As the Nov. 6 election madness intensifies, and No on 30/Yes on 30 get down with each other, pay a little attention to Measure J, neglected and hidden in a hazy cloud of frantic speculation and polling.
Measure J is a 30-year extension of Measure R, a 1/2-cent sales tax originally passed in Los Angeles County in 2008, good for 30-years until 2039. The sales tax revenue goes to the Metropolitan Transit Authority for mass transit. Measure J would extend the same Measure R 1/2-cent sales tax until 2069. Where will you be in 2069? I expect to be dust in the wind.
Measure R, the original 1/2-cent sales tax, has already provided MTA with $40 billion. Instead of the promised mass transit:
- MTA has cut one million hours of bus service, and raised fares on the most practical, cost efficient, flexible way to move people, making it harder for bus riders to get to work.
- MTA claims it cannot afford to build the proposed train line at Crenshaw below grade for 11 blocks to accommodate the safety of thousands of children, and seniors who cross there every week.
- MTA claims it cannot afford to provide a rail station at Leimert Park.
Then where has the MTA money gone? A few examples:
- $760 million of Measure R money, three quarters of a billion dollars, is being dished up right now by the MTA Board to a few contractors and developers just to study the 710 tunnels. Among them is CH2M Hill, a multi-billion dollar construction and engineering firm which gave generously to the Measure J campaign, and coincidentally is contracted by MTA for $37 million to perform the environmental study for the 710 Tunnel. It does not matter to the developers whether or not this pair of tunnels is ever actually built, they are getting that money today. For documentation on the disastrous, polluting, dangerous, 710 tunnels which will not reduce congestion, see http://www.no710.com/
- $100 million dollars is planned to move the Beverly Hills subway a few blocks south, through a methane field directly under Beverly Hills High School to accommodate one developer: JMB.
- The Subway to the Sea will cost roughly $9 billion for 9 miles.
How many flexible, cost-effective non-polluting busways would $760 million, plus $100 million, plus $9 billion, buy?
The Measure J campaign is well funded by a few large construction, engineering, and real estate corporations: JMB, CH2M Hill, Century Plaza, Westfield, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and AEG. The Mayor, working hard for a legacy before he leaves LA for a hoped-for appointment in DC, is putting pressure on groups and cities to support Measure J. Editorials flood the papers. MTA-engineered comments filled with misinformation trawl the blogs and local papers. They all pound on two favorite topics: jobs and congestion.
Everybody wants more jobs in LA. The jobs MTA claims Measure J would provide are going right now to those same construction, engineering, and development companies. Have you seen thousands of your friends and neighbors hired since 2009 to build new mass transit infrastructure?
Everybody hates congestion. 20% of Measure J is assigned to freeways. More freeways will not reduce traffic. Any freeway built, widened, or expanded in the past ten years has become immediately impacted. We have had some subways for years now, how is the traffic for you?
Approving Measure J would give MTA a blank check to mis-manage another $50 billion through 2069.
Vote NO on J instead. Before they get another blank check, MTA should show us how they can use the Measure R sales tax revenue they already have to bring us a transportation system we can afford: modern, clean-burning, swift, affordable, flexible transit everywhere, for everyone. Let’s at least catch up with the hundreds of cities already building high quality transportation for all their people.
It is time to get out of our cars. We can no longer sustain the LA car culture. It was fun, but we have run out of room. We no longer have cheap fuel. Pollution is growing. Cancer rates are climbing. Climate is changing. It is time for us to change too. It is time to begin planning the future of transit in Los Angeles as though we were adults with access to data, and leave adolescent fantasies, and corporate welfare behind in the smog. Cities all across the world already have.
Vote No on Measure J.