With November’s unusual election behind us, it is worth considering the impact on the region of L.A. County’s game-changing vote on Measure M, the half-cent transportation sales tax.
In a resounding show of support for the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, 71 percent of those who voted in November, supported the measure, which is designed to improve freeway traffic flow and safety, repair potholes and sidewalks, earthquake retrofit bridges, keep senior/disabled/student fares affordable and, most importantly, further expand our growing rail, subway and bus system.
Measure M’s approval will enable the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to deliver to the San Fernando Valley on its promise to build a world-class green and clean public transportation system that reaches more of our residents. While Los Angeles was already building out its transit network, Measure M will help us complete the aggressive assignment. The public, including many San Fernando Valley business owners, are clamoring for environmentally friendly transit like the popular, newly opened Expo Line to Santa Monica.
Commuters on the busy Expo Line are moving East to West and West to East to new creative jobs on Silicon Beach, in Culver City and in downtown Los Angeles. Measure M’s passage gives Metro the cash to change how San Fernando Valley employees get to their jobs which may be tens of miles from their homes. In sum, Measure M is an economic necessity we could not afford to reject.
Still, following Measure M’s passage the challenge remains of coaxing more Angelenos to ride Metro’s buses and trains. According to Metro Chief Executive Phil Washington, the agency aims to increase transit ridership from its current level of 8-10 percent to 25 percent. Unlike in the Bay Area, Chicago, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., many San Fernando Valley residents have no history of commuting to work by bus or train. Others think of our trains and buses as dangerous or don’t understand the fare structure and how to purchase and use the automated fare collection TAP card system. Those new riders will only ditch their cars and get on board once Measure M funds start flowing to the Valley and the agency takes more steps to ensure that transit is safe, clean and cost-effective.
With Measure M’s approval, Metro will be able to bring more clean rail and buses to the Valley’s high density corridors. Additionally, Measure M will provide funding for first mile/last mile solutions including health-promoting bike lanes and pedestrian improvements that make it easier for residents to get to the train station or bus stop safely.
These transformative developments are building a new sense of community in Los Angeles that is resulting in Angelenos from all over the region interacting in ways they never have before. Now that more of us have the option of taking the bus or train, we are also participating in healthy open streets event like CicLAvia and exploring downtown Los Angeles or North Hollywood after work and on the weekends. For the San Fernando Valley, Measure M will also mean better air quality and improved health outcomes for a part of the region where asthma, obesity and diabetes are major killers.
The business community’s support for Measure M helped send a message to San Fernando Valley voters that clean, green public transportation and improved air quality and public health are within reach for all. Together with many others, AARP and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce were important early backers of M.
L.A. County voters’ vocal show of support for Measure M bring the transit and first mile/last mile improvements embodied in the initiative a step closer to becoming a reality. The time has come to Go Metro!
Joel Epstein is a senior advisor to companies, foundations, law firms and public initiatives on communications strategy, innovation, government affairs and corporate giving and philanthropy.