- Written by Ken Alpern
15 Nov 2011
GETTING THERE FROM HERE - An interesting contradiction persists throughout the Westside and the Greater LA Region with respect to our economy and traffic—a bad economy improves traffic, while worsening traffic suggests an improving economy, and while everyone agrees that taxes during a bad economy is a bad idea, most everyone agrees that improving mobility helps the economy.
So if most everyone on the Westside believes that we’ve got a traffic/mobility problem (maybe a few folks think it’s no big deal, and maybe a few folks actually like traffic problems because they believe it’ll prevent future overdevelopment), and it’s a bad economy, what are we to do?
I was impressed by their last round of meetings, for which I will guess that many who didn’t attend will wish they had, but can still weigh in during the months ahead and be heard. Rather than a nonspecific request for input, a more focused series of ideas is just beginning to crystallize from this study, and while it does suggest the need for new projects to be funded, the cost-effectiveness of these projects and the need to think outside of the box is part of this study.
And it should be reminded that—even with an anti-spending trend in Washington and Sacramento—the willingness of cities and counties to put forth their ideas and money first, as we did with Measure R, is the best way to attract either matching funds or bridge loans to reduce the overall costs and timeframes for transportation/infrastructure projects.
And it should also be reminded that those of us who are still employed expect our roads, rail and transportation/infrastructure network to be built and maintained first with our tax dollars, so the desire to get our tax investment first still persists despite the attempts of Republicans to deny any spending (even quality spending), and despite the attempts of Democrats to divert tax dollars to other priorities that the voters would never approve.
So what did the Westside Mobility Study focus on most? An electronic questionnaire/straw poll was most revealing, because the questions raised were based on the previous input of past information gathering, and it was focused primarily on a North-South transit system and secondarily on a regional transit network to connect to this system.
Incumbent for this north-south system and greater transit network to work are the necessary adjunct projects such as enhancement of pedestrian, bus and bicycle amenities to help us access this system and network, and they were addressed. Furthermore, the encouragement carpooling and accessing work via transit, paratransit (vans, cabs) or telecommuting also were addressed.
Based on the input I saw, the desire of a Lincoln Blvd Corridor rail line was the most popular approach, although it might be acknowledged that a Sepulveda Blvd Corridor rail line would enjoy more support from regions outside of the Westside (such as the San Fernando Valley and the South Bay). Of course, this raises the “debate” between the need for an Expo Line and the need for a Wilshire Subway—they’re probably both needed, because they serve separate corridors.
And this “debate” is probably as ridiculous as the “debate” between the need for buses versus rail, the need for a 110 freeway versus a 710 freeway because they both access the ports and Downtown, the “debate” between the need for food versus water, etc. We might build either a Lincoln Blvd Corridor or a Sepulveda Blvd. Corridor rail line before the other because there’s only so much money and political will, but sooner or later they’ve both got to be addressed.
So while the devil’s in the details, and Westsiders are all over the place with respect to priorities (widening the 405 freeway, staggering work hours/shifts, telecommuting, getting a Hindry station on the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line, getting a Green Line extended to the Westside with a station at/near Sepulveda/Lincoln, getting a connection of some sort between LAX and the MetroRail system), there does appear to be consensus for some type of north-south Westside rail line.
We’ll all have to see whether the Expo Line is a success or a failure with respect to enhancing Westside, Mid-City and Downtown mobility, but if it does prove successful (and the first phase to Culver City opens in less than a year), then the aforementioned ideas and talking points will only become more urgently-addressed by planners, developers and transportation wonks.
And the following ideas, which are certainly based on my own biases and observations after a decade in transportation planning (but by no means are “mine”), will likely get more play:
1) The need for a first-rate parking and transit center at Sepulveda/Exposition/Pico is paramount for both the Expo Line to reach its full ridership potential and for Westside transportation to be coordinated, and the time is NOW for either AEG or some other Downtown developer to create such a center to ensure remote Downtown rail access.
2) We have no Metrolink commuter rail in either the Westside or South Bay (do Westsiders and South Bay residents even KNOW what Metrolink is, and how it differs from MetroRail?), so the need for parking structures and lots at bus and rail stations is also timely and paramount for remote access to our urban core.
3) We have not one but three commercial centers/corridors in the City of Los Angeles: Downtown, the Wilshire Blvd. Corridor and the Century Blvd. Corridor/Region near LAX; we’ve got the Expo Line, the Downtown Light Rail Connector and the Wilshire Subway in the works, but the need to create a LAX-to-Metro Rail People Mover and a Green Line connection has enormous commuter and commercial benefits for those businesses at/near Century Blvd., and for the City as a whole.
4) We’ll need to partner up with the ports and regional businesses to get trucks off the roads during rush hour and encourage more rail commercial shipping for both economic and environmental reasons.
5) Telecommuting, staggered work shifts, and business-sponsored transit use merit more tax benefits and incentives as an alternative to standard commuting, particularly in our new 24-7 global economy.
Tags: Westside, Greater LA, Los Angeles, Westside Mobility
Vol 9 Issue 91
Pub: Nov 15, 2011