Less than a year after voters shot down a plan to pay for more transit projects, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday transit officials are considering putting another transportation initiative on the ballot.
In prerecorded remarks broadcast at the Mobility 21 conference in downtown Los Angeles, Garcetti said the consensus among Los Angeles County leaders is that "we desperately need more transportation investments." The mayor recently met with dozens of county officials to discuss transit options, he told attendees gathered at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.
"Currently, all the cities across L.A. County are submitting their ideas for investments as part of another possible transportation-investment ballot initiative," Garcetti said. "These efforts will ultimately expand our transit system while at the same time increasing planning efforts to deliver vibrant neighborhoods along our transportation corridors."
Garcetti's remarks were part of the official kickoff of the annual one-day gathering of Southern California transportation, planning and business groups focused on transportation funding and legislation at the state and federal levels.
The conference regularly draws hundreds of local and regional groups. During his tenure, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa used the event to unveil transit initiatives and push for federal funds.
Garcetti, who sits on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, couldn't attend Tuesday's event in person, as he was in Washington, D.C., seeking money for L.A. River improvements and a transportation connection to the Los Angeles International Airport.
Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said the mayor's remarks at the Mobility conference were not an indication of support for an extension of Measure R, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax that's currently paying for an array of rail, bus and highway projects.
Measure J, a proposed 30-year extension of Measure R, failed to pass by a slim majority last year.
Robb said Garcetti was simply referencing recent actions taken by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who also sits on the MTA board. Antonovich has been talking to local communities about what projects they want to see built under another ballot initiative. Antonovich, along with County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky also authored a motion approved by the MTA board on Tuesday to allocate $500,000 to help the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments develop a "Mobility Matrix" that would identify some of the Valley's transportation needs.
"Cutting traffic is a priority for Mayor Garcetti and he is currently exploring all options to ease congestion for Angelenos," Robb said.
MTA Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy, who also attended the conference, struck a skeptical tone when addressing a possible extension. "We will evaluate whether we do a Measure J again," Leahy told the Daily News. "I don't know if we will. It's possible that would happen in either 2014 or 2016."
Timing of the ballot measure is key: Strong turnout in the 2016 presidential election could help passage of a tax measure, while a 2014 measure could compete with city officials' plans to put a road-repair bond to voters.
Copyright 2013 - Daily News, Los Angeles