Metro's Board of Directors considered a funding and financing plan Thursday for the "28 by '28" Olympics transit initiative, which includes a congestion pricing proposal under which auto drivers would be taxed or pay a fee to use certain roads or enter specific neighborhoods, but put off a vote on the measure until next month.
The "28 by '28" initiative aims to complete 28 key road, transit and bicycle/pedestrian projects in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Many of the projects already are scheduled to be finished by 2028, but eight would need accelerated funding to make the goal, and the board considered a proposal from Metro that offers a number of possible solutions to the funding gap.
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The board is now expected to vote on the proposal next month, and also approved two related motions asking for more information about a possible congestion pricing pilot program. One of the motions seeks the development of an equity strategy to minimize the impacts of congestion pricing on low-income drivers.
"I am deeply concerned about how congestion pricing could be implemented in Los Angeles County. Before Metro moves further down this path, I feel it is critical to ensure that the benefits of congestion pricing are felt by all of our communities -- including those that are far too often left behind by innovation," Metro board member and County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. "L.A. County's poorest households already spend a disproportionate amount of their incomes on transportation as compared to other households. They also have much less flexibility when it comes to work hours -- which means they don't have a choice when it comes to when they must drive."
The Olympics transit initiative was proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also helped lead the city's campaign to land the Games. Among the projects slated for completion before 2028 includes a Gold Line Foothill extension to Claremont, improvements to the Orange Line, and the extension of the Purple Line, but eight other projects will require funding that is not yet secured.
The Metro report offers a number of potential solutions that could help close the funding gap, including taking on more debt, asking sub-regions that will benefit from the projects to help pay for them, adding per-ride fees or taxes for rideshare companies like Uber and Lift, pursuing increased state and federal funding, and exploring congestion pricing.
Congestion pricing is likely to get a lot of attention and be a polarizing idea because it could have a wide impact on the daily commutes of millions of residents. The board approved two motions seeking more information from Metro on the possible scope, proposed budget and study timeline prior to conducting feasability studies for a congestion pricing pilot strategy, and for Metro CEO Philip Washington has endorsed the idea of exploring congestion pricing.
"This is much, much bigger than just advancing money for '28 by 2028,"' he told the Metro Ad Hoc Congestion, Highway and Roads Committee earlier this month.
He added, "This is about reimagining Los Angeles County. This is really about sending a message to the world that we are doing something about congestion, which is probably the first thing that comes to mind to people around the world. They think Los Angeles, they think congestion."
Congestion pricing has been successful in other cities, including Stockholm, the Metro report said.
"In (Stockholm), the congestion pricing scheme was widely opposed and was put in place on a pilot basis," the report said. "After the trial period, the scheme proved so popular that it was accepted permanently."