Examining a ballot measure often goes like this: The main idea sounds good, but the more one studies the details, the more uneasy one becomes.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Measure R, however, is different. The main idea, raising Los Angeles County’s sales tax one-half cent to fund transportation improvements, does raise some red flags, especially during an economic downturn. But we think that the more voters examine MeasureR, the more they will be inclined to support it.
Over the course of its life — Measure R sunsets in 30 years — it would raise $40billion for transportation projects throughout the county, including the South Bay. A key theme running through Measure R is encouraging people to try alternatives to pollution-spewing single-passenger car trips. This would not only help the county cope with an expected population increase of 2million people by 2030, but it would help prevent many illnesses related to air pollution, including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. It would create 210,000 jobs, mostly in construction, to help boost the economy, creating an expanded transportation network that would drive future economic development.
Measure R offers direct benefits for the South Bay: the addition of a Green Line spur to Los Angeles International Airport and a Green Line extension to what’s really the heart of the South Bay, the South Bay Galleria. With the Green Line reaching LAX, the airport could then fund a people mover to whisk travelers from the LAX Green Line station to their terminals.
The measure would fund major South Bay ramp and interchange improvements to the 405, 105, 110 and 91 freeways. These upgrades, in turn, would improve the traffic flow on key arterials in the South Bay.
A transitway along Crenshaw Boulevard connecting a Westside light rail line with the Green Line would see its construction accelerated if Measure R passes.
The measure contains language that would send $227 million to the Gardena Municipal Bus Lines, Beach Cities Transit and Torrance Transit over the next 30 years. And it would maintain current Metro fares for seniors, students and the disabled through 2015.
Measure R also returns 15 percent of the funds collected to municipal governments and unincorporated areas to provide transportation-related improvements such as signal synchronization and bike routes. Indeed, during the first year, South Bay cities would get a combined total of $6.6 million for improvements. Some of this money could be pooled toward regional projects, such as using the Harbor Subdivision rail line for mass transit.
Don Szerlip, a former Redondo Beach city councilman and a member of the South Bay Metro Governance Council, argues that passage of the measure would help the South Bay finally get its fair share of transportation money. And unlike bond funding, all of the new revenues collected would go directly toward needed projects in a classic pay-as-you-go fashion.
We think the desperate need to improve transportation options in the county argues for the passage of Measure R. Voter approval, however, won’t be easy because that requires two-thirds of voters to say “Yes.”
But according to MTA board member Richard Katz, the measure should appeal to many voters because it would make such a difference in people’s lives — in the areas of health, economic development and, above all, reducing the daily misery of L.A. commuters.
The cost for the average person per year should be about $25. But that cost can be recouped many times over by people taking advantage of the expanding transportation options. Even if they use mass transit only a couple times per week, the savings in fuel and car maintenance costs will more than make up for the higher sales tax expenditure.
Even getting a relatively small percentage of drivers onto alternative transportation can make a huge difference during rush hour. We think this measure offers a unique opportunity to greatly improve the transportation system in all areas of the county, and that helps everyone. On Election Day, vote “Yes” on Measure R.