Last week, Move LA invited Mayor Eric Garcetti and many other esteemed guests to discuss the potential for Measure R2, the next step in funding (fixing) Los Angeles’ transportation woes. Measure R is a half percent sales tax approved in 2008, slated to bring in as much as $40 billion over 30 years. Since 2008, it has helped rapidly increase LA’s metro system.
First let’s talk about where this $90 billion is supposed to come from. In the most unaffordable city in America, where most residents spend over half their income on rent or mortgage, few have any left over to spend on anything else. This is reflected in the BEA’s data for Los Angeles’ GDP. 17.8% comes from real estate transactions, 5% from retail sales. All the while the real estate boom in Los Angeles continues to draw foreign and corporate investors, forcing Angelenos further afield to find affordable housing, thus exacerbating the traffic problems and the need for more rail lines.
So yeah, let’s tax something that will make it take longer to pay for the massive rail system Metro plans to build with this money. Let’s tax the people who can barely afford to pay rent instead of the investors holding the LA economy ransom. Perhaps instead of half a percent on retail sales, how about 10% on real estate sales to investors, and on AirBnB income, but 0% to people buying their primary residence?* That would build us the best Metro system in the world, in probably a fraction of the time it’d take to get the money from .05% of retail sales. Well, unless that was from the sales of marijuana, the fastest growing industry in Los Angeles.
If Measure R2 passes, the good news is Garcetti and others swear it won’t be used to build more freeways. They’ve finally learned their lesson after the 405 widening debacle. The billion dollar (plus!) project took years to complete. And now that it’s done, it has slowed average commute times by one minute. Because as everyone knows, if you build it, they will come. So Measure R2 is all about the rail lines and great streets they want to build to help LA toward a car-free future.
As recently as 2008, they were talking about silliness like tunnels for cars under the 405 and finishing the 710. Now that talk has finally evolved to speak solely of underground rail lines through these routes. Metro is currently tunneling underneath Wilshire Blvd, the busiest bus route in the county, to extend a subway line to the sea, despite Beverly Hills’ best attempts to stop it.
Mayor Eric Garcetti gave us some great nuggets in his presentation:
- The average car in Los Angeles carries 1.1 people. If it went to 1.6 people, there would be no traffic.
- The separated busway they’re planning for Wilshire will also be open to automated cars.
- Waze and ATSAC are now partnering to help find hit & run perpetrators. Considering most of those victims are pedestrians and cyclists, this is a huge step toward making those modes safer.
- Parking signs will be easier to interpret than this. Supposedly.
Installing a thorough county-wide rail system and a network of streets that are safe and pleasant for cyclists and pedestrians will accomplish the goal of eliminating traffic without trying to crowd all your co-workers into your Fiat500e.
As Garcetti’s DOT General Manager pointed out here, certain LA streets are like that creepy, bad Uncle who everyone hates and avoids. But he’s family, so we let him be. Well, LA is finally ready to send all those dysfunctional streets to rehab. Many have already gone and are all the better for it. Move LA posted a link of all the tweets with the hashtag #TranspoConvoLA for a more intimate look at what the conversation was all about.
* Yes, landlords could pass this on to their renters, but with the glut of new apartment buildings about to come on to the market, all vying for those tech workers, it will soon be hard for them to raise rents any higher.