This election season is making a lot of us tired — worn out by the insults and punditry and exhausted by what feels like an endless number of choices on the Nov. 8 ballot.
But we can never be too tired to vote. It is our one chance to have a direct say in decisions that will fundamentally affect our lives — whether it is choosing who will live in the White House for four years, or deciding how our county will address a daily burden that we all live with: traffic congestion.
When I go to my polling place Nov. 8, I am going to start at the back of my ballot, because that is where Measure M — the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan — will be. And this measure has more potential to directly affect our daily lives and economy than anything else on the ballot.
Here is a simple way to think about Measure M on Election Day: Today, Los Angeles County drivers spend an average of 81 hours a year in traffic congestion. That’s not total commute time — just the portion spent in delays. This congestion, according to a Texas A&M analysis, costs L.A. County drivers $1,711 in wasted fuel and lost productivity each year.
In the years ahead, L.A. County’s population will grow by 2.3 million, and this growth is expected to increase those delays and costs. That is why as vice chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, I joined with my colleagues to develop Measure M for this current election, in advance of that population increase.
So the choice voters have to make is whether or not they want to enact Measure M to add transit, upgrade freeways and repair local roads in the context of 2.3 million more people using our transportation system.
Independent research commissioned by the MTA found that the transportation improvement projects delivered by Measure M would reduce the time people are stuck in traffic by 15 percent. And completing those projects would add more than 465,000 new jobs across our region, with a total economic output of almost $80 billion.
The ongoing Crenshaw/LAX line construction, as well as the recent Expo Line and Gold Line extensions, have put thousands of people to work in good middle-class jobs with benefits. Voters will have to imagine what 40 more years of those economic opportunities could do for our community — the lives and neighborhoods that could be transformed.
Demographic changes will also see L.A. County’s over-65 population alone increase to more than 2 million people. Measure M is structured to keep fares affordable for seniors and the disabled — transit-dependent populations who live more independently when they have better access to transportation. Measure M also invests in van and other services that take people to medical appointments and connects them with senior and community services.
Measure M would accelerate current rail construction, build new rail lines, improve local, regional and express bus service and, most importantly, would knit our transit lines together into a comprehensive, countywide network.
For example, if Measure M is passed, the Crenshaw/LAX line would run from the airport north to Hollywood, and would directly connect with five other light rail lines. That means South Los Angeles would be plugged into a Measure M-built rail network from Claremont to Woodland Hills, from Norwalk to LAX, from Torrance to Sylmar, and everywhere in between.
The freeway projects that would be delivered under Measure M include interchange improvements, bottleneck fixes and new ways to improve the flow of truck traffic on the 5, 105, 110, 405 and the 605, near our communities, and the full breadth of the measure’s freeway program extends to the 14 in the far northwestern part of the county all the way to the 71 in the southeast.
As Mayor, it is of particular interest to me that Measure M would immediately provide annual funding to each of the county’s 88 cities and 134 unincorporated areas for pothole filling, road repaving, intersection improvement and other local infrastructure projects. It was also specifically written to ensure that earthquake retrofits would be done to our bridges and overpasses.
Measure M presents the voters with an important choice to make on Election Day. It is important to get the facts about the measure and then make a plan to vote on Nov. 8.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs the first Thursday of every month in The Wave.