Looking Forward: Modernizing Regional Goods Movement
Infrastructure and Metrolink
MEASURE M WAS A PROFOUND advance in LA County’s transportation infrastructure development. But we didn’t address every important issue. During discussions about M, Move LA tried to gain support for the inclusion of funding to modernize our goods movement infrastructure and our regional commuter rail system, Metrolink.
As important as these systems are to our economy, and as part of the solution to regional traffic congestion, they are not primarily county systems. They are regional, which is why it was difficult for LA Metro, or any other county transportation commission, to ask voters to make major funding commitments unless other counties were making similar commitments.
The lesson: The mission of modernizing goods movement infrastructure and Metrolink will have to be handled as a regional responsibility. But these are clearly responsibilities we must undertake - because the benefits to our economy, to job creation, and to congestion relief in LA County would be very big.
Another regional mission—cleaning our air—has thus far been an important but incomplete success. We still must reduce emissions from transportation, especially heavy-duty diesel trucks. The 2016 Air Quality Management Plan will achieve clean air only if it is able to accelerate deployment of zero and near-zero emission heavy-duty trucks and off-road vehicles. Passenger cars are still important, but not nearly as important as diesel trucks.
Accelerating deployment of zero and near-zero emission vehicles is also the lynchpin to success in reducing greenhouse gases and abating climate change.
The State of California has likely done this year what it can do to help address these challenges. SB1 and the extension of the state cap-and-trade program were enormous accomplishments and will do a lot to help. But each required a 2/3 vote and that will be very difficult to replicate any time soon. This mission is now ours!
At Move LA, we think all these regional challenges require a regional solution, one that can be found only by developing a “grand bargain” to address these both our infrastructure needs and our emission reduction needs.
That means we need coalitions as big as the ones we convened for Measures R and M—with multiple constituencies as well as the Air District, Metrolink, the ports, and the county transportation commissions. We believe the best solution will come in the form of a regional ballot measure. Such a measure should be placed before voters in November 2020. Only such a measure can provide the scale of resources needed.
The most appropriate district to sponsor such a measure is the South Coast Air Quality Management District, whose boundaries include the counties of LA, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside, but not the high desert areas in LA or the Inland Empire, probably among the more politically challenging areas for such a measure.
Looking Back: The End of Air Pollution and Climate Change
LOOKING BACK FROM THE YEAR 2040, the 12-year period between 2008 and 2020 seems remarkable, especially for those in Southern California concerned about air quality and climate change. It was as if Southern California voters had simply decided in 2020 that air pollution was a drag on their lives and their economy and that climate change was truly an existential threat. It was time to do something about both.
Southern California has had a special history reducing emissions. After all, the South Coast Air District and California Air Resources Board had written the how-to-do-it book. History had given SoCal a special responsibility: to accelerate the roll-out of zero and near-zero emission vehicles, to dramatically reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, and to end the dominion of diesel.
SoCal voters began to show their leadership chops between 2002 and 2006, when Inland Empire and Orange County voters approved sales tax measures for transportation by more than 70%—by 80% in San Bernardino County – and then again when LA County voters approved Measure R in 2008 by 67.9%, and then Measure M in 2016 by 71.2%. But, responsibility to emphasize clean transportation really took root with the LA County measures. Each LA County measure committed more than 2/3 of funding to transit.
Taken together these measures demonstrated that voters understood that only they could address serious transportation challenges—and only if elected leaders gave them the chance.
Voters seemed to know that big challenges required comprehensive solutions and they responded favorably when ballot measures offered solutions, not bandaids. Fortune favors the bold!
Perhaps the more important consequence of these measures was the confidence SoCal’s elected leaders gained in their electorate.
When Southern California voters were given the opportunity in November 2020 to consider a measure providing a comprehensive solution to the longstanding challenge of air pollution, to put an end to diesel emissions, and to dramatically reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions while modernizing key transportation infrastructure, it really rang true. So voters approved Vision 2020 by more than 70%, a far-reaching regional measure authorized by the California Legislature and placed on the ballot by the South Coast AQMD.
The measure raised about $1.4 billion a year and almost $70 billion over 30 years from several funding sources, with half the revenue dedicated to reducing pollution from transportation sources and the other half modernizing the regional goods movement infrastructure and regional commuter rail, Metrolink, to reduce congestion and spur economic growth.
Once approved, the Vision 2020 measure enabled, even triggered, zero-emission vehicle deployment programs even beyond California. The SoCal market is so vast that ramping up the manufacturing and deployment of zero and near-zero emission vehicles there created major economies of scale for manufacturers of these vehicles, significantly reducing per vehicle costs. These lower costs have stimulated efforts elsewhere in California, even in other states and in other nations.
By 2040 deployment of zero and near-zero emission vehicles of all sorts has skyrocketed worldwide. Meeting the emission reduction targets needed to abate climate change is no longer just a dream. The world itself had stepped back, step by California step, from the climate change abyss.