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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Livelihoods : Solutions : Ride the Rails to Clean the Air

July 17, 1994

FROM: William G. Ouchi, adviser to Mayor Richard Riordan, is on leave from UCLA, where he is a professor at the Anderson Graduate School of Management.

Ouchi intends to use a mass transit solution for an air pollution problem, but his overriding motivation is neither people-moving nor people-breathing, it's preserving a future for the Southern California economy.

The Clean Air Act became a sword hanging over this region last February, when the federal government, under a court order, issued a 27,000-page plan to clean up the air that included stringent new rules for trucks, planes, trains and ships. The plan would severely limit the region's economy. Heavy trucks would have the same low-emissions requirements as passenger cars. Ships would have to reduce engine emissions when entering the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The rules are unworkable. "Our harbor commissioners tell us that ships won't come to Los Angeles with such rules," Ouchi says.

But the rules also are not final. The EPA's intent was to force Los Angeles to come up with its own solutions to achieve compliance with the Clean Air Act. "The EPA gave us 12 months and made it clear they would look kindly on our response," Ouchi says.

The city's response will lie in curbing the passenger car and commuting traffic through an adaptation of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's $200-billion 30-year plan for mass rail transit.

Ouchi proposes to adapt the rail plan to create a high-speed rail system that would run between major centers--Warner Center to Century City, Universal City to Downtown, Huntington Park to Pasadena and so forth. Then minibuses and minivans would carry passengers to local destinations, much as airport shuttle vans do.

Over a period of years, there would be 50,000 to 60,000 minivans and minibuses run by private business, Ouchi says. The result would raise mass transit usage from today's 5% of home-to-work commuting to 22% by 2010. "It would return highway mobility to 1980 levels, 50% faster than today, and help immensely to bring Los Angeles into compliance with the Clean Air Act," he says.


This should happen, but will it? There has been little success so far in getting commuters out of their cars.

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