News that Los Angeles County officials are way behind schedule and over budget on a plan to streamline public transit isn't really news. Anyone who's even visited other American metropolises — San Fran, Chicago, D.C. — knows that L.A. seems to have a particular knack for punishing bus and subway riders.

Still, it hurts to hear that the MTA's costs for a “smart card” program that would bring much-needed efficiency to county-wide public transportation has skyrocketed from $78.5 million to $154 million. Nor is it easy to swallow the fact that the project's schedule, initially supposed to be three years, is now projected to take more than a decade.

Why? Who's to blame? Is there a light at the end of the subway tunnel?

The man in charge of getting the program back on track is Art Leahy, who took over the MTA earlier this spring. Leahy seems as frustrated as anyone.

And he should be. In addition to the project's budget and scheduling woes, the audit by KPMG found that the Transit Access Pass Program is being thoroughly neglected by MTA staff.

If and when the program is finished, riders will be able to transfer between bus, train and subway without buying a new ticket. Instead, they will be able to use a single electronic pre-paid “TAP” card. The card system is already in place in a few parts of the county, but technical difficulties have been reported and most of the county's transportation lines have not been updated with the TAP technology.

Leahy seems intent on cutting the crap and moving forward. “We need to wrap it up,” he told the Times. Leahy will report to Villaraigosa in six weeks on what steps he'll be taking. Let's hope those steps are solid ones.

Credit the mayor for demanding an audit of the program earlier this year. At least it's out in the open that the plan has stalled.

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