Lots Of People Are Unhappy With Metro's $120 Billion Transportation Plan
Unsurprisingly, Metro's $120 billion plan to fix L.A. County's transportation troubles doesn’t suit everyone. Thursday morning's public comment session at the Metro Board meeting underscored that fact.
A laundry list of elected officials and community organizers pled their cases to the all-powerful Metro Board on Thursday, arguing that some of the earmarked projects be sped up, some be eliminated, and some unfunded opportunities be added to the plan.
The challenge Metro faces is, shall we say, epic. Building single a cohesive transportation plan for the nation's most populous county—one with more people than all but seven whole American states—is an exercise in compromise.
Critique comes from all sides. Notably, a large coalition of elected leaders from cities in Southeast L.A. County said they will vote against the plan unless it speeds up and augments several projects throughout the Gateway Cities region, like the proposed Eco-Rapid Line running from downtown Los Angeles to Artesia.
Southeast L.A. County is home to some most transit dependent communities in all of Southern California, yet, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the region, it lacks the infrastructure and development that would ensure people can have timely, car-free, commutes. Though the Gateway Cities are slated for some projects, many of these aren't due for completion until 2050 or later.
"There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County, not just one," said County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents the South Bay and Southeast L.A. County, in a statement. "Taxpayers across the County will be asked to pay an additional half-cent sales tax and in return, they should all see benefits. Promises were made to taxpayers eight years ago... now, some of those commitments are being pushed down the road."
At the same time, proponents of active-transit, like walking and biking, say the plan falls short of the county's need to invest in adequate pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
"So many of the trips to get to the buses or the rail are biking and walking so the investment has to be there," Tamika Butler, the director of L.A. County Bike Coalition, said to KPCC. "It would be a missed opportunity to spend billions making it easier to drive across the county when so many of our residents can't even walk safely to the bus stop or bike to the train station."
Butler has a point. While Metro's plan proposes big spending on rail and roads, critics like Butler point out that it earmarks a less-than-ideal amount of money improving the infrastructure people will use to get to their improved transit. Swaths of Los Angeles County don't even have sidewalks, much less adequate cycling infrastructure.
And, of course, criticism of a plan to fix L.A. County transportation wouldn't be complete without those who say the government needs to spend more money on roads.
Metro's plan includes several proposed road projects, including a widening of the 710 freeway, the 405 freeway south of LAX, and the establishment of a High Desert Transportation Corridor between Palmdale and Victorville. Like projects in Southeast L.A. County, many of these proposed fixes are put off for decades.
James Ledford, the mayor of Palmdale, explained to L.A. Weekly, how "the system is certainly stacked against (small) cities. Road maintenance is a real issue for cities, and I don't see any help for that." Ledford continued, however, that"the downtown interests are certainly being taken care of."
The "downtown interests" Ledford mention refers to the disproportionate amount of influence the City of Los Angeles holds over county politics. As such, the City of Los Angeles will benefit perhaps more than any other city in the region from the proposed $120 billion spending plan. This sort of makes sense given L.A. is the largest and often most-dense city in the County. But it's important to consider that more than half of L.A. County residents live outside L.A. City limits. Where Los Angeles City is is home to 3.9 million people, it's located in a county that's home to 10 million.
Those living outside Los Angeles City worry they will be unfairly taxed to pay for transit projects they will not benefit from.
While Mayor Garcetti would have ordinarily been present to hear the concerns of other elected officials representing millions of SoCal residents at Thursday morning's Metro Board, he was instead schmoozing with Hillary Clinton at a campaign fundraiser on USC's campus.