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South Los Angeles Transportation Investment Forum

Posted by Naomi Iwasaki, Mobility Policy Analyst on February 13th, 2015

Metro buses @ South Bay Galleria layover 2008

Photo credit: flickr user Jonathan Riley (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

Over the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend Move LA, a public transportation advocacy organization, and Southwestern College co-hosted a South Los Angeles (SLA) Forum about regional transportation investment that drew 150 residents, students, elected officials, public agency staff and community-based organizations from across the County. The forum provided participants a space to discuss  the best way to invest transportation dollars to meet the needs of South Los Angeles.

In 2008 Move LA worked to get Measure R approved by LA County voters, which imposed a half-cent sales tax to generate an estimated $40 billion for transportation projects over 30 years (expiring in 2039). Measure R funds have initiated and expedited many of the major recent transportation infrastructure improvements in Los Angeles, including an unprecedented spate of light rail construction such as the Expo and Crenshaw light rail lines. While the construction of new infrastructure can be seen and felt, ensuring equitable distribution of investment has not been quite as transparent.

Participants at the SLA forum expressed concerns about both belonging to communities that might get left out of initial transportation investments as well as being displaced from communities where investment may lead to increased costs of rent, services and other living expenses that could price out existing residents and businesses owners. Measure R did not feature any equity-based formulas for investment allocation, which would have greatly benefited underserved communities that are more likely to be reliant on transit and active transportation. The SLA forum was the first widespread convening of major stakeholders in South Los Angeles to begin conversations about the most effective ways to allocate transportation revenues should a similar sales tax measure (currently dubbed “Measure R2”) be placed on future ballots—as early as 2016.
Other potential discussion points include new and innovative ways to generate important revenues aside from another sales tax. While often effective in raising funds, sales taxes are regressive and can negatively impact low-income residents and communities at a disproportionate rate.

While no official measure for a transportation sales tax has been proposed for Los Angeles County, gatherings like this SLA Forum present critical opportunities for local stakeholders to become involved in voicing the priorities and needs of historically marginalized communities. As a region, our roads are over-capacity and finding alternatives to driving will be important to long-term sustainability. Neighborhoods like South Los Angeles that already have higher rates of households with no vehicles are in an important position to envision an equitable distribution of transportation investment for the future of Los Angeles.

For more information about Measure R, visit:[http://www.metro.net/projects/measurer]. For more information about Move LA, visit: [http://www.movela.org]