Editor’s Note: This is the eighth installment of LACBC’s Ballot Measure Report, which shares news from the front lines of our campaign to win dedicated funding for biking and walking in Los Angeles County’s next transportation ballot measure. Follow campaign updates on the LACBC blog or on Twitter at #metrofundwalkbike.
On Friday, March 18th, Metro released its draft expenditure plan for the potential new 40-year ballot measure, which would generate approximately $120 billion for transportation projects in Los Angeles County. Starting this week, Metro is holding nine public meetings all across the county (and one online) to hear feedback on their plan from people like you. For a list of meetings in your area, see the end of this post or go to http://theplan.metro.net.
Metro prepared an 80+ page staff report with information about all of the proposed projects and programs to be included in the proposed measure. Like many others, we skipped straight to the pie chart to see how Metro would split the revenue among competing transportation priorities and reacted immediately by calling for more funding for active transportation, including walking, biking, and safe routes to school.
Metro’s draft expenditure plan, as shown in their staff report released on March 18th, includes a 2% allocation for “regional active transportation projects,” but to truly see how much funding is proposed for walking and biking, you have to dig deeper.
Over the past couple weeks, LACBC worked closely with our partners at Investing in Place to do a deeper analysis of the expenditure plan. What we found was encouraging, although there are still important opportunities to increase the amount of funding for active transportation and ensure this funding is equitably distributed to the communities who need it the most. Here are some highlights for walking and biking, although we highly encourage you to read the full policy memo for yourself:
Substantial funding for active transportation: For the first time, Metro is creating a funding stream with local dollars to strategically invest in first and last mile access to bus and rail, safe routes to school, and a regional active transportation network. One percent of the measure is set aside for a new regional active transportation program dedicated to these purposes. Subregional active transportation projects and programs comprise an additional 5% of the measure. After factoring in subregional complete streets projects where active transportation is the central purpose of the expenditure, a total of nearly 9% of the measure is dedicated to making Los Angeles County a safer and more convenient place to walk and bike. Reflecting the relative cost-effectiveness and simplicity of active transportation projects, the majority of this funding is available early in the life of the measure to enable local jurisdictions to make these improvements quickly.
But it’s not enough and it doesn’t serve all the communities who need it: Metro’s Active Transportation Strategic Plan (ATSP) identifies a range of $11.0 to $29.5 billion needed to make all communities in Los Angeles County safe and accessible for transit, walking, and biking, requiring annual expenditures between $737 million and $1.69 billion. In response to this need, Metro proposes a new annual funding source of $15 million per year for projects and programs consistent with the ATSP, totalling $600 million over the 40-year life of the measure. Recognizing that this countywide funding is inadequate, almost all subregions proposed additional funding, bringing the total proposed dedicated funding for active transportation to $2.5 billion over 40 years. While this is indeed a significant increase in current funding for walking, biking, and safe routes to school, it is still far short of the identified need in the region and below Investing in Place’s recommended 10% allocation based on best practices from other counties. Our favorite example, Alameda County, allocated 12% to active transportation in their 2014 ballot measure.
More concerning, the piecemeal approach to funding active transportation is overly reliant on subregions that may or may not prioritize investments to make their cities’ streets safe for walking and biking, particularly for older adults, youth, and people with disabilities. In one subregion, the Gateway Cities Council of Governments did not dedicate any funding for active transportation. This subregion includes the county’s most environmentally impacted communities and sees significant conflicts between trucks and residents walking and biking. Had the Gateway Cities COG made the recommended $500 million allocation to enhance their transportation network for people who walk and bike, the overall measure would have met the 10% funding recommendation for active transportation and complete streets. Instead, the lowest-income and most disadvantaged communities of color in the county will not benefit from safe streets as a result of this measure failing to meet their most basic mobility needs.
A bunch of exciting projects: So much media attention has been focused on the major transit projects--and those are exciting--but we are even more excited by some game-changing active transportation projects. The expenditure plan includes completing the Los Angeles River bike path by 2025, a goal from our Greenway 2020 campaign with the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation. (So maybe it’s five years late, but who’s counting?) The San Gabriel Valley is proposing a comprehensive network of greenways for their watershed. Many parts of the county are proposing complete streets programs to remake major boulevards into centers of community, while other areas are funding safe routes to school. These major projects will transform the parts of the county that are making these investments, but as we mentioned above, not all subregions chose to invest in walking and biking.
But it should do more to improve walking and biking access to transit: Since the adoption of Metro’s Complete Streets Policy in 2014, all capital projects are supposed to be scoped to include concurrent improvements for walking and biking. It is not clear whether Metro’s planning cost estimates for transit projects in the ballot measure includes first and last mile improvements, as required. The ATSP includes detailed case studies with cost estimates of first and last mile improvements for different station typologies. These costs should be incorporated into the project budgets for all projects funded by the potential ballot measure.
Cities are currently required to pay for 3% of the cost of new transit projects. However, for small cities with major capital projects running through them, they would be required to raid funding sources like local return that would otherwise be available for active transportation projects. This creates a troubling scenario in which those cities that need to increase investments in walking and biking in order to improve access to a new transit line are left with less funding to actually make those improvements. Instead of using limited local funding to contribute directly to the capital cost of the transit project, this local contribution should instead be directed toward first and last mile improvements that will make the transit project a greater success.
What Happens Next?
With the release of this draft expenditure plan, Metro has now started the conversation among communities and outside stakeholders. Metro is requesting feedback, input, and recommendations until June 2016, at which point the Metro board is scheduled to approve a final expenditure plan for the November ballot.
Over the next couple months, Metro will host nine public meetings and one online workshop, and accept comments via email and social media. We encourage you to attend and bring your fellow advocates, friends, and neighbors. It is important for Metro to hear strong public support for even more active transportation funding, and to hear that all parts of the county deserve safe streets, convenient access to transit, and great places to walk and bike.
For more information, go to http://theplan.metro.net/.