What L.A.'s Transit Tax Proposal Would Mean

L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne and transportation reporter Steve Hymon look at a proposal to raise the sales tax in L.A. to fund public transit. They call it a good opportunity for the city's urbanism, but also a tough sell.
October 31, 2008, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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Hawthorne writes:

"On Tuesday, voters in L.A. County will decide the fate of Measure R, which proposes raising the sales tax by a half-penny to pay for new subway and light-rail lines, along with some roadway improvements. (In all, 65% of its proceeds, pegged at roughly $40 billion over 30 years, would go to public transit.) It faces an uphill battle, primarily because it requires two-thirds approval to pass but also because it has divided politicians around the county. Those on the Westside, which would benefit most directly from Measure R dollars -- particularly for a subway extension along or near Wilshire Boulevard -- tend to favor it. Those in areas set to receive less funding, including Long Beach and Pasadena, have strongly opposed it."

"From a political as well as fiscal point of view, to be sure, the measure might have been more stragetically written. Still, its implications for urbanism -- beyond the question of how to move people around the city and get them out of their cars -- have not received nearly enough attention."

"Measure R is an effort to help subsidize a transition in L.A. back to an earlier model of public-transit mobility and perhaps a return to a broader, more comprehensive urban universe as well."

Hymon looks at some of the details of the bill, and answers some of the questions it raises:

"Would Measure R raise enough money to finish all the projects it proposes to build?

Probably not. Most of the projects will need more money to be completed. The list of Measure R projects is long because it was designed to secure political support by offering something for many constituencies.

It also should be noted that many of the projects, such as the subway, have yet to receive environmental clearances that would allow them to start construction.

So how far does $4.1 billion get the subway?

The MTA says that could be enough to extend the line from its terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Westwood. The route hasn't been decided, but a recent MTA study recommended that the subway follow Wilshire to Beverly Hills, swing south to Century City and then north to Westwood."

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Published on Thursday, October 30, 2008 in Los Angeles Times
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