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
Killough: The HOV program is an attempt to modify personal travel behavior, to encourage ride sharing. Rather than build additional mixed-flow freeway lanes, we wanted to encourage people to ride-share, to make better use of the facilities we already have. What's missing is the public-policy support and parking management and actions to encourage ride sharing at the destination.
Meyerson:Have the HOV lanes succeeded or failed in encouraging ride sharing?
Killough: The HOV lanes carry approximately a million people a day now - as many as the bus system.
Cole: But it's a miserable flop, because it hasn't changed people's behavior. It hasn't reduced the number of cars on the road.
Ohland: Yes. A date is not a car pool!
Cole: I call it the family lane, because when I have my 1-and-a-half-year-old son, I get to use the HOV lane, and when I don't have him, I can't. I'm not modifying my behavior when I take my son. It's not as if we agreed, the two of us, that we're going to car-pool. But I get to use the lanes.
Killough: That's because the implementers of public policy will not let us go to HOV lanes for three or more at this time.
De la Loza: We at the MTA are committed first of all to buses, but we cannot turn our back on the rest of the transportation system in the county. Only 3 to 4 percent of the trips in the county are mass-transit, and we cannot ignore that. We need to work toward expanding the transit share while continuing to meet the needs of the 96 percent who are not using transit.
Meyerson: Let me ask this, though. We have become what geographers call a polycentric city, a city in which under 5 percent of the work force works in the downtown area. Is it really possible for a fixed-rail system of any kind to work in such a polycentric city?
Cole: The problem is that if you design around the automobile, mass transit won't work. It won't work for rail, it won't work for buses. We live in a disaggregate city in which you can't take the bus from one destination to another, because there's no two destinations that everybody can agree on. If you want to get anywhere, you've got to transfer, and wait for another bus in the cold or in the heat and dust, three feet from speeding automobiles. And that's if you want to go just one place. If you want to drop off your kids on the way to work and stop off at the dry cleaners and do some grocery shopping, it just doesn't work. You've got to have a car to do all of those things, which is why anybody who can put $200 together gets a junky old car. So the key issue is to begin to re-aggregate - not in one single downtown, L.A. is too big for that - but to re-aggregate at the neighborhood level, and at the center level, and at the regional level, to re-aggregate so that transit can compete with the private automobile.
Horton: But what you're describing can't happen with just the MTA planning or with just the city planning. It takes a much broader governmental structure.
Killough: Two years ago we tried to mobilize just such a structure when we started our current update of the Long-range Transportation Plan. We held a series of focus meetings to which we invited all elements of the community, from the Bus Riders Union, to labor organizations, to businesses, to environmental groups, to academics. We asked them to tell us how best we should develop our transportation plan. We got a lot of good input, and we relayed it to the board, and they were attentive. Then we got derailed by the MTA's financial problems, and we still need to get back on track with that long-range plan development.
Cole: We now have a pause in rail construction that is going to last at least six months, probably longer. So we have the opportunity to re-engage that process, and at the same time bring in land-use players from around the county. Let's have an open discussion about how we can make those links. In the average household, transportation is the second most expensive thing people spend money on. It used to be food. Transportation is not an abstract issue. And it is not an issue over whether the bus riders win or the rail boosters win. People are deeply concerned about health care; they're concerned about education. But when we voted to increase the sales tax in this county by a cent, did we spend it on health care? Did we spend it on education? No. We spent 100 percent of that new tax money on transportation. So it better serve a real goal, because we've put a lot of our eggs in the transportation basket, and we've starved health care and education and a lot of other worthwhile things in the process. The money is in transportation - a trillion public and private dollars in Southern California over the next 20 years. We need to spend it wisely.
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