Sunday, May 27, 2007

Build Rapid Transit Rail, No Matter What The Price

There's a tendency in the press, and it's certainly evident at the Los Angeles Times, to overstate the difficulties of any course, but especially when money has to be raised, or projects built.

Harry Chandler, an early publisher of the Times, has gone down in history as a reactionary, because of his Republican allegiances, and his unfairness to Democrats and organized labor. But at least Chandler helped mightily to build things. He was instrumental in the project that brought water to the city and let it grow. And he had no hesitancy about transit and other projects the facilitated the growth of the city. Los Angeles would not have four million people today without him.

All this seems to me to be pertinent when I read the story headlined, "MTA rail projects may not get there despite fare hike," by Jeffrey Rabin and Rong-Gong Lin in Saturday's Times.

First, the fare hike. There has been far too much angst over this. Of course, there needs to be a fare hike. It's been quite a few years since there was one, there is nothing about this that is going to put people into poverty,or stop them from using the system, and the money is clearly needed to build and operate a better transit system at a time when the metropolitan area is stifling in traffic and gas prices continue to soar.

A fare hike will help both to erase operating deficits, and provide money to operate new lines. But its chief value may be to convince officials in Congress and the White House budget office that Angelenos are serious about better transit, and that they ought to support it with federal appropriations. Certainly, without federal aid, the much-needed subway from Wilshire and Western out to Santa Monica will never be built. But federal subsidies are needed too for other necessary lines, and state money out of recently authorized bond issues must be encouraged to be allocated too.

One of the best things about the Rabin-Lin article was its graphic, the map of existing rail lines and a thumbnail sketch of proposed lines. Not only should all these lines be built, but others may be wise as well. What about the prospects of a line from LAX up through the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys to the Palmdale Airport? What about the proposed Orange County to Las Vegas high speed rail line? Neither of these were even shown among the proposals, though they have been discussed for a long time.

Some projects, such as the extension of the Gold Line to Montclair, and the extension of the Green Line to LAX should have gotten underway a long time ago. The Rabin-Lin article makes them sound iffy, when they are essential.

This would be a good subject of articles, if not a crusade, in Jim Newton's new editorial pages.
It would be a way for the Tribune Co. to show just a small degree of devotion to the Los Angeles area.

The news sections are doing a fairly good job of writing about the transit issue. It's in the paper every few days. But both the paper's editors and municipal leaders have to show the interest and determination to move ahead, and quickly.

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