The Vote NO on County Measure J Urban Design Study
Vote NO on Measure J so that better plans can be made to improve transportation, achieve better city design, and obtain needed social and economic development.
Planning issues take a long time to perfect through the democratic and economic processes and it is best to give them time so that citizens are represented fairly and projects will be successful. Metro has no federal funding lined up anyway for Measure J. Metro is hoping and wishing for a Federal “subsidy” whose legislation does not exist. Measure J is wishful thinking in the form of a Measure that might obligate citizens for a long time and to something that they can’t understand or live with because Measure R plans, and the projects to be accelerated are inadequate. How inadequate? Well the following list of issues starts to define how inadequate and flawed these Measures J and R really are.
Before we get to that however, it is proper to identify that it is due to Mayor Antonio Villaragosa who is most responsible for setting up this Measure J and the steps leading up to it. As Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and as Mayor of the City of LA he has fired and removed competent LA city planners and County transportation planners, has rigged the Measure J acceleration concept and its connection to the America Fast Forward idea of heavy Federal spending on infrastructure. While doing so there is within it the choosing of a few winners and a broad list of losers not only by specific areas of transportation improvement projects but by the ongoing character of social and economic development that results from the financing and lack of representation these expenditures employ. Among these effects is a change of how business is carried out generally, generational theft is used by borrowing from the future, exacerbated abuse to young workers by the senior ratio phenomena, lessening of education and employment opportunities, increased financial risk to the County and the long term undermining of what characterizes the values of Southern California lifestyle.
Earlier in the history of Los Angeles water was the issue that was fought over. Now it is transportation and its relationships to land use. There is a mighty struggle going on now compounded by the 2008 Financial Crisis that has depressed the LA economy. Some desperate aspects have worked there way into Measure J that impact the majority of citizens.
But who can blame, the Mayor? Well you can blame him by Voting NO on Measure J.
The bottom line to this design analysis is that by adding transportation capacity and land use growth in corridors the average length of trips in LA County can get shorter. When trips get shorter there is less traffic and miles traveled. So much so that the two million additional people that become LA County citizens over the next 25 to 30 years will not experience any additional traffic if Flow Boulevards are added to the transportation network but just the opposite, less traffic. That is a twenty percent increase in population but less travel and no congestion.
The mileage traveled now each day in LA County is about 80 million miles. Twenty percent of that is about 17 million miles. By adding additional transportation capacity with Flow Boulevards that also add land use opportunities to increase higher density of housing, businesses and other land uses in low density suburban areas, the additional population and its travel demand is absorbed by virtue of the resulting shorter trips being made between home, work, shopping, and recreation etcetera. The proposed growth of 130 miles of Flow Boulevards that is recommended in this study would increase capacity on average about 65,000 person trips per mile times the 130 miles equals about 8.5 million miles per day of additional capacity. It would be a conservative assumption that the trips in these corridors where there are the closeness of connections between home, work, shopping and recreation etcetera would be just half as long. The average trip length now in LA County is 15.5 miles long. Half of that is 7.75 miles long. I am sure you can imagine that the average length of trips could be even closer to 5 miles long. But in the 7.75 mile average length case the two million addition people in the County of 2040 would have been absorbed with no appreciable increase in total County travel mileage. Using the 5 mile average length case there would be less traffic and mileage. And remember there would be no traffic congestion because Flow Boulevards FLOW!
The lessening in traffic comes in two ways. First there are half as many miles traveled by trips being half as long. Secondly, due to the free flow of vehicles on Flow Boulevards there is no congestion, therefore quicker and shorter trips. Considering that trips from adjacent areas would be shorter as well to close by land use destinations there would be even more efficiencies to be gained and more shorter trips. Then the effect of adding two million more people to LA County would make it seem like there was much less traffic.
The technical aspects involved in transportation and land use relationships are still being brought to light. Future Measure J and R projects and programs are insufficient for LA County transportation needs because they add few miles, add little useable capacity, do not effectively engage land use and the addition of two million more people would create greater congestion for the majority if not dealt with by Flow Boulevards. LA County has the necessity to consolidate its urban form. The transportation facility that is greatly needed is not the one that provides travel further and maybe faster for a few but the facility that accommodates travel for the majority with more convenient, faster and shorter trips. That transportation facility is the Flow Boulevard concept that accommodates the growth and its demands for travel. It is with further benefit that it is low in cost, protects existing suburban and urban communities and is connected to existing travel destinations by the utilization of existing street rights of way using autos, trucks and true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on exclusive lanes.
Briefly the Issues that Measures J and R do not Address
(These are short statements of issues contained in the longer statement that follows)
1. There is myth surrounding what improvement the rail projects will actually provide because once completed they will serve less than 3% of movement in LA County still leaving congestion just about everywhere.
2. Outside of the LA Basin there is a great need to structure the sub-regions (suburbs) and their communities with low cost improved transportation and community growth to accommodate the consolidation of population over the next 25 to 30 years. These improvements would reduce vehicular miles traveled (VMT). This fact goes totally unrecognized in the Measure R projects.
3. There are many locally needed transportation improvements that do not involve rail that are going unplanned for and not built, for example in the Westside of LA (see the expanded discussion on issue 6 below).
4. Unfortunately there are premature “R” projects that represent “bailouts” for existing real estate speculators but function as wasteful spending by being not needed for decades and in some cases there are better projects to replace them altogether.
5. With an unwarranted emphasis on commuter rail, there is an incomplete range of multi-modal transportation solutions in practically all areas of LA County. Low cost transportation improvement that supports adjacent land use growth is clearly not in evidence in Metro’s plans and processes to obtain such. In this regard there are few rail miles needed but there are many corridors where auto and bus service is needed to serve the commercial and residential growth of LA County.
6. There is currently a mania and frustration underway due to traffic congestion in many parts of the County, but this is mainly due to the inadequate relationships of transportation to land use that Metro chooses not to plan for and is not addressing.
7. LA is not New York City, and its transportation needs require greater coordination with existing sprawled development patterns where low cost improvements for autos, trucks and bus transit mileage provides better service than a few miles of commuter rail to Downtown LA.
8. There is a major flaw in designing for the County and that is in Metro’s lack of coordinating of local social developmental needs and the economic development of a supportive overall affordable transportation and land use plan that evolves through time and has the ability to respond to new problems that emerge. Offering a commuter rail plans that favors a few and ignores the many is a major flaw that means they will be back for more money later.
9. Unintended Consequences: The stimulus of accelerated construction can lead to a County “Transportation Bubble” and then a Crash leaving future needs of economic and social development unmet. At that point the pressure to raise taxes to fix conditions that were unplanned for could finally take out Proposition 13. This consequence would weaken, if not remove, one of the main underpinnings supporting Southern California lifestyle and opportunity.
10. One hundred miles of Flow Boulevard removes twice as much CO2 as do all of the rail improvements.
11. There are underserved existing and future communities by the lack of transportation improvement which detracts and limits opportunities of small, medium and large business activity and its growth.
12. Metro supported transit oriented development with crony capitalism crowds out free market business development and places losses on the public balance sheet.
13. Generational Theft is an aspect of Measure J by getting near term benefit for a few older commuters but leaves the underserved younger majority to pay for it over the long term. Adding insult to injury the younger underserved must originate new projects to provide transportation needs that they will have.
14. The “Senior Ratio” means that fewer younger people will be paying for a greater number of non-working retirees than normal because of the unusual 66% increase of the Boomer generation increase. If the younger generations do not have transportation and land use support that bring good jobs and community development, it is all the more burdensome on them.
15. Institutional Risk brought about through “moral hazard” which is a new risk entering politically inspired rail projects that elevates the chances for public financial losses while lessening the chances for productive projects to occur.
Abstracts of Seven Issues
Following below are Abstracts of the seven issues contained in this article for the benefit of those that want the answers fast without reading the entire article or to use as a way to direct themselves to the various issues that concern them most within the longer statement and reasoning. But it would be a good idea however, to read all the abstracts to obtain the overall viewpoint.
Issue One; Metro’s Incomplete Transportation Concepts and Plans.
The main objection to an expensive addition to the existing commuter rail system is it does not answer the real critical overall needs of transportation improvement in LA County. Metro’s Measure R plans emphasize centralized transportation improvements for commuter rail that benefit a few, deals with less than 3% of total travel in LA County when it is completed, while Metro’s plans neglect the solving for the related 90% of overall congested travel in LA County. If instead of a few more miles of extended light rail, an extensive rapid bus system in “growth corridors” were added to the existing rail that is being completed now, a low cost countywide transportation system would make a structure that would produce the jobs, economy and communities to accept the more than two million additional residents that will come to reside here in the next 25 to 30 years. By missing the need to plan for the increased population makes Metro’s plan totally incomplete.
Regarding the Measure R improvements to already congested freeways; such “repairs” will not accommodate long range growth and development but are maintenance and bottleneck oriented, leaving the countywide land use growth in density and effective reductions in vehicular miles traveled unaddressed.
Issue Two; Missing Transportation Elements, Representation and Money
By missing low cost transportation improvement elements, which can address LA County land use development needs, those missing elements would reduce the County ability to provide for social and economic development. By cutting out the opportunities of the majority in seemingly dictatorial planning processes, it results in having the affect of “taxation without representation”. Metro seeks to avoid governmental planning processes that involve local government and citizen participation by asking for long term monetary commitments combined with their incomplete plans. This opens the door to very large misallocations of resources and the unintended consequences that can bring about social and economic failures by not having supported broad social and economic development in the first place with complete plans and processes. This makes the idea of borrowing from the future to accelerate incomplete plans extremely risky because there will not be the economic base to pay the loans back. Because the loans are over a 57 year period, making plan adjustments and refinancing adjustments become a dark quagmire beyond transparent scrutiny; malfeasance becomes a likelihood. This all can be avoided by not passing Measure J and with obtaining better and complete plans instead.
Paying for public improvements with a sales tax is proportionately higher for the middle and working classes than through the traditional property taxes and fees that are paid by the properties being developed. It is in effect inequitable, in that with Measure J (and R) the majority is paying for those few beneficiaries associated with the high income properties and businesses being commuted to. But the real inequity is in lost opportunity for the majority and for LA County to become globally competitive.
Issue Three; LA City and County Plans Need to Generate Productivity
Transportation improvement plans must contain the objectives of productivity by providing jobs and sustainable growth as opposed to being for consumption of resources that in many ways are wasteful, not needed or are untimely. Instead of adding a few miles of expensive commuter rail lines in outlying areas of LA County for commuting to Downtown, an extensive low cost vehicular transportation network featuring bus rapid transit can support short and long term productivity and growth. This begins with addressing our “unemployment crisis” with construction jobs of course with the transportation improvement but also with the extensive associated land use areas to be developed. Longer term these low cost transportation “growth corridors” and centers become the communities to provide the prosperity we need as LA County consolidates.
These areas educate and attract entrepreneurial business growth. This is part of recognizing that the additional two million people to live in LA County will need jobs, efficient transportation, growing communities and that obviously all cannot all be fit into Downtown LA and the LA Basin with the use of commuter rail. The concept of making the LA Basin function well and the suburbs efficient and productive with growth corridors is integral with the significant reduction of vehicular miles traveled as well. This is a planning task that takes time to represent communities adequately and a necessary planning task that is not addressed by Metro Measure R projects and plans. As it stands the majority would be cut out of the decision making resulting in less available jobs and weakened future communities by the passage of Measure J.
Issue Four; These Times Require that we Do More with Less.
The stressed existing economic condition, the need for extensive development for new productivity, and the dubious sources for availability of money requires that we “do more with less”. This means becoming economically more business constructive, environmentally responsive and developmentally more entrepreneurial and comprehensive by our use of transportation improvement to structure a better Los Angeles. The Federal Transportation Administration says “do more with less” whereas Metro is saying “do less with more money”, by the plans as presented in the Measure R projects and their acceleration with Measure J. Such ventures with public funds often lead to misallocations of resources, when they start out with inadequate plans, missing essential plan elements and representation and then can lead to potentially catastrophic economic failure. It also means that Metro would be back yet again for more money to try to get it right. In fact it seems they are already back for more money stretched over a longer period with Measure J. In that their plans and objectives are incomplete and given what needs to be done, it would not be the last time they went to get money from the public for their way too expensive plans and ambitions.
Issue Five; Risk, a Transportation Bubble and the Consequences of Failure
Metro indicates that it would be dependent on a Federal “subsidy” that has not been legislated and that the program does not now exist. In other words it is wishful thinking that Metro wants to obligate voters to for a long period of time but don’t know on what conditions there would be and that the whole thing could blow up to begin with. This looks like just another risky and reckless financial maneuver in a series of bubbles that has depressed our economy and put the middle and working classes into the depths of debt (not to mention the speculators that need bailouts). If Metro tried to get $40 billion dollars through Wall Street it would be very likely to end up in a County bankruptcy with further direr consequences.
Also touched upon is the possible new risky use of “cheap money” in stimulating transportation and that such miss use of financing has been used to perpetuate devastating economic bubbles over the last two decades. With the inadequacies of Metro’s plans and the potentials for economic failure by not having revenues to pay the debt, a likely Transportation Bubble could form putting the County into enormous debt, then taxes would then have to be raised and could have effects like busting Prop 13. That would undo a major underpinning of Southern California lifestyle fundamentally changing LA County. If the net result of the productivity of our cities and industries do not exceed our expenditures it is but a matter of time that such unintended consequences can come about and thereby change living in Los Angeles and California for the worse.
Then “Generational Theft”, the “Senior Ratio” and “Moral Hazard” are shown to be working in the plans that Metro has devised for rail transportation improvement.
Issue Six; Metro Not Getting It Right, the Example of West LA
The lack of providing enough improved transportation and growth is obvious in the suburban areas of LA County by the small amount of improved access in Metro’s plans. But what is also true is that rail does not work well with the community scale and it does not in itself reduce congestion in areas such as in the LA Basin. In most all areas of the County there are experiences of congestion on freeways and on streets within communities. The study of West LA brings the issue of congestion into focus as well as the deficiency of rail to deal with the problem of maintaining balance between infrastructure and land use and the resulting stability of a community.
The West LA situation shows that multi-modal transportation improvement is necessary and must be planned for in balance with land use and for the desired character of community. Much can get out of kilter unknowingly and without due diligence. Some would say that Metro’s inadequate plans and inability to deal with the City of LA, show it does not know what it should be doing or how to do it.
The longer version of this issue below and the referenced studies show these relationships in detail.
Issue Seven; Getting Plans Right over Time
The first step in getting plans right at this time is to make sure Measure J is defeated. Then we go about getting the plans right. The following acknowledges that it is a difficult task due to all the parts that have to be coordinated but a task that must be done.
Urban design that is more structural in organizing urban land use and transportation elements is looked to be a major discipline to solve the physical design challenges presented within the dense urban setting as well as with growth corridors and centers in the suburban areas.
Then it is discussed that Metro does not have the “big picture” right yet and part of that is not understanding what the nature of Los Angeles is. By this fact combined with big ambitions and an authoritarian disposition Metro is demanding a long term commitment to a plan that does not work for the people of LA County. These last few characteristics exhibit the unwillingness to anticipate necessary changes and adaptations and to represent citizen needs over time. Metro has an adversarial and dictatorial stance combined with a lack of flexibility to respond to change over time. In other words it has set itself for failing the public to provide the transportation that it needs.
A final summary and prescription of the basic transportation needs for the consolidating of two million more people into LA County are laid out. Then a final appeal is made for voters to take responsibility and the necessary involvement in participating in making their own social and economic future.
Further Discussion of Issues
(The longer versions)
Issue 1; Metro’s Incomplete Transportation Concepts and Plans
What is truly threatening about Metro’s incomplete planning concepts and plans is that they are not likely to establish the productive economy that LA County needs and then Metro will be coming back for more taxes and money to try to get it right. This would be after running up a $35 billion dollar debt in ten years and with some very obligating contracts to repay such moneys. Then the taxpayers of LA County could be in a very weakened financial position. The Federal Government says that it does not have the kind of money that the Metro proposition is asking for. So where does Metro go for such funds and reasonable terms; China? These are serious questions that there are no answers to at this time and Metro is asking for too much of its citizens when it presents such unworkable plans and unknown financial questions that would obligate LA County. It is best to avoid such risk and proceed on the “pay as you go” basis that already exists and get the plans that we truly need worked out over time at the right cost.
A very different housing and community development procedure is needed in “mixing in” the higher density land uses and transportation improvement in the “anti-sprawl” consolidation process that LA County is in. It is essential that an improved transportation network emphasizing vehicular circulation is made to provide the land use structure for development while eliminating congestion in these consolidations. Such a network must be evolved from the existing street rights of way to preserve communities and not impact them, but at the same time provide the evolving of land uses for the better.
Metro does not acknowledge this fact. The very limited increase in density they acknowledge is rail transit oriented development (TOD) that is generally very expensive with land costs and high rise construction costs. More to the point it has not been working to date on the rail that has been built where most of the condominiums are unsold.
The expectation is that very little of this would be developed, would be untimely and be in the wrong places to support the kind of growth and economic recovery LA needs. Being that Metro’s plans can’t provide support for significant land use development it should acknowledge the fact and get local municipalities to organize such improved vehicular and land use networks and for Metro to coordinate that into an overall transportation plan.
The investment in sprawled land use relationships that currently exist means that the auto has a guaranteed continued validity in LA mobility. What is needed is to reduce the length of trips by bringing work and shopping destinations close to those existing residential areas. Also needed is supplementing auto travel with improved low cost bus rapid transit (BRT) tied in to the consolidation of the LA city form in growth corridors connected to the work and shopping destinations (as per SB 375 the “anti-sprawl legislation). This means creating high capacity low cost circulating networks within the great sprawl where the majority of LA County trips and mileage are produced. And over time low cost energy can once again occur in Southern California with low cost natural gas energy in vehicles and by generated power for electric cars and vehicles. Metro does not have plans that recognize these relationships.
Looking into the future, it should be acknowledged that our existing system of vehicles and roadways will evolve and become much improved over time. The technology of combining computer controls of autos and other vehicles to bring about higher capacities within existing street right of ways provides a long term ideal for Southern California mobility. This is where individuals may self control their vehicles in low density settings from home on streets but drive onto high capacity computer controlled guideways into dense locations yet can drive off that system back to self controlled mobility to wherever roads may lead them seamlessly without transfers and waiting. Metro has no recognition of this coming ideal of mobility that would obviously be superior to rail transit with the advantage of using an automobile that works on or off guideways seamlessly. And there are obviously steps between now and that ideal which have efficiencies to take advantage of and be part of evolving Los Angeles mobility over time. The point is that the evolution of individual mobility is happening and will preserve the basic investments and spatial distribution of development that already exist. Low cost transportation improvement such as Flow Boulevards bring improvements affordable and quickly now. And they establish the structure for computer controlled vehicles that would antiquate Measure R projects. But LA would be paying for Measure R projects with the extension through Measure J out to 2069.
Metro has put the majority of its planning into commuting with expensive rail to places it does not need to go to with high capacity commuting systems. The answer is not expensive commuting systems but is to distribute work, shopping and necessary land uses that support self sufficient communities and sub-regions. Metro’s priority is with commuting not with solving LA County’s transportation and development needs. What it means specifically is the extensions of expensive rail lines are not needed now because there are not enough person trips to make the expenditure justified. And as outlined above are inappropriate as transportation structures for extensive land use and community development. It would appear that Metro does not know what better to do but is caught up in a cheap money spending mania and all it can come up with is more of the same; commuter rail.
Metro simply has a big rail system mind set but they are forcing the issue against actual transportation needs. Metro is getting way ahead of what should be happening in its obsession with commuter rail. All the more reason not to accelerate with Measure J which would be an instance of misallocating resources (waste). Often such plans are politically driven as opposed to providing for needs. It is probable that the commuter rail in the suburbs is a product of Downtown LA businessmen directing what should be happening there. Suburban locales probably have not given it much thought to date but have to do that to get transportation structured right for the benefit of their communities and all of LA County.
Citizens can get caught up in the mania as well and be maneuvered by not knowing what the consequences of plans may be. Citizens have good intensions but with a lack of knowledge of issues they can be mislead. These issues are complicated and require time and process to get things worked out right. It is all the more reason not to vote for an acceleration of rail through Measure J. An example of this is adding more rail to the overdeveloping of the City of Santa Monica, much to the dismay of the Westside generally because of the additional vehicular traffic that would be attracted to new regional development. But the West LA is fighting back by reducing and eliminating of transit oriented development projects which to a large degree contradict Metro’s justification for rail. The mania and contradictions of the Westside will be dealt with in issue six below.
Metro does know however that it wants to build rail because it will be on their real estate, they will effectively own it and operate it with a minimum of interference by people. In this regard it is not Metro’s first choice to deal with the dispersed low cost system of improving existing streets that are needed in the consolidating form called greater Los Angeles because it is complicated having to deal with people. However, citizens must get Metro to address needs and to organize the process to get the local governments to respond to County needs. This would not happen under an accelerated Measure J program. It thereby builds in poorly thought out plans and misallocates resources. And it leaves a major inadequacy in transportation outcome with improvement needs being unmet for the majority of people.
LA County needs effective plans to accommodate consolidation of the great sprawl that has been created and to begin that now. The San Fernando Valley, South Bay and everything east of or west of Downtown LA needs more efficient circulation networks for these areas where trips total over 90% of LA County travel including the connections between them. The commuter rail movement from the suburbs to the downtown area would comprise less than 3% of LA County and does not address the widespread congestion. And Measure J is more than likely an indication that Metro is already back for more money acknowledging they do not have the right plans to get the transportation improvement they need for their expensive rail system plans. Rather than trim the expensive and underutilized parts of their plans back, and add more constructive low cost improvement plans, they simply ask for more and more money. And if the truly “in need” do not speak up, they will not be served.
Parts of the LA Basin do not want or need rail for some time. The congestion issue is more important and the structuring a multi-modal transportation improvement planning instead of just slamming in a subway in and seeing what happens. But Metro engineers typically do not want to get into the particulars of planning. They typically do not get the LA City Planning and Transportation Departments into solving for the community scale. The lack of expertise distorts the City’s Community plans and at some point all will have to be done over. So we have to bear the burden of LA City Planning and Transportation Departments’ lack of expertise and their deferring to Metro’s inadequate concepts and lack of interest in the community scale with the resulting Community Plans that are not good enough. Inadequate regional plans and inadequate Community Plans is what we have. This problem comes under the heading of inadequate coordinated design processes among the various scales of planning and not solving for all the citizens needs.
Influenced by the current rail mania created by Metro it glosses over the fact that rail technology may itself become antiquated and of use in only a few narrow cases. The aspect of the physical commitment in LA sprawl means that we simply can not just “get out of our cars”. Individual mobility will remain as a dominant mode of travel. The evolving of its technologies, energy use and the physical settings it is used in is of prime importance in transportation planning even though it is largely being ignored by Metro at the sub-regional and community scales. Considering this fact it is all the more reason not to go overboard with long term commitments to rail transit and by accelerating what clearly are over done, premature and unsuitable proposals. There are also definite rail transit impacts to community land uses, poor choice of transit corridors and in other cases where rail is simply inadequate to solve mobility needs in Los Angeles.
Issue Two; Missing Transportation Elements, Representation and Money
What is also surprising is that Metro is asking for major long term economic commitments to inappropriate city design, inappropriate transportation improvement and antiquating transportation technologies in financial conditions when there is such a shortage of money. But Measure J may not be a serious Measure. Metro is betting it will get a subsidy in order to carry out its acceleration. There is a desperate motivation lurking behind such a proposal. LA has lost much of the economy it once had because of the housing bubble and Financial Crisis that business is pressuring politicos that are then pressuring Metro to ask for so much money. So the Measure is a bet and one than can obligate taxpayers in a negative circumstance if they go along.
The world we live in today has been made with the extending of excessive credit to the point that in many cases the borrowers can’t pay the money back. Whether it is the developed countries of Europe, Japan and the US, or the States, Cities and Municipalities, or the borrowing for homes and cars or collage educations; most everyone is carrying too much debt. The average citizen in the US, with money adjusted for inflation, has been extended five times the amount of credit (debt) as the average US citizen in 1960. This is credit gone wild. And now Metro is asking of the citizens of LA County to indebt themselves further on misdirected projects for the probable sake of people and institutions that have likely gotten caught at the top of a real estate market that has now contracted, -that is a bailout situation-. And remember, LA County has 12% unemployment generally, 8% underemployment, 23% unemployment of the young and early retiring seniors that will never work again so it’s more like 25% in effect overall. The rude fact is that LA must rebuild its economy. But the citizens of LA should not take on more debt and unclear obligations of debt now that could easily cut off a bold and bright future with short term stimulus based on inadequate plans that easily could lead to failure.
Basically the private sector, which are the citizens (non-governmental sector), has difficulty in expanding its activity because it is deeply burdened with the debt it already has. It has a long work-out ahead and this is not a time for citizens to take on massive unending debt that is fraught with the planning pitfalls that the acceleration of Measure R could make happen. Unlike LA County Metro which is asking voters to do less productive transportation improvement with much more money, the Federal Transportation Agency says “do more with less”. This is where specific alternatives that make more sense, that are affordable and can bring about growth in our economy and communities need to be made known. Metro has not yet found what has to be done or how to do it.
Voting down the acceleration of Measure R would be the beginning of getting them to coordinate with others in order to do that. The missing low cost transportation improvement element that is largely still not known about is the Flow Boulevard concept that includes Bus Rapid Transit. An introduction to the concept can be seen at the following link (www.FlowBlvd.com/page2/page4/index.html). On the link provided image 2 has the LA County Travel Movements diagrams and the indicated less that 3% commuter movement to Downtown, then image 3 has the preliminary plan showing 5 Miles of Rail or 100 Miles of Flow Boulevard comparison. Take note that a 3 mile and a 2 mile segment of light rail extension is called out in yellow circles. These 5 miles are the trade off, to not be built, so that the 100 miles of Flow Boulevard shown in orange can be built. Flow Boulevards and their derivations can provide the low cost improved transportation networks in the consolidating of low density areas of LA County and can become the needed circulation improvement in the LA Basin that eliminates congestion.
As for available money, Metro has an adequate supply if they don’t rush expensive rail development prematurely and also obtain more cost effective transportation improvements such as the Flow Boulevard concept. Arthur Lehey, the current Metro director has stated in 2006 they have an annual working capital of $3.5 billion. It would likely be less now but everyone must respect budgets now.
The current sales tax process of “pay as you go”, sometimes called Pay-Go, is the prudent way to proceed and gives the necessary time to make appropriate plans and adjustments to plans that are needed. The argument that borrowing now at low interest rates is bogus because any savings is off-set by carrying interest debts longer and the fact that “accelerated” work would be less competitive and therefore more expensive than it should be. With regards to inflation, the more costly the cost of projects in the future is off-set by the greater amount of sales taxes obtained by the inflated dollars; the two are locked together by the value of the dollar.
Also consider excessive costs due to accelerated work that relies on non-competitive specialized expertise and equipment. Rail work does not involve the average unemployed LA worker nor does it support the formation of new businesses and households that need an ample supply of lower cost transportation and community improvement that the consolidating existing lower density areas of LA need.
The prospect of having to refinance because of changes in projects, terms and ability to pay back loans timely could be more that just worrisome. Jefferson County Alabama began borrowing and spending $3.2 billion in 2003 for sewer repairs, which were not done well. And through the need to refinance and the use of interest rate swaps which actually increased the debt, finally filed for bankruptcy in November of 2011 owing more than $4.1 billion. In Los Angeles where much of the proposed rail is not needed now and there is often opposition to transit oriented development which are supposed to provide revenues to the various cities, it could be found that spending far out weighed revenues in total. The LA borrowing would be ten times the amount in the Jefferson County bankruptcy which is the largest municipal bankruptcy to date in the United States. Taxes overall would have to go up to make up the differences which have consequences.
A Federal subsidy for Measure J is not likely; so then where do you go? In February of this year banker Hank Paulson, former US Treasury Secretary (TARP fame),and former Goldman Sacks CEO stated on CNBC Squawk Box program that he and Mayor Villaraigosa had been talking about Fast Forward borrowing and that there would be more information announced in late May. Bankers put investment lenders and borrowers together for a fee. A further May announcement did not take place to my knowledge. Hank Paulson while CEO of Goldman Sacks made 72 trips to China in a four year period. Obviously China is a source for investment money. But it would be a shame if LA does not develop the ability to be productive instead of living on credit and having to end up selling pieces of the City and County to make payments on a loan for rail transportation that we did not need and could not pay for in the first place.
The banks and real estate speculators that got caught in the housing bubble can’t expect the middle and working classes to take on debt to provide some stimulus to bailout their mistaken speculative investments by making what would likely be in effect a transportation bubble. Business tradition says that mistaken investments are taken as losses not transferred to the public as debt that they are responsible to pay back.
And since the majority, the middle and working classes, would not be using the commuter rail to Downtown jobs; it is in effect “taxation without representation”. They would not be represented by not getting transportation improvement they can use in their communities. Underutilized new commuter rail falls into the category of consumption as opposed to productive transportation improvement that helps rebuild an economy with new businesses and communities, and that eliminates wasteful existing traffic congestion. Be sure to read about issue six, West LA and its traffic woes.
Regarding congestion generally, Metro seems to help bring it about by not dealing with providing the low cost transportation improvements that are needed at the community scale. The condition of congestion is akin to a way to extort more money out of weary people seeking mobility. In a similar way Metro cuts off bus lines serving the transit dependent.
Conditions can be addressed to a great extent in the future city plans that we make to correct that kind of deficiency. These plans can be in effect “business plans” for the cities of LA County. We must get good plans that represent the whole of the citizens of LA County and bring about sustainable jobs that not only provide an economic recovery but a restored economic base for LA County.
Also in the Flow Boulevard link provided above look at the travel demand diagrams to familiarize yourself as to what areas of travel improvement is required. And note the less than 3%of commuter trips go to the Downtown area. The majority of trips and mileage occur in the large sub-regional areas of the SF Valley, South Bay and east of Downtown LA. The total daily mileage of movement in LA County is about 80 million miles per day with an average trip length of fifteen and a half miles. This is where the majority of population growth and job creation will need to be accommodated. These areas need a transportation improvement structure to build that community growth upon while reducing the length of the typical trip in the County. Also with efficient communities, possibly even the number of trips counted can be reduced as they become very small vehicles, bikes and walking trips; it’s possible. These facts and objectives with low cost Flow Boulevard types of growth corridors are not represented in the Measure R project plans.
Issue Three; LA City and County Plans Need to Generate Productivity
It is necessary that LA gets the right long range plans along with the required short term supportive projects that establishes what looks to be the building of a new era in our economy. The economy of “sprawl” has been set aside by SB 375 the “anti-sprawl” legislation. The need now is to make LA productive in this framework of bringing consolidation to our city form with greater density and that it is affordable. With the price of energy having gone up extensive bus rapid transit, shorter vehicular trips and more productive jobs are necessary in order to afford for our lifestyle. It is also important to be able to have transportation and housing at affordable levels so that other expenses like education and healthcare can be paid for.
Over the years, job loss in the segments of aircraft production and the aero-space industry has not been effectively replaced. Yet manufacturing is still a key part to America’s future. Low tech supports high tech and America still competes well in the world economy. The area America still has the edge in is producing things that are complex and need custom design. This ability must be exploited with products for LA and for export. As LA becomes denser and more complex, the things that make up its built environment can adopt technological innovation, building transportation systems and the like become new LA industries. It is a continuing growth opportunity being adjacent to the export-import channel of the port of LA and the distribution networks through the US. By extending existing business growth with innovation and by attracting new entrepreneurial business, exporting product to the rest of the US and the world economy would be a consequence. Business growth can share in our highly skilled work force, low business startup cost suburban areas, new improved plans for affordable housing, efficient transportation and the continued benefits of LA climate and connections to the US and world economies. A small amount of additional commuter rail does not afford that growth.
Government, education, health and services typically provide 30% of California Gross Domestic Product. Trade, transportation, utilities and manufacturing provide another 26%. Real Estate, rental, leasing and construction provide another 21%. And finance, insurance, information, professional and technical services provide another 21%. These are the productive parts of the economy that need a place in the growth corridors in our consolidating LA County. Without a structure of growth corridors you would miss out on a lot of productivity and GDP in your communities.
A small amount of additional expensive rail is by comparison consumption of resources instead of leading to a real support of productivity, growth and worthwhile development. The path of developing productive, affordable growth corridors, centers and communities can lead to LA being able to compete in the world economy whereas excessive rail expenditure is more like consumption; as in “eating your seed corn”. The risk of not providing for productivity must be avoided by not spending on unproductive expenditures.
In short provide infrastructure and places that support community growth. Much of education is becoming downloadable. Now even Ivy League courses are on line for free; MIT, Harvard and Berkley have combined with www.edX.org. What is needed is the incentive and opportunity to self educate and by application through work in creative and technological fields. Places can be organized to provide easy circumstances, including low cost start up, for business expansion and to attract new business from here and elsewhere connected to the resources of Southern California. Buildings and transportation structures will become more complex and high-tech in the process of LA County consolidation. And the things that go in them like prefabricated building products, cars, trucks and a myriad of other products can be built here. There are many foreign entrepreneurs and companies that can relate to the US consumption of products and services by having some aspect of their business being here. There are advantages and opportunities by being part of LA to participate in the custom and complex design technological era of production that is in the growth of a stable society with “best rules”, property rights and access to strong and emerging markets.
There is currently an unemployment crisis. While much of the problem of business not spending and growing are the circumstances of uncertainty surrounding tax laws and whether a business friendly setting is available in place and functional. Part of the unlocking of the potential is to show how uncertainty and business expansion can be worth the effort of starting up or expanding here. A Flow Boulevard plan can create the vision of a “city business plan” to attract business expansion in the many cities of LA County.
The Flow Boulevard concept is a phased transportation improvement concept. It pays for itself through property taxes and fees as the community grows. This is the tried and true traditional way to provide improved infrastructure. A first stage Flow Boulevard is a low cost initial transportation improvement that provides the vision for growth and by committing to it becomes an attractor of new business and productivity supporting community growth. Such a growth corridor could grow for 25 years or more before a second stage was needed to evolve. Read more on how the FB pays its own way at www.FlowBlvd.com/page2/page19/index.html, then just scroll down to the green dollar image where the discussion occurs.
A second stage Flow Boulevard has some grade separation of arterial cross streets involving some special construction but is all very affordable for the increase in capacity it provides. The third stage Flow Boulevard something that would probably be fifty years away if ever in many areas, provides continuous flow of vehicles and can be a guideway to receive specialized intelligent transportation systems (ITS) if so chosen. The third stage would probably just be in a segment of a Flow Boulevard network that was primarily stage two FB or less and could accommodate several technologies and vehicle types in its various lanes. As you can see the Flow Boulevard roadway evolves and is also a very open technology that receive progressive technological innovations over time.
What is not open to innovation is just a little more expensive commuter fixed rail in a seemingly power grab and bailout that stifles growth while involving risky obligations with “cheap money” and not having much of a say in it. And what are the chances of a subsidy? The Federal Transportation Infrastructure Financial and Innovation Act has budgeted only $17 billion for use over the entire US? Further these funds are to address “critical” needs and generally the FTA is basically saying “do more with less”?
This behavior can be explained as part of the general excessive use of credit for a couple of decades now and of borrowing from the future that has now crept into the thinking by some in the area of transportation infrastructure. Excessive credit and liquidity has accompanied the disastrous bubbles experienced in the last two decades. The viewpoint that endless money can be applied to any problem or at least be able to “kick the can down the road” with it seems related. So the current scariness of the rail mania probably has as much to do with the high degree of debt that influential people have tied up in Real Estate, the ease with which some politicians are able to spend other people’s money, as it does with the ambitions of Metro to have a New York style rail system. This is the setting for a Transportation Bubble and the November vote is to sucker in the taxpayers to pick up the tab. The Transportation Bubble gets into high gear, if funds were ever to be released, building Measure R projects at an accelerated pace and the bubble pops when debts can’t be paid. More thinking on the issue of big spending with cheap money is made in Issue Seven.
Adding, 2 million people to LA County
10 million existing population