On Thursday July 23rd the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) will host a special meeting to take action on formal recommendations on how the region should spend an estimated $3.3 billion in potential future sales tax revenues.
The hotly anticipated successor to Measure R, which has funded the expansion of LA County's rail network since 2008 - including the Foothill Gold Line extension - would likely be placed before voters in November 2016. However, before that can happen, the Metro Board will have to craft and approve a measure they feel will be supported by 2/3rds of County voters.
Should the region focus the lion's share of additional transportation investments on highways? Public transit? Pedestrian and bicycle improvements?
How these questions are answered will determine if a future measure will accelerate the region's transition to a more equitable, sustainable and multi-modal transportation system.
SGVCOG Draft Recommendations
The SGVCOG's Transportation Committee recommends that revenue from a future transportation measure be spent in the following manner in the San Gabriel Valley.
As a sales tax would be paid by all residents of the SGV and LA County, BikeSGV strongly feels that any new transportation measure should improve the quality of life of all residents, especially residents of disadvantaged communities who are already disproportionately burdened by our current auto-centric system.
Although a great start, the 5% proposed for bicycle and pedestrian improvements is inadequate to address existing demand, let alone the historic under-funding of such projects in Measures A, C, and R, none of which included specific set-asides for active transportation improvements.
At present 19% of all trips in LA County are via foot or bike, yet less than 1% of all transportation funding goes towards making our streets safer and more comfortable for walking and biking. This remains a major problem in our region, not to mention a major barrier to higher bicycle modal share. BikeSGV urges the SGVCOG to support more robust funding for such improvements, like Alameda County which recently adopted an 8% set-aside for bike/ped. At the proposed level, the SGV would not be able to realize the build-out of the SGV Greenway Network; the SGV has over 100 miles of waterways, storm channels, washes and creeks that could serve as the backbone of our active transportation network and build upon existing San Gabriel and Rio Hondo river trails. Given the lack of Safe Routes to School and cohesive networks of bicycle infrastructure in most of the region's cities, the time for significant, long-term funding for walking and bicycling infrastructure is long overdue.
The SGVCOG currently suggests that 40% of expected revenue be spend on transit, specifically the extensions of the Gold Line to Claremont and South El Monte or Whittier. BikeSGV strongly supports additional investments in our Metro rail network, especially the Gold Line. However by limiting transit investments to 40%, the region will not have the resources to also invest in Bus Rapid Transit projects and other improvements needed to make the County's transportation system truly world-class. The current funding recommendation would also miss an opportunity to create Transit-to-Trails service, which could provide SGV residents without an automobile access to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and national forest areas.
When combined with the "Demand-Based Program", which also involves highway improvements, the SGVCOG's recommended set-aside for highways is the highest of any category at 46%. Should this move forward, it would be a missed opportunity for our valley and southern California as a whole.
The SGV and LA Basin continue to suffer from some of the worst air quality in the entire United States, resulting in higher than average rates of asthma, respiratory illness, heart disease and premature death. Local air quality has also been getting worse in recent years due to increasing average temperatures and the lack of rain. Local communities, especially low-income neighborhoods in close proximity to a freeway, are disproportionately impacted by this pollution. Adding more cars and trucks to already congested highways in the SGV, rather than investing in cleaner, more comfortable and efficient transportation alternatives, will only increase the health burden these communities have carried for the past 50 years.
Increasing highway "efficiency" (i.e. capacity) will also make it harder to reach state goals to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions statewide, accounting for almost 40% of total GHG emissions. Furthermore, highway investments are highly unlikely to shorten anyone's commute over the long-term, as increases in roadway "supply" induce demand for more trips. The recent widening of the 405 freeway is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Despite adding an additional lane to one of the most congested freeways in the country, at a cost of well over $1 billion, average commute times have not improved, and residents of San Fernando Valley still do not have a convenient transportation alternative to the automobile if traveling to the Westside. Perhaps due to this failure, the SGVCOG's counterpart in the Valley - the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments - has recommended its funding allocation be spent entirely on transit and active transit improvements.
7/23 Meeting Details - Join us!
The SGVCOG's public meeting to discuss this issue will be on Thursday July 23rd. Public participation is far too infrequent at these meetings, so we welcome your attendance and comments!
Thursday, July 23, 2015 – 3:00 PM
Rosemead Community Recreation Center
3936 North Muscatel Avenue, Rosemead, CA 91770
Want to learn more? Check out ActiveSGV's new podcast, ActiveLab