Most of us understand that the U.S. has made inadequate investments in transit and the transit workforce for decades—even the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill has maintained the old 80-20 funding split with the big money going to highways. In the meantime low-income riders and transit workers have been bearing the brunt of fare hikes, service cuts and shutdowns due to COVID.
Early in the pandemic Move LA began working with the TransitCenter, a foundation that works to improve public transit across the U.S., and then joined the National Campaign for Transit Justice, created in response to COVID and the resulting economic crisis. We wanted to help save transit by advocating for more transit funding in Congress and because LA Metro—like other agencies and their riders and drivers all over the U.S.—was bearing much of the brunt of this crisis.
It's important to remember that the well-being of transit and transit riders, drivers and other workers, helps power the economy, and the success of transit has a serious impact on the future of the planet. The new IPCC report on climate change released this week confirmed, once again, that the planet is warming at an ever increasing pace.
We also began working with the national Labor Network for Sustainability, which is building a powerful labor-environmental-climate movement to "secure an ecologically sustainable and economically just future where everyone can make a living on a living planet."
These organizations believe that abundant transit can unlock freedom of movement, which unlocks access to opportunity. But, as these organizations remind us, good transit is very scarce in the U.S. today, and recent cuts to Metro's transit service prove that as with agencies all across the country, transit is threatened at a time when—because of climate change—we need it the most.
The Labor Network for Sustainability and the TransitCenter together with the Alliance for a Just Society, another organization we've begun working with, released a report on Feb. 4, Transit Justice Day, explaining how inadequate investments in the transit workforce have resulted in service cuts across the country. These investments are urgently needed to boost economic opportunity and racial equity.
The inequities and pollution of a car-centric system requires real fixes. The infrastructure bill can help—depending on how the money is spent. The 80-20 split is problematic, but there are significant amounts of money that states and transit agencies can use for whatever they want.
We believe that car trips must become trips that can instead be made via bus and train and walking and biking. More transit will get more workers to jobs, provide more employer access to the workforce, and more customer access to businesses. Making streets safer for walking and biking and building more housing adjacent to transit in neighborhoods with sidewalks, bike lanes and bus-only lanes is critical.
Move LA and 113 other organizations across the U.S. just sent a letter to President Biden and members of Congress on Feb. 22 asking them to do everything they can to deliver the infrastructure bill's historic investment in our transportation systems and infrastructure—especially the $39 billion earmarked for public transportation. We are concerned because procedural challenges are making it hard to deliver the money that transit agencies so desperately need.
Sadly, we are still a very long way from, as the National Campaign for Transit Justice points out, "achieving funding parity between the automobile and transit." And climate change won't wait.
That was the headline in The New York Times earlier this week, and it's a big and very real concern because the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law gives states $273 billion for highways over five years with few strings attached. And, the Times wrote: "there are signs that even states with ambitious climate goals, like Washington, Illinois and Nevada hope to use federal funds to expand roadways..."
What is California is going to do with all that money? And how can we ensure funding will be used to reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions? Join us to hear what our panel of experts say:
U.S. Representative Jimmy Gomez voted to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law believing it will be transformational, delivering the President’s “promise of a cleaner, more resilient, more equitable future for working families in LA and across the country.” He represents the 34th Congressional District, one of the most diverse and culturally rich in the country. He is Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and serves as an Assistant Whip for the House Democratic Caucus.
Chad Edison is Chief Deputy Secretary, Rail and Transit at the California State Transportation Agency, or CalSTA. He's been working on rail and transit for more than two decades, beginning at Amtrak in 1996 as a consulting manager and senior transportation consultant, then working at AECOM from 2001 to 2010. He served as a transportation industry analyst at the Federal Railroad Administration from 2010 to 2014, and began working at CalSTA as Deputy Secretary for Transportation at 2014. He was appointed Deputy Secretary for Rail and Transit in 2019.
Beth Osborne is the Director of Transportation for America in Washington DC. Previously she was at the U.S. Department of Transportation, serving as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy and then Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy. At DOT, she managed the TIGER Discretionary Grant program, the Administration’s surface transportation authorization proposal, and the implementation of MAP-21. Before joining DOT, Beth was policy director for Smart Growth America.
Anne-Marie Otey is Communications Director for the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 140,000 skilled and trained men and women in 48 local unions and district councils. Otey oversees the Council’s monthly newsmagazine, “Building Trades News,” digital strategy and campaign outreach, and is a member of Operating Engineers Local 12. She began her career as a journalist but then return to her political roots to fight for income equality.
Katherine Perez integrates Arup’s services in the context of the city—advising on both strategy and economics, and on planning and finance. She also teaches at USC’s Graduate School of Policy, Planning and Development with a focus on transit-oriented development and in planning and development. She was a co-founder of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, which addressed problems experienced by government and businesses with a focus on sustainability, economic development, transportation, planning, housing and community engagement.
Zahirah Mann is President and CEO of SLATE-Z, leads the "Backbone Team" to guide partnership activities of the South LA Promise Zone, and has led several successful initiatives to advance greater opportunities for LA residents. Previously she worked in philanthropy for the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, overseeing grants to support vulnerable children and families, and as a public interest attorney, and has represented entities ranging from Legal Aid to NRDC.
Heather Repenning is the Executive Officer of Sustainability Policy at LA Metro and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors at the Metropolitan Water District. She is also the former Vice President of the City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works, overseeing the management of solid resources, wastewater, stormwater, urban canopy, streets and design and construction of public facilities. She previously served as Mayor Garcetti’s Director of External Affairs, managing intergovernmental and community advocacy for the city in Sacramento and Washington, DC.
California’s transportation infrastructure is not meeting the needs of the state’s population and its economy. What can we do? Join us next Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 11am to 12:30 pm, to hear what the experts think, and what we should do. REGISTER HERE.
AND THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS!
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (once known as the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, or IIJA) is, as you probably know, a very big deal: Much has been written about how it’s the largest-ever 5-year surface transportation reauthorization—and about half the $1.2 trillion package will be spent on transportation. Some of the other investments include providing better access to clean drinking water and high-speed internet, upgrading our power and energy infrastructure, capping oil and gas wells, and much more.
There are concerns, of course. The money will be spent by federal, state, regional and local agencies, on short-term improvements as well as long-range plans, with investments in transit and passenger rail, bicycle and pedestrian projects, a national network of EV chargers, upgrades to our airports and ports, and the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak!
But it’s probable that the biggest investments will be in roads and bridges. And we all know what road expenditures can mean for climate change and greenhouse gas emissions: More road expansions lead to more cars on the roads which means more GHGs which are bad for the climate—because when it becomes easier to drive than to take a bus or train the people who can afford to will get in their cars and drive there.
The Georgetown Climate Center just released a report about the possible effects of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill investments and whether they will result in higher or lower emissions—which will depend on whether investments are spent on roadbuilding or on cleaner alternatives such as buses, trains and electric vehicles.
"Under the IIJA, hundreds of billions of dollars will flow directly to state departments of transportation to use as they see fit," wrote NRDC's Deron Lovaas in his post about the report. "Whether these funds are put toward climate-friendly, equitable transportation investments or plowed into the same car-biased, transportation system we’ve had for decades will determine the IIJA’s legacy."
The California State Transportation Agency, better known as CalSTA, is already on top of this and has been holding meetings with stakeholders from around the state—including transit agency staff and infrastructure experts, activists, environmentalists and EJ advocates—who are asking questions and sharing their opinions.
So please come and talk with us and some of the people who will be involved in the decisions about how California’s piece of this pie will be served up!
Move LA honors the legacy of Rosa Parks on Transit Equity Day—transit is important for so many people!
Move LA is joining the Labor Network for Sustainability and many others today on Transit Equity Day—and we urge you to join us—in celebrating the courage of Rosa Parks and her legacy. Like many other organizations across the U.S. we are doing this out of concern about transit agency staffing challenges as well as service cuts.
When transit funding is cut, buses and trains don't show up when expected or don't show up at all. That means a lot of families can't get to work or school on time, or honor other commitments. We must remember that public transit is a lifeline for so many people—not only in LA but across the U.S.
Moreover, investing in the transit workforce and expanded transit service provides important alternatives to driving, which is so important now given concerns about climate change. Moreover so many people in LA depend on transit and when bus service is reduced, life becomes so much more difficult.
A new report released today by the Alliance for a Just Society, Labor Network for Sustainability, and the TransitCenter discusses the inadequacy of our investments in public transit and in transit job quality, and the degree to which the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced staffing levels so that public transit can't meet the needs of many riders.
In Los Angeles, for example, the need for public transit workers has already led to 12% temporary cuts to Metro service, and Metro canceled 42% of trips on the heavily trafficked Vermont Rapid Bus during December and January, leaving riders unable to get to where they need to go.
We must remember that millions of people in Los Angeles rely on public transit every day. And if teachers, nurses, grocery store clerks, and other frontline workers can’t get to where they need to be that’s a problem for all of us.
We have to invest in robust public transit and in our public transit workforce if we want to build an economically resilient and racially equitable Los Angeles. We urge our local leaders to use the federal investment from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to address this growing crisis.
Read and share the full report and join Move LA as we recognize #TransitEquityDay!
Move LA's Eli Lipmen was on a roll this year working at the national, state and local levels, and his work was acknowledged by both the TransitCenter and The Mobility Fund, which decided to help fund this work.
The TransitCenter is a NYC-based foundation that works to improve transit in cities across the U.S., and The Mobility Fund is a project of the Global Philanthropy Partnership and supports community-based advocacy to increase access to and the use of transit and active transportation.
First, Eli worked with the TransitCenter and other advocacy groups across the U.S. to move the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill forward, discussing its importance with dozens of members of Congress. Congress passed and President Biden signed the bill.
Acknowledging this work, the TransitCenter presented Eli with their "Think Globally, Act Locally" award because during the pandemic, they wrote, he'd "been a key voice combining insight and action at the local, state, and federal levels." He was also recognized for his organizing work on the Transit Justice National Campaign and on "local campaigns to ensure that public transit continues to serve riders."
Eli (pictured with his kids riding on the 'E' Line) also won the TransitCenter's "Best Local Campaign" award, along with long-time Move LA partners ACT-LA, Investing in Place and a coalition of more than 20 other LA advocacy groups, after they together won a commitment from LA Metro to restore bus service to pre-pandemic levels.
Service cuts at the beginning of the pandemic meant essential workers were putting up with long waits and unpredictable bus arrival times. When Metro received billions of dollars in funding from the federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) and CRRSSA Act (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act), advocacy groups brought so much pressure to bear that the Metro board voted to spend some of its money improving service.
The TransitCenter wrote this was "a testament to the success of years of organizing for better bus service in the region, which led to the ability to mobilize quickly and effectively at the right moment."
Unfortunately, once again, there are complaints about long waits and unpredictable service as Metro began collecting fares and Omicron surges, and Move LA is working with advocates and the Metro Board to leverage federal and state resources to prioritize the restoration and expansion of LA Metro bus service. This is where the Mobility Fund's support will be crucial, as well as supporting oversight on the implementation of Metro's Fareless System Initiative.
Move LA will also be working with the South LA Promise Zone (SLATE-Z) to advocate for capital projects that prioritize bus speed and active transportation that benefit low-income riders and communities of color, specifically in South L.A. The top priority for this geographically-based effort is to break ground on Metro's Rail-to-River Project, a 10-mile active transportation pedestrian and bicycle corridor that will connect Southeast and South LA with the Crenshaw 'K' Line, Silver 'J' Line, and Blue 'A' Line.
We are very grateful to these foundations for enabling us and our partners help bus riders during the difficult year of 2021, proving that bus riders and bus advocates can together help ensure a bright future that doesn't require all of us to own cars and contribute to climate change.
MOVE LA HAS ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN to do BIG STUFF (tongue in cheek) that's needed to address our transit, climate and clean air challenges, lack of affordable housing, and the good jobs, jobs and more jobs required by people who need and want to work to support their families.
Move LA began during a challenging time, when LA's "soul-crushing traffic" was on everyone's mind with no solution in sight. Move LA started a campaign to address this challenge by building a coalition to support a ballot measure to fund the build-out of LA County's transit system—which became Measure R—and which voters approved by 67.4% even as the Great Recession loomed before us.
After the recession ebbed, Measure R was followed by Measure M in 2016 and voters said "Yes" again, and together R and M have created a $120 billion program for major investments in a new transit system and services in LA County.
OUR CURRENT WORK
We are eager to keep working on projects on the same scale as Measures R and M—where we were able to start the ball rolling and convince powerful elected officials, unions, environmentalists, other activists, and the voters to join us.
These two ballot measures are expected to bring in $120 billion over four decades, and we couldn’t have done it without your support. Below is a list of what we've been working on this year. We hope it will move you to continue to support our efforts.
EXPANDING TRANSIT AFTER R & M
#1 Big Success: Congress Passes and President Biden Signs the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
This bill will provide $550 billion to improve the nation’s infrastructure. Move LA was an important part of a national network pressing this forward, working with the TransitCenter and others, meeting with dozens of members of Congress and their staff, and coordinating advocates statewide to support increased funding for public transit and active transportation.
#2 Big Success: Metro Adopts the Fareless System Initiative
Metro’s Fareless System Initiative (being implemented this January) was a direct outgrowth of Move LA’s persistence over more than a decade about creating a discounted transit pass program for community college students. The FSI will provide free transit service to all students enrolled in community colleges in LA County and to K-12 students.
#3 Major Progress: Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity and the Important Role of Bus-Only Lanes
Move LA has been encouraging several bus-only and bus-priority lanes on Grand/Olive, Alvarado, La Brea, 5th/6th Street in DTLA, and the North Hollywood to Pasadena Transit Corridor. Move LA has also worked to implement dedicated bike lanes on West Adams from Crenshaw to Fairfax, to connect them to bus/bike lanes in Culver City, and to build the Rail-to-Rail Active Transportation Corridor in South LA that would connect four major transit lines.
#4 Major Progress: A Voter Initiative to Raise Funds to Prevent Homelessness and Develop Affordable Housing
More than a year ago Move LA initiated and has since built a significant coalition including social justice and tenant advocates, affordable housers, and the LA/OC Building Trades to champion a City of LA voter initiative to provide funding to prevent homelessness and develop new affordable housing. The measure was submitted to the Los Angeles City Clerk's office mid-December where a legal petition will be created and a signature drive will follow. This measure will raise over $800 million/year for the City of Los Angeles to prevent and reduce homelessness and build more than 26,000 affordable apartments every decade.
#5 Ongoing Progress: Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity
If Los Angeles has always been a place where you need a car to get around, the Measure R and M era is different: it’s about providing access via transit to opportunity, affordable housing, education and jobs. We have championed building mixed-use, mixed-income housing along safe, transit-served boulevards, in neighborhoods where people can drive less and walk or bike more. SB 961 (Allen) was our first legislative victory on this path, but won’t be our last. Check out SB 563 (Allen).
#6 Ongoing Progress: A Redevelopment-Style Framework to Build Affordable Housing Near Transit
Move LA has been working with Senator Ben Allen to develop legislation to create a city-county collaboration to build affordable housing, first-last-mile infrastructure, and urban greening programs near transit in a redevelopment-style tax-increment financing framework.
CLIMATE AND CLEAN AIR
#7 Ongoing Progress: A Potential Statewide Ballot Measure to Fight Climate Change
For two years Move LA worked to identify coalition partners statewide and is now partnering with them to develop a statewide ballot measure to fight climate change in the November 2022 elections. The outcome of that process has been remarkable. Two versions of such a measure has been submitted to the California Secretary of State. One version would raise about $4 billion/year and more than $100 billion over 20 years to ensure that zero emission vehicles are the new normal in California in all categories—cars, trucks, trains, ships, planes and off-road equipment—and to prevent wildfires in California’s forests.
#8 Ongoing Progress: Hydrogen roundtables with the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council
Move LA has been co-convening a series of virtual roundtables on climate strategies with the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute and the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council and affiliates. The goal is to identify climate strategies that can yield good-paying jobs for our unionized workforce with special attention to the opportunities offered by the development of hydrogen infrastructure.
#9 Big Success: Seven “Zoomposiums” on the Fight Against Climate Change and for Clean Air
We conducted no less than seven of these conversations on Zoom, often with audiences of several hundred people, to talk with leaders and experts about topics ranging from short-lived climate pollutants and deadly diesel to battery electric and hydrogen solutions to other climate-friendly means of travel and emerging technologies for planes, trains, buses and ships.
We believe that we are working on issues that matter not only for Los Angeles and LA County, but for California and the world. Donate and you will be working with us! See you in the new year!
Denny Zane for Move LA
We are drawn to do the BIG STUFF needed to address our transit, climate and clean air challenges, lack of affordable housing, and the need for more and more good jobs so people can support their families. We want to keep working on projects that are the scale of Measures R and M—when we were able to start the ball rolling and then convince powerful elected officials, unions, environmentalists and the voters to join us in support of 2 ballot measures providing $120 billion to build out LA County's transit system over 4 decades.
We have more big projects in the works! And we want to honor some of the people who are have worked with us on these issues for many years and who continue to work with us to achieve the BIG STUFF now.
- LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis (invited), for her support of Metro's Fareless System Initiative as chair of the Metro Board, which is now making fares free for K-12 and community college students in LA County
- Ron Miller, (Retired) Executive Secretary at Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council and Move LA Leadership Board/Executive Committee member, who has made it possible for us to ally ourselves with this very powerful trade union
- Joan Ling, Move LA Leadership Board/Executive Committee member and affordable housing ally who has worked with us at the nexus between land use policy and real estate development; affordable housing production and preservation; and community and economic development
- Chanell Fletcher, Deputy Executive Officer of Environmental Justice for the California Air Resources Board and former director of ClimatePlan, a statewide coalition of organizations that we've worked with for more than a decade
- Alan Greenlee, Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing (SCANPH), with whom we have found ways to better meet the needs of nonprofit developers so they can build the housing desperately needed in LA County.
We had the opportunity to talk with transportation leaders about all the ways to get around California without a car recently, with the goal of transforming our transportation system as we face the challenge of climate change.
In case you missed these Zooms on "California's Decade of Decision" you can still watch them (with closed captioning) on Move LA's Youtube page:
- How Do We Achieve BIG Reductions in Vehicle Miles Traveled? Climate-Friendly Travel in California (Oct. 8)
- Emerging Technologies in Transit: Planes, Trains, Buses and Ships (Oct. 14)
But the conversation isn't finished! Our partner SPUR in the Bay Area is hosting two FREE virtual programs on HSR: The first is TOMORROW, on the opportunity to bring Californians a little closer together via high-speed rail, and the next is on Nov. 8. Click on the links below to get to the SPUR website and scroll to the bottom of the page, where you can register (or you can register by phone).