Again, voters embrace bold choice


Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

First, on behalf of everyone at Metro, a big thank you to Los Angeles County taxpayers and our riders. If you voted for Measure M, we hope you get what you expect from it. If you didn’t, we hope you’ll eventually find that the investment of your sales tax dollars was worth it. Here’s a list of projects and here’s a project timeline.

About that photo: I snapped it last year in the 7th/Metro Station in downtown L.A. during the evening rush. The point I wanted to make: forget what you think you know about the Los Angeles region. We have transit and underground trains. A lot of people use those trains. We’re not all imprisoned in our cars. People here walk and bike.

The vote counting is not over, but M has a very substantial lead and more than 1.45 million county residents voted in favor of it. I don’t want to presume why, as that’s a lot of people with probably a lot of different reasons. I do, however, want to contemplate what I think it means that 69.8 percent of voters (thus far) in 2016 went for M, 66.1 percent in 2012 for Measure J (which was shy of the two-thirds threshold needed) and 67.9 percent in 2008 voted for Measure R, the sales tax that provided initial funding for many M projects.

Let’s go back to the 1990s. In quick succession our region had a riot, an earthquake and then the O.J. Simpson trial, all on the heels of years of serious gang violence and violent crime. Decades of sprawl had led to more traffic. Downtown L.A. was a snooze and none of our pro sports teams even played in DTLA proper. Strip malls had sucked the life out of too many commercial districts. L.A. was portrayed miserably in film after film; perhaps the worst being the hippies dancing atop our tallest building (at the time) and dumbly welcoming the aliens who had come to kill them in “Independence Day.” Maybe it was a parable for our heavy-handed embrace of the automobile (okay, probably not).

Not everyone remembers now…but that decade ended with a countywide transit ballot measure in 1998 in which a majority of voters decided to end local sales tax funding of the Red/Purple Line subway after serious construction issues on the project. As a region we didn’t exactly seem to be leaping into a new century, at least mobility-wise. At best, we entered the 2000s with a piecemeal plan.

So what happened? A decade later, in 2008, I think enough people around our county — both the natives and the newcomers — realized that putting all our eggs into the car basket was never going to work. And that every other city around the planet that was great almost always had a big, vast transit system — with rail playing a big role. Those systems served as an alternative to traffic and gave people a chance to live in denser, walkable and pleasant urban places where having a car wasn’t an absolute requirement.

And thus work began to build that modern transit network. It was a wise decision. Because it came at a time when many people looked at L.A. and saw nothing but opportunity. It wasn’t that long ago that there were so many parking lots that contributed too little to our shared wellbeing. Too many under-used buildings. So many old rail routes abandoned and that could be used again. Too few biking opportunities in a place with great climate. So many chances to try things that had worked well in other places.

And, then, boom — the changes started happening. Many were organic, the result of entrepreneurs and artists and students and urban pioneers who wanted to resuscitate a city and who weren’t going to let local politics or politicians get in their way (and the smart pols got out of the way). Some changes were probably the result of our size: a 4,751-square mile county with a very diverse, always churning population of 10.1 million people from across the globe — from China, Armenia, Korea, Vietnam, Mexico and Central America, Gotham (to name only a few) — living side-by-side and looking for an opportunity in their version of the promised land.

Look. L.A. can still be a maddening place. By the numbers, not much has changed in recent years in terms of the percentage of folks who commute by car vs transit vs foot/bike. Metro’s ridership has dipped in recent times. The car is still king in many ways and many of us — including yours truly — enjoy having a car and rely on it for some of our mobility in an urbanized area that is ridiculously large (Measure M certainly invests in roads, btw). We have an array of other sticky social ills ranging from homelessness to lack of affordable housing to problematic schools to poverty.

With funding from M, we now have the opportunity to keep tackling the mobility issue and maybe influence some of the other issues. When the Regional Connector is completed in DTLA and the Gold Line is built to Claremont, there will literally be light rail running for 55 miles from downtown Santa Monica to the eastern boundary of our county. A similar north-south arrangement will eventually be in place from the top of Van Nuys Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, through the Sepulveda Pass, to Westwood and to LAX and down to Redondo Beach and Torrance.

It’s one thing to say it. It’s another to show it, as did local designer and Metro enthusiast Adam Linder in a map he made during the campaign. It comes with a caveat: the environmental studies for some of these projects have not yet begun, so the type of transit, station locations, routes and operating plans are to be determined. But the map shows the gist of what’s possible:



That’s a significant difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Obviously it will take a lot of work to make it happen, plus federal funding, maybe even private funding and a willingness to endure some bumps in the road along the way.

As I’ve written before, Los Angeles and most other cities can be whatever they want to be. It just takes a populace willing to lean into the wind and perhaps try new ideas or ideas that have worked well elsewhere. And we have to be willing to pay for it because most good things in life are not free. As transportation planner Jarrett Walker wrote on his blog about the success on Election Day of so many transit ballot measures around the U.S.:

This is becoming a common pattern. There is a strong urban consensus about what it takes to make a great city, and the will is there, among urban populations, to do what needs to be done.

Thank you very much for your interest in Metro, whether you voted for M or not and whatever your mode(s) of travel may be. We’ll do our best in the coming weeks, months and years to use all the digital tools at our disposal to inform you — the taxpayer and our ultimate bosses — of what your government is doing. We’re excited for the work ahead.

The future seems bright for the L.A. region. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The future seems bright and pretty in pink for the L.A. region. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

29 replies

  1. I’m happy about the expansion of the metro system but can we please be rid of Express Lane highways or at least not require carpools to have those ridiculous transponders?

    • Several of us have complained about this since this project was first instituted. At the very least, eliminate the need for carpoolers to have to pay a transponder maintenance fee for the privilege of using a system that was originally designed for carpools in the first place.

      • I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes I could use the 110 lanes 3 or 4 days in a week (as a carpool), but I might go 3 or 4 months between traveling that stretch. Also, I have been a 3+ on the 10 once each year the past couple years.

  2. I voted for Measure M. I see the future, and love it! I only hope I live to see much of it (I’m 61), but whether I do or not, it’s a wonderful legacy to leave this county.

  3. How soon does the work start on the Purple Line in Westwood? Is Metro still considering starting in Westwood working eastward to meet the Purple Line in Century City?

    How about the Gold Line? The Gold Line to ready to proceed eastward. How soon before the project gets going?

  4. Congratulations to Metro on a job well done. As a UCLA student I’m hoping that the Sepulveda Pass corridor subway includes a stop at the Getty Center, a major tourist attraction, and another in the middle of campus (Near Ackerman Union and the new conference center) rather than on Gayley Avenue, since Gayley is quite far from both campus classrooms and bus connections. When will decisions start to be made about station stops on this route?

  5. I cannot imagine light rail not connecting into LAX, Burbank and Ontario. This seems irrational.
    Are we going to get light rail into the airports? Please don’t tell me we have to do bus transfers.
    With luggage this isn’t an answer.

  6. I voted no. That being said, I only can hope and request that any new light rail line be completely grade separated. The Expo line could have been much more efficient by building it correctly the first time…

  7. Fernando: look at the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor. It will link from the Orange Line to Sylmar, and will extend up Van Nuys Boulevard to San Fernando Road. It will pass through Van Nuys, Arleta, Pacoima, the City of San Fernando, and Sylmar. It will be a simple matter to create a spur line off of the ESFV Corridor to Hollywood Burbank aka Bob Hope Airport.

  8. The mta has neglected the poor community of sun valley north hollywood. The blue line should had been extended all the way to san fernando road.

  9. awesome summary Steve. I’m so happy this measure passed.

    I echo the thoughts that others have mentioned, the easiest and quickest way to improve our system is reliable and frequent bus service (with BUS ONLY lanes)

    Also… might be time to start charging higher rates for advertisements on the subway and bus. Seems like the value of the system is rising and there’s a huge potential for ad revenue to supplement operational costs.

  10. This is no more than another Cash Grab by an out of control administration. Can’t fix the existing issues in the county so the easy pickings of a tax hike will allow Garcetti and the County King makers to continue raiding the Treasury and payoff all their political handlers. LA County in 5 years will look like the LA County of 10 years ago and the Freeways will still be awful. Another great con job by Garcetti and company! Where can I get a job within this administration. I could be the Metro crocodile exterminator at 250K a year.

  11. Since Measure M has passed by a majority of voters (including myself).

    Have you thought about starting two top 10 list of rail and road projects that should be a high priority for the first decade?

      • Dear Steve,

        I am interested in the Gold Line Eastside Extension. In Attachment A, which extension runs along the 60 Freeway and which one heads south before veering east into Pico Rivera and Whittier? Also, is there any significance of the One Alignment option showing up twice on lines 24 and 25?



        • Line 24 is the Washington Bl alignment, running through Pico Rivera and Whittier. It is in the Gateway Cities (gc) subregion. Line 25 is the 60 freeway alignment, San Gabriel (sg) subregion.

  12. In January Metro will start developing next year’s budget to include the new funding stream, and I hope that in 2017 one of the things done is to add more night and weekend service. Streets that have a bus every 10-15 minutes during the day go hourly after 8 pm which is unacceptable for people who want to use transit in their daily lives.

  13. I’m super happy and excited that Measure M passed! I look forward to seeing an expanded transit system, as well as improved mobility throughout Los Angeles County. Go Measure M, Go Metro!

  14. Oh, and bag the Sepulveda tunnel. Once you go over the hill (north or south) where are you going to go? If there are no connections on either end, no one will use it. No one will drive to Encino, hop on a train to go to Westwood, then grab a bus to where they REALLY want to go. You MUST have connections on either side of the hill get people where they need to go to make this project practical. Otherwise, it’s just a glamour project: ooh…don’t we have a cool tunnel.

    • Connects to the Orange Line and will be part of the East Side Valley Project that will go up to Sylmar and its Metrolink station. On the City side it will connect to the Purple Line in Westwood and eventually the Expo Line.

  15. Less projects; more grade separations. Transit will never be more universally accepted unless travel time is at least as good or better than driving. Light rail at street level blocks traffic (making it worse) and goes slower (making driving more attractive).

  16. There are still one millions votes for LA County that have not been counted. Don’t start pending the money yet. It is still to close to call.

  17. Interesting that the map has the Green line extending up Lincoln Blvd to the Expo line. I’m thinking, on the one hand, it’s currently congested and will only get worse, but on the other hand, the population may not yet be dense enough to support a high ridership. Maybe it would be by the time you’d be able to build it, who knows.

  18. First, Steve, congrats to everyone at Metro. As someone who’s voted for every measure since 2008, I’m really happy for what you guys are going to create over the course of my life.

    Second, if I could ask one thing: please, please don’t forget the bus system. I would love to take Metro to work. I live about 10 miles from my office, a fairly straight commute from Burbank to La Brea and 1st, and taking Metro is a huge hassle. The bus on Magnolia runs once an hour, and the bus down La Brea is slow and unreliable. I would love to be able to sit and read on the bus every day, but it’s just too much hassle right now. So I drive my Prius alone, trying to be a good steward of our planet as best I can. Please help me be a better steward by making my Metro option realistic by addressing the last mile issue with more regular and faster service, so we all make better choices.

    • Hey Jason —

      You win “Comment of the Day” as far as I’m concerned. I agree and I think many others here do, too. And hopefully we’ll have some news along those lines soonish 🙂

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source