Thursday, July 21, 2016

Investing Measure M’s Local Return to Fix Sidewalks and Streets

Over the past months, most of the attention on Metro’s ballot measure has been, understandably, on the major transit and highway projects planned by Metro. But, for many of us working at the neighborhood level, the important caveat is: the measure would also generate billions of dollars for local projects in the City of Los Angeles and every other city in the county. That means opportunities to re-invest in our sidewalks, crosswalks, and streets — the crucial but often forgotten infrastructure that helps get us to our transit stations or bus stops.

Like Propositions A and C and Measure R before it, Metro’s ballot measure (what might be coined “Measure M”) would include a substantial local return program. Local return is a formula funding program that distributes money to local jurisdictions for street and sidewalk repair, municipal transit operations, capital projects, and other transportation purposes based on population.

Metro’s Measure M would allocate 17 percent of the new ballot measure revenue to local return, which would increase to 20 percent after 2039. By our estimate, this would generate over $130 million per year for all 88 cities and the County of Los Angeles, including over $50 million per year for just the City of Los Angeles (due to the fact the City of LA represents approximately 40% of the County’s population). If you’re a City Manager, public works or streets services official, elected official, or a transportation advocate in any of LA County’s cities, you have a timely opportunity to advocate for where local return funding should go.

In May, two motions were introduced at Los Angeles City Council, kicking off the discussion of how the City of Los Angeles might use the revenue from its share of local return from the potential ballot measure.

Local return is an important revenue source for cities to maintain their local transportation infrastructure. Most cities use their local return to operate small bus systems, to repave streets and repair sidewalks, and to leverage state and federal grants for capital projects. Metro’s Measure M proposes to expand eligibility to include stormwater capture and transit-oriented communities.

With so many competing demands on a limited funding source, it is important for cities to set clear priorities to use local return funding efficiently and effectively to achieve desired policy outcomes. For more background on local return in the City of Los Angeles, see our policy brief from our webinar in May.

As discussed in our brief, Investing in Place’s priorities with local return are:

  • To prioritize projects based on need,
  • To integrate complete streets and green streets into street repair, and
  • To set aside 20 percent of funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, bus stops, safe routes to school, and other related projects that address safety and access for people traveling on foot or bicycle, as recommended in the City’s Mobility Plan 2035.

These policies will maximize the benefits of the potential measure for Los Angeles’ neighborhoods, deliver improvements more cost effectively, and prioritize the safety of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

When this issue was last discussed by council members in May, the Transportation Committee considered the two local return motions, heard testimony from the public — including many of our partners — and directed city staff to report back with a more comprehensive proposal for using the new revenue in line with the City’s adopted policy priorities, including Mobility Plan 2035, the Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan, Vision Zero, and more.

Taking a pause to consider the magnitude of potential investment and the best way to prioritize all of these needs is a win for advocates, giving us time to engage with staff and council offices to articulate a more holistic approach to transportation funding in the City of Los Angeles.

Stay tuned for updates as this discussion continues at Transportation Committee possibly in August or in the early fall and consider signing onto our letter (to be drafted in early August) outlining Investing in Place’s priorities for local return in the City of Los Angeles.  To join our local return working group efforts and/or learn more, please email jessica@investinginplace.org.



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