Say No to Measure M and Start Over

November 3, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

Measure M is about two L.A.’s.

One is the invisible L.A., our L.A., the Southeast and South Bay parts of the county. The L.A. that is invisible to the people who wrote Measure M. The L.A. that would pay for Measure M right away, and would wait for decades to see results.

The other L.A. is wealthy L.A., downtown L.A., West L.A. – the L.A. that wrote Measure M, and that would benefit from it right from the start.

That’s why our L.A. needs to say no to Measure M.

Let’s talk details:

Measure M is the sales tax increase that MTA put on the November ballot. It raises the sales tax a half-cent – forever. For good measure, it makes the half-cent increase from the last transit tax, which was going to expire – it makes that permanent too.

That money, which pushes our sales tax up over 9.50 percent and in some cities like Commerce to 10 percent, goes to pay for a long list of transportation improvement projects. Projects are in just about every part of the county – new light rail lines, freeway improvements, more buses.

And in the San Fernando Valley, in the San Gabriel Valley, in West L.A. – Measure M might be a pretty good deal. Billions of dollars are set aside for the projects in those parts of the county, and if Measure M passes, those projects start almost right away.

But if you live in Commerce, or in Norwalk, or Carson, or Paramount, or Torrance, or Long Beach – if you are one of the millions of us in the Southeast and South Bay, this is what they tell us.

They tell us that improving traffic on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass – that’s important to everyone, whether you live there or not. And they tell us that improving traffic on the 405 along the South Bay Curve – that can wait.

Building the Gold Line out from Azusa to Claremont – that’s important to everyone. So important in fact, that they call it the brain train”. And they tell us that building a light rail line from Artesia, up through the southeast to Union Station – that can wait. (We’re not on the “brain train” apparently.)

And when we say “wait”, we mean wait. The Measure M Plan has a 2041 completion date for Artesia.

If you have a daughter who started kindergarten this year, she will be 14 when they finish that Gold Line extension to Claremont. But your daughter will be taking her first ride on that line from Artesia to Union Station when she’s 31. If you’re 35 today, you’ll be 43 when work starts on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass. But you can take your grandchildren with you to see them start work on the 405 along the South Bay Curve, because you’ll be 64.

Want one more? If you’re retiring this year at 65, you’ll be 74 when they finish work on the LA River Bikepath. But eat right and stay healthy if you want to see work finished on the southern stretch of the I-5, because they’ll be wrapping that up for your 90th birthday.

You can see the pattern. Work in the wealthy parts of the county goes first. Work in our part of the county comes later, much later. The people in charge of MTA, the downtown L.A. power brokers – they wrote Measure M. They put our projects at the end – and they put the projects for the wealthy parts of the county up front.

They turn around and say, vote for Measure M. They say, start paying for Measure M right now. They say, wait, and wait, and wait, we’ll get to you.

Now, we are not saying put all of our projects ahead of everyone else’s projects. We are not saying projects in other parts of the county aren’t important also. We are just saying – don’t put us at the back of the bus. We are just saying that we live here too, and traveling back and forth, to work, to school, to family and friends – it isn’t easy for us either.

We all share the cost of Measure M – we should all share the work that Measure M pays for – in our lifetime.

None of this should have been a surprise downtown. We’ve been asking for help with our freeways, we’ve been asking for more bus service and new light rail service for years. If they’d treated us like Angelinos, just like the people who live in the Valley or in Westwood – this could have been different.

But they didn’t. They treated us, the Southeast, as if we were invisible. So the only way now we can make them see us, is to vote NO on Measure M – start over – and do it right.

Jon R. Reno is president of the Commerce Industrial Council Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Director. Eddie D. Tafoya is the Chamber’s CEO & Executive Director.

‘Industrial Cities’ Want Metro to Revamp its Funding Forumula

October 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Metro’s funding formula is unfair to cities with small residential populations but large numbers of workers and traffic congestion complain industrial cities like Vernon and Commerce.

Unless the formula is changed, officials in both cities say they don’t expect to see much more money coming their way even if voters approve Measure M, a new, permanent half-cent sales tax to pay for transportation projects that’s on the Nov. 8 ballot.

According to the cities, they generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue yearly for transportation projects in Los Angeles County, but because Metro allocates money based on residential population they only get back a fraction of what other cities generating the same amount of revenue receive. They complain that no credit is given to the tremendous burden the goods movement has had on their streets and on their residents.

“The local return formula comes at a disadvantage to Vernon because of its low resident population,” says Vernon Spokesman Fred McFarlane. With just 120 residents, McFarlane says Vernon “doesn’t get back what it puts in.”

A coalition of cities in the Southeast and South Bay oppose Measure M on the grounds it will be decades before projects to relieve near gridlock conditions along the I-5 and 710 freeways see the light of day.

Supporters counter that the estimated $860 million generated each year under Measure M will reap benefits countywide, paying for highway and street repairs, transportation improvements and new rail and bus lines that will help alleviate traffic woes that will only get worse if not funded.

Similar to Measure R – approved by voters in 2008 – Measure M requires two-thirds voter approval. If it passes, consumers will start paying an additional half-cent sales tax in 2017. It will jump to 1-cent in 2039 when the Measure R half-cent sales tax expires.

According to Metro, 17 percent of all sales tax collected under Measure M will be returned to the County’s 88 cities and unincorporated areas on a per capita basis between 2017 and 2040, when the return amount jumps to 20 percent, which is higher than the 15 percent currently allocated under Measure R.

The funds are restricted and can only be used to pay for transportation-related projects such as local bus service, street, sidewalk and pothole repairs, traffic signal synchronization and bike lanes.

Metro officials claim the local return is a way for every city in the county to get something out of the ballot measure.

“Supporters of the measure say cities will be able to fix their streets but this is not a one-size-fits –all accurate statement,” Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP. “For cities with small resident populations but a large worker environment, it doesn’t come close.”

vernon-streets

City workers repair damaged roads in industrial cities. Photo by EGP News.

Commerce generates about $8 million a year in Measure R sales tax revenue, but because the local return is based on population, with just 13,000 residents, the city only gets back $150,000 a year. Under Measure M, Commerce would double its contribution to $16 million but still only receive about $300,000 a year, according to Rifa, who notes that the city’s daytime population swells to about 45,000 when the number of people working in the city is taken into account.

A couple miles down the road, highly industrial Vernon is also out of luck when it comes to the transportation funding. With just 120 residents, the city does not receive a dime in Measure R revenue, even though it generates millions in sales tax revenue for Metro. In the past, the city has opted out of receiving Measure R funding because the cost to apply is more than the approximately $2,300 the city would receive in funds.

In comparison, with 42,000 residents, nearby Bell Gardens receives nearly $480,000 a year in Measure R funding, after generating $1.5 million a year in sales tax revenue.

Vernon has not taken a formal position on Measure M but is one of the 23 cities that make up the Gateway Cities Council of Government, which is spearheading a campaign to “educate” voters on Measure M’s impact in their cities.

The Vernon City Council did, however, pass a resolution in May urging the Metro Board to adjust it’s formula for allocating funding.

Like Commerce, Vernon is impacted by heavy truck traffic traveling to and from its hundreds of warehouses and manufacturing plants that also bring as many as 50,000 workers a day to the city.

With 47-miles of street to maintain, Vernon is facing over $18 million in street repair costs over the next five years, according to city documents. Without transportation funding, the city must fund the projects using money from its general fund.

Yes on Measure M campaign spokesman Yusseff Robb says language in the measure allows the Metro Board to interpret the population based formula in a manner that includes daytime population.

“It’s not a promise but the law,” Robb told EGP. “After Measure M is passed, exact local return allocations will be determined in partnership with each of the Gateway cities to ensure that everyone gets a fair share that reflects the reality in their communities.”

He told EGP that the benefits from Measure M go beyond local return allocations, including better transit and freeway traffic flow throughout the region and the creation of 465,000 new jobs.

Located along the I-5, SR-710 and heavy truck traffic, Commerce officials have repeatedly highlighted the city’s role as one of the country’s busiest “dry ports,” a point it has been making at a number of city sponsored town hall meetings on Measure M and in information distributed to educate city residents

A return of $150,000 would just cover a basic oil application on three to four blocks, says Rifa, explaining the poor condition of roads in industrial cities are due to heavy truck traffic.

“We are a trucking intensive city…trucks are what damage roads,” Rifa said. “We simply cannot keep up.”

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Chairperson Eric Garcetti attended a Commerce City Council meeting earlier this month hoping to change the council’s opposition to Measure M or at least get them to remain neutral. He told the council he had heard their concerns about the local return formula, and promised to look into ways to address the burden caused by the influx of large numbers of workers in the city during the day.

Rifa suggests the local return formula should not be based on population but rather the number of street miles in each city, which in Commerce’s case totals 65.5 miles.

“We are looking for fairness and equality,” said Rifa. “Our streets require significant street repair to provide for the transportation needs for our community and the region.”

Measure M: New Hope for Southeast Transit Users?

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

While politicians continue to argue over allocations, voters will decide Nov. 8 whether they are willing to pay another half-cent sales tax to fund transit and transportation projects in car-centric Los Angeles County.

Measure M would add another half-cent transportation sales tax for county residents, on top of the existing half-cent Measure R sales tax already in place. When the Measure R tax expires on July 1, 2039, the Measure M tax would increase to one cent, and remain in place permanently.

The measure, if passed by two-thirds of voters, is expected to generate $120 billion over the first 40 years. In 2012, a similar ballot measure failed to pass by less than 1 percent.

Opponents to the measure, including the cities of Commerce, Carson, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill, say transit projects in their region, such as improvements to the 1-5 and 710 freeways, will be delayed for decades under Measure M.

They’ve pointed out that their constituents will generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, but won’t see much of return on the investment for 30 years because Measure M favors projects in Los Angeles and the western and northern parts of the County.

Last week, Metro announced that it has received unsolicited proposals that “provide a unique approach to fund and accelerate some of its mega projects included in Measure M.”

Several of the proposals are for “public private partnerships” to design, build and finance major projects, according to Metro.

Two of the proposals would accelerate the West Santa Ana Branch Light Rail project, also known as the Eco Rapid Transit Line, said Metro in a news release. The Eco Rapid Transit Line, which would run along an abandoned Union Pacific Railroad ROW from Artesia north through several southeast cities and then along the west side of the Los Angeles River to downtown LA, is popular with Southeast area lawmakers and other groups in the region.

Supporters of Measure M hope news of a possible strategy to speed up some of the transit projects championed by the before mentioned cities will bring southeast area voters around, giving the tax hike a better chance of passing.

Last month, hoping to quiet the discord surrounding Measure M, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti made an appearance before the Commerce City Council. “We all know it takes a few to defeat this, why not come together to solve our traffic woes, Garcetti told council members, who did not respond to his comment.

Some of the dozens of upgrades proposed under Measure M, dubbed the Los

Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, include:

—the Airport Metro Connector at Los Angeles International Airport;

—extending light rail lines throughout the county;

—adding rapid transit bus lines, including along the Vermont Corridor and Lincoln Boulevard;

—widening the Golden State (5), Santa Ana (5) and San Diego (405)

freeways and widening or adding HOV lanes to many others;

—street repairs;

—a downtown streetcar project; and

—new bike paths and lanes.

Supporters, including Garcetti, insist the measure will result in improvements in communities throughout the county, reducing traffic delay by 15 percent a day while creating 465,000 jobs and funding street repaving and pothole repair throughout the region.

“In 2015, the average driver on L.A. freeways spent 81 hours stuck in traffic,” proponents argue. “We can stop wasting time away from our families and jobs by making smart investments in both transit and roads.”

Article includes information from City News Service.

 

Southeast Areas Question Measure M Benefits

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Located along the state’s worst traffic bottleneck, the city of Commerce has for decades had to deal with more than its fair share of traffic, yet it’s unlikely that a proposed half-cent sales tax hike going before voters in November will help alleviate the area’s transportation woes anytime soon.

Home to hundreds of distribution and manufacturing businesses and located along a major rail yard and network of freeways, Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa points out that the city is one of the country’s busiest “ports.”

“We get a significant amount of traffic based on the role Commerce plays in the regional distribution of goods,” but he said the “dry port” receives no special state or federal funding to support its role in the goods movement.

“This is a regional place of investment and employment,” but “the southeast won’t see the benefits of this new tax for the first 15 years,” Rifa told EGP.

In November, voters will decide whether to approve an added half-cent sales tax that could generate at least $860 million annually for highway and street repairs, transportation improvements, and new rails and bus lines in Los Angeles County. If approved by the two-third margin required to raise taxes, the half-cent bump would start in 2017, permanently increasing the Measure R temporary half-cent sales tax hike to a full cent.

Measure R was approved by voters in 2008 as a temporary increase and is currently set to sunset in 2039.

Metro officials tout Measure M as a solution to the region’s traffic congestion problems that will also improve air quality and create jobs.

Large trucks overflow into the streets surrounding the I-5 and 710 freeways in Commerce, creating gridlock traffic throughout the day. (EGP photo archive)

Large trucks overflow into the streets surrounding the I-5 and 710 freeways in Commerce, creating gridlock traffic throughout the day. (EGP photo archive)

Rifa counters that in Commerce the claim should be accompanied by “fine print that says ‘20 years from now.’”

Like Measure R, Measure M would earmark funds generated for specific transportation projects outlined in an expenditure plan. The proposal has angered communities along the County’s southeast corridor that accuse Metro’s Board of pushing Measure R approved projects to the back burner under Measure M’s new expenditure plan.

Unhappy that improvements to the I-5 and 710 freeways and other regional transportation plans would be delayed under Measure M, the 23 cities that make up the Gateway Cities Council of Government are now spearheading an educational outreach campaign to specifically inform voters what Measure M’s impact would or would not have in the region.

In Commerce, the impact goes beyond the obvious traffic and environmental concerns and deals directly with the region’s goods movement, says Eddie Tafoya, executive director of the Commerce Industrial Council – Chamber of Commerce.

“We get a significant amount of traffic based on the role Commerce plays in the regional distribution of goods,” he explains. “If it’s not Vernon, it’s Commerce,” he told EGP.

Metro’s Chief Communication Officer Pauletta Tonilas told EGP it’s important to note that the agency has been working on its expenditure plan for years.

“We understand that not everyone is thrilled but this plan reflected what we heard from stakeholders,” she said. “We believe it is balanced and equitable.”

Currently, Commerce generates about $8 million a year in Measure R sales tax revenue for the county, but annually only gets back about $150,000. The city’s contribution would double to $16 million under Measure M, but it would only receive around $300,000 a year based on its population.

Tafoya is quick to point out however that while the industrial city only has 13,000 residents, its daytime population swells to nearly 80,000 people when you take into account the number of workers who flock to the city.

An additional 230,000 jobs are located in communities bordering the I-5 Freeway, including Downey, La Mirada, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Vernon in addition to Commerce.

“These jobs are all predicated on the use of freeways and yet [Metro] won’t be touching the I-5 for another 20 years,” complains Rifa.

Tonilas pointed out that not all major projects could be funded at once.

“Everything can’t happen in the first 10 years,” she told EGP. “The time sequence was based on when funds would be available.”

The Industrial Council surveyed businesses in the city and according to Tafoya, over 40 percent responded that traffic congestion is the leading reason they would consider moving out of L.A. County.

There’s no escaping that the high volume of goods traveling through the region leads to more truck traffic and congestion, said Tafoya, noting that “the I-5 is a parking lot.”

“This has a detrimental impact to the economy and quality of life,” he points out.

Tonilas says private-public partnerships would allow businesses to help fund and accelerate some projects.

Last week, the Commerce City Council approved $20,000 to support Gateway Cities’ public outreach efforts in the southeast region. Half of the money will be used to fund a local informational campaign.

“We think, as a region and community, [the plan is] short of being balanced,” Rifa told EGP. “The corridor has been shortchanged.”

Mayor Ivan Altamirano, who pushed for more funding for outreach, agrees. “I really think that’s very little to what we can potentially lose here,” he told EGP.

Before the vote, Councilman Hugo Argumedo noted that efforts to inform voters about what’s at stake locally would be an uphill battle.

“I’m sorry to say this guys, we can say $100,000, but guess what, we’re going to be outgunned,” he told the council, explaining the importance of mobilizing efforts in areas where there are the most votes.

Because city funds are being used, the materials distributed must walk a fine line of educating and not campaign against the measure.

The city, however, is no stranger to voicing its views on transportation projects and their local impacts.

Commerce has been front and center in talks about the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension Phase 2 project. The city was successful in convincing Metro to consider a route that would include a light rail stop within its borders.

Rifa told EGP the transit measure has been and will continue to be a regular fixture on the city’s agenda as city officials are frustrated with the totality of the plan connected to the new tax.

“The southeast was a huge supporter of Measure R, now we are being ignored,” he said. “The balance has been lost and we must protect our jobs.”

 

A Bold Transportation Plan

July 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In 2008, Los Angeles County residents took a leap of faith and voted to raise our county-wide sales taxes to fund the construction and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure. Seven years later, Metro conducted a quality of life report to study the impact of that decision on the region. The results are impressive. New rail and bus rapid transit now provides access to more than 300,000 jobs in the region. Nearly 500,000 residents now live within a half mile of projects that opened after passage of Measure R. What’s impressive is that this data was tallied prior to the 2016 openings of the Gold Line extension and Expo Phase II.

For these two reasons, along with the tremendous congestion we all experience every day, the L.A. Area Chamber Board of Directors has voted to formally support Metro’s Traffic Improvement Plan (tentatively Measure M). This ballot measure will add another 1/2 cent sales tax to our infrastructure investment and generate an additional $860 million a year for transportation projects in every city and unincorporated region of L.A. County. Major projects include an LAX Airport Connection, Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont, Westside Purple Line Extension to Westwood, Orange Line conversion to light rail, a transit route through the Sepulveda Pass and more than a dozen highway improvement projects throughout the County.

The plan earmarks more than $4 billion in funding for our vital goods movement corridors and will return 17-20 percent annually to cities for investments in local roads and neighborhoods. It also increases oversight and implements a comprehensive review process every decade to make sure our dollars are going to the projects that make the most sense for the region.

As the largest business organization in L.A. County, the L.A. Area Chamber is dedicated to improving mobility and job opportunities for our residents. A modern transportation infrastructure is the foundation for both.

The November general election ballot will be packed with numerous state and local measures, but none will impact your day to day life in L.A. County more than this Traffic Improvement Plan. I urge you to vote yes on this transformative measure on Nov. 8.

And that’s The Business Perspective.

The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.

Voters Could Be Asked to Raise Sales Tax to Fund Transit Projects

March 31, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have unveiled details of a proposed ballot initiative calling for increasing the sales tax by a half-cent for 40 years in order to raise about $120 billion for transportation projects over the next 45 to 50 years.

The measure could potentially fund the Crenshaw/LAX Line station connecting to the Los Angeles International Airport people mover, the completion of the Purple Line Extension subway to Westwood project a decade earlier than planned, and a transit corridor in the San Fernando Valley between the Orange Line Van Nuys Station and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station.

The initiative also calls for an extension of Measure R by another 18years, so that both half-cent increases to the sales tax would last until 2057.

The list of projects and the proposed sales tax measure would need final
approval by the Metro board of directors. The public will also have the opportunity give input on the measure before the board decides in June whether to move forward with it.

Other projects that are tentatively included in the measure are:
– High Desert Corridor right-of-way acquisition,
– Sepulveda Pass Busway/ExpressLanes from the Valley to the Westside
– Orange Line grade separation improvements
– West Santa Ana Branch Corridor from Artesia to just north of the ,Green Line
– I-710 South Corridor truck lanes Phase 1
– Vermont Transit Corridor improvements between the Expo Line and the Red/Purple Line
– New lanes for the 71 Freeway between the 10 and Rio Rancho Road
– 105 ExpressLanes between the 405 and 605
– I-5 North enhancements between the 14 Freeway and Lake Hughes Road
– An extension of the Gold Line east from Azusa to Claremont
– Bus rapid transit connector between the Orange Line/Red Line and the Gold Line
– LA River Bike Path connecting downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley
– LA River Waterway & System Bike Path connecting Canoga Park to Elysian Valley
– Crenshaw/LAX Track Enhancement Project

San Fernando Valley transit boosters hailed the tentative plan for its inclusion of a project to build a north-south light rail along Van Nuys Boulevard, the transit tunnel between the Valley and the Westside and improvements to the Orange Line.

“This is a banner day for the Valley, as we, along with many elected officials representing the Valley, organized for a long time to ensure inclusion of the projects on the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments’ priority list in the Expenditure Plan,” Valley Industry and Commerce Association President Stuart Waldman said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents a San Fernando Valley district, said the area “has waited far too long for its fair share of transportation investment, and now we are on track to getting it.”

“This proposal gives the Valley a golden opportunity to transform its transportation network and relieve congestion, and we should seize it,” he said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the list represents “an unprecedented level of investment to every corner of Los Angeles County.”

“It would build on our current rail and transit system to finally deliver the connected, comprehensive transportation network our region deserves,” he said.

He added that “with the County’s population expected to grow by 750,000 over the next decade, we cannot afford to be in chronic gridlock. We must act now.”

Coalition Calls For Affordable Housing Near Transit

February 26, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

With at least $40 billion in transportation projects being built or planned in the Los Angeles area over the coming years, a transit-focused coalition urged city leaders Wednesday to keep housing near transit corridors affordable for those most dependent on public transportation.

Three-quarters of people in the Los Angeles area who use public transportation to get to work earn less than $25,000 a year – compared with the $60,000 median annual income for greater Los Angeles residents in 2014, according to the Alliance for Community Transit.

Those lower-wage earners could be priced out of neighborhoods near transportation hubs if city leaders fail to enact policies to protect them, according to an ACT white paper, which says research has shown that transportation projects tend to drive up nearby housing costs.

Boyle Heights resident and Alliance member Fanny Ortiz said city leaders should “act aggressively to ensure that affordable housing for very low-income families near transit is created, so that gentrification doesn’t decimate entire communities.”

The $40 billion in transportation investment mostly comes out of the voter-approved Measure R half-cent sales tax increase, according the Alliance.

Alliance members urged Los Angeles city leaders to take proactive measures to keep housing affordable near public transit corridors, which they said will also lower greenhouse gas and air pollution and create more jobs for Angelenos.

“Los Angeles is making an unprecedented investment in public transportation. For the system to work, we need to plan now to ensure it is accessible to those most likely to use it,” said Laura Raymond, campaign director for the Alliance. “This is going to depend on ensuring housing affordability and community economic development along transit lines.”

The 2013 Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan and the 2011 Mayor’s Transit Corridors Cabinet could serve as models for future transportation and urban planning, according to the ACT.

The Alliance’s white paper, “Transit For All: Achieving Equity in Transit-Oriented Development” can be read at www.allianceforcommunitytransit.org/transit-for-all.

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