A 30-year ride

A 30-year ride

Measure R transit tax draws as much criticism as support

By Carl Kozlowski 10/30/2008

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The ambitious sales tax program known as Measure R has all the answers for those looking for solutions to the daily grind of driving in Southern California, but details about the proposed half-cent sales tax hike are sparking a heated battle between advocates and an unusual coalition of opponents. 

Saying the 30-year sales tax increase would create massive transportation renovations and new transit projects across Los Angeles County, proponents contend Measure R will fund everything from traffic signal synchronization to new highway lanes and expanded public transit services, including a new light-rail line to the ocean. As a result, Measure R has earned the support of such groups as the American Lung Association of California, Coalition for Clean Air, Coalition of Rapid Transit, Friends 4 Expo Transit, and the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters.

Yet Measure R also has plenty of opposition, particularly from city governments throughout the Inland Empire and the San Gabriel Valley, including Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Duarte, Irwindale, La Puente, Monrovia, Pomona, San Dimas, South Pasadena, West Covina and Pasadena.

According to Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, the problem is that the measure would take funds from these cities’ residents to help build the Exposition Line light-rail project to West Los Angeles without giving back enough to East Siders in return.
“I do read Measure R as primarily benefiting the ‘Subway to the Sea’ and the areas of Southern California which are adjacent, including Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. That comes from the initial allocation to the project as well as the discretion retained by the MTA to reallocate funds to different projects,” said Bogaard. “The problem with Measure R is that it was put together by the same group that will benefit primarily from it.”

Bus Riders Union (BRU) lead organizer Manuel Criollo says the BRU opposes Measure R, which might seem surprising considering how often the organization has engaged in legal battles in order to demand increases and improvements in service.

“We’re in opposition to the sales tax. We believe it follows the discriminatory patterns of the last two sales taxes passed in 1980 and 1990, because sales taxes are inherently unfair since they affect everyone, especially the poor,” said Criollo. “They’re a $2 billion agency and have been for nearly 15 years. And if they haven’t been delivering service well enough to the people who use it, where is the money going to? They want to use it for construction and they’re not as interested in running service as much as construction — the money will go to construction companies rather than service to run anything.

“The bus fleet needs at least another 1,000 buses. That can only be done by stopping these projects. On Exposition, there’s no real need for a light rail because only 2,000 to 3,000 people who [travel by bus there] each day. It seems provided for political interests rather than transportation use,” said Criollo. “We don’t think we need a moratorium on rail forever, but currently it’s a flawed formula. The 720 bus carries 90,000 riders daily down Wilshire Boulevard, the Vermont bus takes 60,000, and the Van Nuys bus serves 30,000 to 45,000 riders a day. They all need funding to help them before a subway to the sea. They did not consult us in this process at all.”

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Manuel C of the BRU is doing the public a disservice in his final sentence that they didn't consult the BRU on the Measure.

In the working groups that Denny Zane provided with members of other environmental and transit advocacy groups the BRU were present at these meetings asked questions and made suggestions to the funding percentages to help improve the bus operations.

When it got down to the details of the plan, the BRU were no where to be found instead the group lead by Manuel whined like toddlers who didn't want to play in the sandbox with others. Yelling on with their rhetoric of "Giving Money to MTA would be like giving a junky more money for drugs."

So I'd ask Pasadena Weekly to take a serious look at the true intentions and funding sources to keep the BRU operating. They are big oil companies who want to keep folks in cars and keep the poor and working class under their control because if the working class moves up in mobility through faster transit to better paying jobs there goes their group and folks asking serious questions about their group.

posted by Jerard on 11/01/08 @ 11:55 p.m.

Carl, thank you for explaining how Measure R would distribute funds inequitably amongst the cities of LA County. I agree that Measure R will favor transit projects in downtown and West L.A., however voters should still pass Measure R because all residents of L.A. County benefit when they invest in Los Angeles' cultural and business center. First, you explain "the measure would take funds from these cities' residents to help build the Exposition Line light-rail project to West Los Angeles with out giving enough back to East-siders in return." If I am not mistaken, this line would connect West L.A. to downtown. Since the Red and Blue lines already connect downtown to East and South L.A., the Exposition Line would provide all residents greater access in choice of destinations from a downtown hub. After all, transit routes should run from outskirts to the powerhouse of the city, which should then serve as a general meeting point. Furthermore, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard rejects Measure R on the grounds that it only benefits "Beverly Hills and Santa Monica," but as previously stated the proposed subway connects Santa Monica to downtown. Unsurprisingly, most major cities concentrate all their traffic in and out of one city center. Examples include Chicago which centers around "the Loop" and central London is also defined by its enclosure of tube lines. Spending money on this tried and test configuration follows a precedent of successful transit policy not one of prejudice against the poor in South and East Los Angeles. Lastly, the controversial Exposition Line, set to be funded by Measure R, could potentially fix the glitch in Clinton's welfare reform plan that gave women jobs in well-off neighborhoods, but underestimated the cost and time of transit. It would enable residents of the South and East L.A. communities to seek out employment in the more affluent, less crowded and less polluted parts of Los Angeles. Here they may earn higher wages in safer jobs. Is it naive to hope that investing in the heart of Los Angeles could potentially solve social and transit issues for all of L.A. County?

Here is the link to my blog: http://veenasenra.blogspot.com/2008/11/m...

posted by Veena Senra on 11/04/08 @ 11:21 a.m.
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