Mayor’s State of LA Not Just About Gangbangers

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There was precious little on transportation in Mayor Villaraigosa’s State of the City address yesterday, at least in what was reported in the local press. While the focus of the Mayor’s talk was the city’s strategy to fight gangs, there was an interesting paragraph on transportation.

CBS 2 had the longest quote:

Villaraigosa also called on federal and state leaders to prioritize funding for rail projects.

"It’s time to recognize that the only true long-term solution to gridlock is an efficient, convenient mass transit alternative. It is time to get serious about investing in rail again," Villaraigosa said.

"Everything is going to be on the table — including new local revenue options and private investment in the public good," he said. "This month, I’ll ask the MTA board to seek proposals to privately fund, build and operate an expanded transit system in Los Angeles."

Ok, so there’s a lot to cover for such a short section on transportation

First, the Mayor has renewed his call for better investment in L.A.’s rail system. Villaraigosa has certainly been an outspoken supporter of the Subway to the Sea, but sometimes the city and county lose sight of the goal of transit expansion and waste time, energy and money to increase automobile capacity. The call for new funding sources also seemed to be a tacit endorsement of Mike Feuer’s legislation, which was struggling in committee even as the Mayor spoke.

From there the Mayor calls for more private investment in building and operating "an expanded transit system in Los Angeles." Given the power of the bus and train operator’s union, it seems impossible that Metro is going to move towards a privately operated system.

Private funding of major MTA projects also seem unlikely. Transit projects aren’t exactly cash cows, as evidenced by recent fare hikes and the proposed service cuts.

In short, kudos to the Mayor for calling for more transit and better funding for transit. However, he missed a chance to make a greater impact in the public discussion about our transportation funding crisis, the debate on which has been somewhat lacking so far, by diluting his message by wasting time calling for privatized transit expansion.

One other question raised by the Mayor’s speech. Will the city’s increased focus on gangs mean that the city will have enough money to better protect the neighborhood around a certain Ballona Creek Trail entrance?

Photo: Daily News

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