Los Angeles Times Article - L.A. Public Transit Moves in Wrong Direction
By David Lazarus - Story posted 2011.03.31 at 04:21 PM PDT
"By having more reliable service on a cleaner bus, we will attract discretionary riders," Leahy said.
Maybe. But I doubt it.
I'm one of those discretionary riders, using a bus/subway combo to get to and from work every few weeks. I'd happily ride public transportation every day, but it takes about twice as long as driving my car (not to mention a half-hour walk from the bus stop to my home), and the system isn't convenient if you have other places to go as well.
As I've written before, the key to improving public transportation in L.A. isn't just targeting the needs of people who already use the system. The trick is to lure the rest of us out of our cars by providing a means of getting around town that's reliable, convenient and safe.
What we need are designated bus lanes that would allow buses to speed past traffic. What we need are more commuter routes that can cover big distances, such as from the San Fernando Valley to downtown. What we need are transit passes that are good for all regional systems, and transfers that allow us to seamlessly move from buses to trains.
Longer term, what we need (desperately) is a regional commitment to light-rail, subway or monorail lines that would get commuters off the hopelessly congested roads. I prefer subways, but that's probably not economically feasible for L.A. - the building costs and legal wrangling would keep us waiting forever.
So I lean toward some sort of elevated rail, paid for by a combination of gas taxes, parking fees and so-called congestion charges for driving during peak hours.
As gas prices go up again, we should be concentrating on developing more alternatives to driving and turning L.A. into a showplace of state-of-the-art commuting solutions.
What do we get instead? Service cutbacks. Leahy said he'll bring some mothballed buses back into action if high gas prices push ridership up significantly. But for the foreseeable future, we'll have to make do with less.
I'm glad the MTA has balanced its budget. I'm glad our transit fares are among the lowest in the nation.
Yet I'd happily pay more - a good deal more - to live in an L.A. that doesn't define itself by its traffic jams, where a trip across town isn't an exercise in patience and perseverance.
You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one.
David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5. Send your tips or feedback to email@example.com
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