- Written by Matthew Hetz
16 Oct 2012
VOICES - Today I followed the space shuttle Endeavour. I rode my bicycle to the Westchester shopping district to look at the space craft. Maybe gawk and being amazed are better descriptions. The bicycle is a wonderful mode of transportation, and in this “once-in-a-lifetime” situation of following the shuttle down the streets of Westchester and Inglewood on my bike, I easily outmaneuvered and outpaced drivers also following the space craft.
Parking was not a problem. Today it was sometimes parking the bike in the middle of a closed off street. I used a simple and efficient mode of transportation, bicycle, to follow one of the most complex modes of transportation ever devised, a space craft.
While in a near state of complete giddiness following the space shuttle on streets either very efficient for the shuttle as it has the complete right-of-way on every street it travels, and the gridlock on the surrounding streets since their path were blocked, I also thought of the transportation needs of the city, which are many, and which are facing not just space craft induced gridlock, but constant gridlock.
There is the overpowering need to improve transit and travel in Los Angeles. This is something which I believe most agree upon. Yet, when an opportunity comes along to help with relieving congestion through road improvements or the building of more mass transit, particularly light rail, there is opposition.
I would look at the shuttle less than ten yards from me, and think of the huge costs involved in flying this space craft. As a country looking to the future, we built the expensive shuttles, which performed a lot of tremendous science, fixed the Hubble Space Telescope, broadened our knowledge and experiences, and reached further than ever before in the human experience. The price in tax money was high, yet it certainly paid off in its return on the investment.
Yet, when it comes time to pass an extension of an already existing tax, Measure J, we balk and oppose it. If we are to alleviate our traffic woes we must tax ourselves to improve the situation, or in this case just extend an existing sales tax.
Gridlock stagnates economic growth when goods and services are stuck in traffic. Energy efficiency is worsened when vehicles jerk back and forth in stop and grow traffic, which then makes engines run more inefficiently, thereby creating more exhaust and smog and carbon gas leading to global warming.
The carbon gasses from vehicles also settle in the oceans and we are now witnessing the increasing acidification of the oceans which leads to degradation of ocean life. This means less ocean based food for our sustenance and the loss of coral reefs and oyster beds which protect the coasts from storm surges, which themselves are more frequent and of greater intensity due to global warming.
For us now, and for the future, we must reduce our air pollution and lessen the amount of carbon gases from vehicle exhaust. We must take the steps necessary to build more transit to get more people off the addiction of driving all the time and making travel faster for those who must drive to maintain and grow Southern California’s economy. We must be willing to tax ourselves to build a better near future, and a decent place to live for those who follow.
I left the shuttle at the Big Donut in Inglewood and rode my bicycle home, marveling that in the distant past we had enough foresight and commitment to tax ourselves to build a space program, and wonder if we have the same fortitude to continue an existing tax to make better transit and transportation in Los Angeles. I will vote YES on Measure J.
(Matthew Hetz is a member of Los Angeles Council District 11 Transportation Advisory Committee, a bicycle rider since 1965, a driver since 1975 and a dedicated transit rider since 1992.)
Vol 10 Issue 83
Pub: Oct 16, 2012