By Ken Alpern, December 11, 2015
TRANSPORTATION POLITICS--Compared to the world of the 1990's, and
even compared to the year 2000, LA City and County have made
considerable progress towards confronting, consensus-building, and
construction of transportation projects. No longer is this priority
being shunted to the side, and no longer are our elected officials
ignoring the problems inherent in transportation and related
infrastructure. But there are problems ... big problems.
sure, the wind is much more on the backs of transportation advocates
than it was 10-15 years ago, when marching uphill against the wind was
the order of the day for anyone who dared bring up infrastructure.
President Bill Clinton was probably the greatest champion of this
priority over the past several decades, but he had to face a Congress
filled with Republican non-spenders and Democratic over-spenders--the
former who ignored transportation/infrastructure and the latter who
would spend on transportation/infrastructure ("T/I") only after other
priorities and their lobbyists were "fed" first...leaving precious few
dollars for transportation.
Yet the word got out, slowly but
surely, that the voters wanted both parties to spend more on
transportation/infrastructure and less on other priorities. Certainly
the liberals wanted less military spending and more taxes, and certainly
the conservatives wanted less social welfare spending and a budget
But the answers lay somewhere in-between,
because more spending but appropriate revenue-raising, and more
responsible spending for government in general will both allow for
better transportation funding in the federal budget as well as better
make the case that a gas tax, or a sales tax, or some other form of
revenue raising, will be accepted as a way for voters to see a better
21st Century America with respect to "T/I".
Certainly, LA City
and County have led the way with respect to transportation
funding--they've taxed themselves at the county level multiple times and
are embarking on one of the greatest transportation spending works in
American history. And to some degree, Los Angeles has both inspired and
shamed Washington (and Sacramento, to boot) to get to work in
rebuilding transportation/infrastructure strength here and throughout
The Expo Line, once a project that will "neeeeever
happen" in the Westside, is entering pre-revenue train testing all the
way from Culver City to Santa Monica in mid-December (that's like...now)
and transfer of the Expo Line from the Expo Construction Authority to
Metro is under way.
The San Gabriel Valley is no slouch, either,
despite being given short shrift by the rest of the county (particularly
Downtown leaders) for far too long, is on its way to a Foothill Gold
Line that will open before the aforementioned Expo Line, and will almost
certainly someday find the funding to build it all the way to
And that LAX-Metro Rail connection that has proven
elusive for so many decades? It's gonna happen, as sure as Mayor
Garcetti and LA County wants a 2024 Olympics. The Crenshaw/LAX and
Downtown Light Rail Connector lines will be build well before 2024, as
well as the first phase of the Wilshire Subway to La Cienega.
the long-fretted 405/101 intersection and 405 widening projects are in
our rear-view mirror, although the era of big freeway projects are done
being built in the center of the county for now.
I-710 North project, which includes a tunnel under South Pasadena is
being shunted aside for environmental, political, and fiscal reasons.
The congestion and pollution benefits weren't there, and the EIR has
been roundly attacked by all sides. Certainly the repair and renovation
of the I-710 south project between the ports and Downtown has support
overall, but the funds for the South Pasadena tunnel will go
But the biggest problems remain both financial
and political. Will our recession cycle commence again (hate to say
this, folks, but world events and economic reality dictates we're due
for another downturn of some sort), and will that affect federal and
state funding for transportation? Will we need more money shunted to
military endeavors if the world catches fire (as it frighteningly
appears to be doing)?
More importantly will that oh-so-pesky
pension problem, and the manner in which public sector unions--led by
hyperpartisan, hyperlobbying cretins who live in their own little bubble
of a universe where the taxpayers are bottomless ATM machines--destroy
the ability of the City (and its voters) to ensure proper transportation
funding and budgeting ...
... and threaten support of City
residents to pass Measure R-2 if they see their taxes (AGAIN!) go from
the roads, sidewalks, rail projects, DASH lines, buses and bicycle paths
they've wanted their money to go to for years.
The leadership of Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin for LAX reconstruction and Metro Rail/LAX connections? Great.
The leadership of Mike Bonin for a sweeping parking reform package? Great.
ability of Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin to get past the dunderheads who
think that the pension crisis is anything but a crisis? Not so great,
although Garcetti and Bonin have to be both pressured and pitied that
they've got such an uphill climb on this issue.
So we've got a
lot to crow about with respect to transportation...but the possibility
that the wind will cease to be at our backs with the unhappier potential
winds of change to come bodes ill for a mobility/infrastructure effort
in a City and County of LA that still hasn't recovered fully from the
Great Recession of 2007-09.