Tue, Jun

Are the Current Olympic Transportation Goals Really What’s Best for LA?

ALPERN AT LARGE--As stated in my last CityWatch article, Los Angeles City and County is using its successful 2028 Olympic bid to accelerate the many Metro projects that have been delayed to 2035 or beyond.

Many of these projects are decades overdue already, so it's entirely within the spirit of Measures R and M (sales tax initiatives, which we will all pay into) that the "28 by 2028" initiative has been promoted.  

The sentiment behind "28 by 2028" is pretty straightforward: We paid for this, we've been promised these for decades, and yet we are being told that it'll be over a decade or two before these will become reality.  Not acceptable!

So it's commendable ... and it's raising the bar higher, which is what we wanted and still want.  But is it raising the bar high enough, and in the right ways?

Obviously, I'm writing this article, and the title pretty much answers the question:  NO.

But I don't want to just shred and nay-say Mayor Garcetti and the Metro Board.  They have to work in a practical, real-world and often-unpleasant circumstances that most of us just don't understand or have to confront.

They're to be commended for raising the bar, and doing what they can to (believe it or not) make Los Angeles the "gold standard" of Metro/transportation planning for the nation, if not much of the world.

But advice isn't always so nice after we've had some bad things happen en route to making Los Angeles City and County so transit-friendly, and while trying to make transportation, planning, environmental concerns, and quality of life all balance out:

1) Playing footsie with the cycling zealots who claim to represent all bicyclists (they decidedly do NOT) is as smart as playing footsie with the Bus Riders Union.  They trash the credibility of politicians and trample on the rights of taxpayers, and hurt the otherwise great reputation of alternative transportation modes that work well in urban centers.

There's a reason or five why myself and others have decried the Venice Blvd. "road diet".  Not only does it hurt motorists, it got in the way of a better, safer solution for both bicyclists and pedestrians and motorists, and safety problems have gone up, not down.

Bicyclists want safety and respect, but reconfiguring roads in a way that purportedly help a few but tell the majority to go pound sand (the ones who are otherwise very pro-transit, and happy to pay for it) isn't helpful.  That road diet interferes with Micro Transit, bus operations, and the ability for small businesses to thrive on what should be Great Streets.

Mayor Garcetti should look at the history of the Bus Riders Union, and stop appealing to self-absorbed, self-obsessed, and myopic zealots who eschew scientific data while treating bicyclist/transit efforts like dogmatic religion instead of rational, evidence-based engineers.  

Mayor Garcetti should listen less to the "Nat Gale's" of the world and more to his taxpaying constituents.  Nat Gale, so recently brought into the LADOT to ram road diets and other crazy ideas down our collective throat, knows nothing compared to City and County engineers who are trying to create streets that are truly great.  

If Garcetti wants to be hated, then by all means embrace the "Gale-Storm".  And stiff-arm the majority of Angelenos who thought that Garcetti cared about them, and listened to them.

2) Transportation isn't just about transit, it's about habits and innovative thinking, like what we saw in the 1984 Olympics.  How about encouraging staggered traffic patterns so that a City and County like ours can use our 24-7 business/economic schedule to our advantage.

Trucks have no business being on the freeways and roads during 7-9 am or 4-6 pm.

Telecommuting and working at home should be rewarded with tax incentives.

Micro Transit (vans/buses connecting neighborhoods to light rail lines) is a step forward, and is arguably the one thing Metro has done that merits the most praise.  It's the public sector answer to Uber and Lyft (which, along with Micro Transit, are two very good reasons why our roads must be saved from silly, childish, and dangerous "road diets").

3) Enable and empower transportation agencies to veto or restrain overzealous density hawks, because worsening and creating new transportation/mobility hurdles won't help LA's problems.

Density everywhere.  YIMBY-craziness?  Homeowners as selfish, greedy, evil monsters?

This keeps getting rammed down the taxpayers' throats, and doesn't solve the problems we're paying so dearly to fix.

Affordable housing?  Quality of life?  Traffic?  Aging in place?

All fixable by working with developers, and rewarding those willing to build 2-3 story developments instead of 7-12 story monstrosities.  

All fixable by identifying "affordable housing" as geared towards students, and seniors, and workforce populations.

All fixable by requiring that developers pay for infrastructure (including parking) that will prevent new development from imposing on the rights of others.

And all fixable by politicians getting past zealotry, and listening to the true majority of constituents who were and are trusting them to do the right thing and not create an environmental nightmare where human beings want to live in peace, work hard, and raise their families.

LA will do its Olympic best by getting past the zealots, and past the smarmy know-it-alls-who-think-they-know-everything but eschew data, outreach, and objective thinking that benefits all parties and avoids splitting neighborhoods.

LA very much CAN be its Olympic-best, but only if its leaders are willing to embrace the Gold Medal lying so easily within their grasp if they just listen to the majority of their constituents.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)