L.A.’s New Math: 30/10 = 12?

30/10 Proposal Seeks to Finish 12 Projects in 10 Years Instead of 30

From Summer 2010:

Report & Analysis

By Victor Lindenheim

Executive Director, 

Golden State Gateway Coalition

The idea, on its face, is simple. Take a dozen high-priority transit projects scheduled

to be completed in the next 30 years and get them done in 10 years. 

If it were that simple, every state, county and municipal subdivision would be doing it. What could make massive transportation infrastructure project acceleration possible in Los Angeles County would be federal assistance — in the form of a collateralized low interest or no-interest loan. 

Offering collateral for a federal loan in the form of a 30-year sales tax revenue stream is what makes this idea a little different. There are variations on this theme — bonds issued in anticipation of revenue from, say, a specific bridge or toll road, for example. 

But with Measure R, according to Metro, there is the potential for between $30 billion and $40 billion to be collected, a half-penny at a time, over 30 years. Much needed and worthy transportation projects could be funded with these dollars; creative leveraging of 30 to 40 billion future dollars could create jobs now, improve public transit and ease roadway congestion sooner rather than later. 

This was the thinking behind 30/10.  

Measure R: LA Goes the “Self-Help” Route  

30/10 is an idea that evolved from the post-Measure R realization that Los Angeles County now has a dedicated revenue stream for transportation improvements.  

In November 2008, the pain and frustration of impeded mobility today and the prospect of metastasized gridlock tomorrow, drove enough voters to the polls to pass Measure R, which offered the promise of some relief.

Measure R passed, with the required two-thirds majority of voters in favor of it. It amounted to a self-imposed additional half-cent in sales tax to pay for projects that would enhance mobility for county residents, employers, employees and visitors. Advocates of the tax promised that the funds raised would be dedicated to countywide transportation improvements.

Metro Long Range Plan Approved

Fast forward to October 2009. The Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) Board — after months of staff analysis, public input, amendment and vigorous debate on draft proposals — unanimously approves its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). The plan lists and describes Metro-sponsored transit, highway and alternate mode projects to be funded, designed and built in Los Angeles County over the next 30 years. 

It was clearly recognized that the anticipated Measure R funds would provide a direct partial funding source for approved projects and substantial local matches for federal or state transportation appropriations, grants or loan programs.

The Metro Board members were, and are, all in favor of transportation improvements in Los Angeles County. But which projects would be built? When? And how would they be funded? How would the Measure R revenues be invested? 

The Long Range Transportation Plan answered some of these important questions.  

Move LA: More Transit Projects Now

Move LA’s mission is to “build a broad constituency that will advocate for the development of a comprehensive, diverse, robust, clean, and financially sound public transportation system for Los Angeles County and champion strategies to accelerate its implementation.” To its credit, this is the organization that led the effort to get Measure R passed.

Move LA describes the symptoms of L.A. County’s transportation infrastructure deficit to include “increased traffic congestion and soaring gasoline prices, prompting significant public outcry and worries of economic and environmental decline.” 

The solution: more and better public transit in and near the City of Los Angeles.

The precise origin of the 30/10 proposal is a bit vague. However, there is no question that Move LA is the prime advocate for getting 12 L.A. city-focused transit projects built in 10 years. 

On a recent visit to Los Angeles, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer made public her endorsement of the 30/10 initiative and read from a supportive letter from U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, citing the approach as a potential national model for advancing transportation infrastructure projects in the US.

What About Communities Outside of the City of L.A.?

Nearly half of Metro’s Board members represent significant constituencies living and working outside of the City. And these constituents contribute substantially to the Measure R coffers that will fund 30/10 projects. 

While remaining supportive of the acceleration of LA city transit projects, the need to extend the concept to include highway capacity enhancement and rail-related goods movement projects was apparent. 

In that spirit, Metro directors Michael Antonovich, Diane DuBois, Don Knabe, Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor added 15 such projects to the “Los Angeles County 30/10 Initiative,” under the inclusive banner of “Accelerate Los Angeles County.”

What’s Next for 30/10?

30/10 is an innovative approach to funding, and ultimately accelerating as many as 25 transit and highway projects in Los Angeles County. It is an advocacy program with a powerful localized initial base of support, and offers great potential benefit for Angelenos throughout the County. 

In order to succeed, its proponents are well aware that the case will have to be made that the benefits of these projects and this approach to funding them go beyond Los Angeles County.

The essential elements of individual project implementation will still come into play: planning, right of way acquisition, environmental clearance, design and construction. 

Funding aside, these hurdles and speed bumps to project readiness and construction can be substantial. 

One can only hope that the challenges of a weak economy and shrinking government resources will drive the search for creativity further than we might be able to imagine today. Technological advances, political will and risk-taking and private sector investment might even combine to synergize solutions that were not possible until now.

L.A. County’s future needs a sound transportation system. That is something we can all agree on. If 30/10 gets us there sooner… let’s do it.