We need your support for SB 732, a bill authored by State Senator Ben Allen that will create the opportunity of a lifetime for Southern California.
SB 732 will make it possible for Southern Californians to vote to finally clean the air and at the same time dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
SB 732 will also make it possible for us to create a clean, regional, high-velocity rail system to seriously reduce traffic throughout Southern California.
And it would cost each of us about a dime a day. Would you vote "Yes" for a measure like this?
Of course you would! That is why we need your support for SB 732. Click here to send an email right now to key legislators and their staff to help us move this critical legislation forward.Read more
The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Legislative Committee has been discussing a draft expenditure plan for implementing its 2016 Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP)—expenditures that may be included in a 4-county ballot measure. This plan is a lot like what we believe such a ballot measure should include: It would provide significant incentives for zero-emission cars, transit and port equipment, as well as zero and near-zero emission trucks, off-road equipment, ships and aircraft. This is a plan that would be an excellent foundation for any ballot measure to clean the air and pushback on climate change.
We’ve been talking with the SCAQMD and others for months about this idea, which would fully and finally finish the job of cleaning SoCal's air. The big air quality challenge for the SCAQMD and for all of us is emissions from diesel vehicles and equipment—and that is where a lot of the proposed funding would go.
Local agencies like the Air District cannot regulate emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks because they are regulated by the federal government, so the only way to leverage real change is by incentivizing truck operators—many of whom are small-time businesses with 1-3 trucks—to buy cleaner trucks.
We are very pleased that the SCAQMD's vision for this ballot measure is so visionary! The most likely date for this measure is now November 2022—Vision 2022 anyone?Read more
One big takeaway from Metro’s first annual Aging and Disabilities Forum at Union Station earlier this month is that only 5% of older adults in LA County are using Metro’s discounted transit pass program, and people with disabilities are also significantly under-enrolled. This is not ok, and suggests Metro needs to increase its marketing and enrollment efforts!
“It’s an incredible deal—with 35-cent fares during off-peak hours and 75 cents at peak!” says LA County Supervisor and Metro Boardmember Sheila Kuehl, who has championed the concerns of this cohort of transit riders. “It’s a priority for my office to see those registration rates rise, and I’m encouraging Metro to take up the challenge of ensuring that more seniors sign up for one of the best deals in town.”
Why aren’t older adults and people with disabilities riding Metro? The reasons are many, and are generally the same reasons that ridership is declining across LA County: concerns about safety, difficulty in accessing stations and stops, inadequate bus shelters and benches and on-time arrival information, long waits at stops and unreliable bus service (because of traffic), and, sadly, because many people have moved out of communities well-served by transit in order to find more affordable places to live.
This is also why Move LA and others, especially long-time partner Hilary Norton of FAST (Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic), have long advocated for transit hubs that would also provide riders with access to food and water, information on how to get to destinations, clean bathrooms, and other amenities—which are provided in cities such as Tokyo, for example, where almost everyone takes transit.Read more
It was a victory for transit and for community process at Metro today as board members listened to advocates for the proposed North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and to its critics—the neighbors who would live near it—assuring both groups (there were more than 80 speakers) they would seek a strategic solution to everyone's needs and concerns. Board members then voted to begin the environmental review.
Neighbors are concerned the BRT corridor will worsen traffic along Nordhoff Street because the buses will take up space now used by cars. They have recommended that the line travel instead down Roscoe Boulevard, a street lined with light industrial buildings, some commercial uses, single-family neighborhoods and vacant lots. Some have expressed concern that if BRT is built along Nordhoff then SB 50, a 2-year bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener (San Francisco) that will be heard again next year, would upzone the mostly single-family neighborhoods along the line, allowing developers to build apartments and/or more homes.
Students, transit advocates and environmentalists, however, countered that BRT along Nordhoff would relieve traffic—because the line would travel along the south side of the Cal State Northridge (CSUN) campus, creating easy access for its 30,000 students and thus ensuring significant ridership—as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We believe that if Metro were able to create a deeply-discounted student transit pass program—something that Move LA and its partners have advocated for years—that it may be exactly the program that could reassure the project's critics that traffic would not increase.
Move LA is urging the Metro Board to move forward with the North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project, and we are asking you to join us in this effort by sending an email to board members—their email addresses and more info is below—to express your support. Or consider attending the Metro Board meeting on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. If you want to provide public comment you need to register at the meeting before the item is taken up.
This BRT project represents a $180 million investment in the North San Fernando Valley, and is projected to result in an estimated 28,000 daily boardings in 2042—comparable to the highly successful Orange Line BRT today—in part because it will directly serve students, faculty and staff at Cal State Northridge, one of the largest universities in the state. But it will also serve key work centers including North Hollywood, Panorama City and the Northridge Fashion Center, and allow people to transfer to the Orange Line, Metrolink and the planned Van Nuys Boulevard Light Rail line.
Everyone—especially low-income residents—will benefit from faster transit service that reduces both traffic congestion and the time they have to spend getting to destinations. Traffic in Los Angeles is slowing down buses, making arrival times unpredictable and reducing ridership. One recent study, by Aaron Mendelson at KPCC, found that while 22% of Metro buses now run late, buses that travel on a dedicated lane, like the Orange Line, are late only 5.4% of the time. On-time performance matters greatly to bus riders, and dedicated lanes for BRT would really improve the reliability of service.
Consider some of the results of research that has been done on BRT systems in the U.S. by the Federal Transit Administration, the Transportation Research Board and others.Read more
Last month Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, executive director of LA's Local Initiatives Support Corporation, sat down with Sen. Ben Allen, Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane, and public finance expert Larry Kosmont for a discussion about affordable housing and public transit. The result is podcast #13 in LISC’s Changemakers LA podcast series: "What Move LA is Doing Around Transit Districts"!
Tunua Thrash-Ntuk began by asking the question that many people are asking: Why is it that with so many transportation options now available in Los Angeles—following voter approval of Measures R in 2008 and M in 2016, which are now providing $120 billion (mostly for transit) over 40 years—that traffic is getting worse and bus ridership is declining?
The answer? It's not just a transportation problem, it is a housing affordability problem.
"There's definitely a housing-transportation nexus here," Sen. Ben Allenbegan. "So many people can't afford to live near where they work that as housing costs increase they have to move further and further away. We need more housing near job centers and more transit to get people to jobs."
Denny Zane agreed, noting "It's important to appreciate that housing has a dramatic impact on ridership, and the people who ride transit most often are from low-income households, which are being forced out of Los Angeles as high-income households move in—many of them to work in LA's expanding tech industry—causing rents and housing prices to climb."
Larry Kosmont pointed out that local governments could step up and help solve the need for more affordable housing if they had a way to capture the value of the public investment LA County is making in transit—adding that if government doesn’t capture the value, the private sector will by building luxury condos and high-rent apartment buildings.
Value capture is what community redevelopment agencies used to do, but Governor Brown ended redevelopment to deal with the state’s budget crisis in 2011, and recreating it has recently been the subject of much discussion in the state Capitol.
Sen. Ben Allen’s SB 961—which Move LA sponsored and Governor Brown signed last year—would resurrect a type of redevelopment by allowing cities to create enhanced infrastructure financing districts near high-frequency bus and rail corridors and in the half-mile radius around stations.
These districts could enable cities to bond against the future tax increment and begin improving these neighborhoods and turning them into mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-oriented communities. SB 961 requires that 40% of the funds be used for affordable housing for low- and very-low income people as well as people who are homeless—redevelopment in contrast required only 20% of for housing that is affordable.
"There are tools, like SB 961, to do this but they need to be strengthened," Larry concluded. "What is missing is motivation for government agencies to cooperate by committing a share of their property tax increases to reinvestment in these districts."
Denny said the intent of SB 961 is to create an important new funding source for community building in mixed-use mixed-income neighborhoods along underutilized boulevards. LA County has a significant number of these commercial corridors that are served by high frequency bus and rail transit—including Vermont, Venice, Valley and Vanowen, said Denny, adding "and that's only the boulevards that start with a V."
Sen. Allen, Denny, Larry and Tunua talked at greater length about the importance of value capture and how it can be used to invest in community development and increase transit ridership—we urge you to listen to the whole conversation here: Podcast #13: "What Move LA is Doing Around Transit Districts." This podcast series is part of an even larger conversation about how to make LA neighborhoods better in a time of growing prosperity and growing inequity in LA, and it's a celebration of LISC's 30 years in LA. Thank you Tunua Thrash-Ntuk!
The Planning Report recently asked Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane an important question: What would SB 50, a bill by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to upzone much of the land in transit-rich and jobs-rich neighborhoods--including those currently dedicated to single-family housing--do to voter support for transit expansion measures such as Measures M and R?
A City of LA Planning Department report estimates that about 43% of developable land in the city could be affected by SB 50. And the bill—which was held in the Legislature this session but will reappear next year—has definitely had an impact on discussions about a planned bus rapid transit project in the San Fernando Valley. Click here to read Denny's assessment of supply-side answers to the state's housing crisis in the new issue of the Planning Report!
We were very pleased this summer to be identified as a major player, in the Eno Center for Transportation's laudatory account of the 2016 Measure M campaign—along with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA Metro. That win—with 71.15% of the vote—on a measure now providing $120 billion (mostly for transit) in LA County on a ballot that included three other successful funding measures (for community colleges, parks and homeless housing and services) was remarkable. Voters suddenly seemed very willing to tax themselves to help solve the county's real needs.
The non-profit Eno Center is a progressive transportation think tank in Washington D.C. that has been publishing analyses of transportation ballot measures in the recognition that new transportation funding sources are necessary. The reason? Federal gas tax revenues, long the biggest source of transportation funding, have been declining as the fuel efficiency of cars increases. The Eno Center sees LA County's ballot measures as an example for other counties.
The Eno report, a joint effort with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and written by UCLA Professor Michael Manville, noted that “Measure M is a classic example of coalition politics. Much of the work surrounding the measure involved building an alliance to support it. This took place long before voters even saw the proposal . . . Measure M’s success began with a coalition representing almost every geographic area and large stakeholder.”
And, the Eno Center noted, not only did Move LA play the role of coalition-convener in the 2016 campaign but had done the same in 2008 when Measure R won with just 66.7% of the vote, a victory no less remarkable than Measure M, however, as the Great Recession was crashing down all around us. (Yes, that's Move LA's Executive Director Denny Zane to the right in both R and M photos above.)
The Measure R win also prompted a study by the Dukakis Urban & Regional Policy Center at Northeastern University, written by the center’s Associate Director Stephanie Pollack—now Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. This study discussed Denny's role in initiating the campaign at a summit he organized in early January 2008, after which he convened a powerful business-labor-environmentalist coalition to support the idea.
Wrote Pollack, “A charismatic leader can get the ball rolling and help overcome adversity. While the circumstances in 2007 clearly were ripe for a transportation finance campaign, someone had to convene the stakeholders. It is fair to say that without Zane there would not have been a Measure R campaign. Zane’s ability to bring people together and his willingness to take a risk kick-started this effort and likely carried it through.”
Move LA Policy and Communications Director Gloria Ohland was invited to Oakland last month to share the Measure R and M lessons with Bay Area transportation leaders and advocates who are considering a measure for their 2020 ballot. She talked about the importance of building multi-constituency coalitions and finding common ground—and how that is best done face-to-face, one conversation at a time. We believe that is the most important lesson!
We will soon share our coalition-building plans around the issues of affordable housing, clean air, climate change, regional high-velocity express rail, zero-emission technologies and the imminent need to address short-lived climate pollutants (also called super pollutants)—and hope you will join us. Stay tuned!
Since last month at the Metro Board meeting on its budget, where we testified that Metro needs to budget for expanding bus service, several news outlets have called Move LA to ask us why we believe bus transit ridership continues to fall in Los Angeles County.
Our answer: since Metro’s primary ridership base is the low-income members of our community, declining bus ridership and rising homelessness have the same fundamental cause – the loss of a large share of Los Angeles’ County’s affordable housing stock, not to bulldozers, but to rent increases and eviction notices.
Increasingly, very-low and low income people and families are no longer able to afford to live here. Many leave the county for more affordable communities to our east or communities in other states; some end up on the streets among the growing ranks of our homeless population.
In any case a large share of Metro’s very-low and low income transit rider base have left and are no longer riding transit.
We began to unearth this trend last year when we looked at demographic data we asked for and received from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
Since 2005, Los Angeles County has experienced two dominant trends: a dramatic increase in households with six-figure incomes and a concurrent and dramatic loss in very-low and low income households.
The Changing Demographics of LA County: 2005-2015
Source: Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
Changes in composition of LA County Households by Income
Increase in #
Growth in Households in LA County
Decline in Households in LA County
The growth of over 300,000 high-income households in LA County is huge – more than a 50% increase over a decade from about 600,000 in 2005 to over 900,000 in 2015. This growth continues today and is changing LA County in fundamental ways.
We believe this sudden and very large increase in our high-income workforce, primarily in high-tech industries, has created pressures on housing costs across the county, both for-sale and rental housing, driving up rents, gentrifying neighborhoods and displacing many low-income residents.
The Silicon Valley came to LA in the early 2000s to couple-up with Hollywood and beget the Silicon Beach (and spread inland). Early tech migrants Yahoo! and Google each bought major properties in Santa Monica and Venice in 2005-6 bringing the first wave of what would soon be 300,000 new highly paid employees (most from out of town). We had no idea the transformation they would bring.
The residents of Queens saw the future better than we. When they heard that Amazon was coming and bringing 25,000 highly paid jobs, they figured the jobs weren’t meant for them and the new highly-paid workforce would likely drive up housing costs, gentrify their community, and drive many of them out. So, they resisted. Amazon backed out of the deal.
Imagine if they faced an influx of not 25,000 new highly paid residents but 300,000 like us– it would be like lighting a demographic fuse that would blow away our low-income residents.
Many displaced low-income residents have moved out of town; some may have become homeless. Many members of the displaced households were likely transit riders. Thus, between 2005-2015, LA Metro lost nearly 17% of the population that provided its ridership base, largely due to rising housing costs. This loss of low-income households has continued and probably now exceeds 20% since 2005.
It is no surprise then that, in addition to riders lost in the aftermath of fare increases and service cuts in 2010 and 2014, Metro transit ridership declined another 17% after 2015.
It’s not just LA County. In 2018, Beacon Economics in a report done for Next 10 said that essentially the same process was underway in urban areas throughout California.
We have been sharing this information with key leaders--at Metro, SCAG, and at our Annual Transportation Conversation. The news media took note and Elijah Chiland wrote an article for Curbed LA that supported our conclusion with further data. And then we were interviewed for KNX 1070 News Radio, the largest news radio outlet in Los Angeles, about the decline in ridership caused by demographic shifts and housing costs and what Metro can do today to invest in our current ridership and not just our future.
We believe that the Metro Board has been incredibly ambitious with its “28 by ‘28” proposal to complete 28 major capital projects by 2028 when the Olympics. This is ambition we encourage, with one caveat: we want Metro to add one more ambitious plan: We should rebuild our transit ridership back to 2008 levels by 2028.
We believe there are cost-effective, proven strategies that include significant bus service enhancements, real fare reductions, universal student transit pass programs available to all college students in the county, and additional access for services to seniors and people with disabilities.
Further, Metro should prioritize (like Barcelona, Spain has done) developing a significant network of Bus Rapid Transit lines on boulevards throughout the county. There is already funding in Measure M for this and we believe it would be an excellent use of that measure’s new transit operations dollars.
Joe Linton of Streetsblog LA outlined our concerns with the FY 2019-20 Metro Budget and our recommendations for expenditures in this detailed story.
We've outlined our asks to the Metro Board and would like to get your support. Can you sign onto this letter endorsing our recommendations today and we will share it with the Metro Board?
Oh, and what is our approach to the affordable housing crisis? More on that next time.