By ROB CARPENTER and DAVID MURPHY
The transformation of Los Angeles' transportation system from an abysmal failure to a stunning success will be enormously difficult. Yet it is absolutely unavoidable. Our quality of life, economy, environment and civic pride are all at stake. The fact is Los Angeles now has a profound choice between investing aggressively in congestion relief or surrendering to the cynicism, regionalism and defeatism that have crippled our county for decades. It's that simple. Transforming Los Angeles is not just about supporting Measure R, Los Angeles County's half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 4 ballot to generate $40 billion in new transportation funding, it's about our values, priorities and future as Angelenos.
We experience the worst traffic and pollution in America, lose billions in economic productivity, and spend more time away from our family, friends and favorite hobbies all because of gridlocked vehicles. We don't currently have a built-out mass transit system, and traffic will dramatically worsen in the coming decades unless we reverse this disastrous trend and reverse it now. Measure R is the first step in a gigantic leap Los Angeles must take to rescue itself. Unlikely allies, ranging from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO, from the Valley Industry and Commerce Association to the League of Conservation Voters, recognize this crisis and support Measure R because they understand we need a strategy that will sustain Los Angeles for the next generation.
The reality is we must get serious about traffic relief. If we do, we will reinvent Los Angeles, ease congestion, bolster our economy and create jobs, and reduce carbon emissions. If we don't, traffic will increase dramatically, our business climate and quality of life will continue to worsen, our air quality will deteriorate and we will remain the laughingstock of the nation. We have a choice between climbing out of our hole for the first time or asking for a bigger shovel to dig deeper. A choice between a healthy, successful future or an unhealthy, failed past.
Here's how we start to solve this mess. Measure R specifically helps address this crisis by focusing on street improvements, rail expansion, traffic reduction, public transportation and quality-of-life improvements. For a half-cent sales tax increase, Measure R will:
- Generate between $32 billion and $40 billion in urgently needed funds over 30 years.
- Cost the average resident $25 per year.
- Stimulate our economy by creating 210,000 transportation jobs.
- Maintain local control over funds, to avoid raids by Sacramento, with such protections as an independent citizens oversight committee and yearly audits.
- Allocate 15 percent of the money to local cities for signal synchronization, street repair and other projects.
- Jump-start more than 25 projects, including current and future efforts like the Gold Line and Expo Line extensions, "subway to the sea" and desperately needed freeway improvements on the 5, 405, 110, 710 and 605 freeways
Measure R clearly is the most decisive and historic transportation effort in a generation. It fairly distributes revenues throughout the county based on commute patterns, job density, existing infrastructure needs and highly congested areas. No matter where Angelenos live, we will all benefit from this. East or west, north or south, we can all use the interconnectedness of the new and improved roads, highways, bridges and transit. The authors of this opinion piece live on the Eastside and Westside of the county, and our neighbors understand Angelenos everywhere benefit by having a more built-out system.
It is unquestionable, however, that more transportation money will be needed beyond Measure R to substantially complete and transform our system; nor is Measure R itself perfect. But we can't make the perfect the enemy of the good. At a time when oil prices are outrageous, unemployment is high and our economy is suffering, Measure R provides energy independence, better transportation options, creates 200,000 jobs and reinvests billions in our local economy. In a county as diverse as it is large, Measure R is a giant leap forward in addressing all of our needs. It is a meaningful short- and long-term traffic relief and economic stimulus package.
Now is the time to take major steps to re-establish our transportation system. If Angelenos can overcome the cynicism, parochialism and defeatism of the failed past, we can create a dramatically brighter future for ourselves, our environment and our economy. We can reinvigorate Los Angeles, build a world-class transportation system and be a stunning model of reform.
Measure R can be the first step toward that reality.
Rob Carpenter and David Murphy are social entrepreneurs and co-founders of Building L.A.'s Future: Ending Gridlock in Los Angeles.
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