edited by Sofia Magdalena Olofsson
Significance of the Infrastructure System of Los Angeles
An adequate infrastructure system is necessary in order to bring vibrancy and prosperity to communities. Los Angeles, the city that has the second largest population in the United States has been struggling with notoriously congested freeways. Residents in Los Angeles have been car-dependent due to the inconvenient public transit system. However, concerns about ineffective infrastructure systems are not limited to the city of Los Angeles: in 2013, the Federal Transit Administration estimated there is an 86 billion dollar backlog in deferred maintenance on the nation’s rail and bus lines but ridership has increased by 37 percent since 1995 (American Public Transportation Association). Los Angeles is the city that especially needs more convenient public transit system due to their high population and extremely congested freeways which proves Angeleno commuters need to be dispersed by using more public transit.
Measure M Plan
The bright news to the broken infrastructure system is Measure M plan that was proposed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA) was passed with 70% approval last November 8. Measure M plan is the 40-year, $120 billion plan, which would double the size of the region’s mass transit system. According to the Metro Board of Directors, the plan will be funded by a permanent sales tax, also known as a forever tax. Measure M proposes not only to maintain the half-cent sales tax increase that was passed, which is known as Measure R in 2008, but also to increase the sales tax by an additional half cent. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates the sales tax hike will raise $120 billion over 40 years, including $860 million in the first year.
Although it sounds like a solid plan and there seems to be no reason to oppose this plan, some low-income residents in Los Angeles raise concerns about their housing prices. Due to developed public transit system, public investment and real estate boom will follow after new transit lines. Living close to the new transit lines will be desirable and appealing to more people and increase in value of land and housing may push underprivileged residents without proper policies to regulate this negative consequence. Gentrification, a process of revival of deteriorated urban neighborhoods that brings the influx of high-income residents, is not a new concept in urban areas. Transit-induced gentrification and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) has happened in Washington D.C. and San Francisco that caused skyrocketing housing prices. Real estate developers prefer the new light railway and subway system because their system is permanent once they are built unlike bus lines that can be changed anytime.
As much as carrying out the transportation projects is important, preventing gentrification that pushes people out of their neighborhoods is important as well. This phenomenon contradicts what LAMTA intended because they want to make sure that low income Angelenos who make up 80% of ridership get the full advantage of the improved public transit lines. UC Berkeley and UCLA has recently published research with some key findings: areas around transit stations are changing and transit neighborhoods are more associated with higher increases in whites, college educated, and higher income households. As the research proves that there is an association between gentrification and new transit development, the new projects should not be misused to discriminate against underprivileged citizens
Where to go from here
Infrastructure is what people in urban areas encounter every day and cannot be separable from their daily lives. People take the public transit system and drivers drive on the roads that were paved by city governments. Public transit is crucial for people especially in the city of Los Angeles where people are heavily car-dependent and low-income residents as well who commute to work by taking buses and subways. The LAMTA and city officials need to be cautious that this infrastructure project does not interfere with people’s housing circumstances. The Measure M plan should only be beneficial to both car drivers and public transit commuters, not to discriminate low-income residents. There are many ways to approach this potential gentrification problem, which is to adopt policies that keep low-income residents in their homes such as rent-control laws. Los Angeles County needs to strengthen laws that prevent landlords to increase the rent and evict residents. The Measure M Plan is a big investment that involves heavy amount of taxes of Angelenos and it needs to have a strong purpose to serve the community. There are more options that the city government takes such as inclusionary zoning and Measure JJJ Plan. Measure JJJ Plan has recently been passed as well in order to create more affordable housing by requiring developers certain amount of percentage of condos and buildings. However, even this Measure JJJ Plan is controversial and L.A. Times has opposed the plan by claiming that it will make housing situation even worse. There are always opposing groups to new plans, policies, and laws and the Los Angeles city government needs to find a way not to decrease the housing supply but also not to discriminate and displace low-income residents. Large-scale government policies still remain in question and the ways to monitor those policies and laws as well.
L.A. County residents need alternatives to sitting in soul-crushing traffic. Vote yes on Measure M. Los Angeles Times. 29 June 2016. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-measure-m-20160927-snap-story.html
Urban Displacement. UC Berkeley and UCLA. http://www.urbandisplacement.org/map/la
Will Measure M Lead to Gentrification and Displacement Across L.A. County? L.A. Times.12 Nov 2016. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-measure-m-gentrification-20161110-story.html
Public Transit CEOs Highlight Urgent Need to Invest in the Nation’s Aging Public Transportation systems during National Infrastructure Week. American Public Transportation Association. 19 May 2016. http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2016/Pages/Infrastructure-Week-Media-Call.aspx