LA Transpo: We Paid. We Should Pay. We Will Pay.  But What Are Angelenos Getting In Return?

ALPERN AT LARGE--As stated in my last CityWatch piece, we're not refusing to give up our cars but still are quite OK with paying for more mass transit.  This piece focuses on a few "tough love" answers to that paradox.  And thanks to Steve Lopez of the Times for his excellent piece

What would cause that increase-in-cars-but-also-in-mass-transit?  Is it the cynical perspective that the Onion describes--sarcastically but honestly--that most car commuters want more mass transit...but for the "other" drivers to get off the road and out of their way? 

The Daily News notes that our eyes (and commutes) aren't fooling us: lower income individuals, immigrants, and even Millennials are purchasing their cars when financially possible. 

The Daily News is consistent with another interesting article quoting a UCLA report, written by Matt Tinoco of LA Curbed, car purchases are FOUR TIMES HIGHER than in the 1990's; Again, this predominantly is occurring on bus lines, but the ridership gains made after the Expo and Gold Line extensions were more than made up by losses on the other lines.  

Again, WHY are we pursuing more mass transit and yet using our cars? 

1) Stop, stop, STOP using mass transit to wage a war on the car commuters!  They are NOT, and never will be, mutually exclusive.  The Expo and Gold Lines were meant to provide an alternative to the I-10 and I-210 freeways, respectively.  And THAT's why everyone screams for that magic and elusive subway under the Sepulveda Pass and avoid the I-405 nightmare. 

2) Historically, there was supposed to be a freeway in the corridor of Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds.  Effectively, the Wilshire Subway will BE that freeway.  Sooner or later, when this gets built there will be a POSSIBLE difference in regional traffic. 

3) There WILL be more ridership on all mass transit lines when we get critical network connections with the completion of the Crenshaw/LAX and Downtown Connector Light Rail Lines...and the LAX People Mover.  Once mass transit on trains gets easier and more convenient, people will use them. 

4) With new rail lines, and connecting bus lines, any shaving of critical commute time will be rewarded thanks to the very shrewd folks at Metro. 

But while Metro's leadership (NOT the staff, but the political leadership), and our City leadership, deserve credit (LOTS of credit) for more transportation funding, planning, and construction than just about anywhere else in the nation, they will collectively have to grow a spine. 

And a brain. 

And a heart. 

In particular, Mayor Garcetti, if he wants to show insight, courage, and flexibility will have to match his successful lionization of mass transit and the future L.A. 2028 Olympics with the ability to backtrack, alter course, and STOP making winners and losers. 

Follow the laws of physics and human nature, Mayor Garcetti, or your reputation and political future will be OVER: 

1) Convince Metro CEO Phil Washington (a pretty good guy, overall) and all Metro bus and rail riders that misbehavior, unlawful behavior, bothering other passengers, and encouraging anything that leads to the smell of urine, feces or any other awful odor absolutely WILL NOT be tolerated, and that the police are supported to do what it takes for the majority of law-abiding passengers. 

2) Hire only women, or virtually only women, to promote a new "Rider's Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" and to do this with the cooperation of the law enforcement that EVERYONE is screaming for to make our bus and rail rides safer and tolerable.  Because women of ALL ethnicities (and many men) will bail on mass transit if it's disgusting and unendurable. 

3) Parking gets cars off the street, and onto either sidewalks or rail/bus mass transit.  The citizenry (particularly those who work every day, and who don't have the time or ability to attend all the daytime meetings) has been screaming for more parking, and are SICK of watching their tax dollars go elsewhere, and are SICK of watching developers being enabled to weasel out of their parking/mitigation obligations. 

4) New-age morons like so-called safety-guru NAT GALE at the LADOT aren't "woke", "educated" or "enlightened", and have merely been enabled and indoctrinated to wreak havoc and misinterpret the intent of Vision Zero.  Making things miserable for drivers, and in particular the road diet on Venice Blvd. (recently a state-run secondary highway/freeway), will NOT win you votes.   

Of course, if the Mayor wants to end his political career for the new-age nut jobs like Gale, that's his prerogative.  After all, as BOTH bicyclists and car commuters are enduring more accidents around Venice Blvd., and with so many unhappy Westsiders affected on a daily basis, this Garcetti-created nightmare is NOT going away, and NOT going to be forgotten by the voters. 

Because MOST Angelenos are liberal, want to have more options, and like mass transit.  They hate our current president, and want a cleaner environment. 

But they do want a speedy, convenient, and safe commute. 

We have paid.  We will pay more.  We SHOULD pay more for better transportation options.

But we're NOT stupid, and won't take well to being treated as if we're stupid.  We deserve something in return for our combined, mutual, and shared investments in transportation.


(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 alpern@marvista.org. 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.)