A Primer on the Megameasure

Rumors have been circulating for months that the Bay Area Council (BAC), the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) and SPUR were quietly floating a proposal for a $50 – 100 billion dollar revenue measure, known colloquially as the Megameasure. The groups finally went public in early June, with extensive press coverage:

Mega-measure: $100 billion traffic-busting tax plan for the Bay Area taking shape

A multi-billion-dollar ‘mega measure’ to fix Bay Area traffic for good heading your way

The groups held their first public briefing on their proposal at the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s workshop:

Notable Highlights:

At 2:26–But now, we think the time is right to really work for a world-class more well-integrated transit system that is faster, more reliable, more affordable, and more equitable for the Bay Area. … We think the Bay Area can do that [raise funds like Los Angeles] and really come up with a product in the range of $50 -100 billion to really transform our transit system in a way that you can only do every couple of generations. A really visionary improvement to our transit system. –Jason Baker of SVLG


At 29:58–I want to make a brief comment about your funding source. … Those sales taxes are paid primarily by working people. And the people who are benefitting from all this are big Silicon Valley companies, most of whom pay no taxes. … I think if you propose to do this as yet another sales tax, I think there will be a major opposition campaign on equity grounds. There’s got to be some way that the people represented by BAC and the people represented by SVLG step up and begin to pay some of their fair share. The mechanism to do that, I’m not sure, but a sales tax is not it.–Chris Peeples of AC Transit


At 36:25–Our legislation to authorize this [a vote on the measure in 2020] would actually be starting next year, that we move this through, with a 2/3 vote for urgency. And if we can’t get it done by 2020, then we’d go for 2022 unless the polling–unless it can’t just work no matter what we do. So that’s our timeline.–John Grubb of BAC


At 37:26–What might help you is if, instead of just going to the taxpayers, there was some kind of match from some of the local companies.–Scott Haggerty, Alameda County Supervisor


At 43:47–I think it is time for a new funding model for these very important initiatives. …  I really feel that you first need to go to these employers and get that commitment. These large employers and even the lesser-sized ones. You would not need to go out for $100 billion if you got your billions of dollars from many of them.  the burden was being shifted fairly.  Otherwise, what you are doing is just increasing the cost of living in the Bay Area. We already have the problem of gentrification. … We can’t have our cities where just the Googlers and the techies can live. We need to be affordable. So let’s find a way that you actually are spreading the burden and not keep coming back to the taxpayers or the consumers. … I just implore you, before you come back and reach in the pockets of my residents, reach out to the ones who are making a very hefty income in this region, at this time.– Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ashcroft

A very insightful editorial in the Mercury News provides a highly coherent understanding of the problems of Bay Area transportation:

Editorial: Slow the train on $100 billion Bay Area transportation tax

Key takeaways:

The last thing we need is yet another ballot measure with a grab bag of projects. What’s needed is a holistic approach that integrates the Bay Area’s 26 bus, train and ferry agencies and nine congestion management agencies. …


But thus far what we’re hearing about is a big round tax number — $100 billion. Rather than throwing money at the symptoms, we must first look deeper at the underlying causes.

See TRANSDEF’s analysis of the Megameasure at this early point.

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