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What CenterLine Can and Can't Do

January 27, 2002

Re "Successful Transit (Not CenterLine)," Commentary, Jan. 20:

Steven Frates believes that the solution to transportation problems is highways and more highways, with a monorail thrown in for good measure. He points to congestion reduction from Measure M freeway improvements and the toll roads. He is arguably right in the short term, but what happens when these improvements fill up? Will we take more and more land to satisfy the automobile's insatiable appetite for space, or will we use existing transportation facilities, and very limited additional facilities, more efficiently?

Frates points to West Los Angeles as often having gridlock because of lack of freeways. I have traveled in West Los Angeles during rush hours. It is often slow, but traffic does move. The Beverly Hills and Laurel Canyon freeways, once planned to serve this area, were deleted because of immense cost and potential for catastrophic neighborhood damage.

Today the buildings the roads would have taken provide businesses, homes and tax revenue, not noise, barriers and air pollution. West Los Angeles is one of the few places in Southern California where densities justify rail transit, and heavy rail transit at that: the MTA should extend the Red Line to Santa Monica.

Orange County does not now have the densities to justify rail transit, but it needs a commitment to building an efficient yet attractive and competitive public transportation system. The Orange County Transportation Authority's latest plans do include Bus Rapid Transit, which suggests that some people there are thinking along more reasonable lines than the autopia addicts, monorail maniacs and trolley jollies.

Robert P. Sechler

Cypress

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Frates is correct--Measure M has been effective at improving traffic bottlenecks--but it should be noted that Measure M is not threatened by the CenterLine project. Much of the CenterLine funding comes from federal grants that OCTA otherwise would not receive. Furthermore, light rail would complement the bus system and long-range commuter rail programs in Orange County.

Light rail is expensive to build, but its maintenance costs per rider are often less than bus service, and light rail attracts a broader base of ridership. The monorail system to the Inland Empire is under consideration, as a regional program that falls under the Southern California Assn. of Governments and outside the exclusive purview of OCTA. CenterLine does not in any way stall or prohibit the construction of a regional monorail or "maglev" system.

Furthermore, a high-speed rail line connecting San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County is in the works by the California High Speed Rail Authority and could potentially relieve more than 10% of air travel in California.

Emerging transportation solutions involve far more than building roads. The toll roads through eastern and southern Orange County have done an excellent job at accelerating sprawl and opening up new areas for development, but not at reducing traffic. One must look at the dramatic increase in congestion along South County arterials to fully evaluate the failure of our toll roads.

There is no single solution to our traffic problems, but the CenterLine is part of the solution.

Christopher Koontz

Orange

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Frates makes a number of important points regarding Orange County's poor return in capturing state transportation dollars. To compound the situation, it should also be mentioned that California in general receives less than it generates in federal tax dollars. The blame can be put only on the poor representation we get in the state and Congress.

Frates also points out the CenterLine further compounds our problems by drawing away what money there is on a very ineffective solution. But then he proposes a high-speed rail line from John Wayne to Ontario. I wonder where the studies are that show this to be a better or more effective system.

If such studies exist, I propose the system be funded like the toll roads. Let it pay for itself. Why should tollway commuters pay heavily while train riders get access to the tax dollars that subsidize transit? If the rail can pay for itself, I'm for it. But I'm betting it won't even come close.

Dave Mootchnik

Huntington Beach

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