It Takes a Train to Ride As a resident and public-transit user on the Westside, it is heartening to read that residents, businesses and public officials on the Westside have let go of their NIMBY attitudes and are increasingly clamoring for rapid mass transit [“The Subway Mayor,” Aug. 19–25]. The current Red Line goes from the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood to downtown. The Wilshire Boulevard line will hopefully be extended to the ocean as soon as possible. Another transit corridor is being overlooked, and would form a worthy third leg to this transit triangle. The MTA Bus Lines 4 and 304 carry riders on very crowded buses to the ocean and back from Union Station along Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards. These lines are packed and go where people want to go. A below-ground subway or even an above-ground busway on Santa Monica/Sunset boulevards would be highly used by residents, workers and tourists and appreciated by the businesses in those communities. This line would allow riders to go from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside easily and ease congestion on the gridlocked 405 freeway.

Dan Wentzel Santa Monica

Let’s have the mayor, Mr. Waxman, the MTA board, and all the other politicians who have any say on the public-transportation issues to actually ride around ONLY on the bus for one month. No cars. No limited trains. Maybe a bicycle (if the bus has a rack or if it’s not rush hour). They would go to work, shop, go to appointments, see friends, all on the bus lines they seem to want so badly for the people of this city. Let’s see if adding an hour or more to the everyday commute might make a difference. Or if trash, surly or racist drivers, no air conditioning or indifferent schedules do anything to flavor opinion. Perhaps waiting in vain for an evening bus that is 50 minutes behind schedule and overcrowded might put too much of a cramp on dinner at a finer dining establishment. Imagine actually sharing the experience with their constituents. Oh, yes: no entourages. Perhaps the month would help in these decisions. Then see if they’re as willing to hem and haw about rail being vital and needed and necessary to the city we all live in. Perhaps the class divide would be too much. Perhaps their schedules are too full. I doubt any of those involved would sully themselves to meet this challenge. But could you imagine?

Mauricio Figuls Echo Park

“The Subway Mayor” is a milestone in the coverage of transportation policy in Southern California. It is the first airing in the mass media of heretofore undisclosed key aspects of the federal Wilshire subway funding prohibition and the federal-court-supervised MTA bus service consent decree. For far too long the debate over regional transportation policy has been dominated by misinformation and bias spouted by alleged experts, the grandstanding and parochialism of elected officials and a stage-managed culture of perpetual protest and slogans paraded before the TV cameras by so-called grass-roots community advocates of dubious motive. Berkowitz has done a great service for us all by shedding the sunshine of reality upon this dysfunctional culture. The recent election of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles holds the promise of long-overdue bold leadership on the transportation challenges we face. Berkowitz’s exposé likewise is a first step toward re-examining the conventional wisdom and perceptions regarding land use and transportation investments that the forthcoming public debate must confront if we are to meet those challenges. Nothing less than the future of our region hangs in the balance. Two small corrections: Roger Christensen currently chairs the MTA Citizens’ Advisory Council and our group is Southern California Transit Advocates (not Rail Advocates).

Dana Gabbard Los Angeles

I was quite surprised not only to see a pro-subway article in the Weekly, but also one that puts the Bus Riders Union in its proper place. Earlier this year I had occasion to take all four Metro Rail routes and found the Red and Green lines to be the most efficient because they are totally separate from surface streets. Though it raises NIMBY issues, given the need to expand the system as fast as possible, it’s probably worth considering whether an elevated system can be put in faster and cheaper than digging a subway. Also, with regard to the Wilshire line, some thought should be given as to whether the needs of more people might be served by sending the line north at San Vicente, allowing a connection to Cedars-Sinai, to Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and down that to Santa Monica, allowing for a direct connection to Century City.

Rick Mitchell Los Angeles

“The Subway Mayor,” was by far the most succinct and well-put-together article on the history of our subway system I’ve read. Eric Berkowitz’s research was exemplary. As a discretionary rider of the Red Line, I have found the service to be efficient, dependable, well used and getting more crowded by the day. The only critics of the subway, Metrolink and light rail that I hear are those who don’t use the services and don’t know what they are talking about. Two additional items that are of note: One, the special master, Donald Bliss, among many others, is paid $450 an hour by the MTA to monitor the decree’s compliance, meaning that if he rules MTA has satisfied the consent degree, his income is gone. Two, Eric Mann and his Labor Strategy Center used some of the money they got from MTA to promote pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda pieces that they distributed on the seats of the buses a couple of years ago!

Francine Oschin Encino

As a former LACTC, MTA and Metrolink employee, as well as a Westside resident and transit user, I continue to be impressed at the L.A. Weekly’s grasp of transportation issues and history in L.A. You do miss something in reporting the (artificial) bus vs. rail debate, however, along with everyone else. That is personal safety, especially for women. Waiting at a bus stop is as safe as the neighborhood you are waiting in, i.e. not safe anywhere in L.A. after dark. Bus stop safety is virtually impossible to provide, shy of making the entire city crime-free and pedestrian-friendly. Subway stations are a different story. It is feasible to patrol them without selling the farm. With CCTV, panic buttons, “next train” signage, lighting and some staffing, they can be made relatively undaunting. I’ve used the subway comfortably at hours when I would NEVER stand at an L.A. streetcorner waiting for a bus. Why we think poor women (the largest portion of transit users) should be relegated to waiting on the street rather than in a well-lighted, well-trafficked rail station is beyond me. Notice Eric Mann never mentions the preferences of actual transit users, who would surely prefer reliable, safer train service to the vagueries of buses caught in traffic.

Annette Colfax Los Angeles


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