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Looking Down the Road

August 14, 2004

I don't know if Harry Dougherty Jr.'s vision of "cheap, clean, fast and reliable" public transportation would really do very much for mobility in the L.A. area ("Mass Transit Is Road to the Future in L.A.," Voices, Aug. 7). In New York City there is an extensive network of buses, subways and commuter trains. Many New Yorkers don't even own a car. Yet getting from Point A to Point B is still an ordeal. According to a U.S. Census survey, the average home-to-work commute time in New York is 35% longer than it is in Los Angeles.

What these two very different cities have in common is very simple: There are just too damn many people. When there are too many people there will be congestion, whether it's on the freeway or in the subway. The insane price of a home in both New York and Southern California is also a not-too-subtle hint that both of these areas are way overpopulated.

America is a big country with lots of open space. We need to spread out and live in metropolitan areas of a more manageable size.

OK, when I am I leaving? I'll let you know.

Frederick Singer

Huntington Beach

From the news pages to the editorial and opinion sections, last week was a big week for transportation. Our leaders wholeheartedly endorsed halfhearted plans to increase our mobility, and NIMBYs from valley to valley stopped, or wished they could stop, projects aimed at improving that mobility. Those of us wondering what is at stake might pay a visit to my neighborhood, the corner of Avenue 43 and Figueroa in Northeast L.A.

Things are changing. Across from the Jack in the Box and a few doors down from the WIC office, an independent coffeehouse has opened. Just north along Figueroa, the gas station has replaced its dilapidated garage bays with a Subway sandwich shop. Why? Well, last year the MTA invested about $70 million in my community in the form of the Southwest Museum Gold Line station.

Just past the Southwest Museum, and a few steps up Museum Drive, you will find my house and others, many priced less than the median home in Los Angeles County.

Hop the train and in 15 minutes you are in either downtown Los Angeles or Pasadena, day or night, SigAlert or not. What is happening here should be replicated 1,000 times over. If only we had more leadership and fewer NIMBYs.

Peter Capone-Newton

Los Angeles

Readers might like some historical perspective on what we once had. In 1910, my grandfather lived in Villa Park and commuted to work in downtown L.A. He would drive his horse and buggy three miles to Olive (now part of Anaheim). For a nickel, the Red Car trolley would deliver him downtown in 45 minutes. This was not as cheap as it sounds; $15 would buy an acre of good farmland in north Orange County in 1910. But oh, the convenience!

It is inevitable that we will re-create the Red Car system. It will cost about $1 billion per mile.

James A. Smith

Palos Verdes Estates

My husband and I recently purchased a second home. After two years of looking and trying to decide what we really wanted, we ended up buying in an urban setting. We actually did a 180; originally we thought we wanted acres of land and a small town. What we opted for was a loft in a high-rise in the Pearl District of Portland, Ore. We ended up buying there because of mass transit -- and the city's vision. This letter is regarding those who have been commenting on the noise issues of mass transit.

I don't live by a light-rail system here in Orange County, but this is what we have learned after trying urban and comparing it to O.C. suburbia. We had two choices when we bought, a building by the freeway and one with the streetcar that went along both sides of the building. We picked the streetcar because the freeway noise was so obnoxious. We don't rent a car when we arrive in Portland; we don't need one.

I love the weather here in Southern California and the wonderful multipurpose trail system that they have in south Orange County, but we are so lacking in our mass transit. When we go to Portland we get such a kick out of the urban life -- letting our own two feet take us where we want to go -- and the opportunities that this type of density provides. Almost everything you need is within a few blocks of your home. We overheard a lady on the cable car one day comment that she gave up her car and "she never felt so free." Maybe it is a paradigm shift that is in order here in Southern California.

Gail Massoll

Trabuco Canyon

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