To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Friday, December 20, 2013

Study boosts L.A. light rail, but not all will get aboard: Opinion


By Kevin Modesti, December 19, 2013

A much-publicized study about the commuting habits of people who live near a new L.A. light-rail line has confirmed the assumptions of mass-transit proponents.

It would be even more valuable if it swayed mass-transit skeptics. But the new data may not change the impression that Los Angeles’ growing light-rail and subway system is useful to few residents. Namely, those who have to travel from and to places that happen to be along the lines.

The University of Southern California study monitored the travel of 103 households within one-half mile of six stations along the Expo Line, which runs 8.7 miles from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City. Researchers showed that after the line opened in 2012, those residents reduced their driving by an average of 10 to 12 miles a day, or about 40 percent. The residents also walked more, presumably to and from the train.

That suggests Metro Rail’s four light-rail lines — and plans for more — are good for vehicle traffic, for the environment and for people’s fitness. It suggests Angelenos will use mass transit if it’s available. And it might suggest the city should spend more public money on more public transportation.

Not so fast, said Adrian Moore, vice president of policy and an expert on transportation issues for the libertarian Reason Foundation. When we phoned him this morning to get a less-often-heard point of view, Moore said the USC research is credible but doesn’t eliminate some important issues.

The problem remains, Moore said: “We’ve spent incredible amounts of money to change the behavior of very few people.” Thirty percent to 40 percent of the L.A. region’s spending on transportation goes to public transit that serves less than 1 percent of the population.

 Moore’s other big question: Were the residents whose transit habits changed after the Expo Line opened just average Angelenos — or “the sorts of people who are going to take light rail”? (Note the lead anecdote in a Los Angeles Times article about the study.)

Moore said the issue isn’t whether people will use nearby light rail. It’s whether L.A. can install enough light rail to serve enough people.

“We don’t oppose transit spending,” Moore said. “We just oppose dumb transit spending.”

Light-rail proponents will need more than this study to win over those who say that in a city built around cars, trains are not the way to go.