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Ballot Measure Report: When Will #metrofundwalkbike?

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of LACBC’s Ballot Measure Report, which will share 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.

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to refocus on what’s important and renew our commitment to effective advocacy on behalf of the millions of people that ride bikes in Los Angeles County. In 2016, LACBC will step up our efforts to secure funding for the kinds of projects we all want to see in our communities: bike lanes for people of all ages, safer streets for people walking and biking, and bike safety education for children and adults. This year, Metro is considering whether to put a new half-cent sales tax measure on the ballot that would raise an estimated $120 billion, and LACBC intends to be at the table to make sure this measure invests in the kinds of projects we need for all communities in Los Angeles County to be healthy, safe, and fun places to bike and walk.

In November, LACBC outlined our priorities for the potential new transportation sales tax measure. Like Measure R, a new ballot measure would provide billions of additional funding for Los Angeles County’s transportation priorities. However, Measure R was adopted in 2008 at a time with biking and walking were rarely considered—before CicLAvia, before L.A.’s Bicycle Plan, and before Vision Zero. Measure R’s greatest shortcoming was its lack of any dedicated funding for biking and walking. LACBC is working hard, in coalition with partners like Investing in Place, to ensure that the new ballot measure does not repeat the mistakes of the past. We are advocating for 10 percent of the ballot measure to be dedicated to biking and walking.

We wanted to know how other counties in California fund biking and walking (“active transportation” in planner-speak), so we worked with our partners at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership to publish a best practices paper looking at six ballot measures around the state, all of which dedicate significant funding for active transportation. What quickly became clear is that Los Angeles County is actually an outlier in how badly it underfunds biking and walking. As far back as 2000, Measure B in Alameda County dedicated six percent to biking and walking, with an additional 24 percent going to “complete streets.” When it was time to go back to the voters for an increase and extension, Alameda County went even further: Measure BB, approved in 2014, dedicated eight percent to regional biking and walking projects and carved out an additional four percent controlled by cities for localbiking and walking projects, for a total of 12 percent for active transportation. Alameda County isn’t even the most ambitious. Marin County dedicates 11 percent for countywide safe routes to school programs alone, before counting funding for other biking and walking projects. By comparison, our recommendation of a 10 percent allocation for biking and walking here in Los Angeles County is pretty modest.

Including regional projects and programs and a set-aside within “local return” controlled by cities, Alameda County dedicates 12 percent of its sales tax funding to biking and walking.

Metro’s expenditure plan is well on its way toward being developed. A framework for prioritizing major projects was adopted by the board in December. Meanwhile, a workgroup of cities and transit operators has formed to set funding levels for transit operations and local return. (Local return is a formula grant by population from Metro to Los Angeles County’s 89 local jurisdictions.) What’s not clear at this stage in the process is how Metro intends to fund biking and walking. The major projects’ framework excludes active transportation because Metro has no capability to analyze these projects in their transportation demand model. The workgroup that is setting policy for local return does not have any members representing active transportation stakeholders.

Later this month, active transportation funding will be discussed when Metro staff finally presents their preliminary needs assessment for active transportation in response to a board motion passed in July 2014, one full year behind schedule. Our estimate of unfunded active transportation needs in Los Angeles County is $20 billion, more than justifying 10 percent of the ballot measure being dedicated to biking and walking. Metro’s response to the July 2014 motion should reveal whether they share our assessment of the need and will be the starting point for discussion about funding levels in the ballot measure.

Next up: how should Metro allocate 10% for active transportation?

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