CA Transit Running Out of Money When We Need It To Help Meet State's Ambitious GHG and Petroleum Use Reduction Goals
When Governor Brown called for a Special Session on Transportation a few weeks ago it was to find a way to increase the funding to repair streets, bridges and freeways – prompting transit advocates to call for a more balanced approach that would also consider the needs of transit. Transit remains woefully underfunded in California: One recent study found that by 2020 the revenue available for transit will cover just a third of the capital needs and fall 20% short of meeting operating needs. The state hasn’t done a dedicated transportation funding program since Proposition 111 in 1990 (which increased the gas tax to 18 cents/gallon), and the most recent temporary fix was Proposition 1B in 2006, a $20 billion bond that dedicated 25% to transit. At the same time the state has set ambitious goals for requiring reductions in GHG emissions and petroleum use – both of which require more transit since the majority of GHG emissions come from cars and trucks (40% of the statewide GHG total).Read more
The furor over the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, one of several funded with Cap & Trade dollars -- the most significant new source of funding for good projects in our lifetimes -- has abated. And organizations, advocates, local governments and developers from around the state are sending off a mountain of letters providing input on the lessons learned from Round 1. Posted here is the letter Move LA is sending to the Strategic Growth Council, which administers the program. In sum, we recommend:
- Removing the jurisdictional cap on funding -- since larger cities offer some of the most cost-effective opportunities for VMT and GHG reductions -- in favor of an allocation scheme that's more sensitive to GHG reduction opportunities, population, and the presence of disadvantaged communities.
- Reducing the role of resource leveraging in the scoring of projects, which created a "them-that-gots-continue-to-get" dynamic. The best projects may not have ready access to capital.
- Enhancing the program's commitment to active transportation and first-last-mile infrastructure development.
- Enhancing the role of metropolitan planning organizations in making transportation infrastructure -- but not affordable housing -- investments. This is especially important in the SCAG region, where county transportation commissions have the money and authority to build transportation projects, but no obligation to demonstrate the GHG reduction potential of the projects they program and fund, while SCAG has that obligation but very little funding to incentivize the CTCs to build the projects that reduce GHG emissions (i.e. transit, first-last-mile connections to transit, bike lanes and paths and infrastructure for people who walk).
(Portland had a surfeit of parking in 1968, before the city chose to invest in more sustainable transportation. Photo: CafeUnknown.com.) LA has been slow to join the worldwide movement to re-orient streets away from cars and back towards people and community life by prioritizing the safety of all road users and emphasizing the public right to use what are undeniably public spaces. The City of LA's Mobility Element, up before the City Council Tuesday, maps out exactly this kind of overhaul of LA's outdated transportation priorities. Advocates had expected the plan to pass easily but its chances are now uncertain, following a story in the LA Times on Sunday that is causing some councilmembers to question the plan. These are the reasons we think the City Council should adopt it:Read more
A new coalition of 20 environmental organizations named EnviroMetro has signed on to a letter that outlines priorities for a possible 2016 sales tax measure for transportation, and we enthusiastically applaud their choices, including “an explicit goal of increasing funding for public transit and active transportation and lowering drive-alone trips”! Their priorities are to:
- Give preference only to projects that are either GHG-neutral or that reduce GHG emissions . . . no projects that increase vehicle travel should be funded
- Target funding for, prioritize multi-benefit projects in, and avoid burdening “disadvantaged communities” already disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution
- Prioritize multi-benefit projects such as cool pavements, increased tree canopy, and shaded transit stops to help cool down entire neighborhoods, reduce urban heat island effects, and improve air quality
- Integrate natural assets into a first-last-mile strategy
- Incorporate green infrastructure and biological mitigation for projects into funding measure
Lotsa media today at the press conference where Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon announced LA had won $1.6 million from the CA Air Resources Board to implement carsharing in low-income neighborhoods, beginning with downtown LA, Westlake, Koreatown, parts of Hollywood, and East LA and South LA in the second year. The carshare project hopes to deploy 100 electric vehicles and recruit 7,000 carshare users, who will pay less than market-rate prices.Read more
Tell us how you would invest in transportation: Would you prioritize investments in rail, bus, bike lanes and wider sidewalks, freeway improvements, road repairs? Some or all of these? Depending on where you live and work tell us which of the projects listed in our survey (link is below) you would support. A new transportation funding measure is under discussion and people across LA County are talking about which projects to fund. We are working with LA Metro on formulating the agency's Long Range Transportation Plan — which increases the likelihood that particular projects will get funded — and trying to understand priorities across the county.Read more
The Strategic Growth Council was in DTLA again today to tease out more lessons learned from round 1 of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) funding program ($130 million disbursed) so changes can be made before round 2 next year ($400 million). The councilmembers in attendance got an earful.
Much of the criticism centered around the fact that even though Southern California is home to 50% of the state’s population and 66% of the communities deemed to be “disadvantaged” according to the CalEnviroScreen (meaning they are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution and entitled to certain shares of funding), SoCal got just 22% of the grants that were made.
“Geographic equity is something that has to be remedied for the long-term sustainability of this effort,” Move LA’s Denny Zane told the SGC. “The fact that Southern California is so under-represented will cause a political backlash.” Denny also suggested that the SGC give the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and other metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) around the state a more significant role in disbursing the funding to help address the geographic equity issue.Read more
Celebrating LA Metro's 25th birthday and the continuing expansion of LA's rail system to 131 miles is grand! Trains are being tested in Santa Monica as of today! But it also makes you wonder what it was like back when 2,160 Pacific Red Cars ran daily on 1,000 miles of track connecting LA, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Those were the days when LA's electric railway system was the largest in the world -- and several decades before all those cars were crushed to make room for buses and automobiles. But the great thing is that the Red Car system is in our very bones. Walkable, bikeable communities were built up around streetcar lines, and we can get back to the future there -- with cleaner air, reduced GHG emissions, improved public health, reduced transportation costs, and less dependence on petroleum.
DENNY ZANE ON THE CONSTITUENCIES THAT SUPPORT A SALES TAX
Fifty people attended a conversation with new Metro CEO Phil Washington yesterday at Move LA’s offices in DTLA. But Denny Zane pointed out that the constituents represented by those 50 transportation leaders number in the millions – if one adds up the constituencies of even just a few, including One LA, the LA Area Chamber, BizFed, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the LA Community College District student population, and the disabled community. It’s a constituency that’s definitely enough to swing a vote on a new sales tax measure in LA County, Denny added, and one that should be able to participate in decision-making about the new measure with LA Metro, much like the 8 councils of government (that represent cities in the region) do -- because it’s a powerful constituency to engage.
NEW LA METRO CEO PHIL WASHINGTON ON THE IMPORTANCE OF INVESTING IN TRANSPORTATION
Washington started his remarks with a challenge: “I defy you,” he said, “to name a great city that didn’t start with a great transportation system.” He said he grew up on transit, living in the projects on the South Side of Chicago -- where he learned not to miss the bus, and that if his mother missed the bus it meant that she wouldn’t be coming home. He talked about his role in the Fastracks sales tax campaign in Denver, where he headed up the transit agency before coming to LA, and said that he fully believes that each $1 invested in transit leads to a $4 to $5 return, that accelerating project construction is key, and that private investment is too. Washington also noted that Denver enacted a project labor agreement and construction careers policy before LA Metro did.
Who was in the room and what they asked for is below.