Hyped by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe as a "historic" vote, Metropolitan Transportation Authority board members only approved a draft environmental impact report for the Subway to the Sea that still needs a lot of ironing out over the next several months, with details about tunneling underneath Beverly Hills High School still up in the air.
MTA board member and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in the meantime, basked in the 10-0 vote (with one abstention) and continued to push his phony public relations line to reporters that his legacy project will be "relieving (traffic) congestion" -- even though the draft EIR found that less than 1 percent of drivers on the Westside will get out of their cars and take the subway.
Villaraigosa, in fact, was full of whoppers during a 9-minute press conference at Metro HQ in downtown after the vote was taken, using the opportunity in front of TV cameras to make controversial claims that L.A. is "as safe as it's been since the 1950s," he's turning around the Los Angeles Unified School District, he's "greening Los Angeles," and the subway will be "improving air quality."
Interestingly enough, Villaraigosa said that "science has to dictate" the building of the subway, not "other considerations."
Yet according to experts who talked to L.A. Weekly for a recent news story titled "$9 billion Subway-to-Sea Rip-Off," Villaraigosa has been doing exactly what he denounces -- thinking more about the union jobs the multi-billion-dollar project will create rather than trying to find an effective way to relieve traffic gridlock on the Westside and the air pollution that comes with it.
With his grand announcements, Villaraigosa was light on details, unable to come up with even a ballpark figure for how many jobs will be produced to construct and maintain the subway.
"I can't tell you the exact number of jobs that will be associated with the subway," he told reporters. "I can tell you that there are more jobs associated with the subway than any other of the eleven light rail or busway projects."
Villaraigosa then suddenly shifted into public relations overdrive, saying, "(The Subway to the Sea) is the grandaddy of them all, without question, when it comes to jobs, when it comes to relieving congestion, when it comes to improving air quality, when it comes to connecting the two largest job centers in California."
A few moments later, we asked exactly how the subway will relieve traffic on the Westside, even though the EIR says it will get very few drivers out of their cars.
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Villaraigosa stared down at our press badge, looked up, and then pulled out this free-floating statement.
"As I said," the mayor announced, "when you look at what it does to reduce congestion at the 17 intersections on the Westside, it improves it. When you see that -- when people see that you can reduce the travel time by car or bus substantially, and in the case of the Westwood/downtown connection, we're talking about 24 minutes, I think you're going to see that it's gonna not only improve congestion, it's going to increase ridership. I believe that, ultimately, much like the Orange Line, where the ridership was very much under-estimated, this is going to be, not just the highest ridership, but the most under-projected."
With that, Villaraigosa ended the press conference and announced he had to "get moving."
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.