Dana Gabbard: More Reasons to Vote for Measure R

(Dana Gabbard is Executive Secretary of Southern California Transit
Advocates. He is a daily bus rider and lives/works in the Wilshire
corridor/Westlake/Wilshire Center/Koreatown.  The Southern California Transit Advocates have their monthly meeting tomorrow and will feature Paul Dyson, president of
the Rail Passenger Association
of California (RailPAC).  Dyson will be discussing Proposition 1a, the High Speed Rail Bond measure.  Both Proposition 1a and Measure R have been endorsed by So.CA.TA.
)

At times as I am out and about I chance to glance down while waiting at
an intersection and noticed stamped in the sidewalk the name of the
contractor who laid the concrete, along with the year it was done.
Invariably the date is 30, 40 or (fill in the blank) years ago. In such
moment I briefly contemplate how much we are benefiting from the
investments our grandparents made in our built environment. And that in
many ways our society is based on exploiting what those who came before
us did while investing little or nothing in improving on the world as
we found it. Not only in a physical sense of allowing potholes to
remain unfilled, etc. but in our vision of the future–those who came
before us faced the future and shaped it, while we too often just allow
things to happen by happenstance.

Our chance to reverse that
trend and to seize control of Los Angeles County’s destiny will appear
on the November ballot. Measure R would impose for 30 years a 1/2%
sales tax in L.A. County dedicated to various transportation purposes
including partially funding big ticket urban rail projects like the
Purple Line extension to Westwood, Exposition light rail Phase 2, Green
Line extensions to LAX and South Bay Galleria, Crenshaw light rail
linking LAX and the Expo line and the Gold Line Foothill light rail
extension to Azusa. Plus funds for pavement and street maintenance and
a delay for at least one year of Metro’s planned 2009 fare increase.
Details are posted on the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s
website
.

Yes,
it includes money for some freeway projects. Yes, it does not include
the dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian projects many activists
wanted. And I won’t pretend I am enthused about every single item it
includes. But as Voltaire noted "The perfect is the enemy of the
good." While perhaps imperfect this measure would make possible much
that is good and it would be short sighted to reject it in service of a
narrow focus on a single element or because it doesn’t address
everything that is on our own personal wish list. Given political
realities this is the best measure we can hope for, and talk of sitting
on your hands awaiting an improved version in some future election is
foolhardy–this is likely the only chance we’ll have in the next 20
years to pass such a measure. Just contemplate that it was 5 years ago
that then state Senator Kevin Murray introduced the initial legislation
to allow an additional sales tax in L.A. County (SB 314). In the
intervening years Metro has been at work on a Long Range Plan to
identify the unfunded but much needed projects that such a tax could
make possible. And when conditions finally turned favorable for such a
tax to be passed a new bill had to be sheparded through the legislature
by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (AB 2321) to update the project list based on
Metro’s new Plan. We all witnessed the near soap opera this measure has
gone through that finally allowed it to officially be on the ballot
hardly a month before the November 4th election. If we fall short does
anyone seriously think the body politic (risk averse as it generally
is) would want to try again anytime soon? This is a do or die situation.

The arguments of the opponents as laid out in the sample ballot are
mostly misleading, myopic and mind-numbingly misguided. They cry about
no funding for the Gold Line Foothill extension past Azusa (toward
Claremont and Ontario) when the projected ridership for a light
rail line through those areas is so laughably small that puffed up talk
by local politicos of hundreds of millions in federal new starts funds
in the offing verges on the delusional. Opponents also act as if the
project priorities in Measure R are is the product of a back room deal
when it was actually done through established long range planning
processes that required vigorous technical justification whereas they
seem to feel funding the pet projects of parochial interests (light
rail along the Ventura Freeway, anyone?) is what constitutes "fair
distribution".

And if there is any doubt the opponents are out of touch they claim the
measure "rejects light rail for the Wilshire corridor". Ah, sorry but
no. During the past year Metro staff has been engaged in an
Alternatives Analysis Study for the Westside Transit Corridor Extension
per direction by their Board. All modes including light rail were
analyzed in the initial stages and light rail was found inadequate for
the projected ridership of a mass transit facility in the Wilshire
corridor. And by the way the two County supervisors, Gloria Molina and
Michael Antonovich, who signed the rebuttal argument that includes this
complaint never raised this issue in comments to the study, or indeed
submitted any comments. Talk about raising a strawman! The reason the
Wilshire project is included is it would be a tremendous boon to
regional mobility, benefiting all County residents not merely those who
happen to be among those who would use it once it was opened. By any
fair cost benefit analysis it is a necessary and prudent investment and
the many attacks against it by this motley collection of opponents
barely deserve refuting.

Lastly there is talk the current economic circumstances make this a bad
time to enact such a measure. I would argue to the contrary this is the
perfect time to do so. Crisises are opportunities in disguise, as they
allow the status quo and dogmas to be swept aside. If you have any
doubt about this, get a copy of Robert Caro’s The Power Broker which
describes the many imaginative things Robert Moses was able to do in
the depths of the Depression as federal monies flowed to build and
create jobs during the New Deal. Similarly the new paradigm we face
includes an emerging new urbanism and a growing consensus that
infrastructure investment is long overdue and vital to the economic
competitiveness of our region. The $19.9 billion in state
infrastructure bonds made possible two years ago by the passage of
Proposition 1B and the near $1 billion for regional rail projects
buried in the bullet train bonds on this current ballot (Proposition
1A, which polling indicates will pass) plus a likely new federal
involvement in building our way out of this economic disruption means
having funds to provide local match is a key to leveraging billions for
our region. Measure R for all these reasons is needed and needed now,
not some vague time in the far future. Be bold! Do the right thing!
Vote for Measure R! You won’t regret it!

  • I’m very much in agreement. Infrastructure investment has been horribly underfunded these last twenty years and we’re now at a crisis point.

    I do, however, have a different interpretation for the “rejects light rail for the Wilshire corridor” line. I suspect, and this is my political paranoia, that this is intentionally misleading.

    I suspect that they added this line not because they thought voters preferred light rail to subways but because they wanted to trick people into thinking that no money was being spent on the Wilshire corridor. I know, I know, sounds crazy; their whole argument is that too much money is being spent there, but phrases like that, confusing and out of context, could help create the impression that Measure R isn’t doing anything anywhere.

  • I just absentee voted “no” on Measure R. Who has canceled out my “no” vote?

  • I am voting No on Measure R.

    Metro and the L.A. councilmembers who oversee the funds have had ample chance to make Metro work. They have screwed up time and again, misappropriated funds and done little to make things better.
    It is time to get the funding funneled through those who are affected by it. Were Metro CEO Roger Snoble and his inept colleagues compelled to deal with the straphangers and bus riders rather than a few out-of-touch politicians and bureaucrats in Scaramento, then they would have to make the system work. A rider’s strike would be very effective in forcing improvements if only the fares collected were the primary revenue. But Snoble & Co. know this and would much prefer to drain funds from a few folk upstate.

    Dana, you state, “those who came before us faced the future and shaped it, while we too often just allow things to happen by happenstance.” Well, stop taking the easy way out and get ready to sacrifice. After all, you invoke Robert Moses, who helped shape a real city: New York. But he did it by building freeways in a fashion that destroyed entire communities throughout the city and Harlem. He was also responsible for such tricks as building freeway overpasses that prevented mass transit busses from traveling out toward the Hamptons and Montauk for reasons that are truly despicable. If you will not sacrifice by yourself, you will be. (Unless one lives near the already in-use single subway line.)

    Remember that when voting to give the schmucks at Metro another blank cheque. And do not imply I am agreeing with Molina nor Antonovich; their reasons to oppose R are selfish ones. (Molina has the Gold Line and Antonovich has Metrolink.) I feel mine have to do with reasons to make Metro work. Measure R will not help us, just a few who care nothing about public transit other than easy state funds.

    Tell Metro to take that $27 million of annual funds for private motorists: http://www.metro.net/news_info/facts.htm#P181_2906 and put THAT into the coffers for public transportation. Why should mass transit passengers pay for private motorists who refuse to get rid of their broken down motor vehicles and get on board? I understand your organisation has some clout with Metro, so why not push for that rather than yet another bill that will tax folk at the wrong time? If R is passed, I posit it will do naught to maintain a crumbling mass transit system that was poorly managed by the very people who have their hand out again.

  • Simon, that is an interesting theory. I think my interpretation is closer to what their intent was in using the phrase but certainly it may confuse Wilshire advocates into thinking R does nothing for that corridor.

    BusTard, it is your right to vote no. Although I have to say your comments at times seem disjointed (“…stop taking the easy way out and get ready to sacrifice.” HUH? And then after that bizarre statement you go on to rant about Robert Moses, totally missing the point about funding opportunities during economic hard times I was making). Personally I am tired of ad-hominine attacks of Metro based on nothing but vague insinuations like “They have screwed up time and again, misappropriated funds and done little to make things better.” Sorry to see you seem to champion the approach I criticize of how myopic it is to reject R “in service of a narrow focus on a single element or because it doesn’t address everything that is on our own personal wish list.” A handful of bloggers agreeing their anti-motorist bias is correct doesn’t constitute a consensus, especially in a political context. Any transportation funding measure, whether handled via the voting booth or through the legislative process, has to take into account the full spectrum of transportation needs. You keep talking as if you are leading some mass crusade but I have seen nothing to indicate such is the case. Making reference to tactics like a rider’s strike (a big flop when the BRU tried to do one) proves how out of touch you are about the realities of activism. It is sad when Calwatch in a commentary posted on Metro Rider LA [http://metroriderla.com/2008/10/08/measure-r-or-massive-service-cuts/] provides an invaluable overview of the dire consequences of Measure R failing but garners a response from you and a few others offering DOA anti-motorist solutions to transportation funding. You folks really seem determined to embrace your marginal status…

    BTW, I am gratified to note recent comments by Speaker Pelosi confirm the suspicions in my commentary that infrastructure funding is in the mix as part of the economic stimulus spending coming from our friends in D.C. and that R could provide a local match to leverage billions of such funds, much as happened during the Depression…

    http://www.house.gov/pelosi/press/releases/Oct08/monday.html

  • Dave

    I’ve been really conflicted about this…there are some projects in here that I like but I am tremendously distrustful of the MTA.

    Would any new jobs actually get created for working people? I imagine that most of the money would get sucked up by administrative salaries at MTA and sweetheart deals for Tutor-Saliba, etc.

    And sales taxes are highly regressive…this is just one more burden to be shouldered by struggling workers in this city. MTA estimates the cost at $25/yr per person…there are plenty of poor working families in LA for whom that represents a very significant amount.

  • The $25/yr number is bogus. It’s more like $100-200/year, which I’ve never been convinced the money couldn’t be appropriated by a thousand other taxes.

    And the real financial problem is that it is a direct tax and not a bond. But that’s in part because this is partially a response to Metro’s structure deficit. (Running empty Gold Lines has put a hurting on the agency).

    There are lots of reasons to oppose this measure, but the most significant is perhaps the lack of oversight.

    The entire process of planning and construction needs a significant overhaul. And this simply rewards a poor system, without even providing lipservice for reform.

  • Steve K.

    Well I’m in favor of it. I’ll pay the tax. Just get it done. I use the Rapid and Redline and my bike almost everyday. We need the public transportation. To do nothing is a crime.

  • I’m voting yes for Measure R. Our city is far behind in it’s transportation infrastructure, and it’s going to take serious funding to catch up. We could wait another few years for another bill that’s a little better to come around, but I’m sure there will be some component of it that some will nitpick much like this one, like why the west side gets money, how come there isn’t budget for a bike lane to my house, or not enough buses. Then we can just keep on waiting while the infrastructure around us crumbles and fails to keep pace with the other great cities of the world.

  • So, ubrayj02 and BusTard vote “No”, Gary Kavanaugh and Dana Gabbard vote “Yes”.

    This needs something like 2/3 of the electorate’s approval to pass, right? So far things aren’t looking very good for Measure R.

    Instead of giving the MTA new funding, I think it would be more reasonable to amend the funding formulas of Proposition A and C.

    It is is funny, reading from transit advocates about the political necessity of providing expanded subsidies for automobiles. How much traffic engineering juice have you guys been drinking, anyway? That is the last point of refusal they bring up when confronted about their myopic focus on automobile-only right-of-way design and planning.

    Well, it isn’t the last – if they get really desperate they’ll vaguely refer to laws or policies that they can’t cite or describe (and in fact, which don’t exist) that require them to focus heavily on cars.

    The whole thing with the politics of car subsidies is that it has little to do with getting people around, and a lot to do with how our society is structured to make capital flow. Cars (and cheap energy) keep our money, and demand for goods, swirling through our economy. What transit advocates miss is this side of the picture.

    If you can find a group of moneyed interests who will pay to make the case that transit can keep swirling money around our economy in a similar fashion, then you won’t need to include road-widening automobile pork with every public transit system expansion.

    I feel that bicycles can still allow us to be consumer whores, without all the destructive energy use. Here is my attempt at propaganda to that effect:

    http://flickr.com/photos/ubrayj02/2868472768/in/set-72157603569535466/

    So please, save us the lecture in political necessities. You obviously haven’t spent nearly enough time thinking about politics as you have spent salivating over new colors for MTA train lines.

    This massive gifting of money for new freeways is a multi-billion dollar 30-year penalty for not doing the political homework to get ’round the interests in favor of automobile subsidies.

  • Politics of any kind by it’s nature is a balance of compromise versus conviction. If this measure was nothing but bikes, peds, buses and trains, which I and I’m sure many here would of course love, then it never would have made it to the ballot in the first place. Traditionally mass transit spending had eaten more in the range 10% or less of the pie compared with automobile projects. This measure would lock in significant funding for mass transit on more equal footing with automobile spending, marking a real shift in priorities for Los Angeles even with some freeway projects thrown in.

    I don’t want to wait for the perfect lets only fund livable streets measure to come into being for substantial progress to be made. If it were all cars cars cars, then hell yes I would say shoot it down, hope it burns in flames. But transit projects have the bigger list of improvements with this measure, and our transit system needs every bit of support it can get.

    Every day thousands of cars idle on the 10 freeway in a giant snake of a parking lot at rush hour. We need efficient high capacity trains to reduce car use for trips like this. The Rapid buses are overwhelmed and filled to capacity. With state budget shortfalls, we are barely going to be able to keep the same level of bus service as it is let alone continue rail expansion. Rail can move more people faster and more efficiently, and should be the backbone of the system. The rapid bus system is a stop gap measure that is not sufficient in many traffic heavy corridors. If we get a solid train system as a backbone, we can prioritize more buses to increase frequency and connections for local travel.

    These issues aren’t going to go away while we craft our perfect Utopia measure and try to pitch it to City Hall.

  • Umberto Brayj, you are just the latest in a long line of visionaries I’ve encountered who think the rest of us should see the light in re your brilliant vision and take up the crusade. And interestingly all those folks also had the same snide streak you exhibit.

    Good luck with your purist approach. One guy spent 35+ years and never got one inch of progress. Bet you are going to have the same success.

  • “Traditionally mass transit spending had eaten more in the range 10% or less of the pie compared with automobile projects. This measure would lock in significant funding for mass transit on more equal footing with automobile spending, marking a real shift in priorities for Los Angeles even with some freeway projects thrown in.”

    Gary Kavanaugh,

    Is there an already made info-graphic that can demonstrate this point?

    To both of you:

    WTF are you talking about? Utopian? “Visionary”? Give me a break! I don’t give a crap about utopia! I DO care about providing more options to get around town _ I just prefer not to throw billions of dollars at an issue because other people can’t do their friggin’ homework and figure out how to build a movement around shifting funding priorities. Sales taxes hurt the lowest end of our society hardest. I don’t think that a proposal like should get a stamp of approval simply because it’s got the rail junkies all pumped up.

    I heard Assemblyman Feuer in L.A. Council in January, and he is a bright guy, but he was on a tear about how we should fund every transit project possible with sales tax revenue, and allow that revenue to be tied to bonds for an even greater sum. I know I’m not the only one who sees things like that and thinks, “You have no political gumption, so my grandkids will be paying for it?”

    Nix one freeway project, and the money for that could fund a 5%-10% modal shift in the entire county to bicycles. This isn’t Utopian. It’s a bread-and-butter local politics issue. Similar things can be done for more rapid bus service in the county.

    We don’t need untold billions of dollars to squeak out less than half of it for real transit improvements. We need to take money that is already locked into the MTA’s car-only budget and put it in another pot. There is nothing “visionary” about that!

    This baloney “We should fund every freeway, train line, bus project, etc.” line is baloney. I don’t think the voters are going to go for it. At least not this voter.

  • For the ready made info graphic, it’s one pulled from a streets blog post a little while back.

    http://la.streetsblog.org/2008/07/22/highway-funding-the-last-bastion-of-socialism-in-america/

    My point is with investment priorities that look like that, seeing a far more balanced approach to funding mass transit versus cars in Measure R seemed like a huge gain to me. I’m not arguing against we need to re-prioritize the money we already have, I think we should be doing both. LA is so far behind relative to it’s size and estimation of population growth that I feel something like Measure R is a necessity. That is if we want to leap frog to an efficient and effective system to play catch up with all the other cities that didn’t ax their rail infrastructure.

    If it were up to me I’d love to see a tax on vehicle miles traveled (with a scale for vehicle weight class) pay for these projects instead. But given the fact so many still feel addicted to their vehicle miles, I see that as having even less hope of passing. Especially after hearing of lotteries getting more interest where they changed from prize money to free gas cards even though the value of the money was greater.

    About the nix a freeway project and it will fund all of our bicycle dreams, that is probably true, but our city’s leadership lacks the political will to fund bicycle projects. Money wise, bike projects are the cheapest transportation project to fund relative to everything else, it’s not a matter or money as much as it is short sighted leadership. We couldn’t even convince the politicians we should have a 1% guarantee for ped and bike infrastructure, what makes you think we can get a whole freeway projects worth. I think a 5%-10% model shift is going to be a serious hurdle for L.A., considering Portland barely gets cycling numbers like that. We need a culture shock in America as much as we need investment to get more bikes on the road. It’s going to take more than money to do that.

    However I will diverge from Dana’s criticisms a bit. Knowing what you do in your community, I think you’re a pretty exceptional force for change amongst those you interact with, and even those who just see you hauling epic groceries in a cargo bike. Obviously I disagree with you on Measure R, but I think it’s amazing the work that you do, and hope you keep on doin what your doin.

    I get the points you are trying to make, but I still feel like the compromises in Measure R are worth the benefits.

  • Alright. I change my vote.

    I’ve got the ballot in my hand right now.

    What the hell: “Yes on R”.

  • I am voting for Measure R. I don’t buy the argument that BusTard makes. Yeah, sure, Metro is not perfect. But the last time a sales tax measure was passed for Transit we got the Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line, Gold Line, and the Rapids.

    There is almost NO other way to raise these funds in dysfunctional California. Prop 13 makes local bond funding difficult or impossible (or too expensive). County and City budgets are strained. The anti-tax crusaders like the Reason Foundation take money from the oil industry to fight transit, and portray themselves as protecting the common man. How else will be get this done?

    If Measure R is defeated, it might take 10 more years to secure basic funding. If it passes, the funds can be secured immediately against future revenue collections. What’s the problem here?

    If Obama is elected, there will be significant federal funding available for transit, and these funds could be used to attract matching funds. That is looking pretty likely.

    Yes, I say. Yes on Measure R.

  • davidagalvan

    Great blog, Dana! I’ve been stumping for Measure R amongst my friends. Really hope it passes. If it doesn’t, I expect it will be at least several years before a similar measure makes it back to the ballot, and I’m sure others will have problems with that one too. I’ve had enough of this putting off a commitment to better public transit to the future. If we want to make this into a great city, one people will actually want to visit instead of one that is synonymous with traffic and smog, we are going to have to commit our votes and our money. Let’s fix the mistakes of our predecessors (the total commitment to the freeway system), and make some progress for the sake of our children and grandchildren!

  • alex

    The politicians (and the real-estate developers backing them) want you to believe that Measure R is designed to reduce traffic. That is not the case. The Metropolitan Transit Authority has already stated that the Expo Line will not reduce traffic on the 10 freeway or any of the adjacent boulevards. The Department of Transportation has publicly stated in a letter to the MTA that the at-grade Expo Line will make the traffic on the north-south streets such as Overland, Westwood, Sepulveda and Bundy considerably worse. The politicians (particularly in Santa Monica) have let the real estate developers run riot and now we have bad traffic on the Westside. But now the developers are at an impasse because the Environmentally Impact Reports for their big projects are stating that they can’t build as high or as large as they want to because of the traffic. Measure R is their end run so they can keep building. Their dream is to fill in the gap between Century City and the Water Garden with numerous high-rise office and condominium projects. If you vote yes, you will be funding the high rise development of the Westside. At the very least shouldn’t this be funded by a commercial real-estate tax instead of a sales tax? I urge you to visit the Vote Yes on Measure R website. They don’t have a single statistic or expert in the field to back up their claims. That’s because, despite thousand of riders, no rail line in Los Angeles has ever improved traffic.

  • “I urge you to visit the Vote Yes on Measure R website. They don’t have a single statistic or expert in the field to back up their claims. That’s because, despite thousand of riders, no rail line in Los Angeles has ever improved traffic.” –Alex

    Oh, I’ve visited the Yes on R website. And you’re wrong about them not having a single expert in the field to back up their claims, which are not limited to improving traffic. The claims they are making is that expanded rail and bus and metrolink service will provide more non-car transit options to citizens of L.A. county:

    Here’s just a few:
    -Dr. Irving Kett, Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, Cal State LA*
    -Jonathan P. Stewart, Professor and Vice Chair, UCLA Civil & Environmental Engineering Dept. *
    -Phil Recht, former Deputy Administrator of National Highway Traffic Safety*

    The media gallery here: http://www.yesonmeasurerla.com/gallery.htm#video
    provides leaders in safety and civil engineering discussing the infrastructure repairs and safety improvements that will result from the increase in funding from Measure R, as well as a leader at the American Cancer society endorsing R for funding public transit that will get people to drive less, producing less greenhouse gas emissions and unhealthy smog emissions.

    Alex, your problem is that you are thinking from a car-driver’s perspective. You’re worried about whether car-drivers’ traffic will get better or worse. You don’t seem to be worried at all about our dependence on foreign oil, our emission of greenhouse and smog gasses, making more options available to those who can’t afford to drive, or making this city more inviting to tourism.

    Guess what: as the population of L.A. county increases (30% by 2030), traffic will ONLY get worse. Expanding the freeways won’t solve it, and you have already stated that building rail lines won’t necessarily help the car-drivers. What WILL get people to give up their car-commutes is providing them with more transit options at lower prices. We’ve already seen the ridership of the metro rail lines go up 10% from sep 2007 to sep 2008. Thats’ alot more people who have decided it’s worth the price difference to take public transit (due to increasing gas prices). Their cars are no longer on the road, and that is good for the environment, good for people’s wallets, and good for their health (mental and physical).

    The current drop in fuel prices is due to the tanking world economy, not because there is suddenly a huge supply of oil. As we recover from this bad economy, those oil/gas prices will continue their climb. We need to find a better solution. Public Transit helps the entire county.

    Your only argument against Measure R that I have heard is that R won’t stop traffic from getting worse. The problems with having a car-dependent city go far beyond traffic. You can continue to campaign against over-development even if Measure R passes. (although, campaigning against development in the 2nd biggest city in the nation seems like a pretty futile effort, if you ask me). The only difference will be that we’ll also have more transit options for the population of this county.

  • alex

    The reason I focus on the traffic is because Measure R is being sold as reducing traffic. That’s a lie, and that needs to be pointed out. No rail in Los Angeles, despite all the ridership, has ever reduced traffic. And none of those experts say it will reduce traffic. And since they haven’t reduced traffic, the rail lines built to date have not reduced our consumption of foreign oil. They have not reduced smog, and they have not reduced greehouse emmisions. We have already built several rail lines and there are more cars on the road not less. It seems like rail should do all the things you listed, but it doesn’t because developers swope in and start building high rises, which negates all the positive environmental effects. Once these rail lines are funded the developers will have a free pass to build high rise after high rise on the Westside. If people still want to vote for Measure R knowing that informatio fine, but the way this thing is being sold as traffic relief stinks.

  • @alex: You have to look at this on a per capita basis. If you drive to work, and then one day you decide that instead you are going to take the bus, are you honestly going to try and tell me that your decision did not lead to a (small though it may be) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, smog, and oil usage? Of course it did! You can see the difference (in oil usage anyway) in your wallet.

    The reason traffic doesn’t improve when new transit systems start operating in L.A. is because our population is increasing. But that does NOT mean that the new transit systems haven’t reduced smog, greenhouse gas emissions, or dependence on foreign oil The transit systems HAVE reduced each of these things. Here’s why: as more people start living in this county, those additional people start driving on our freeways, canceling out the effect of people giving up driving to use the new transit systems.

    Evidence:
    Ridership on all the metro rail lines and all metro-controlled buses increased from Sep 2007 to Sep 2008 by anywhere between 6% (on the buses) and 30% (on the gold line). Many people claim that ridership increases on rail lines are just due to bus-riders switching from bus to rail, but that’s not the case this time, since bus ridership is up as well. So where did all these new bus and rail riders come from? Clearly they are at least partially from people who decided to stop driving and take public transit instead, due to the higher gas prices.

    (format: average weekly boardings in 9/2007 –> avg weekly boardings in 9/2008, % change) Source: http://www.metro.net/news_info/press/Metro_169.htm

    Metro Orange Line
    25,618 –> 27,987 + 9.25%

    Metro Red/Purple Line

    136,355–> 149,699 +9.79%

    Metro Green Line

    40,576–> 45,346 +11.75%

    Metro Gold Line

    19,579–> 25,511 +30.3%

    Metro Blue Line

    77,834–> 84 ,917 +9.1%

    Directly Operated Bus Lines

    1,179,359–> 1,253,620 +6.3%

    Now, what if all those rail and bus lines didn’t exist? Then the people for whom driving had become more expensive would not have a transit system to fall back on, and would have been forced to keep driving (emitting greenhouse gases, pollution, and sucking up oil), or make other drastic and unwelcome changes to their lifestyle like moving their residence or changing their jobs. The fact that those transit systems WERE there meant they were able to use them. Each of those people that switched to transit represents an automobile off the road, and therefore their usage of those transit systems means a reduction of emissions and oil dependence PER CAPITA. As the population goes up, yes our gross oil usage will probably go up as well, but the amount of oil used PER PERSON will go down if we have good public transit available, and people willing to use it.

    So yes, traffic will continue to go up if we have a public transit system, just due to the fact that our population is growing. But it won’t go up as much as if we didn’t have a public transit system, since many people then would not have a choice other than driving.

    What you are advocating, voting no on Measure R, will prevent people from having more non-car transporation options, which will keep the contribution to traffic/pollution per person constant. Since the population will rise regardless this will make our pollution and traffic worse than if more transit options were available.

  • alex

    I’ve heard that all before. And all your theories might have been correct if at the same time the rail lines were built we had put limits on real estate development, but we didn’t – so they are not. And we’re not going to ever see a decrease of any of those environmental effects anytime soon since the real purpose of Measure R is to increase the number of real estate projects built on the Westside. Every time an office building is built it creates new traffic that didn’t exist in the area before (not just commuters, but trucks have to make deliveries, and customers have to visit the business). High-rise building is definitely good for the economy but its bad for traffic and the local environment.

  • Please note nowhere in my commentary did I say or imply Measure R would reduce traffic. Thanks to my keeping an eye on what rail opponents argue and then reverse engineering I realized the reason they always focus on congestion relief is because it is a strawman. Traffic is dynamic–only limits on use (congestion pricing, rising gasoline prices) can reduce traffic. When ar car user shifts to using transit it merely fress up space to allow someone to shift when they drive (this is known as induced traffic) and the roads end up are as crowded. The importance of rail in urban settings is it provides options for mobility, and supports lifestyles that are more friendly/livable.

    “put limits on real estate development” How do we do that? Ban having kids? That is where most of our growth is coming from.

  • Wad

    Alex, if you think the real purpose of Measure R is to be a vector for land speculation on the Westside:

    1. The horrendous traffic there is a result of what has already been built. The subway and Expo are remedial measures. These are things that should have been running 30-35 years ago.

    You could leave the Westside land use patterns frozen in time and still get the same traffic patterns.

    2. Real estate speculation is a moot point for the next few years, anyway. We’re going to have to make do with the projects that were built during the bubble and make them last.

    3. Actually, office buildings are the least worst traffic impacts you can have. Generally, they produce the least traffic and they concentrate traffic to a few hours. Retail use produces the most traffic, since it brings in all three (employees, services, customers) spread throughout the day.

  • I just came back to this article (from Damien’s post on the highlights of the year) and re-read the comments.

    In my not-so-humble opinion, anyone who voted “no” on Measure R has forfeited his or her right to make any comments on how the money is spent over the next 30 years.

    Since Umberto changed his mind, I guess that leaves Randall BusTard (and possibly alex, I can’t tell how he finally voted), so anything posted on the Bus Bench about project funding must be ignored now.

    Of course, he’s also the one who gained fame for his series on stopped escalators that never acknowledged the fact that misbehaving youth who think it’s “fun” to hit the emergency stop button (which then requires someone with a key to restart the escalator) is the biggest cause of the problem …

  • ” so anything posted on the Bus Bench about project funding must be ignored now…” Kym

    Kym if you look at The Bus Bench, I also write on it. I also pay for the hosting, do the crappy design and take care of all costs associated with The Bus Bench.

    I voted yes on Measure R, but unlike certain people I’m open to perspectives that are not exactly the same as mine and not only that, I don’t feel that people who don’t agree with me are morons.

    I don’t think I’m the goddess of all that is public transit.

    Anyone who pays taxes will have a right to make a comment on whatever their taxes will pay for even if they didn’t vote for a particular measure.

    “he’s also the one who gained fame for his series on stopped escalators that never acknowledged the fact that misbehaving youth ” kym

    That is your opinion. I don’t find it always to be the acts of youth, anyways…we have a new series starting next year and I’m sure Metro or the people they pay will not be able to scapegoat children for their incompetence in The Bus Bench’s new area of interest.

    Browne

  • “In my not-so-humble opinion, anyone who voted “no” on Measure R has forfeited his or her right to make any comments on how the money is spent over the next 30 years.

    Since Umberto changed his mind, I guess that leaves Randall BusTard (and possibly alex, I can’t tell how he finally voted), so anything posted on the Bus Bench about project funding must be ignored now.” -Kym

    Since you are unable to restrain yourself from making snide and incompetent remarks on public forums, let me just say that you need to stop being a jerk. I have seen how you lot run your little organisation, and it is a bit of a joke, to state the least. That you are forever making sure everyone what you do with respect to Metro (“Since I’m a Metro governance councilmember, I disqualify myself from the prize aspect of this, but I did want to answer the question.” What kind of juvenile posturing is that?!) and neighbourhood councils, is long past tiresome. Your idiotic reasoning on why The Bus Bench should be ignored, however, is one that prompts me to tell you to go screw yourself.

    You and Dana had the chance to debate me live. One wonders why you did not, when instead Hang Fung (to his credit, although I cannot understand why he wastes time with you a schmuck such as you) was there to represent what you could not possibly have done.

    I do not like you, and yet I have not stooped to telling folk to ignore socata. You are a schmuck, and if your behaviour is what Metro condones, then there is far worse trouble at One Gateway than even we at The Bus Bench believe.

  • (Isn’t transit-nerds battling on internet message boards one of the signs of the apocalypse?)

    Meh. Get over the squabbling, everyone. Discussions about the good/bad things that would come out of Measure R made sense before the election. Not anymore. And getting personal about this stuff just makes you look juvenile.

    Let’s realize that we all want better transit options for people in L.A. county and start thinking about things that help to make that happen.

  • Hank Fung

    Agreed. But for the record, the reason that I showed up was because I was asked to by Umberto Brayj. He invited me before he invited Kym or Dana. I happen to live in the San Gabriel Valley and have the ability to get home to my neighborhood after 8 p.m. (which Kym doesn’t have). Please get my name right the next time though.

  • Sorry about that typo, Hank. As for the invite, I offered to debate—rather than was invited—and as such assumed that that was how you got on board, as could have anyone else.