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Tran$portation 2012: Three Target$ To FOCU$ On

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - It's a brand new year, and a brand new opportunity for us all to individually and collectively take on the problems that face our city, state, country and world.  Overall, the polls suggest we're still optimistic but are very concerned about our future. (link) So let's not kid ourselves, and let's cut to the chase:  It's the economy, stupid!
While this piece focuses on transportation, there are plenty of issues that must be confronted:  our military budget and foreign conflicts, the elusive goals of education reform and cost-effective education, fiscal abuse of public sector unions and their political enablers, the nasty habits of putting political party before country, etc.  But it's all about the economy--we're in an era that will likely be held as a Second Great Depression, and we all got ourselves into it, so we'll all need to get ourselves out of it.  

Target#1:  Get the transportation/infrastructure (T/I) projects built ASAP, provided they're vetted and with transparent budgeting!

DWP/Infrastructure gurus (and fellow CityWatch contributors) Jack Humphreville and Chuck Ray have the electricity/water/sewage part of this covered, but what's holding down our projects is the lack of transparency that the DWP, the Mayor and the City Council have provided to the tax/rate-payers.  

A Ratepayer's Advocate is long-overdue, as it the need to upgrade our underground and above-ground infrastructure.  We need to spend, and spend smart--and once it's clear that we're spending smart then we can raise the funding and implement the we did with Measure R (our half-cent transportation sales tax).

But behind and beyond all the connected union greedy-grabbers, the connected variance-crazed developers and the connected (and all-too-corrupt) city appointees lies the desire of folks to just get around.  

Long before the concept of establishing a rapid transit system for the city and county of LA became popular, similar systems were enjoyed and appreciated in about every city in the nation and world.  All things considered, we're catching up, and future generations will probably know or care very little about the Metro rail/bus system that's already becoming popular with young people. (Link)

The Expo Line is opening to Culver City (Venice/Robertson Phase One terminus) this year, two years late but with many lessons learned, and efforts are already underway (spear-headed by the Palms Neighborhood Council but supported by their neighbors in Mar Vista, Venice and Del Rey) to highlight the Rapid Bus that will connect the Expo Line Phase One terminus to the beach along Venice Blvd.  

The CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee has also weighed in favor of this Rapid Bus effort, and it's hoped that when the Expo Line pokes its nose into the Westside this year, it'll change the minds of Westside, Mid-City and Downtown residents alike about the new reality of increased options to enhance their mobility and quality of life.

Similarly, the Foothill Gold Line, which is as economically important to the San Gabriel Valley as the Expo Line is to the Westside and Downtown Los Angeles, took a big hit when the California Supreme Court supported Governor Brown's decision to abolish redevelopment agencies.  The vital rail maintenance yard for the Foothill Gold Line (which would serve the needs of the entire east half of the MetroRail system) was to be funded by a redevelopment agency, and both this and other worthy endeavors are at risk.  

Cities and counties throughout the state are screaming (link) for some of their funds back, but while it's expected there will be a compromise, the time is NOW for the abuse and garbage of these redevelopment agencies to end.

The Crenshaw, Wilshire and Downtown Connector rail projects, to say nothing of a host of freeway and road projects are moving forward.  The taxpayers WILL pay for these and even more projects ... but the politically-connected, insider and inefficient interests, and any distracting agendas, have to go.  Otherwise, the beleaguered taxpayers will just wait until the reforms do occur.

Seriously.  We can wait.

Target #2:  Our economy is nothing without commercial commerce, and we've got no room for Luddite thinking!

Yes, we're used to being the national and international hub of the West Coast of the Western Hemisphere, but that position doesn't have to stay that way.  Other states and countries throughout our nation and world want a piece of our action, and we've got to keep up and catch up to stay competitive. (Link)

To some degree, our sea port/airport commercial hubs have a counterpart in the growing controversy surrounding the Keystone pipeline to bring oil from Canada to Texas.  Environmentalists hate big oil, Capitalists want the business, many Americans just want the jobs, and Canada's prime minister has threatened to send the Canadian oil to Asian ports if President Obama and Congress don't agree to the pipeline plan.

But we can have our cake and eat it, too, in Southern California, when it comes to the economy and the environment.  The need and plans for moving freight onto trains and use the Alameda Corridor (and, in years to come, Alameda Corridor East) to obviate the need to use fleets of trucks are moving forward and there are many more in the works.  

Furthermore, plans are already under way to separate freight lines from Metrolink passenger rail lines so that both can proceed unhindered by the other.  Yes, there are some up-front costs, but ultimately the efficiency of using our commercial freight lines has both enormous economic and environmental benefits.

We'll always need trucks for local commercial movement, but the long hauls to the rest of the nation should be started out in the Inland Empire, and not in our congested urban core.  And maybe we can make a few laws to require the trucks to operate outside our freeway rush hours?

Target #3:  The middle class needs a break--the entire middle class!

Whether it's the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement (link), the middle class is being threatened and is at risk of becoming an endangered species.

The GOP claims to be the friend of the middle class, but all too often ends up defending only the rights of the wealthy.  The Democratic Party claims to be the friend of the middle class, but all too often ends up defending only the rights of the public sector unions and those dependent on the public dole.

So when Measure R or other T/I-related initiatives come along, perhaps the right way to promote these projects is not to highlight the jobs involved with the construction of these projects but rather the jobs that will be created by their completion.  

In other words, spending a billion or two on the construction of the Expo Line from Downtown to the beach might get a few hundred middle class jobs (nothing to crow about), but that's nothing compared to the thousands (if not tens of thousands) of jobs that will be created by the commercial hubs that will thrive in Santa Monica, Culver City, Downtown, etc.  

Going to Downtown or the beach will no longer be as onerous, and people will spend money in new places heretofore inaccessible (or at least undesired because of miserable traffic congestion).

The middle class wants a job and enhanced mobility and quality of life...and on the cheap.  The GOP might hate spending money in urban regions that vote Democrat, and the Democrats might want to talk endlessly about carbon emissions...but the ordinary individual in Los Angeles just wants the same things they can get in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York.  

Students and tourists (who might not own cars) and seniors (who might not be able to operate cars) just want to get around.  T/I projects should not just help a few but should help everyone--the best projects aren't just pork-barreling endeavors but quality projects that future generations will all appreciate.

Let the extremists and connecteds get over their baaaaaad selves and FOCUS on getting these projects done on time, under budget, and in a manner that helps everyone.  

And if they don't, then those of us still clinging to optimism in this New Year of 2012 should take charge and steer our own way out of our current situation and into a brighter future for ourselves and for our children.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at . He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

Tags: Transportation, Los Angeles 2012, Expo Line, Metro, Measure R, Tea Party, Occupy Movement, Occupy LA

Vol 10 Issue 1
Pub: Jan 3, 2012