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'Reshuffling RTD Won't Move Us'

April 28, 1987

The Wachs-Contini article is a curious mixture of fact and fantasy by two of Los Angeles well-known academic and private planners.

Fact: ". . . we collectively waste 480,000 person-hours in each workday standing still or moving in traffic at speeds below free-flow conditions."

Traffic congestion is ruining both our functional efficiency for business and the quality of life for our residents.

Fact: "Reorganizing the boards of local transit agencies is an attempt by politicians to get off too easily."

Mere displacement of the 9,000-person Southern California Rapid Transit organization by the 120-person Los Angeles County Transportation Commission will only worsen our local administration of transportation.

Fact: " . . . the light rail or trolley-car line now under construction between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach is very expensive and of limited benefit."

This understates the planning horrors committed by the LACTC group. The Long Beach/Los Angeles line is virtually worthless to both cities because of a bad route alignment and the use of a slow transit vehicle.

Six public and private organizations appeared at LACTC hearings and begged them not to send a rail line south that bypassed the USC/Exposition Park/Coliseum complex. Further, the LACTC rail plan for the Century Freeway does not include a direct entry into LAX; it stops at Parking Lot C and forces passengers to take their baggage to a shuttle bus.

Where were Wachs and Contini to criticize these LACTC actions at hearings when their comments counted?

The fantasy part of the Wachs/Contini article is rooted in their concept of why cities exist, their insistence on an auto/bus solution to all forms of urban congestion, and deliberate use of misleading data to describe what Metro Rail is.

Fantasy: "In outlying counties, we should build many more miles of roads and freeways. That's where most of the traffic will occur, and the added traffic will be concentrated."

There is no such thing as a dispersed city. Cities are concentrations of economic activities and human residence. Commerce/finance/government want to be close for purposes of face-to-face communication. The Wilshire Corridor and downtown L.A. have the largest employment intensity and population numbers in the entire west.

The high residential population could be encouraged to move out to the suburbs eventually if a fast rail connection back to central area jobs could be established. Look at the Bay Area Rapid Transit link to East Bay and downtown San Francisco.

To cope with the business/government need for close contact and concentration, 130 cities around the world have built subways to take part of the auto traffic off streets in their central built-up areas. These cities provide a rail alternative or supplement to the auto/bus system for good reason. Freeways can carry 5,000-6,000 vehicles per hour; Metro Rail cars can carry 35,000 passengers per hour.

Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto and San Francisco do exactly this for their downtowns. Ask a Bay Area resident if they would like to do away with their subway system.

Fantasy: "Metro Rail should be abandoned."

Metro Rail is no cure for all our congestion, but to rule it out as a major part of our movement system is to ignore what works in the rest of the world.

Fantasy: "(A subway) which in the end will serve but 1% or 2% of the region's trips in a single corridor producing less than 20% of the trips to and from downtown."

This is a gross and misleading use of statistics (1%-2%) to cite regional data to criticize a rail system that is mainly a commuter line from residence to workplace. Metro Rail advocates will be happy if the system provides 15%-20% of the journey-to-work travel; it was never planned as a 100% replacement of automobiles.

Fantasy: ". . . because Metro Rail costs are so high."

The Auto Club recently proposed a $20-billion freeway construction program. Presumably "freeway" money comes from the Tooth Fairy.

Relieving our congestion pain will not come cheaply and this must be faced squarely; 130 cities find the investment worthwhile. The Coalition for Rapid Transit, incidentally, has proposed a self-financing station plan that would defray about $1 billion of Metro Rail costs.



Coalition for Rapid Transit

Los Angeles

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