Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sales tax comments

To get its required 2/3 vote the proposed 1/2-cent L.A. County transportation sales tax will have to meet critical needs for voters across the county. That it was designed as a compromise package to fund a number of long-sought projects, both transit and roads, hasn't stopped some critics from complaining.

The flagship new Westside project is the "Subway to the Sea", to receive $4,074 million, enough to open to Westwood in phases by the mid-2030s. The Expo Line phase 2 from Culver City to Santa Monica, although already budgeted in the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), would receive funding to assure its timely completion in 2013-15.

Other Westside projects include advancing the Crenshaw line from the 2020s to 2016-18, including service to LAX, and extending the Green Line to the South Bay Galleria.

New for both the San Fernando Valley and Westside is $1 billion for the I-405 Connector from the Valley to Westwood, a critical alternative to this freeway pass. SFV north-south Bus Rapid Transit lines along the Canoga right-of-way and north-south boulevards would be accelerated.

Similarly, the flagship project for the San Gabriel Valley is the Foothill Extension of the Pasadena Gold Line to Claremont. Here are Congressmembers David Dreier and Hilda Solis at a press conference on the right-of-way by Citrus College in Azusa on March 26. Foothill is not funded in the LRTP, and would receive $735M from the sales tax.

The Regional Connector across downtown L.A. between the Blue/Expo and Gold Lines would receive $160 million, with expectation of easy qualification for federal match.

Other SGV projects include extending the Eastside Gold Line and initial funding for the 710 freeway "gap closure" tunnel under South Pasadena.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich called for "Equity" in the form of allocating dollars based in population by subregion. But that supposes people only travel where they live. A resident of Palmdale who drives across the San Fernando Valley to a job in Santa Monica demonstrates how funding should go where it is most needed.

Bus advocates call for lower fares and more service in the face of limited operations funds and rising costs. The solution is a bigger pot, which is where 20% of the sales tax would generate $7,880 million for bus operations over 30 years, a 70% annual increase from existing (Draft LRTP) levels.

And how regressive is a sales tax that doesn't apply to groceries, rent, transit, utilities, or services?

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates sought a dedicated 1-2%, but will have to lobby local cities to be sure such projects are submitted under the 15% Local Return category. Making neighborhoods more inviting for walking and cycling is a fast, cost-effective way to reduce both traffic and fuel use.


Robert Du Mont Park said...

Too bad we will have to pass a regressive sales tax to fund freeway projects and local street projects, in part because Sacramento has "borrowed" and not repaid over 5 billion dollars in transportation funds. These freeway an local road projects are being tacked quietly onto a sales tax that is badly needed to expand transit. That 35% of funds taken for highways, would have provided a lot more transit lines and service, to a lot more people

I guess we will have to hold our noses and vote for the sales tax because we need the transit. This is the product of a lousy process, though. Too bad we can't do something about reforming the MTA, an organization almost devoid of leadership, and a Board that is nearly dysfunctional. That would give all of us a lot more confidence that these precious funds, for a badly needed public service, won't be squandered?

Anonymous said...

Subway to the Sea - opening ONLY by mid-2030's?! Give me a break!
The city will come to a complete standstill and will be completely choked by gridlocks and smog, before year 2030 comes along!
This is shameful, folks...
If it will take almost 30 years to build a frigging subway to Westwood, I'm probably not gonna vote for the sales tax increase; it's just not worth it.
If MTA wants people to support their decisions and approve the Sales Tax, they have to speed up things a bit... and open a subway extension not by 2035, but by 2015 - 20 years earlier. They can do it! If there's a will, there's a way.

Simon said...

Anonymous, I wouldn't pay too much attention to those dates.

It's all about what gets outside funding and what gets moving, and the West Side subway has already started doing the necessary public comment and report periods over the last year and is very popular.

Snoble, the Metro President, says he wants it to be open by 2015 (the date you mentioned). Now my gut says always expect huge public infrastructure projects to be delayed at least one year by lawsuits and other nonsense, but the date is possible.

I hope you vote for the sales tax, we need everyone who cares about transit to support it given that the options are so grim without it, and it will produce so many new improvements.

Darrell Clarke said...

Crossposting my comments yesterday at StreetsBlogLA:


The stereotypical bus rider who "can't afford" any fare increase must therefore spend nearly all of their income on groceries, rent, transit, and utilities, none of which pay sales tax in California.

This tax is projected to cost the average county resident only $25 per year*. A low-income transit rider would pay even less, and come out well-ahead in lower fares and better service.

*"According to the private nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), Measure R would cost residents just $25 per person each year." ("Metro's Five-Point Plan", page 6)

See the "Revenue Alternatives for a Sustainable Transportation System" PowerPoint download for alternatives -- such as fees -- to sales tax funding presented at the January Subway to the Sea conference,


Let's talk about low-income budgets. From the 2007 "Poverty, Jobs and the Los Angeles Economy" at

"In Los Angeles, the federal poverty line was $20,000 for a family of four in 2006. The California Budget Project estimates that even single adults living in Los Angeles would need more than $24,000 to meet their basic needs. In this report, the number of people living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line serves as a measure of those who lack the income to cover basic necessities and are therefore poor. The federal poverty level is used as a measure of the number of people living in extreme poverty."

"An estimated 1,505,004 million people, or 15.4 percent of Los Angeles County residents, live below the federal poverty threshold, considered in this report to be a measure of extreme need."

"An estimated 37.6 percent lived below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which was $40,000 per year for a family of four in 2006."

A $10/hour full-time job is about $20,000 per year.

Let's add up some round numbers:
Rent & utilities = $1,000/month
Metro monthly pass = $62
Groceries @$100/week = $400/month
Social Security deduction @6.2% = $103
Everything else = $102

That's what $20,000 per year buys. Sobering.

But they would only pay $6.12/year = 50 cents/month for the additional 1/2-cent sales tax on "everything else", far less than their transit benefits received.

Darrell Clarke said...

That 35% of funds taken for highways, would have provided a lot more transit lines and service, to a lot more people

Agreed, but "hold our noses" is, unfortunately, the typical transportation funding compromise.