Thousands Rally For Jobs And Public Transit In L.A.

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Thousands of workers and union representatives, a smaller contingent of environmentalists and transportation advocates, and a host of elected officials including Senator Barbara Boxer and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa converged on L.A. City Hall's south lawn earlier today for a massive rally in support of the over 160,000 jobs that would be created by the Mayor's 30-10 plan.  As I've blogged about previously, in addition to generating much-needed jobs in construction and other transit-related industries, this bold initiative to build twelve important public transit projects in the next 10 years instead of 30 would help clean up Southern California's chronically filthy air, as well as decrease the crippling traffic congestion that currently plagues the region.

The 30-10 plan is a win-win-win proposal that has support from a broad coalition of labor unions, business interests, environmental and health advocates, and more.  And the concept is actually quite simple:  use Measure R funding -- the half-cent sales tax we L.A. County voters imposed on ourselves to fund transportation projects, to be collected over the next 30 years -- as collateral for long-term bonds and federal loans that L.A. County can use to build these transit projects now rather than later.

But carrying out this innovative plan may not be that simple.  At the moment, the federal government doesn't have a loan or bond program that can do what 30-10 wants to do, so legislation may be necessary.  That's why we need to tell our federal representatives that we want this to happen.

In California, Sen. Boxer, Rep. Jane Harman, and many others are on board, but we need to spread the word even beyond the Golden State.  The 30-10 plan certainly would reduce local air pollution, create jobs to spur the region's economy, and start to make up for decades of inexcusable underfunding of public transit projects in Southern California.  More broadly, however, the type of federal legislation we’re seeking could help other regions across the country finance their own public transit improvement projects.  Cities like Denver and Atlanta have taxed or are planning to tax themselves to finance transportation improvements in a manner similar to what L.A. County has done through Measure R.  If Congress were to "help those who help themselves," i.e., by passing legislation to create financing mechanisms to implement programs like 30-10, people in L.A., Denver, Atlanta, and other regions all across America might have a chance at breathing a little easier in the near future.

(Photo © NRDC.)