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Want Another Transpo Tax? Answer Me These 5 Questions First

LA TRANSPO: THE ‘HOW’, THE ‘WHAT’ AND THE ‘WHERE’--There is probably no shortage of LA County residents who want more funding on transportation, but it's the "how" and the "what" and "where" that leaves the voters flustered.  Big-ticket items like "rail to LAX" and "rail line between the SF Valley and the Westside are attractive, but what about the bus and sidewalks that are supposed to help us use rail?  And are freeway/road motorists to be shown ANY love, here? 

So, with the understanding that it's by far too early to "just vote no" on any proposed "Measure R-2 sales tax", because we DO need more funding for transportation, here are some key questions for this tax's promoters to consider: 

1) Reaching for more rail lines is a good thing, but do we have our current rail lines properly maintained and spruced up with sufficient amenities to please the voters and future riders? 

Every advocate of the Expo Line and of rail in general acknowledges either the lack of rail cars, lack of parking, lack of security, lack of bicycle/pedestrian amenities, and--most importantly--the lack of bus connections to make our growing rail network a "winner" to serve a new generation of riders. 

After all, the Expo Line (which cost over $2 billion) wasn't just for those who already use transit, it was for everyone who paid for it.  It's understood that the "smart planners" all agree that the rail network is better for some than for others, but disenfranchising voters/taxpayers at this time doesn't seem too politically smart. 

Does it take a failure this November for the "smart planners" to acknowledge they're not as "smart" as they think they are? 

It may not be sexy to favor operations and amenities over new projects, but if it's deemed by enough voters that our rail system isn't ready for prime time do the "smart planners" really expect to convince taxpayers they should pay for more of that? 

2) The Rail Connection to LAX is a great and long-overdue idea, but its glaring lack of connections already has more than a few community leaders angry--particularly with those regions not served by that rail connection. 

The "Friends of the Green Line" project long ago concluded that the best way to assure a regional approach to LAX and Ontario and other airports was to create the very LAX/Metro/People Mover connection now being built under the leadership of Eric Garcetti, Mike Bonin, and others.   

So maybe it's not fair to look at "the glass half empty" rather than "the glass half full" because LA World Airports, Metro, and the LADOT are all doing the right things for the immediate future.  They deserve ample praise for their amazing turnarounds and progress...yet there are two glaring deficits/gaps in this Metro/LAX connection: 

a) The lack of a true LAX to Downtown/Union Station rail line.  The indirect Crenshaw Line serves the needs of that corridor, and goes back to the historic purpose of that line, which was to develop that underserved corridor. Yet while the needs of residents living south of the I-10 go underserved--thanks to CityWatch for more representation there--the need for the rail right of way to be more than a bikeway will best be addressed NOW.  Talk it up as part of the reason to vote "yes" this November!

b) The lack of a true LAX rail link to the Westside, and to Orange and Riverside Counties.  The South Bay deserves an expedited Green Line extension to connect to LAX (which was predicted by the "Friends of the Green Line" group to be the second-most favored region to want a connection to LAX), but what about the Westside?  What about the Green Line in the east that fails to connect to Metrolink and SoCal in general? 

3) Speaking of a lack of a Metrolink/Metro Green Line connection, how IS Metrolink to be funded and introduced to L.A. County residents who want access to/from the greater SoCal region? 

Are there enough funds proposed in a "Measure R-2" to create a seamless connection between Metrolink and MetroRail both at the eastern end of the Green Line, and for both the Foothill and Eastside Gold Lines?  Are we supposed to continue to accept the endless blather of how "Metrolink has different governance than MetroRail" so that their obvious connections aren't created. 

Orange and Riverside County residents are just like LA County residents:  they don't give a rip about any excuses as to WHY the MetroRail and Metrolink connections to LAX, Ontario, Burbank and other airports aren't being created.  They just want them to be created...and they'll demand the county leaderships to work together to plan, fund, and build these links ASAP. 

4) Do drivers no longer exist in LA County to merit tax/revenue support? 

Uber and Lyft have their roles in ways that "smart planners" never really expected--which goes to show us all that the human spirit can do things that Big Government can never dream of (and yes, you can be liberal as well as conservative to draw that conclusion). 

Ride-sharing reduces car trips and allows an economic and mobility boost in all sorts of ways.  Raising revenue, encouraging job formation, improving our environment--these are all things that should be embraced.   

So is throwing up the rail projects as the sole top billing a smart way to pass "Measure R-2"?  Seriously...can't freeway improvements and road repairs be part of how this November tax is promoted?  And are auto commuters to be so maligned that their votes and opinions no longer matter? 

5) What about the role that Sacramento and Washington have to play in our transportation needs? 

Both the state and federal governments have shirked their legal and moral roles in funding our transportation needs, and the likelihood of promises to MATCH our local funding efforts is a vital winner to convince concerned and tapped-out voters and taxpayers.   

Because if our state and federal leaders don't promise to fight for matching dollars for LA County's efforts to "save itself", then the question of whether we're fixing or fueling the lack of state and federal largesse for transportation projects to benefit LA County will doom the November tax altogether.

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

-cw