You may have missed this:
With the passage of Measure R (November, 2008), Los Angeles bought itself a massive expansion of its rapid transit network. The system, which currently consists of three light rail lines and two heavy rail corridors, is already being expanded in two directions. Over the next thirty years, new services are planned for virtually everywhere in the 10 million-person county.
Two reasons you did not know that Los Angelenos taxed themselves $40 billion over 30 years to pay for a massively expanded transit system:
(1) There was this other guy, a certain Barack Obama, up for election the same night.
(2) Los Angelenos taxed themselves! For transit! By a super-majority! That’s just not supposed to happen.
In the land where the anti-tax movement began (Proposition 13, Reagan Revolution, etc.), how could voters approve any new tax by a supermajority, much less one for transit in the land of the auto?
But as political science professor and historian Steve Erie points out, this is in fact the norm for the people of the Southland. From 1873, when they gave a huge whack of dough to the Southern Pacific Railway to get them into town, to the creation of a harbour at San Pedro, to the famous water and power projects associated with the name Mulholland (and dark conspiracies), to the airport and highways, “the foundational base of LA is public support for infrastructure .”
In fact, Los Angeles citizens have in the recent past voted for bond measures to support schools, parks and libraries by supermajorities. They just wait until there’s a crisis to do it. After decades of neglect and denial, Los Angeles will decide to reinvent itself by drawing on this tradition of collective funding.
After spending immense resources on Motordom, providing a model to the rest of the world on how to build a region around the automobile, L.A. found itself stuck in traffic with no prospect of relief – but still holding on to its essential vision of regional mobility in a sprawling metropolis. So now transit is the new connective tissue; mobility is the new water.
As Denny Zane, the executive director of Move L.A. – the coalition for Measure R – put it: “A majority of the voters voted for something the majority may not use.” (Or think they won’t.) “The car is in our history, not our DNA. Measure R aims to provide a network of convenience, sufficient to offset car dependence – not to supplant the car but to make it viable.”
Although the first light-rail expansion – the Expo Line (map here of station at USC shown below) – has just opened, it was technically not part of Measure R, having been supported by a previous initiative. But voters are nonetheless seeing some results for their taxes, and the prospect, once the line connects with Santa Monica, is of a gamechanger for the region: the possibility of living in L.A. without having to be car dependent.
The projects assembled under Measure R, and its timeframe, are still not good enough for a lot of Los Angelenos, including the Mayor. They want to add on to the Measure R commitments, and push the whole agenda forward, building out a 30-year plan in a decade: