Fall is here, which means the end of baseball season and a sign that the year is coming to an end. This was apparent during last week’s October Metro Policy Advisory Council (PAC) meeting where the conversation focused on how the PAC would influence Metro’s investment strategy for the region. As 2017 winds down, some end-of-year deadlines on key Metro funding programs are becoming more of a reality. $10 billion are dedicated from Measure M to go directly to the County’s nine subregions in a Multi-year Subregional Program (MSP). Subregions in turn retain a delegated authority from Metro to determine how that money is invested in transportation projects for their cities and communities. How can we best ensure our subregions are making investment decisions that benefit the region as a whole?
The PAC serves as an advisory board to Metro and is most immediately developing recommendations for MSP administrative guidelines, which are intended to be finalized by December 2017.
“Accountability and Transparency”
Two issues repeatedly surfaced as critical to the PAC and subregion representatives in shaping MSP guidelines. Accountability was brought up as important for the subregions and their member cities to be held to delivering Measure M projects that reflect the values and needs of their subregion areas. Transparency was identified as important to demystify the process of how billions of dollars of public investment, funded by County sales tax payers, would be spent.
When the PAC discussed the topic of performance measures, much clarity was needed as participants were assuming different definitions. For instance, performance measures could be applied to project evaluation (after a project is completed) or selection criteria (before a project is selected). Some PAC members felt it is important to identify shared Countywide performance measures that reflect the values and goals of the entire region. Safety was pointed to by several members as a measure by which all MSP projects should be evaluated. Other PAC members insisted that the diversity and differences between the nine subregions called for separate and individually-determined performance measures for each subregion.
The PAC did not come to singular resolution, although most members at the meeting agreed that performance measures were necessary to ensure accountability for policymakers and transparency to voters who supported a sales tax to fund these projects. The discussion reflected the values and priorities of diverse subregion representatives in the room and also the challenges of developing policies in a large group setting. The PAC officers and Metro staff agreed to develop a proposed performance measures structure for PAC members–and members of the public–to review and provide feedback by the November PAC meeting. As mentioned above, guidelines for performance measures, and all of the MSP, are to be completed by December 2017.
Time to Play Ball
Performance measures are an important tool to retain accountability and transparency. They are a quantitative method to determine impact, success, and progress of a project. While each subregion and community across our vast County may have different priorities for their local transportation networks, there are regional goals that bind us and make sense to strive towards together.
As the Los Angeles Dodgers look to advance in their fifth consecutive postseason with the National League West title, let’s think about how a baseball team might illustrate the need for us to set regional transportation goals. #GoDodgers
In baseball, nine players on the field have distinct skill sets, some similar and some quite different. Each player is responsible for a designated role and area on the field. And each player’s effectiveness can be tracked with different statistics, such as an Earned Run Average (ERA) for pitchers only. However, despite the diversity in skill sets and roles to play, all nine players have shared goals. The most obvious is winning, but others include pulling out of a slump together or communicating on the field. Also, all players have statistics they share, such as batting average (at least in the National League). They are all measured for their effectiveness as a player and contribution to the team.
Similarly, the nine subregions of LA County are all unique and have different priorities and challenges. And they are all part of one region that will be receiving an unprecedented influx of infrastructure funding, supported by voters willing to tax themselves to improve their transportation systems. Maintaining a safe, reliable, and accessible transportation system is a reasonable universal goal. LA County can create shared regionwide goals to 1) reduce traffic fatalities/injuries, 2) improve system service, and 3) serve our most vulnerable system users. This would allow flexibility for each subregion to add further local goals, but more importantly, measure their impact in ways that fit their unique priorities and challenges.
It is time for the nine subregions to play ball together, striving for shared regional transportation goals and measuring progress towards those goals while determining local priorities that need to be measured for effectiveness as well. This comes at a critical point in deciding how LA County will invest these transportation funds with accountability and transparency. It is time for playoff baseball.
General Meeting Recap
The PAC work plan outlines a schedule of 11 policy papers that Metro is drafting to provide a landscape of key issues shaping its pending Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) update. The topics cover a broad range and stakeholders interested in a deeper dive into the policies can contact their PAC representatives to learn more about a particular policy issue(s). Topics include: Transit-Oriented Communities; Transportation Equity; Public-Private Partnerships; Project Delivery; Innovation, Trends & Disrupters; Active Transportation; Sustainability; Accelerators/Decelerators; Roadway Network Mobility; Access to Transit; and Goods Movement.
Metro then gave a progress report on the LRTP, its financial forecast, and an Acceleration/Deceleration criteria for Metro projects. The financial forecast will be presented during the October 18 Metro Planning & Programming Subcommittee and include a baseline of the LRTP. A more detailed workshop is currently being scheduled for that morning and Investing in Place will update our partners when we learn more details. The Acceleration/Deceleration criteria is a new tool currently being developed by Metro staff to apply flexibility to planned Measure M projects and their implementation timelines. This will not transfer funding from one project to another, but could prioritize the implementation of a project that shows newfound readiness in funding, partnerships, or innovations. Conversely, the criteria could choose to delay implementation of a project that gains unexpected delays in favor of a project with more readiness. The Acc/Dec criteria will be presented as a draft to the Metro board this month on October 26.
Metro also shared calculations of the 0.5% of MSP funds that would go to subregions for program administration costs over the next five years. This set aside could be used to contract outside organizations to support community engagement or tracking performance measures. It could also be used to support subregion members in project development for their MSP allocation. The process for each subregion to determine how to spend the 0.5% administrative budget is not standardized across the County and is not expected to be. Each subregion–and its member jurisdictions–will be able to invest this set-aside as they deem appropriate. Calculations for each subregion can be found on page 3 here.