Measure M graphic by Adam Linder
Measure M is Metro’s ambitious ballot measure to extend an existing ½ cent sales tax (2008’s Measure R) in perpetuity, and supplement it with another ½ cent sales tax. Creating a 1 cent sales tax with no expiration date gives Metro much more flexibility to expedite projects to flesh out its transportation system. Many of these projects are high profile: a transit connection to LAX, a transit tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass, a Northern extension of the Crenshaw Line that could hit West Hollywood, a transit line to serve the congested Vermont corridor, and closure of a gap of the L.A. River Bike Path through Downtown. Accordingly, Measure M features an impressive list of endorsements, including The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Investing In Place, Streetsblog LA, The L.A. League of Conservation Voters and The L.A. Times.
Somewhat lost in the big name projects necessary to gain broader support are the very real benefits to existing transit users and residents in the form of improved bus service, repair of L.A.’s decaying streets and sidewalks, and dedicated funding for the next generation of regional bikeways.
At 2% of the total funding, Measure M’s proposed allocation for biking and walking initially appears disappointing compared to more ambitious funding that advocates originally sought, but the reality is that funding for biking and walking is much more substantial than this percentage. Measure M marks the first time that dedicated funding for biking and walking has been built into such a funding measure (Measure R allocated 0%).
Additionally, as some Los Angeles County cities have policies and priorities for implementation regarding active transportation, more funding for biking and walking is likely to manifest itself within the 17% local return. But the biggest win for the biking community in Measure M – and one that is due in a great part to the advocacy work of Investing In Place – is the incorporation of first mile/last mile funding for biking and walking in the implementation of new transit lines under Measure M. As we have seen from construction of the Expo Line and Gold Line, the lack of quality access for people on bikes to stations is a major issue that – once addressed – could be a game changer for commuting by bike and bike share.
Measure M is not perfect: Metro will need to work to address housing and displacement in planning and implementation of new transit lines to ensure that improvements are made for communities rather than for speculators at the expense of existing residents and businesses. We are disappointed to see funding for unsustainable highway expansion in this Measure, but recognize it as a necessary evil to attract the necessary support to pass. Further, it is unfortunate that Measure M is proposed as a regressive sales tax rather than an income tax, but we understand this as the result of California’s problematic tax restrictions enacted in 1978’s Prop 13.
Measure M provides the funding framework and vision for a transformation of Los Angeles’ transportation system. Advocates will have to continue to work to make sure that funding is implemented efficiently and equitably, but we see it as a huge step towards building a transportation system with quality mobility options. Bike The Vote L.A. urges a “YES” vote on L.A. County Metro Measure M on November 8th.