Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Measure M Will Help Keep Our Buses, Trains, and Infrastructure in Good Condition

Measure M, known as the “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan,” is a comprehensive plan that will allocate over $850 million per year to improving transportation and mobility options for all in Los Angeles County. If passed, about 2 percent of the measure — or $2.4 billion in the next 40 years — will be allocated towards keeping our transportation infrastructure in good condition, called “State of Good Repair.”

The costs of neglecting to routinely maintain tracks, train cars, and other equipment were seen across the country, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington D.C. This year, the D.C. Metro left many users stranded as the system was completely shut down for a whole day after a fire. Last year, a fire underneath a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train left hundreds stranded. This year, power surges disabled over 40 BART train cars. Showing the magnitude of the issue, BART officials responded by social media: “We have 3 hours a night to do maintenance on a system built to serve 100k per week that now serves 430k per day.”

Maintaining what we build — whether it’s new train lines or buses — is important for everyone. For our regional transportation agency, Metro, it means longer-lasting infrastructure, safer equipment, and lower operating costs — which helps keep fares affordable. For many riders, a reliable system with few breakdowns can make a big difference — it’s the difference between making it to class, a health appointment, back to the family for dinner, or to a job interview on time.

Most importantly, maintaining what we build matters a lot for communities who rely on an affordable public transportation system to get around. As housing costs and the costs to own a vehicle rise in Los Angeles County, more and more people from low-income communities and communities of color are relying on public transit to travel greater distances to education and employment opportunities. The median annual household income for Metro’s bus riders is $16,377 compared to $56,000 across Los Angeles County.

Even with funding from Measure M, by 2025-2030, Metro won’t have enough money to cover basic repair and maintenance needs, reported the LA Times in March 2016. The funding shortfall will be $400 million by the end of the “State of Good Repair” program. Measure M will allow more funding to be shifted toward maintenance as the system ages in future decades. We need Measure M to reinforce our funding for basic maintenance — otherwise, our efforts to build a regional, comprehensive, and reliable network of new rail lines and buses will depreciate much sooner.

For a link to the PDF of this policy brief, please access here.


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