A 30-year ride
Measure R transit tax draws as much criticism as support
By Carl Kozlowski 10/30/2008
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.”