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VOICES / A Forum for Community Issues | Essay

Build Ridership for Mass Transit

October 14, 2000|JOE SHEA | Joe Shea is editor in chief of the online American Reporter newspaper and a reluctant driver

You might call me biased, because I met my lovely wife on the Red Line, but I think it's time the Metropolitan Transportation Authority got serious about building a constituency for expanded mass transit.

Los Angeles already has defied the critics of its 17-mile rail system who predicted it would be vastly underused; instead, we've filled up its subway cars and parking lots with tens of thousands of commuters relieved to be out of their cars and the lines for $1.79-a-gallon gas.

Now it's time to build on that success to expand the system to the beach, the airport (as opposed to Aviation Boulevard, two miles away) and commuter-rich areas like Simi Valley and San Pedro. Those who use the system know that it is one of the best bargains in the county--a quick, fast and easy "fix" for the tired, bus-weary, car-crazy commuters.

Here are some ways the MTA and mass transit customers can help expand the success of Metro Rail:

* Ask every candidate you encounter how they plan to expand mass transit coverage and increase its hours of operation.

* At every restaurant, store and theater you patronize via Metro Rail, let management know it is in their best interest to encourage a more comprehensive system.

* Urge the rescinding of the county ballot measure that barred new funds for subway-building.

* Attend meetings of the MTA board, which are open to the public, and speak out in favor of expanded rail stops north of Lankershim at Chandler and south and west of Western at Wilshire.

* Tell the MTA that you would like to see Metro Rail hours of operation expanded at least until after bar closing hours at 2 a.m., so that drinkers need not be drivers to get home.

The current system is wonderful, but it has some serious failings. Connections from LAX and Universal City Walk are cumbersome and difficult.

The Metro Rapid system of fast buses with few stops is a great idea, and all the red buses are jammed at rush hour. But why not stagger the stops on alternating streets so that passengers can get everywhere they're going instead of just to the main intersections?

The Green Line to Norwalk, where key county offices are located, drops you at one of the most confusing bus terminals imaginable. None of the stalls is designated and there's no quick and easy way to find your way to those county offices.

I love L.A.'s new mass transit system, but as tens of thousands of happy commuters are learning, it's not big or good enough for this vast and wonderful city. It needs a new constituency of transit-educated voters to make it grow.

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