"No on Measure J!" Some facts about the MTA's extension of the Corporate Welfare tax

website logo.jpgIn November, LA County MTA will ask voters to tax themselves yet again, with a proposal to extend a 30-year transportation sales tax into a 60-year tax. MTA wants voters to hand them a virtually blank check to accelerate their already-dangerous freeway and rail expansion plan. The Bus Riders Union's basis of opposition to the original sales tax, Measure R was that the proposed construction spree made possible by the tax would ultimately devastate bus riders with deep service cuts and fare increases. What we predicted over the next 30 years was borne out faster than expected.

Measure J is a blank check for Metro.

Measure J's ostensible purpose is to accelerate and expand LA Metro's long-range highway and rail construction plan through massive borrowing and spending. Yet enormous construction costs, inevitable cost over-runs, accumulated debt burden, and a shortage of funds to operate and maintain new rail in the future combine to place tremendous strain on Metro's budget. Worst of all, MTA has a long history of paying back debt and balancing its budget on the backs of bus riders.

Measure J will continue Metro's contempt for civil rights.

Nine out of ten Metro bus riders are; Black, Latino, or Asian Pacific Islander. Under Measure J's predecessor, Measure R, Metro shell gamed the 20% Measure R funding dedicated for the bus system to raid all other pots of funding from the bus system, resulting in less not more for the bus system overall. Metro has eliminated nearly one million hours of bus service over the last 4 years -- a direct attack on the improvements ordered by the Federal Courts in response to the BRU's civil rights lawsuit. A new federal civil rights review last year revealed that Metro knew these cuts were racially discriminatory, and that Metro's actions amounted to violations of federal civil rights regulations. In addition Metro's long range transportation plan promises fare increases every 2 years for the next 30 years to bus riders who's average household income is under $14,000. Measure J will only accelerate and exacerbate Metro's need to raid the bus system.  

Measure J is bad for workers and the unemployed.

Hundreds of thousands of low wage and unemployed workers -- janitors, security officers, home care and domestic workers, hotel workers, day laborers -- rely on the bus system to get to work or to look for work. In a county where overall employment and Black and Latino unemployment rates are all well above the national average, cuts to the bus system add another major hurdle to finding work or keeping work. 

Measure J is a green-washing disaster for our health and for the planet.

Measure J will accelerate and expand Metro's freeway construction bonanza, including two notorious plans to expand and extend the I-710 freeway against the strong opposition of residents who will be displaced and suffer the pollution. That's a surefire way to encourage auto use and contribute to even higher rates of cancer, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses caused by LA's polluted air. With climate change now advancing at a breakneck speed, LA cannot afford to enlarge its oversized carbon footprint.

Measure J is corporate welfare for the 1% and a financial disaster for 99%.

Major construction and engineering firms -- e.g. Parsons Brinckerhoff and Aecom, both of which also earn war profits through hefty contracts with the US military -- stand to make billions of dollars from these tax-funded projects. If Measure R was pushed by these companies to facilitate transfer of public wealth into their private hands, then Measure J is about pushing more money into their hands even faster.

Measure J is for gentrification and displacement in working class neighborhoods.

Metro officials publicly admit they like building rail because it "leverages" real estate development. In fact, MTA has used rail expansion to become a property owner throughout the city, and under the guise of "transit-oriented development," facilitates sweetheart deals for politically powerful private developers. New high-end condos, hotels, and shopping centers force out working class Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander tenants and locally-owned small businesses, and criminalize the street presence of many who remain. TOD actually facilitates push out of communities that use public transit the most and lead to decrease in overall transit use in the region.

Measure J's vision must be replaced by the BRU's pro-civil rights, pro-environment transit vision that creates more jobs and permanent jobs than the alternative. A word-class bus-centered transit system doesn't need an acceleration plan. Doubling the bus fleet and converting to zero-emission buses, building bus rapid transit corridors, creating new freeway express buses, and lowering the fares -- all of this can be put in place in a few short years using currently available public funds without another tax. Such a system --mimicking Mexico City, Bogota, or Seoul -- could attract hundreds of thousands of new riders. It would stimulate the economy and create thousands of permanent unionized green jobs for drivers, maintenance workers, and mechanics as well as construction jobs.


just a thought: carmaggedon is happening this weekend. with all the extra traffic it would be a good idea to hold rallies at corners of the congested intersections with posters like "support your bus systems! less cars on the street!"