Faster Than a Speeding Bullet, and Slower Than a High-Speed Boondoggle!

ALPERN AT LARGE--Let's get something clear: we need as many roads, rails, sidewalks, bike lanes, and buses as possible to cost-effectively and conveniently get from point A to point B.

I doubt I'm the only person who's fought for car AND mass transit access, and funding, and amenities. Anyone reading this who thinks that parking, bus shelters, bike lanes (where there's room for safety and speed for all parties!), or sidewalks are BAD is probably part of the problem with respect to mobility. 

Whether it's high-speed rail or a freeway upgrade or a sidewalk/road repair, it's all good. It's only when one form of mobility is being spent overly much on, to the suffering and hurt of others, that things get bad. 

This city, county, and state of ours consistently spends on more roads, rails, infrastructure, etc., but it's the PERCEPTION, or perceived LACK OF TRANSPARENCY for spending that gets people infuriated. Directly or indirectly, passing Measure M and then saying that "the City of Los Angeles is getting out of the parking business" is just bad politics and bad optics. 

People want more train and other options--hence the money towards a first-rate rail system by the 2028 Olympics, but also an Uber/Lyft and incipient dockless scooter industry is growing that in large part allows for access to the near-capacity Expo Line. And our freeways and car purchases are sky-high, with traffic out of control...why? 

Well, blame or hate or give credit to our past and/or current President, people are working more than ever. All legitimate and timely arguments of a living wage, sustainable wage, income inequality and cost of living/affordable housing issues aside, people are working and "moving on up" more than ever ... or at least they're able to tread water. 

But people are driving. And they are using planes. And even a bit more bicycling and walking. We all want more than what we've had in the past--MOBILITY is tied into our ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, and QUALITY OF LIFE.  

Much of this stemmed from the pro-mobility efforts of the grassroots Friends4Expo Transit, which is one of the most wonderful groups I've ever had the privilege of being part of. Non-paid volunteers made it clear we need more mobility, and helped create the Expo Line, which would "neeever eeeever" be built (or so we were told).  

And now, the Wilshire Subway and even the Valley/Westside rail line, is no longer "science fiction". However, the renaming of the Metro Expo and other light rail/subway lines to numbers is as BAD an idea as any, because it separates the emotional "ownership" of a community and/or county to a rail line it paid and fought for. 

Dumb idea, Metro: if any of us are "jonesing" to live in Philadelphia or New York, then that person or persons can move there. Here, it's a bit different. Stick to what works and stick to what got us here as arguably the most heavily-investing metropolitan community (Los Angeles) with respect to transportation in the nation (we used to be about dead last). 

But with respect to high-speed rail, there are many who question, or even reject, the high-speed rail plan in this state that IS highly overbudget and IS becoming financially mutually exclusive with a host of other Amtrak, Metrolink, Caltrain, Metro Rail, and other local train priorities, as well as a host of road, sidewalk, and other repairs in our cities and state.  

In other words, one can very much be pro-rail but wonder if the California High-Speed Rail Network (which I proudly fought for when the promises were much rosier than its current reality) is being represented well. 

After all, is it the job of the voters and taxpayers to "suck it up" and take whatever it gets from Sacramento, or is it the job of Sacramento to keep making their case to the voters and taxpayers? 

IS Governor Brown making his case to the voters and taxpayers? IS governor-wannabe Newsom afraid to debate John Cox because he knows Cox will score points with the voters about our roads being hurt all over the state for one singular high-speed train project? 

And what about the fact that there IS private funding for a high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Victorville, but virtually none for the California High-Speed Rail project, as promised there would be to the voters and taxpayers? 

High-speed rail is desired and being built all over the world--China, Europe and even Israel is pushing for it...all for those ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, and QUALITY OF LIFE issues. 

But cars are NOT going away, and neither should trains ... or bikes, or walking, or buses, etc. Even airports and planes need upgrading at times. So, is the argument about where to go with the California High-Speed Rail project an issue of credibility, or about transportation? Is it an issue of cost-effectiveness, or vital infrastructure? 

And as November does come up, both candidate for governor will need to step up and state their case: we need a plan. 

For all of California's transportation needs. 


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)