Former Santa Monica Mayor Dennis Zane’s MoveLa conference, held April 29 in Los Angeles, was a lengthy but informative gathering of transportation and business professionals, weighing in on the advantages and strategies surrounding the “30/10” plan that can be used for improvements in local mass transit.
In 2008, Los Angeles County voters passed Measure R, which levied a one-half cent sales tax to fund transit projects over the next 30 years. However, the money (about 70 percent of $40 billion in revenues collected from the sales tax) will be distributed gradually to different projects over that 30 year period, causing some projects to be delayed while others are funded and built earlier.
Under the 30/10 plan, developed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. County will receive a federal low-interest loan, to be paid back via Measure R funds, which will allow completion of Southern California transit projects in ten years rather than 30 years. Villaraigosa, during a lunchtime keynote speech, urged attendees to work toward convincing the Federal Government to back this plan.
Richard Katz, of the L.A. Metro Board, noted that mass transit “is the most popular program in Washington that nobody knows how to fund.
“We need to create pressure in Washington. two thousand jobs could start tomorrow. Let Senator Boxer know that we appreciate that she says she will make this happen.”
Barbara Boxer is said to be a major supporter of the 30/10 plan. Other speakers kept mentioning the support among members of Congress, but no one had explained how it was to come about. When a question from the floor pushed this issue, Raffi Hamparian of L.A. Metro replied that there is a two-step process: get 30/10 off the ground and get a “vehicle” to carry the plan for 10 years. In regard to the first step, he said there was a 60-90 day window during which Congress must take some kind of unilateral action to approve the plan (not necessarily a bill, but the issue must be voted on soon). “Boxer needs to hear from everyone in this room.”
Later discussions centered on funding solutions, such as public/private partnerships and operating funds for public transit systems.
Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair of the State Assembly Transportation Commission, opined that “we’re in a time when people seem to not want to pay for services,” and warned that people must expect to pay more for transit, i.e. raised fares, in order to pay for operating costs.
Esperanza Martinez of the Bus Riders Union, took the opposite side of that argument. Noting that the needs of bus and mass transit riders have been “ignored for years,” she insisted that if fares were kept low, ridership would increase and create more revenue.
Terry O’ Day, of Santa Monica’s City Council and Environment Now, mentioned the Council’s deliberation on raising local bus fares to get revenue for operating costs. But he had some other ideas that would bring in revenue while also helping the environment.
“What if the Transportation Commission were able to charge a congestion fee for car licenses ? In L.A. County we have seven million vehicles-charge $30 per car and $200 million could be raised.”
O’ Day also suggested a transfer of car infrastructure funds to projects to encourage pedestrians and bicycle riders.
Mirror Contributing Writerlynne@smmirror.com