The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) released its first assessment and equity report on Measure M, a sales tax supported by over 70% of voters in 2016, to invest in Los Angeles and a better transportation system.
The robust 189-page report provides an overview of the first five years of Measure M funding (July 2017 to June 2022), and a fresh approach to assessing sales tax revenue through an equity framework that focuses on people first and the role Measure M, and Metro by extension, play in quality-of-life outcomes.
Measure M Oversight
Earlier this month, the Measure M Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee (the MMITOC) met and unanimously voted to accept the findings and recommendations of the five-year assessment and equity report of Metro’s Measure M sales tax program.
The MMITOC is a panel of citizens whose mission is to ensure sales tax revenues are spent as intended. The assessment reviewed the projects and programs funded by Measure M, evaluated the program for its effectiveness and made a series of recommendations as Metro continues to implement Measure M.
The Measure M Expenditure Plan was conceived as a road map to guide 40 years of transit investment in LA County. The measure’s original eight goals ranged from reducing traffic congestion, to expanding regional transit and improving neighborhood streets, allowing Angelenos to get around more safely and easily.
While Metro was able to shift gears in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other impacts, the related disruption shifted the baseline for Measure M, as well as the future of Los Angeles. This five-year assessment has primarily shown that Metro made difficult course adjustments, while heightening its focus on equity and customer experience; however, the longer-term successes of these adaptations remain to be measured.
Metro’s Measure M Report
The report concluded that overall, Metro has advanced projects, programs, and services that address many of the Measure M goals, particularly congestion management, transit expansion, local infrastructure repair, and efforts around safety and affordability. Much was accomplished before and during the pandemic, but there is more work to be done, and Metro is primed to continue adapting and working to bring a world-class transportation system to every county resident, employee, traveler, and visitor, according to the agency.
The assessment period of the report was notably marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which upended the way people approach health, work, and travel and, by extension, the patterns and values driving the transportation industry. At the same time, Metro was initiating the largest transportation investment program in the country, while it continued to fulfill its role as a regional service provider, employer, economic development catalyst, and funder — all while elevating a commitment to equity.
"When LA County voters approved Measure M in 2016, they declared their intention to remake our region into a more equitable, multimodal, accessible, and economically prosperous place where the mobility benefits of transportation projects reached every corner of the county," said Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. "Though the last five years have brought tremendous change, at Metro, our priorities related to Measure M remain the same: to deliver on our promises to LA County voters in an equitable, timely and cost-effective manner."
Key takeaways from the assessment are as follows:
- Efficiency and effectiveness in delivery - In its first five years, Measure M sustained Metro’s service and project delivery by strengthening LA’s "local match" competitiveness for other grants, helping to leverage over $3 billion in state and federal funding in the five-year period.
- Potential barriers in the delivery - The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every aspect of people’s lives. Transit agencies saw dwindling ridership, except for essential workers and those without other mobility options, and had to adjust to altered travel behavior. Metro worked to adapt and pivot during this period, adopting new strategies for project delivery and strategically leveraging funding opportunities.
- Opportunities for process improvement - Led by its focus on equity and customer experience, Metro has further prioritized community engagement in project planning processes which sometimes impacted early project schedules but focused on community input and ownership for stronger future project outcomes.
- Best practices to be used going forward - The tumultuous change that characterized much of the five-year assessment period has underscored the value of adaptability, partnerships, and equity for Measure M implementation.
Metro continues to work to incorporate equity into Measure M implementation, doubling down on reliable tactics, such as robust community engagement and equity data-driven service planning while initiating innovative ones, such as incorporating cultural competency strategies into project implementation for the East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Corridor project.