After a short summer recess, the Metro Policy Advisory Council (PAC) is back and forging ahead with the first Measure M Guidelines Administrative Procedures Commitment: The Multi-Year Subregional Programs (MSPs). These programs total over $10 billion dollars, which is nearly a third of all Measure M capital project funding. For the first time it also creates a role for COGs/subregions as funders, positioning them as key decision-making bodies and administrators for these funds.
In a nutshell, the MSPs are programs specific to each of the 9 COGs/subregions. Instead of specific projects tied to specific corridors, they are broad funding categories for projects yet to be identified, such as: Goods Movement Projects, Modal Connectivity/Complete Streets Projects, Active Transportation, and Transit Projects. At this point, think of the MSPs as a $10 billion discretionary grant program through which cities, Metro, and the nine COGs/subregions will work together to prioritize projects for funding. The prioritization process will be based on an administrative process that has yet to be adopted for the program. (See the list of Measure M Subregional Programs sorted by Subregion.) The MSPs are one of the largest sources of funding in all of Measure M for first and last mile improvements, safe routes to school, sidewalks, bicycles lanes, and other multi-modal projects. These projects can strengthen transportation options for all, especially for those without access to a vehicle for the trip.
So yeah, the MSPs are a big deal. And you’re not alone if you find this complicated and confusing. This is a brand new $10 billion dollar transportation funding program for Los Angeles County, and there is steep learning curve for many. Before the funding can begin to flow, Metro must adopt administrative procedures that determine how the programs will work, including public participation requirements, performance metrics, and how the 5-year work plans will be developed. The Metro PAC is tasked with advising on all of these issues. Metro has set a goal to adopt the administrative procedures and projected funding levels for the MSPs by December. This makes next few months critical for in-depth conversations and input as to how we balance the need to engage communities, measure performance, and actually deliver projects.
At this month’s PAC mtg the bulk of the dialogue was on the MSPs and development of the program process.
Metro staff also provided a brief overview on the draft PAC workplan which sets key meeting topics for the PAC through June 2018. Staff also walked the PAC through the draft Measure M Administrative Guidelines for the Multiyear Subregional Programs, which will be the blueprint for the MSP process. Then the group broke into three discussion/topic groups with a report back:
- Community Engagement
- Performance Metrics
- Mobility Matrices
As Investing in Place understands it, the public participation standards for the MSP need to be established before the projects and 5-year work plan can be developed. A key question for the group right off the bat was: what do we mean when we say “stakeholder”? Is that a community resident? Community groups? Member cities of the COGs? Or is it all of those? Members of the group posed the following points:
- End Users: Metro should identify their service population (transit riders and users of Metro system facilities) and marginalized interest groups (disability community, seniors) and define how they would be represented in these conversations.
- Community Partners: Outreach partners should be compensated as part of the work of administering these projects and programs. If COGs are unable to conduct effective public participation to reach impacted populations and needed to partner with local community based organizations to inform these decisions and programs, the MSPs need to consider a process to pay those community organizations for their time, relationships, and community expertise which become integral to the success of these investments.
- Education: There is a critical need for education with this outreach as most stakeholders understandably won’t be aware of this program and its opportunities. Education is a significant part of outreach and a critical component to having successful projects and programs.
- Appropriate outreach: Define what type of engagement would be appropriate, as regional-level engagement is very different from neighborhood-level engagement.
Performance metrics are a complex issue for the group to resolve in a short PAC meeting discussion period. While there was general agreement that performance metrics established for these programs need to go above and beyond the current policies at the federal, state and county level, defining specific ways to accomplish that was a challenge. Some key points the group discussed include:
- Funding coordination: There is an opportunity to leverage dollars in the MSPs for other funds. Incorporating performance metrics that other transportation funding streams use would ensure more successful matching.
- Region vs. subregion: Shared goals of human safety, sustainability, and mobility exist throughout the region, but specific definitions and outcomes across different subregions vary significantly. While there may be regional outcomes/goals for these funds, it may be possible for each of the 9 COGs/subregions to be able tailor performance metrics to their unique needs in addition to regional goals.
In the years leading up to the development of the Measure M Expenditure Plan, COGs/subregions developed Mobility Matrices: these lists of prioritized transportation investments in each COG/subregion were presented to the Metro Board of Directors in 2015. These are seen as wish lists as the total costs of projects submitted by the COGs/subregions far exceeded the projected available funds for the Mobility Matrices program. Mobility Matrices reports include over 2,300 projects countywide with an estimated cost of $150 to $275 billion. You can review the reports for each subregion on Metro’s website here: www.metro.net/lrtp. (Click on “Subregional Mobility Matrices” on the right.) This PAC breakout group discussed:
- Project Selection: Projects from the Mobility Matrices would be used as references to inform projects to be prioritized in the MSPs, but just because a project was listed on a Mobility Matrix does not mean it would be funded. Also, a project not currently listed on the existing Mobility Matrices could be added to the MSPs.
- Flexibility of the MSP funds: Subregions can shift implementation dates of existing MSP proposed programs to reflect priority and/or capacity changes. However, funds cannot be transferred out of proposed programs or into newly created programs.
- Community engagement: Would this be conducted, and at what level, before MSP projects were selected or after selection for input as they are designed and implemented? Metro staff stated that stakeholders would be need to engaged before projects were selected and supported the idea that stakeholders impacted by specific projects should be involved early and continuously through this process.
All of the breakout groups at the September meeting raised more questions than resolved concerns. The next few months will be critical as the PAC–and engaged stakeholders–finalizes shared goals of community engagement and performance metrics for LA County, while allowing enough flexibility to address subregion-specific concerns. There was noticeable tension during the full group discussion particularly between stakeholder groups that want to be involved in subregional decision-making and some COGs that are rightly concerned with what that means for time and resources spent on program administration. These are natural issues when crafting such a huge and impactful program with participants coming from a range of interests and areas of expertise. The PAC’s charge is to find common ground among these various perspectives. The MSPs have the potential to provide billions of dollars to focus on options that directly serve low-income communities and communities of color: First/last mile, Bus Rapid Transit and active transportation. We welcome the opportunity to work with all interested stakeholders to shape a brand new regional funding stream that can bring critical improvements to local communities.
Key next steps for the PAC and the development of the guidelines for this program are:
- Metro Staff to develop framing papers for Public Participation and Performance Metrics, send to PAC members in the next few weeks.
- Two work group conference calls for interested PAC members before the October 3rd PAC meeting, to review the framing papers and discuss the ideas and next steps.
- Continue discussion and development of the MSP program at October 3rd PAC meeting. (1:30p – 3:30p at SCAG 800 W 7th St, 12th floor, Downtown LA. Meetings are open to the public).
- Want to find out more? Reach out to a PAC member who represents your constituency or the PAC officers. Contact information here
While the PAC has a lot of other business on its plate–including the Long Range Transportation Plan, implementation of other Measure M programs, and more–finalizing the MSP administrative procedures by December 2017 is clearly the key focus right now. It’s not everyday we get a new discretionary grant program of over $10 billion for mobility improvements in our communities.