Wed, May

Rail Transit is Dying, and Its Causes Go Way beyond COVID


THE DOCTOR IS IN - As someone who's spent 20 years or so pushing for an Exposition Light Rail Line, a Wilshire Subway Extension, and a county/statewide rail system, I am hardly some knee-jerk anti-rail activist. But it's way down and dying in numbers, and it's not too hard to know why. 

I've never stopped warning of rail transit's demise, even when I helped push the tide high for its support, and actually helped raise your taxes to pay for it. As with road/freeway repair and New Starts (new projects built where none existed before), rail transit maintenance and New Starts can do a great deal to improve life economically and with respect to quality of life. 

Los Angeles Metro's ridership is only around two-thirds that of pre-COVID levels, but even the acclaimed BART system in San Francisco is actually LOWER in percentage of ridership numbers.  

It's hoped that the new Mayor Karen Bass and her Metro appointees City Councilmembers Yaroslavsky and Krekorian, as well as grassroots economic leader Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, can make a difference. 

How do we proceed? 

First, we unhesitatingly state the obvious: the Homeless have rights, but they do NOT have more rights than the rest of us--particularly if we're paying their way. The homeless should be allowed to use rail/bus transportation without any abuse, but if they want to make Metro Rail or bus lines (or adjacent stations) their homes, they need to be relocated ASAP. 

Second, although I absolutely ABHOR identity politics, I am grateful that Mayor Bass has three out of four L.A. City Metro Boardmembers (including herself) being women.  

I think that Councilmember Krekorian rounds things out well...I presume he's a family man as well as a City leader, and we need to wrest Metro Board priorities away from tone-deaf men (I saw them aplenty, and was and remains as horrified by their callousness during the past 20 years) who don't give a rip about safety/security issues that we ALL have, but particularly women/mothers. 

So here's a few obvious features about public rail transit (ditto for buses, but especially for rail riders who are being asked to eschew their cars for rail transit) as we aim for a future L.A. City Olympics in 2028: 

1) As stated above, the homeless have no business making rail lines, freeways, and major thoroughfares their homes. Former Councilmember Mike Bonin and Former Mayor Eric Garcetti were once wonderful Metro Board additions, but their prioritizing homeless "rights" and allowing the crazies to drive away riders merit their departure...to you and your ilk, BEGONE! 

2) Sheriff's deputies and LAPD officials have every right to kick criminals and gangbangers off Metro, and to check fares to make sure that honest riders use transit without fear or inconvenience. Women of all ethnicities, and particularly those with children in tow, should ride Metro Rail (and bus) transit without any fear.  

To those screaming "racism", "classism", "there's no problem here", and the like (and you're usually men with no kids)...BEGONE! 

I personally welcome everyone, of all ethnicities and ages, to Metro Rail, Rapid Bus, and other mass transit to ride what you paid for and avoid traffic. I didn't fight like hell to create an Expo Line to unite the different ethnicities and regions from Santa Monica to the Mid-City and Downtown for nothing. We're all one race...the human race. 

I think that Metro's choice to blast classical music at the Westlake/Macarthur station on the Red Line is a brilliant idea, and it appears to be reducing crime, vandalism, drug activity, and loitering. 

3) Stop gaslighting us and promoting inappropriate car-oriented overdevelopment near Metro Rail stations. They should be for low-income housing: and that means Student Affordable Housing, Workforce Affordable Housing, and Senior Affordable Housing. 

Parking spots should be few and a paid extra for those who wish them, and maybe a Metro-overseen enforcement of who is allowed to live there to ensure transit-oriented mobility is in order. Hard if not impossible to implement, but a consideration. 

4) Stop giving in to those who choose to prioritize bicycles over buses/rail lines, and stop presuming the "spandex shorts crowd" actually represent anywhere near the majority of bicycle riders.  

From Venice Blvd. to the publicly owned rail right of way between the Crenshaw Line and Union Station (and connecting to the Blue Line!), the overwhelming numbers of those who want to use Rapid Buses and Rail Transit have been told to pound sand to enable and prioritize a very small number of riders.  

There are plenty of bicycle-only routes, both safe and convenient, to be explored and built and allow mobility for all...a rising tide lifts all boats, etc.  

5) Make the WiFi/Internet experience wonderful on Metro Rail lines to encourage more riders-by-choice, and particularly students. 

6) Metro Rail and Metrolink should work more in concert, and not in competition. 

7) Ditto for Metro Rail and connecting Rapid Bus operations. 

Enough is enough...all of what has been stated above is hardly beyond the realm of common sense. 

And it's hoped that Mayor Bass and her Metro Board team will revive what was once the most promising rail/transit system opportunities in the United States. 

The 2028 Olympics is coming...and we need to be ready for it. 

(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 to a wonderful wife and father to two cherished children. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two stints as a Board member for 9, years and is also a Board member of the Westside Village Homeowners Association. He previously co-chaired the MVCC Outreach, Planning, and Transportation/Infrastructure Committees for 10 years. He was previously co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, the grassroots Friends of the Green Line (which focused on a Green Line/LAX connection), and the nonprofit Transit Coalition His latest project is his fictional online book entitled The Unforgotten Tales of Middle-Earth and can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)