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Mass Transit Is Road to the Future in L.A.

August 07, 2004|Harry Dougherty Jr.

Of all of the challenges that Los Angeles faces, the most important is public transportation. Public transportation can make our huge city a collection of accessible small towns. We have the weather, but we spend our lives getting anywhere to enjoy it.

Every morning, the top story in local news is the traffic. There's not a day that goes by without a major blockage or problem in several places. If a freeway has no problems, it is still a slow, painful crawl. If you try to avoid the freeways, alternate routes on surface streets and through residential neighborhoods are increasingly more crowded. Our quiet, green canyons have become winding rivers of exhaust fumes. Trying to get where we are going is choking neighborhoods and increasing everyone's frustration, not to mention at times endangering our children.

Where is our city's vision of the future? If we look at any freeway at rush hour, the commuters are there. We need to put the transportation where the people are and not allow private interest groups to sabotage change. (Why is there no Hollywood Bowl stop on the Metro Red Line, and why does the Green Line still not go to the LAX main terminal? Not to mention Dodger Stadium, the Coliseum-Exposition Park, the Los Angeles County Museum, etc.?)

If our city is to grow and be viable in the future, transportation must be our No. 1 priority. Cheap, clean, fast and reliable transportation is not the reality. The detritus of the last 50 years of transportation policy has turned our city into streets crowded with cars either parked or idling in traffic. This is a public eyesore as well as a huge cost and, unfortunately, the price of living in Los Angeles. Most neighborhoods of our city and the streets are lined with cars, and the less well-off neighborhoods are the most affected. Reducing the need for cars would improve our quality of life.

Public rail transportation serves most major-city airports. It should go to most major destinations, such as stadiums, concert halls, universities and entertainment centers. Why not ours? The 101 Freeway is a stream of cars from Ventura to downtown Los Angeles. What about the commute from the Valley to the Westside? The 405 Freeway is the world's longest parking lot.

San Diego has made a great start with its trolley system, as has the Bay Area with BART. Why can't we take these lessons and apply them here? When will it be our time?

Los Angeles probably has spent more money studying public transportation, with less positive results, than any other city in the United States. Our city leaders need the vision and the strength to follow through and make Los Angeles a model for the future.

We live in the land of dreams, with beaches and mountains in sight, but it is still a nightmare to get to those places. During the next election, all of the issues will go nowhere if this problem is not addressed. The time is now. It's the transportation, stupid!

Harry Dougherty Jr. lives in Sherman Oaks.

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