final decisions been made about projects and programs a ballot measure could fund. Please keep that in mind as I walk you through the new staff report. Those decisions will ultimately be made in the first half of 2016 by the 13-member Metro Board of Directors.
I want to start with some quick background that’s important: Metro relies very heavily on sales taxes in order to run its day-to-day operations and build new projects, among other things. Voters in Los Angeles County have approved half-cent sales tax increases in 1980 (Prop A), 1990 (Prop C) and 2008 (Measure R) to help fund Metro. Measure R was a 30-year sales tax that expires in mid-2039 whereas Prop A and Prop C remain in effect until voters decide to end them. (A longer description of the taxes is here).
The three taxes together will bring in about $2.29 billion this fiscal year, or about 41 percent of Metro’s annual budget. While Measure R is funding Metro’s current transit expansion (there are five rail projects under construction, with two opening next year – Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension), the three taxes still do not provide enough money to build many long-sought transportation projects.
Thus, the reason that Metro has been looking at updating its long-range plan and a potential ballot measure. As for the new staff report and a new potential ballot measure, here are the essentials:
•After being asked by Metro to list their transportation priorities, local governments, facilities and stakeholders in Los Angeles County provided a list of 2,300 projects that would cost $156 billion to $273 billion in today’s dollars to build.
•In response to those needs, Metro is looking at a Nov. 2016 ballot measure that would ask voters in L.A. County to raise the sales tax by a half-cent for 40 years (from mid-2017 until mid-2057) and extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax until 2057 — 18 years beyond its current expiration date.
•Such an approach would raise an estimated $120 billion (in year-of-expenditure dollars) between 2017 and 2057. That money can be used to attract state and federal grants that will likely raise the $120 billion total.
•Metro is estimating that about half of the $120 billion will be used for new transportation projects (active, transit and highway). The funds will be distributed to the nine subregions in Los Angeles County using a formula that emphasizes population and employment in each subregion.
See the final page of the report below to see a map of the subregions and to see how the funding breaks down by subregion (page 5):
•And the remainder of the $120 billion? Metro is looking at putting aside money for a number of other programs, including local return to the 88 cities and unincorporated areas of L.A. County, transit operations, state-of-good repair projects and funding for regional transportation facilities. A key point: this is money that will be used to help operate and maintain new projects that are built.
•Below are the priority projects submitted by each subregion. The charts also show how much the projects would cost in today’s dollars and how much may be available for those projects from a new sales tax — again, in today’s dollars.
•Metro will be working with each of the subregions in the coming months to refine these lists. THE LISTS ARE NOT FINAL! The projects submitted by the subregions will be evaluated by Metro based on the criteria in Attachment A (below) to determine which projects provide the most bang for the buck, so to speak. This is data that stakeholders and the Metro Board can use to determine which projects should be funded.
•It’s also worth noting that some of the projects listed in Attachment D also have funding from Measure R . The idea is to combine funds from Measure R and a new sales tax to have enough money to build these projects.
•As part of the long-range plan update process, below are projects submitted by regional transportation facilities (airports, ports and Union Station, which is owned by Metro) for possible inclusion in the LRTP. ‘Unconstrained’ means that the facilities didn’t have to consider funding limits.
•Below is a very long report that shows the input received from the subregions, transportation facilities and many other stakeholders that Metro asked for input on the long-range plan update and potential ballot measure:
•Under the current timeline (below), the Metro Board would vote on a ballot measure framework in December. Metro staff are planning to release a final expenditure plan and ballot measure ordinance in March of 2016. Metro’s Board of Directors would vote on whether to put the measure on the November ballot in June.
Again, the staff report does not require a Board vote. The report and the attachments are scheduled to be discussed at the Board’s Planning Committee at 2 p.m. Wednesday and the Executive Management Committee at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. If you would like to listen online, a link to the live audio stream will appear here when the meetings begin.
One other note: The Executive Management Committee will also consider another item asking the Board to amend the budget of Metro’s Communications Department to add $2.75 million for an education campaign on the long-range plan update. Staff report