As a Beverly Hills resident and safe streets advocate, I’m often asked, “Is everybody in this city against tunneling under Beverly Hills High School to build the Westside subway extension?” (Dunno.) “Why does your city oppose every good transportation proposal?” (Ditto.) Even I don’t have a real sense of the opposition. The vocal folks are only a small fraction of our city of about 35,000 people, but they carry the tune. Who has the polling data anyway?
In all of the yammering, though, we overlook the other costs of the fight with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It’s not just money; the Beverly Hills Unified School District has plenty to throw at it. Rather, it is the continued countenance of car-choked streets that turn 99% of us away from the single best answer to congestion that we have: the bicycle. In shackling ourselves to the automobile, we overlook the tangible sacrifices that we make every day. For many of us, however, the tunnel issue is a hypothetical.
City officials have a delicious opponent in Metro, which has long had its way with small communities. But instead of tapping into community fear, civic leaders could address our land use and transportation challenges and strike an appropriate balance between the urgent (the tunnel) and the important (future mobility and housing affordability). When we make hyperbolic claims in lieu of sober rationales, we betray our worst side. And that makes it more difficult to tackle our above-ground problems — to say nothing of cultivating the goodwill of folks across the region.