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, May 22, 2015

(Train)ing Ourselves to Confront Modern Mass Transit


By Ken Alpern, May 22, 2015

GETTING THERE FROM HERE-It's great to learn that Metro has an excellent new CEO with the hiring of Phillip A. Washington who comes to us from Denver.  Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Roger Snoble and Art Leahy, Mr. Washington has a first-rate reputation to maintain--but his first job will be to pass Measure R-2. 

Measure R-2 (perhaps it will have some other name) needs vetting, public outreach, promotion and--overall, the excellent transparency that got Measure R passed in 2008.  It will involve either an extension of the first Measure R sales tax decades in the future (to allow us to borrow off that in the present) or yet another sales tax hike to pay for decades-overdue rail and other transportation projects. 

Like getting MetroRail to LAX.  Like getting a train alternative under the horrific Sepulveda Pass.

 Like extending the countywide MetroRail system to the South Bay, the Eastside, the Southeast L.A. Cities and even to Ontario Airport. 

But trains aren't just choo-choos that we ride for fun, and they aren't always needed.  More rural areas need occasional Amtrak and Metrolink service, but most voters and taxpayers don't really distinguish between MetroRail and Metrolink and Amtrak...nor should they be expected to do so.  And THAT is what Mr. Washington and his political allies at Metro must confront as they canvass the county for what is required for Measure R-2. 

And canvassing the county is exactly what Metro is doing.  For example, there is quite the debate over using Measure R-2 money to convert the Orange Line Busway into the light rail line it always should have been...versus the creation of the aforementioned Sepulveda Pass rail line (probably a subway), which is about as fun a debate as having to choose between food and water. 

There is also the debate about whether a north-south freeway tunnel to connect the I-710 to the I-210 under South Pasadena should be funded by Measure R-2.  This idea would probably do much in the way of environmental and mobility benefits, but the many issues and cost/technical problems plague this problem to the extent that it might not enjoy political support to be included in Measure R-2. 

Many debates exist over the "right" order of projects for Metro to build, and much of these debates will be resolved with an updated Long Range Transportation Plan to allow the public to know what Metro wants to prioritize, and what the Measure R-2 would do with respect to any countywide "wish lists". 

Yet while LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has made great inroads with the rest of the county towards achieving a "rising tide to lift all boats" approach that allows all portions of the taxpaying county to benefit from Metro largesse, his own ability to ensure Angelenos closer to home that he can spend their money wisely is still up for debate--as my fellow CityWatch writer Jack Humphreville so eloquently points out . 

The City of LA has misspent decades of funds that should have gone to road, sidewalk, sewer, park, library and other City services, and the question of whether dedicated Measure R-2 funds would make a big dent on the overdue road and street repairs (to say nothing of more DASH buses, medians, sidewalks, alleys, parking) our City needs must be answered. 

Furthermore, the issue of Metrolink/MetroRail interactions and connectivity is something that's not seen enough of the light of day--but which would be particularly important as MetroRail (light rails, buses, subways) extends out to the farthest regions of the county to potentially connect to more regional rail service of Metrolink (freight trains that travel very long distances for commuters) and even Amtrak.

In particular, the lack of connectivity and proximity of Eastside Gold Line and already-existing Metrolink stations is appalling and mind blowing.  Fortunately, our last Metro CEO, Art Leahy, now is the Metrolink CEO and it's hoped that the obvious connection of Metrolink to Metro's buses and trains will be something that gets a lot more attention from small-minded and ego-driven politicians and transportation planners. 

After all, the words "Metro" and "Metrolink" sound alike to the taxpayers, and they'll EXPECT all rails and buses to seamlessly connect to each other in the same way that our freeways, surface streets and residential streets all connect to each other (and regardless of which government agency is responsible for the creation and upkeep of each portion of our street/freeway infrastructure). 

But "mass transit" is merely a way for megadense areas to transport large numbers of individuals where there's just no room for roads and freeways.  It's primarily supposed to make our lives better and more mobile, not be primarily promoted as a way to "save the planet" or "create housing opportunities" or "create a car-free lifestyle". 

It's obvious that mass transit, as with all transportation projects, will have delightful environmental, affordable housing, and alternative transportation opportunities and impacts. 

But, in the end, mass transit must relate to what Joe/Jane Taxpayer wants:  a nicer, new alternative to getting from here to there, to getting to a job, to a game or concert, or even just to the mall. 
And it's funding and budgeting should be so transparent that even the most parsimonious of taxpayers would conclude that--despite the annoying expense--it's what our taxes are supposed to be paying for in the first place!