Fool Me Once …

ALPERN AT LARGE--One of my life's greatest adventures was the fight to create an Expo Line, which is now one of the most ridden light rail lines in the LA Metro Rail Network

. Another was to be part of the effort to make sure that an Orange Line to serve the needs of the SF Valley in the same way that the Expo Line serves the Westside, Mid-City, and Downtown LA regions. 

Simply put, those fighting for an Expo Line dismissed the option of a cheaper Busway and would not agree to anything less than a higher-capacity and more efficient Light Rail line (we can get into the moronic decisions about grade separation made by those who built and who fought that Expo Line, but...well...been there and done that, and now the fight is on for the Wilshire Subway). 

Meanwhile, the San Fernando Valley settled for a Busway, gave into its NIMBY critics, and chose to have something rather than potentially nothing, and has regretted it ever since. 

The long story (stories?) behind the naming of the Orange (in part to confuse and defuse the efforts to create an ill-advised Maglev train of the same name in the southeast LA County region, and which is now on its way to becoming another Light Rail line) and the cowardice of the San Fernando political "leadership" to get an also-ill-advised Robbins Bill reversed to allow for a Light Rail line is perhaps best dismissed as "ancient history" or perhaps "lessons learned". 

Yet we now enter a new realm in our transportation history: we've passed enough county funding, and potentially state funding, to pay for an upgrading of the Orange Line to a Light Rail.  

Yes, we can spruce up ridership and capacity of the Orange Line Busway, but in the long-term we need to correct the decisions and indecisions of the past to bring the Orange Line and San Fernando up to speed with the rest of the County. 

It's fair to demand that the Valley pay up, because the rest of the County has waited years to decades for their own light rails, and that includes the San Gabriel Valley, the Eastside, the South Bay, and the Southeast LA Cities. They're right to want a higher priority with Metro's money and resources, but the Orange Line (as with the Blue Line) will be more cost-effective if "repaired" now. 

Enter Proposition 6: There's a growing concern as to whether precious transportation dollars are being spent well, and that includes of course the California High-Speed Rail, which too often appears to have eclipsed the funding and construction of critical local rails (and roads!) that will within weeks to months of their completion serve the needs of tens to hundreds of thousands of commuters. 

Meanwhile, questions about as to whether the predictions and cost-effectiveness and future opening of the California High-Speed Rail is worth making local projects (such as the Orange Line upgrade) wait years to decades.  

In other words, many transportation (and rail!) advocates are really torn between their push for high-speed rail AND local rail/road projects, because they are too often coming across as mutually exclusive. 

(Ditto with education advocates who wonder if tax moneys for that set of priorities are being spent well, because there's a difference between "more money" and "better results".) 

So here we are, with an election coming up--we want more money to go to Sacramento, but (as with Los Angeles County and City) it's ANYTHING but certain that the money flowing to transportation, long-overdue for decades, will be spent WELL, or at least EFFICIENTLY. 

So, are we being FOOLs for wanting our Orange Line upgraded NOW? Or are we being FOOLs of a different sort by allowing the apparent craziness of our transportation spending to continue unabated? 

Come November, YOU decide. As for me, I'm just a FOOL!


(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.)