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Small cities want fair piece of Metro transportation funding pie

FILE PHOTO: Cars snake through the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center on I-405. A Sepulveda Pass subway is one of the projects that is planned using tax revenues from Measure M approved by voters last year.
FILE PHOTO: Cars snake through the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center on I-405. A Sepulveda Pass subway is one of the projects that is planned using tax revenues from Measure M approved by voters last year.
jonathanpoh/Flickr

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The Measure M sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters last year will raise $120 billion for big transportation projects, including a subway through the Sepulveda Pass. But the massive spending measure also provides funding for more modest local projects, and questions remain about how those funds should be distributed.

Under Measure M, 16 percent of tax revenues will be returned to the 88 cities in the county for local projects like street paving or sidewalk repairs.

In the past, the amounts from similar funding sources were decided based on population. But some officials complained that’s been unfair to cities that, though small, might see a lot of traffic coming through their communities.

So the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is studying whether to give a minimum amount to each city, regardless of size. Metro is studying options from a flat $100,000 floor to a $500,000 floor.

That would leave less money for larger, more dense cities like Los Angeles that tend to have more low-income residents, who are frequent users of transit.

Critics have pointed out that many of the smallest cities in L.A. County that would benefit from the minimum floor either have a low population because they cater almost exclusively to industry, like Vernon, or because they are wealthy, exclusive residential areas, like Hidden Hills, and thus already have considerable tax bases.

Metro will continue to study its options before deciding on a funding formula, one that could add employment numbers on top of population size.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee will begin discussing ways to use its share of the funds at a meeting this Wednesday.

Advocates for biking and walking are organizing to offer public comment urging the council to devote more funds to making streets safer and more accessible for all users, rather than using the bulk of the funds to accommodate cars.

Another large need is road repairs: the city of Los Angeles saw a record-breaking season for potholes during the winter storms and has struggled to make good on its promise to respond to a problem within three working days after a report.