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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Increase Taxes for Transit

August 30, 2003

Re "MTA Debates Seeking a Tax Hike," Aug. 24: No one likes taxes, but taxpayers are much more concerned with how their taxes are spent than merely with the amount they are asked to pay; in other words, treat the taxpayers like investors and they will respond appropriately. When the MTA pushes to raise a sales tax where everyone contributes -- not just the homeowners -- for a list of approved transportation projects that will benefit the entire county, we need not wonder how that money will be spent. We pay too much in taxes already, yet the state and federal governments have both failed to give us a good return for our investment with respect to transportation.

L.A. must "save itself" by spending its hard-earned dollars on the new projects that are critical for us to pull out of our economic doldrums and show the state and federal governments we mean business when we demand their matching funds. A five-year sales tax increase for earmarked projects will do a great deal to spur our local economy, foster tourism and enable people to get to their jobs or other destinations. The money raised will help to establish our decades-overdue county rail system (one of the busiest in the nation already).

I am an otherwise anti-tax political conservative, but I am also a physician who was elected to represent my Westside neighborhood council. We are all drowning in congestion and pollution, and I encourage the city and county of L.A. to band together and throw their support behind the MTA to improve our environment and our quality of life.

Kenneth S. Alpern

President, Transit Coalition Los Angeles

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As L.A. County's population continues to grow, traffic and urban sprawl will get worse unless intelligent measures are taken. The result of one such measure is the recently opened Gold Line, which is taking cars off the roads, fighting sprawl and increasing pedestrian activity, making areas more alive and interesting. Fewer cars mean less traffic, less smog, better health and less dependence on foreign countries for oil. Urban sprawl increases traffic since those in outlying suburbs must drive farther to get to their jobs. This in turn causes numerous other problems. One example is the conflict between those outer suburbanites and those in danger of losing their homes due to freeway widening projects, a Band-Aid approach to the problem.

Residential development in downtown Los Angeles, the main transportation hub, and near transit stations is a great way to take care of the growth concerns. With the state budget cuts, funds are needed to provide more intelligent projects like the Gold Line and other transit needs. Although a gasoline tax seems more appropriate to me, a temporary half-cent increase to the sales tax would provide significant funds to move L.A. County in the right direction.

Mark Shickler

Santa Monica

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Re "Magic Johnson May Back Retail, Housing Complex in Chinatown," Aug. 26: There's a plan to construct a multilevel parking structure with a pedestrian bridge to the Chinatown Gold Line station. The bridge part is a bad idea, as it will hinder street life. Passengers getting off trains will use the bridge to walk over to Broadway instead of walking the two short blocks along College Street. This shortsighted mistake was demonstrated during the 1970s in the financial district, where elevated walkways were built that connected buildings and took pedestrians off sidewalks. The Chinatown station is a new and important element that will contribute to the redevelopment of Chinatown if used wisely.

Dennis Pierce

Los Angeles

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