The following article appeared in the Pasadena Star-News on March 26, 2014.
More trains, buses and highways across region will ease traffic gridlock, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says – Pasadena Star-News
By Steve Scauzillo
March 26, 2014
INDUSTRY >> Saying no one in Southern California is immune to traffic nightmares, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed Wednesday to work alongside independent cities in the county to raise money for more trains, buses and highways that will ease gridlock.
“I want to be a better mayor for the entire region,” Garcetti told an audience of 200 leaders from throughout the county. “It used to be L.A. city is the 800-pound gorilla everyone loves to hate. I want to say those days are over.”
Going hand-in-hand with the mayor’s cooperation is a proposal to float another half-cent sales tax to fund new transit projects similar to Measure R, passed by county voters in November 2008. Measure R-2 or Measure X would be placed on the November 2016 ballot to coincide with an expected large voter turnout for president in the general election.
Political leaders said they are looking to the mayor, who sits on the MTA board and has tremendous influence on countywide transit projects, to pave the way for such a county measure.
Though Measure R is still on the books, the expected revenue of $40 billion over 30 years is falling short by about $4 billion. Also, the vision for a rail network connecting sprawling Southern California already would cost more than funds from Measure R.
“They’ve (MTA board members) made no decisions but it is an issue for discussion,” said MTA CEO Art Leahy, in an interview Wednesday. “It is 2½ years off; we’ll have to wait and see how it looks.”
Garcetti’s remarks were delivered at the San Gabriel Valley Transportation Forum held at the Pacific Palms Resort in Industry. Although the mayor did not mention new taxes, others on the program did, including Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA.
Zane has invited Garcetti to discuss “Measure R-2” at a conference Friday in downtown L.A. A flier for the program asks: “Is there a Measure R-2 framework that we can all support?” Zane predicted the measure would be a half-cent sales tax increase for 45 years and raise $90 billion.
Regional transportation planners laid out a mobility plan calling for a $525 billion investment over 25 years in everything from wider freeways to more light-rail lines and bikeways.
The Southern California Association of Governments Regional Transportation Plan predicts the investment will create 175,000 jobs per year in Southern California in construction and operation.
Projects included in the plan are: A regional connector that will link the Gold Line light-rail with the Blue Line, enabling passengers to travel from Azusa to Long Beach without changing seats; an extension of the Crenshaw rail line into LAX; plus numerous freeway widening projects along the 5, 605 and 71 freeways.
“People are stuck in traffic. Separated from their families. They are, to quote that line from “Network,” ‘Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,’ “ Garcetti said.
Funding for highway projects will run dry in July, when the Highway Trust Fund is expected to go bankrupt, said Sharon Neely, chief deputy executive director of SCAG. Sen. Boxer is proposing a bill that would try out a user fee based on the amount of vehicle miles traveled in lieu of the 18.4-cents-per-gallon pump tax, Neely said.
“We haven’t had a gas tax increase for 20 years,” she said. “Yet it is not easy going back to your home city and say I support a gas tax increase or a user tax.”
Funding for a second extension of the Gold Line, from Azusa to Claremont, has not materialized. Yet, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority is moving ahead on engineering and designs this summer.
“Our project will be ready in 2017. If there is a sales tax initiative passed in 2016 we will be shovel ready and could complete the project by 2022,” said Habib Balian, CEO of the Authority.
The mayor of Los Angeles announced that he fully supports the Gold Line extension from Azusa to Claremont.
In the past, smaller cities in the county clashed with former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, but on Wednesday Duarte Mayor John Fasana, who represents the 31 San Gabriel Valley cities on the MTA board, welcomed the regional message brought by Garcetti to the inland areas.
“At times we’ve had to bare our knuckles and fight for the resources,” Fasana said. “Now, we see an unprecedented opportunity. This new era really bodes well for us.”
Garcetti did not mention Villaraigosa, who was viewed by cities in the San Gabriel Valley, the southeast county and the Inland Empire as a booster for only L.A.-centric projects and a roadblock to funding projects outside the L.A. city limits.“Whether in the San Gabriel Valley or inside other parts of L.A. County, the problems we are all attempting to solve don’t pay attention to borders,” Garcetti said.
Still, Garcetti spoke in favor of bicycle lanes and more “CicLAvia” type events, known as open streets, throughout the county, as a less expensive way to move people.
“Forty-seven percent of all car trips in L.A. County are less than three miles. Completing a three-mile trip on a bicycle is not hard to do. If you cruise, you won’t even break a sweat,” said speaker Javier Hernandez, program director of Bike San Gabriel Valley.
Gov. Brown has set aside $100 million in his budget for sustainable transportation methods, such as bikes, trains and clean buses, Neely said. SCAG is asking Brown to increase that to $500 million, she said.