(Graphic is from Metro's First-Last-Mile Strategic Plan.) Jonathan Parfrey and Climate Resolve hosted 48 environmental organizations this week in a big discussion about the possibility of putting another sales tax measure on the ballot in 2016 (we call this Measure R2; previously the Measure R sales tax for transportation was passed in 2008). The conversation among about 100 people was held at the Community Health Councils office in South LA on Monday, and also included Metro Interim CEO Stephanie Wiggins and government relations staff, city staff, and staff for several elected officials.
Jonathan kicked things off by pointing out that the potential here for reducing GHG emissions and the threat of climate change is particularly powerful: NYC has the lowest GHG emissions per capita of any city in the U.S., he pointed out, because so many people take transit, walk and bike. Considering that LA is the 2nd largest city in the U.S., that Governor Brown has made a commitment to reducing GHG emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and that transportation is the largest source of GHG emissions in California, he argued that we should follow suit — by continuing to build out our transit system and making it easier to walk and bike.
I was only able to stay for the first 2 hours, during which time many interesting things got said:
- Recent transportation sales tax measures have dedicated between 10% and 13% of funding to bike and pedestrian projects in Alameda County, the City of San Francisco and Marin County, whereas the Measure R sales tax for transportation in LA County dedicated no funding to bike/ped.
- More than 5,000 people die prematurely every year due to air pollution, and African American and Latino children are 2 to 6 times more likely to die from asthma than whites. Burning fossil fuels is a major source of this air pollution.
- Diesel is the very worst air toxin — worse even than all the other toxins combined — and the only way to address the diesel problem is to invest in the implementation of zero- and near-zero clean goods movement.
- Climate change is going to make our city hotter in coming decades and exacerbate drought. The Grand Boulevards program that Move LA has proposed as part of Measure R2 would help by addressing the heat island effect — when pavement, concrete and other hard surfaces reflect heat, increasing air temperatures and the temp of water that runs off pavement into local waterways — if money is made available to replace asphalt with cool pavement. These paving materials reflect solar energy, enhance water evaporation and remain cooler than conventional pavement. (Studies estimate that pavement covers 30-45% of land in cities.) The Grand Boulevards program would also fund complete streets with improvements to accommodate all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and drivers).
- 2016 could be a busy ballot with lots of tax measures.
- Metro’s Long Range Transportation Planning process, which is beginning now and continues until June 2016, provides another opportunity to find funding for projects: Metro will be considering its 3 transportation sales taxes collectively, and holds out the possibility that because the language in the measures is sometimes very general it may be possible to refocus some of the requirements about how money can be spent.
- Decisions about which projects to fund with another sales tax measure should include consideration about whether these projects could leverage additional funding from the federal or state governments. For example, the federal government is providing LA with 3 full-funding grant agreements for 3 of the 5 rail lines currently under construction. This is previously unheard of but is happening because the federal government sees that local voters were so committed to building these projects that they stepped up to tax themselves. Similarly, the state is likely to provide Cap & Trade money for Measure R2 projects that can be shown to reduce GHG emissions.
- A 45-year tax could raise more than $90 billion, an order of magnitude bigger than Measure R, which raised $36 billion.
- The 2/3 voter requirement is a very big hurdle that requires getting buy-in from voters in all parts of LA County and especially on the periphery (the South Bay, San Fernando Valley, and Gateway Cities, for example, as compared to downtown LA). One way to address this is to raise enough money to be able to fund projects in every subregion by extending the term of the tax (as in the bullet point above) or perhaps have no sunset at all.
- How can the sales tax measure investments create better access to public lands, parks, the LA River and other open space?
- Should projects that are being discussed as candidates for funding be required to provide a travel demand or GHG reduction analysis?
Move LA will be continuing to partner with organizations to hold conversations like these with stakeholders all around the county between now and November 2016!