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Ballot Measure Report: Anticipation Builds for Expenditure Plan Release

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth 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.

Tomorrow is a big day for our #metrofundwalkbike campaign. In the morning, Metro will release its long awaited draft expenditure plan for the potential new ballot measure. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes, but tomorrow marks the beginning of a three month public dialogue about the future of transportation in Los Angeles County. This is the most critical time period for advocates to weigh in with specific recommended improvements to the expenditure plan before it is finalized by the board in June.

In our last Ballot Measure Report, we highlighted the areas of consensus and additional opportunities for this ballot measure to put communities first. We know that half of all trips in Los Angeles County are less than three miles, which is a great distance to travel by bike. We also know that 40% of those killed on our county’s streets are people walking and biking, and that these deaths are more frequent in low-income communities of color where people have no choice but to walk and bike in unsafe environments. What we’re looking for in the expenditure plan is how Metro proposes to address these everyday trips—to school, to the store, to parks, and countless other local destinations—and particularly the trips taken by our most vulnerable residents. Local access is especially critical for low-income communities of color with infrequent or unreliable transit service, who walk and bike at greater rates than the rest of the county. While much attention has been on long-distance commuters and proposals for huge capital projects to save a few minutes or attract choice riders, the real opportunity to improve quality of life in Los Angeles County for everyone is to invest in walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible neighborhoods. Walking and biking projects are the most cost-effective way to provide residents with safe, convenient, and reliable transportation options.

Make no mistake, however, even though these projects are cheap, they still need significant investment. Metro’s Active Transportation Strategic Plan identified a 20-year funding need of between $11.0 and $29.5 billion. For Metro to achieve its mobility, accessibility, environmental, health, and economic goals, the ballot measure must make a significant contribution toward this funding need.

Funding for walking and biking is overwhelmingly supported by stakeholders and in line with Metro’s peer agencies. Clockwise from top left: In 2014, Alameda County’s Measure BB allocated approximately 12% to active transportation, establishing a best practice for California counties; MoveLA’s final “strawman” proposal allocates 9% to active transportation, split between regional first/last mile projects and local projects implemented by cities; Los Angeles County’s nine subregions allocated 7% for active transportation projects during their prioritization process; LACBC and Investing in Place recommend allocating at least 10% for active transportation based on other counties’ best practices and identified need in Los Angeles County.

Based on our research into ballot measures in other California counties, LACBC, Investing in Place, and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership have recommended that at least 10% of the ballot measure go toward walking, biking, and safe routes to school projects. Other coalition partners, including EnviroMetro, have embraced this recommendation (or even pushed for more). Support for walking and biking isn’t limited to progressive transportation organizations. After years of discussions with business and labor organizations, MoveLA published its final “strawman” proposal that includes 9% for active transportation, which they believe reflects a consensus view among key Los Angeles County stakeholders. Transportation advocates—the people that will run the campaign to pass the ballot measure—are in remarkable alignment on this point.

Even input from Los Angeles County’s nine subregions shows strong support for investment in walking, biking, and complete streets. Each Council of Governments (COG) was charged with identifying the priorities of their member agencies and allocating funding targets based on their share of the county’s population and employment. If Metro simply adopted the COGs’ priorities, 7% of the ballot measure would go toward regional active transportation priorities, in addition to local return. We consider this to be a floor for an acceptable allocation in the expenditure plan.

Over the next three months, there will be a lot of haggling over funding levels and project sequencing. It will be easy to get lost in the politics of what is essentially a zero sum game. We need our leaders to not lose sight of the opportunity presented by a fourth ballot measure for transportation. Propositions A and C and Measure R already fund transit, highways, and local return. These are taxes that we all pay, and yet none of this funding is currently dedicated to the 19% of trips that are made by walking or biking. Many argue that funding for large projects is insufficient, and we agree. But it would be a mistake to overlook the day-to-day needs of our residents, particularly those who lack basic access to safe streets.

This ballot measure needs to be about looking forward at the changes that are rapidly occurring in the way we get around, not just doubling down on past spending decisions. Biking to work has more than doubled in the last decade. One-third of children walk or bike to school, with many cities aiming to increase this share. New bike share systems in Santa Monica, Long Beach, Downtown Los Angeles, and elsewhere will only grow demand for more and better bike lanes. Signature initiatives like Vision Zero and Great Streets are highlighting the huge need and popular support for these kinds of investments. The opportunity with this new measure is to put neighborhoods first by prioritizing safe and accessible streets and to connect these neighborhoods to the growing transit system with robust first/last mile access improvements and regional bikeways. We are eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s expenditure plan release to see whether the ballot measure will live up to this potential.

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