LOS ANGELES — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted 11-2 June 23 to move forward with a November ballot measure calling for a half-cent sales-tax hike, and the extension of an existing half-cent levy, to raise money for public transit projects and maintenance in Los Angeles County.
Voters will be asked to increase Los Angeles County’s sales tax by another half-cent, and continue the existing Measure R half-cent tax indefinitely. MTA officials had originally planned to have the proposed tax hike sunset in 40 years — which would have raised $120 billion — but announced earlier this month that they plan to propose a tax without a sunset date.
The ballot measure still requires approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors before it can be placed on the ballot.
The permanent total one-cent sales tax for transit would create a sustained funding source for construction and operation, and would allow the acceleration of nine projects, including a five-year acceleration in planned improvements on the Orange Line, an eight-year acceleration of the northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX rail line to Hollywood and a five-year acceleration of the Green Line extension to the Norwalk Metrolink station.
The board also approved an amendment that earmarks funding for a bus rapid transit project in the San Fernando Valley.
MTA board chair and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said that the transportation plan funded by the proposed tax hike and extension would be potentially “transformative” for Los Angeles County.
“It’s about time the county of Los Angeles with respect to mobility steps squarely into the 21st century,” he said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who sits on the MTA board, noted a feeling that both riders and other county residents who currently rely on cars are eager for a more complete public transportation system in Los Angeles, and they are willing to pay a higher tax for it.
“Folks have a very palpable hunger for us to do more,” he said. “I’ve sensed they have a lot of faith that we can do that.”
The two board members who voted against the measure — Lakewood City Councilwoman Diane DuBois and County Supervisor Don Knabe — had raised concerns that not enough was being done to ensure all areas of the county are equally represented among the major projects included in the transportation plan.
Most cities in Los Angeles County, including the city of Los Angeles, currently have a nine-cent sales tax.