One of the items on the Nov. 8 ballot in Los Angeles County is a half-cent sales tax ballot measure by Metro called the Los Angeles Country Traffic Improvement Plan (web page here). The ballot measure asks county voters to raise the countywide sales tax by a half-cent and to continue the existing Measure R half-cent sales tax in perpetuity or until voters decide to end the taxes.
Metro officials say the idea is to create a sustained funding stream for mobility projects crucial to the region’s mobility, economy and quality of life. Measure M would fund about 30 transit and road projects, as well as a number of programs: transit operations, State of Good Repair, freeway bottleneck improvements and freight movement projects.
Metro officials say that the plan was crafted in response to feedback from the public and elected officials, cities and stakeholders on an earlier draft for a 40-year ballot measure plan. The most frequently heard sentiment, said Metro officials: people wanted more from the spending plan.
Thus, Measure M would continue in perpetuity, like most laws and taxes approved by government. Of the three sales tax increases approved by L.A. County voters for Metro, two continue until voters decide to end them (Prop A and Prop C) whereas Measure R is currently set to expire in mid-2039.
The expenditure plan approved in June by the Metro Board by a vote of 11 to 2 is located at the bottom of this post. It’s an important document for voters, showing the timing of projects and programs to be funded by the plan. Some other things worth knowing for voters:
•The new ballot measure would add money to projects previously approved as part of Measure R in 2008. That would make it possible to build more expensive alternatives sought by stakeholders on some projects. For example, a bus lane project on Van Nuys Boulevard could potentially become rail under the new plan.
•The new funding plan would also be used to build projects faster than they would under the Measure R timeline. For example, the Purple Line subway extension to Westwood under Measure M is targeted for completion to Westwood by 2024-26 compared to 2036 under Measure R.
•Measure R in 2008 returned 15 percent of all funds collected to cities on a per capita basis. Measure M increases that amount to 17 percent from 2017 until 2040 when it increases to 20 percent. These ‘local return’ funds can be used by cities on their own local transportation projects — i.e. street repair, traffic signal synchronization, bike lanes, curb bumps, etc.
•The new plan also dedicates two percent of all funding for walking and biking projects (called ‘active transportation’ in the above document) that Metro would oversee or help fund. That’s in addition to any local return money cities spend on their own projects
The initial spending plan released in March was followed by 12 community meetings and 14 Telephone Town Halls organized by Metro; agency staff also attended and/or spoke at 84 other meetings with cities and stakeholders. In response to the initial plan, Metro received 1,567 written comments and 91 letters from elected officials, cities and other stakeholders.
Here are excerpts from Phil Washington’s media briefing in early June on the expenditure plan: