Thursday, June 26, 2008

Optimism about light rail in LA

The MTA, aka the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the primary transporation agency for LA County (but far from the only one) is in the middle of some serious long-range planning. I've been following this with half an ear; I know it's going on, but I haven't followed in great detail. The one part that I am very aware of is plans for building a subway under Wilshire, continuing the purple line from downtown out to Santa Monica. I live about 4 blocks from the purple line, but I live near the second-to-last stop. It really needs to be built out all the way to Santa Monica. That would alleviate a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, it will probably cost at least $5 billion.

One problem is that there is no shortage of worthwhile public transportation projects in LA. If someone dropped $100 billion on LA for light rail, I'm sure we could find good uses for it immediately. One of the very worthwhile projects is extending the Gold Line out to Azusa. This isn't quite as economically worthwhile as the Purple Line, but it's also much less expensive; supposedly $80 million will get it started.

The LA Times has an excellent Op-Ed about this dilemma. It looks like a straightforward, traditional zero-sum issue: if one part of LA will gets the money, the other part won't get any. But the Times suggests that perhaps such pessimism is unwarranted; a bond issue is coming up in November, and hopefully there will be enough money for both projects.

I completely agree. What the Times doesn't mention is that public transportation is one of those issues where success breeds success. The more light rail there is in LA, the more people depend on it, the more people will vote to support it.

Thank goodness we have a great mayor here who believes in public transportation.

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