By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
De la Loza: Putting a subway line in from downtown to Santa Monica was as much a land-use decision as a transportation one. A subway is probably more influential than anything else in shaping land use. It allows you to densify in a way you can't with any other mode, since transportation is no longer impacted by the flow of traffic. Building that subway was a decision by the city of Los Angeles that the corridor along Wilshire will be a dense urban environment.
Keith Killough: Some 20 or so years ago, former L.A. city planning director Calvin Hamilton came up with the concept of developing focused growth around centers and connecting those centers with a high-capacity rail system or other systems, including busways. The idea was embraced by planners and elected officials in the urban core, but the public and suburban elected officials did not cooperate. Los Angeles sprawled. The growth was not concentrated solely in the urban core that would have supported such a system. Los Angeles is famous nationwide for its lack of land-use control.
Burgos: We have a plan that is not operating in a vacuum. We believe that long-term transit planning in this city must be, first and foremost, based on the needs of the most transit-dependent, the low-income communities of color in this city. I don't have a particular love of buses over other transportation modes, but when we're talking about issues of transit racism, when we're talking about the fact that 94 percent of the transit consumers in Los Angeles are bus riders, then it becomes obvious how we should use money.
Denise Fairchild: I feel like we're missing fundamental issues. We have to examine the role transportation policy has played in urban poverty, in the abandonment of urban areas. I think highways contributed to urban poverty in that they allowed for business to run out. We need to first promote economic growth in the inner city, and then we need a transportation system to support that. We need a system that addresses what's wrong with our city.
Burgos: What's wrong with L.A. is that this is a racist city that has expropriated public funds to steal from poor people of color. That's what's wrong with L.A. What we're trying to do is put the money back where it belongs.
Fairchild: What's wrong with L.A. is that it's sprawled out. That creates high investment costs for highways along with high environmental and social costs that come from the use of highways. People are isolated, segregated from each other. We've got to fix that in a way that people don't have to drive.
Ohland: If you really look at where transportation money is being spent today, it's going to highways. The Southern California Association of Governments' draft Regional Transportation Plan - which sets out guidelines for transportation investments in the region over the next 20 years - includes money for 150 miles of HOV lanes, 250 miles of new highways, 425 miles of truck lanes. My problem with the Bus Riders Union is that, while I totally agree that the number-one priority should be providing service to transit-dependent people, I don't think that rail is the problem. What we need to do is look at the whole transportation investment. Most people in L.A. County think that the MTA funds public transit, and that Caltrans builds highways. But in fact, the MTA funds highways, so it shouldn't be simply a bus-vs.-rail debate.
Cole: My argument with the Bus Riders Union, despite my enormous respect for them, is that while the highway lobby is walking out the front door with bags of cash, they're screaming about the far less costly excesses of rail. The Long Beach Freeway extension will cost $1.4 billion to build six miles of highway through a mostly minority neighborhood. But while the Bus Riders Union is at every single MTA meeting protesting the Blue Line and the Red Line, they're not out there opposing these other projects. If the goal is to get more buses, to reduce overcrowding on buses, to put the money where it will benefit the people who are most in need of it - if that's the goal, then you shouldn't be blind to something like the Long Beach Freeway extension. It's a gigantic boondoggle, and it's the same pot of money. If the MTA tomorrow voted not to build the 710 extension, that $1.4 billion could be channeled to buses, it could be channeled to rail, it could be channeled to all kinds of things.
Burgos: We called for transferring money from HOV to buses. We demanded that money be transferred. But what I'm saying is that even if this highway money opened up, even then the transit-dependent are lowest on the priority list.
Sue Horton: I want to talk about pork-barrel politics. Not long ago, we had a legislator in here who was talking about the Eastside rail line. It was purely about pork. His point was that the Valley got its subway, so we deserve ours. How much does that kind of thinking drive transportation policy?
Killough: As professionals striving to improve transportation for all residents of the county, we in the planning unit of MTA are certainly aware of pork-barrel politics. The professionals are tilting against that windmill, but not always successfully. Consequently, not all our recommendations to improve the transit situation are adopted.
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