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Same Transit Plans, Different Agency Initials

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2008, at 03:04PM
Gold Line Yard Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The Gold Line rail yards, in a file photo from August, 2007.

Tomorrow, Metro board members will take a vote on putting a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot, with the funds raised going to a number of transit projects in the region.

It's not the first time the region's seen such a proposal. In fact, the current debate is quite similar to a proposal by Metro-predecessor RTD that would have used a 7.5 cent sales tax to fund a $6.6 billion regional transit system. The plan was announced exactly thirty-five years ago, on July 23rd, 1973.

Just like now, 1973's Southern California was faced with growing traffic and a rising sentiment to do something about it, fast. The day before the program's announcement, the Times previewed what was about to be unveiled and included this quote.

"Hang the costs!" a planner said. "When you're under the gun -- and starting from scratch -- billions of dollars are involved any way you look at it."

The 1973 plan would have built a 116-mile, eight-corridor network. Like today, the most common complaint was about all the places it was going to miss. Just like today, San Gabriel Valley officials were major detractors, claiming the plan didn't give them a fair share of the service.

It took until July of 1974 for RTD to approve the program, which by that point had evolved into a 175-mile system projected to cost from $8 - $10 billion, and the tax had become a full cent -- half for rapid transit and half to improve bus service.

The tax went to the ballot on November 5, 1974. Polls had put voter approval up around 60%, but in the end only 46.3% of those voting were in favor.

Let's hope 2008's edition doesn't suffer a similar fate.

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