BRU: How About a Stimulus for Bus Riders?

3_19_09_bru_rally.jpgTae Soon Jeon Speaks at Today’s Rally. Photo via Bus Rider’s Union

This morning, the Bus Rider’s Union, including members from South and East L.A., and civic leaders from Koreatown gathered to ask the MTA to support the
BRU’s Clean Air and Economic Justice Plan.  Their plan calls for increased funding and expansion of Metro’s bus fleet and a rollback fo the 2007 fare hike by using Measure R and federal stimulus dollars over time.  They also pointed out that while Metro staff had released a report earlier in the week that called for some short-term improvements, there was also language in the report that called for fare hikes in the next couple of years and long-term cuts in bus service as different rail projects come online.

The BRU’s Jude Redman explains the need for expanded bus service and how it can stimulate the economy:

these tough economic times it is even more crucial that we have an
expansion of the bus system to get people to and from desperately
needed jobs, and allowing for those seeking employment to be able to
accept jobs that aren’t traditionally 9-to-5: hospital workers,
food preparers, security guards, refinery workers, custodians and
airport personnel who work late nights and weekends.   I
have had to turn down many a  job because there was no service
after a certain hour, or it would mean I had to stand on a corner,
for up to an hour, at night. Expanding 500 buses will not only
create more frequent service and less wait time for us but it will
also create 2,875 more unionized green jobs in LA alone.

After the jump you can see what the Bus Riders Union Clear Air and Economic Justice Plan would have for K-Town.

500 New Expansion BusesBuy and operate
500 new buses for LA County.  In K-town reducing overcrowding is a high
priority where some of the most overcrowded bus lines run like Wilshire,
Vermont, Western, and Olympic. For many Korean elders frequenting local
businesses in Koreatown improving mid-day and weekend service on local lines
means reducing waiting times, often at shelter less bus stops.  In an era
of high unemployment, expanding mobility to jobs, schools, clinics and
recreation centers for bus riders also creates over 2, 875 new green jobs in L.A. alone.

Reverse the 2007 Fare
– What
bus riders really need is a $20 monthly bus pass!  We believe that the MTA
Board can begin this by reversing the 2007 fare increase, including restoration
of the $52 monthly bus pass. It could save a
bus rider at least $120 a year, and hundreds more in a family with multiple bus
Measure R guarantees a one-year fare freeze for regular
fares and ongoing freeze for seniors and disabled riders. But in these hard
times, when families are forced to make hard choices to keep afloat, reducing
fares is the only sensible thing to do.  Furthermore
many families in Koreatown are starting to take advantage of the buses because
of the economic downturn and lowering fares is the
most effectiveway to attract new ridership and maintain the ones who are using
In fact, as the LA Times reported earlier
this week, MTA ridership peaked two-years ago prior to the July 2007 fare

$150 Million Bus Only
Lane Program

Bus-Only Lanes are the present and the future and we should have them on major
street corridors and freeways throughout the county.  They speed up bus
service. They prioritize public transportation, pedestrians and bikes over
single passenger automobiles and of course reduce greenhouse gases and improve
public health.With limited space for cars (already 2/3 of LA is dedicated
to them!), traffic, and global warming, cars can no longer be the primary mode
of transportation in Koreatown.

No Service Cuts
– Expansion, Not Reductions!
– Given that L.A. residents will
be paying close to 10-cents per taxable dollar (including three separate
transit sale taxes), L.A.
residents and bus riders need service expansions, not reductions. New bus lines
and improved service in South LA, Southeast LA, and the San
Fernando Valley (historically with least service and targetted for
MTA service cuts) would allow more access for elders visiting their families
living outside of Koreatown and central LA.

  • Jehoshaphat! More BRU empty pandering? Another meaningless press conference/protest? I bet it gets almost zero coverage. Since the consent decree expired they have been a diminished force. Plus the novelty has been worn away as they did one too many events with heated rhetoric that led nowhere (remember the fare strike fizzle?)

    Metro doesn’t begin to have the funds to do what the BRU demand with their simplistic slogans. 500 more buses? Where is Metro supposed to park them? Its yards are bursting as it is. And it would be 2 years before new buses could be delieverd if ordered tomorrow (and procurement doesn’t move that fast).

    Over the years I’ve researched the BRU and the questionable aspects that cloud it. Kymberleigh Richards has kindly posted this material on her site. Like a lot of things in life, the BRU doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

  • LAofAnaheim

    I’d be interested to know how many people showed up for this rally?

  • It doesn’t sound meaningless to me…

    Using stimulus money to lower bus fares sounds like an excellent way to stimulate the economy – get money into the hands of folks who will actually spend it, while fostering transportation that’s equitable and environmentally-friendly.

    I would hope that we can all agree that it’s important that we not cut service either.

  • If it weren’t for Measure R passing we’d be looking at some really draconian bus service cuts down the road without any viable alternatives. Measure R, which promised billions of funds for buses (which the BRU’s yellow t-shirts say they want), passed is inspite of the BRU’s nonsensical and misguided campaign against it.

    As an alternative, people who wish to advocate for better bus service may also join organizations like Southern California Transit Advocates and the Transit Coalition. There is no reason for anyone to throw away their valuable time and money on the BRU.

    However, setting aside the flawed messenger, the idea of using stimulus funds to expand public transit, including bus service, is a really good one.

  • Wow, I wish we had protests like that in Orange County. Our public transit services are facing severe cutbacks (OCTA’s “doomsday” financial scenario predicts a 50% reduction in bus service in the next few years), and riders here are swallowing it up without protest.

  • J

    These guys forgot the most important part: the Subway to the Sea. Once that is in place, you can get from nearly anywhere to K-Town extremely easy.
    A negligent thing to forget on their part.

  • LAofAnaheim

    Notice how they went from chants of 1,000 buses and 1,000 less cops, to 500 new expansion buses?? What happened, they realize the effect of the economy that they only ask for half?

    Joe Linton – imagine a group of people who accept no rail transportation alternative (because it takes money away from buses) and want less cops and more buses?? Does that make sense? Ride the rails….don’t you think BRU members would use them?

  • Peter

    i’d be curious to get perspective from the bus riders if they feel like they deserve to ride light rail or not, especially given that overcrowding is such a problem.

    and i’m all for jobs, but the whole idea of creating some gigantic fleet of buses just so we can employ more bus drivers – a big expense – it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me. why not try to get some decent ‘trunk’ rail service on the main thoroughfares, instead? going to streetcars can reduce operating costs, increase performance and reliability and comfort and capacity.

    other than that, mad props to them for not only fighting the service cuts and fare hikes, but demanding a rollback of the already-increased fares! damn! that sounds like some people making sense to me. we need a lot more of that.

  • MarkB

    I just returned from an overnight in San Diego. Base bus fare is $2.25. NYC has a base fare of $2 and it’s supposed to go up. OCTA is $1.50. Metro fares seem to be lower all-around already. I don’t understand the outrage.

    Hold on…

    …OK, I’ve put on my Nomex suit. Flame on!

  • In defense of what I’ve read above from the BRU, these folks call themselves the Bus Riders Union. If they advocate for buses above other modes, and stick to it, that makes sense doesn’t it?

    If you’re a “rail advocate” who will support any insane funding scheme, scam, community-obliterating, billion-dollar dreamscape project (with plenty of highway pork snugly affixed to your breast for credibility) to see a subway built in 30 years while a generation of your fellow citizen struggles to make ends meet (at-grade, walking, bicycling, and on the bus) – if you’re that “advocate”, I dunno, bite the big one. I’m with the BRU in this particular direction – bus-only lanes now!

    This isn’t about a some green puff of smoke up everyone’s butt, this is a cry for taking buses as a serious priority in the right-of-way. This is a cry to not bend to the norms of traffic engineering, which put buses at a disadvantage in traffic due to their size and average speed (and ignore the people moved in them).

    Plus, everyone knows the BRU has hotter chicks at their meetings and better artists too.

  • davidagalvan

    Bus-only lanes are a great idea. But that’s where my support of their ideas stops, I think.

    Fare reduction? Now is not the time. Reduce fares and watch the extra money and expansion projects enabled by Measure R disappear, for the sole purpose of having bus fares that would be ridiculously below average. Already, the fares are too low in terms of being effective at keeping our transit system afloat. When advocating against measure R, Bustard at least made the point that fare increases would empower the riders more.

    We just lost a huge source of transit funding from the state, and now the BRU wants to reduce the funding MTA has available? Stimulus funds are great, but they are meant to stimulate the economy by quick use in the short term. Stretching them out over a long period of time defeats the purpose of an economic stimulus plan.

    Also, there is something in their general philosophy that bothers me. They didn’t want Measure R because it was a regressive tax and would hurt the poor and could lead to transit expansion that might benefit people they don’t think are poor enough (rail/subway riders, apparently). They want to reduce the already too-low fares because the poor can’t afford to pay them. Who exactly do these bus riders think should be paying for the costs of their transportation? Not the riders themselves, apparently, because they claim they are paying too much to ride and the fares should be reduced. Not citizens of L.A. County, apparently, because they didn’t want the sales tax to pass.

    But hey, here comes stimulus money from the federal government. This is money that mostly came from the tax dollars of people who live far outside of L.A. County. Oh good, thinks the BRU, that’s the ticket! Who should be paying for our transportation? EVERYONE EXCEPT US. Let’s use the tax dollars of everyone else in the country to get our transit service and expansion, and give ourselves a fare reduction so that those who ride the bus won’t even care that the sales tax went up, and the people who use the transit system will be contributing the least to its operation, since all the car drivers out there will still pay the higher sales tax without getting any kind of rebate equivalent to a fare decrease.

    And ubrayj thinks MEASURE R was an insane funding scheme?

    The BRU doesn’t understand how a Keynesian stimulus is supposed to work, they demand expansion while advocating against funding sources, and they want everyone else in the country to pay so that they can ride the bus for less. Incompetant, nonsensical, and selfish.

    But yeah, bus-only lanes are a good idea. And not a new one, either.

  • “If you’re a “rail advocate” who will support any insane funding scheme…”


    No one supports “insane funding schemes”. However, Measure R was a legitimate and cogent way to pay for improved transportation projects.

    If supporting a cogent funding scheme makes me that type of “rail advocate” who should “bite the big one”, I proudly welcome that criticism.

    I absolutely support bus only lanes. I’d have them up on Wilshire, Santa Monica, Vermont, Western, Ventura, Van Nuys, Hollywood/Fairfax, and Pico to START.

    However, good luck politically taking any lanes of traffic away from single-occupancy vehilces. The previous bus only lanes in Brentwood lasted about 30 minutes before political pressure came to take them away.

  • Yeah Measure R was a cogent way to fund transportation … on the backs of the poorest members of our society. Sales taxes are some of the most regressive taxes you can implement.

    Regarding the David Galvan’s comment above:

    “Oh good, thinks the BRU, that’s the ticket! Who should be paying for our transportation? EVERYONE EXCEPT US. Let’s use the tax dollars of everyone else in the country to get our transit service and expansion, and give ourselves a fare reduction so that those who ride the bus won’t even care that the sales tax went up”

    I wonder where they got this sort of attitude from – car drivers perhaps?

    Does anyone who drives a car come close to paying for the cost of supporting their mode of travel – hell to the no.

    Transportation is a state-run game, it is not a profit making enterprise in the L.A. area. The BRU is not arguing about changing everything from “the free market” to “give more money to buses”.

    They are saying “We give way too much money to highways and super-expensive light rail – let’s switch that equation up, and on the cheap, build people moving capacity quickly where it counts most, in the here and now”.

    That makes sense, and if their specifics of their proposal is a bit off, at least they are working in the right direction, which is more than I have seen from some of the self-professed transit advocates in L.A. (who seem to fight extra hard to ignore the MTA’s highway spending and the negative effects of automobile infrastructure on our economy, health, quality of life).

  • Justin Walker

    “Yeah Measure R was a cogent way to fund transportation … on the backs of the poorest members of our society. Sales taxes are some of the most regressive taxes you can implement.”

    Ummmm, false? Maybe someone hasn’t been paying attention, but all the essentials are EXCLUDED from the Measure R sales tax, including groceries, utilities, rent, health services, etc. It’s the big-ticket discretionary items that will generate the revenue. While sales taxes are usually regressive, Measure R is quite progressive.

  • Fallopia Simms

    BRU = Bus DRIVERS Union – Just another front for the BDU.

    BRU = Funded heavily by the homeowner’s association of Hancock Park.

    BRU = Supported the 2003 Transit/Mechanics strike that stranded the very people who count on busses to get them from Cudahy to Brentwood. Why? Because the BRU is a front for the Bus DRIVERS Union and the folks who do not want to see LA RETURN to an expanded rail system. Remember, rail was here before the autobus….and who was behind the final dismanteling of our rail system by purchasing the system and ceasing operations? Why, the same folks who are behind and funding the BRU! The BRU are far beyond just misguided. This is a deceptive and dishonorable organization founded by $200,000 a year earning, (never a bus) limo riding “socialist” Eric Mann.

    The classic epic of keeping poor and underclass folks down is by having them fight against their own good like an expanded transit system without this peculiar mode fetish thing that the BRU has.

    As Davidaglavan said there is something quite screwy with their philosophy. Why would such a universal thought of helping the poor only apply to Los Angeles? Are there BRU chapters opening in NYC to fight agaisnt the RACIST rail expansion of the 2nd Ave subway? And since that project is funded heavily with Fed $$$ that all of us pay into you’d think that they would have mentioned currently the largest subway project being undertaken in the US but no word of it????

    A very shameful and dishonorable organization.

  • cph

    You have to give the BRU credit for focusing attention on the bus system. I remember in 1986 or so, waiting on Wilshire Blvd. one Saturday and being passed up by bus after bus because they were too full. Breakdowns were common and graffiti was just out of control. It has improved somewhat, though far from perfect.

    I think they’re just nuts, though, opposing rail, especially inner-city/urban projects such as Wilshire Blvd. Buses just can’t handle it alone. Bus lanes are nice, if you can get them through the political process, but they still have to deal with cross-traffic, right turns, and other obstructions.

    Why no BRU in Orange County? You have to remember that the BRU was not organically formed out of bus riders, but was an arm of a larger outside, group called the “Labor Community Strategy Center”. They mostly made their name suing oil refineries over pollution, among other things, only getting into transit debates around 1993 or so. OC wasn’t on their radar for whatever reason back then, and they haven’t seen fit to add it to their agenda….

    The BRU also spent a lot of energy on non-transit issues, such as bashing the police and taking the Palestinian side in the Israeli dispute (costing them support from many liberal Westside Jews, supposedly). I doubt seriously they are funded by the bus drivers unions (ATU/UTU), who largely see them as a nuisance more than anything else.

    Without the consent decree, they don’t have any real power.

  • Spokker

    “while a generation of your fellow citizen struggles to make ends meet”

    I love this argument. The bus riders are struggling to make ends meet while the rail supporters are living it up like Rockefellers!

  • Spokker

    “(who seem to fight extra hard to ignore the MTA’s highway spending and the negative effects of automobile infrastructure on our economy, health, quality of life).”

    Jesus Christ, who is fucking ignoring it? Every rail supporter I’ve seen “rails” against unrestrained highway expansion and the true costs of owning an automobile.

    No, but you’re the genius. You’re the big hero that sees through Metro’s deception. You’re smarter than everyone else. Wahhh! Won’t someone think of the poor bus riders (a group which I belong to). We are thinking about them, by advocating replacing their slow, shitty buses with electric trains.

    Yeah, the working poor would really hate getting to their jobs on the Wilshire Subway instead of a crowded 720 Rapid. I’m glad they hate hard-working advocates for supporting that vital transportation link.

  • Fallopia Simms, where do you get the impression the BRU gets any money from Unions or homeowners groups? My research has been much to the contrary. And their relations with Unions haven’t always been all that friendly. One year the UTU invited them to a rally that filled Gateway Plaza, but while many politicos took to the mike to speak before the assembled masses the BRU wasn’t allowed to do so.

    So Umberto Brayj lauds the BRU for taking the extreme anti-car stance he constantly pushes. And where has that gotten them? They were against the fare increase. They urged a no vote on Measure R. So they are 0 for 2 recently.

    Brayj–your stance is that many of us activists on behalf of transit are not “working in the right direction” because we don’t take up your quixotic anti-car jihad. Sorry, but your constant foaming at the mouth ranting just convinces me how impractical and ill-advised such a path is. If your arguments had any merit you wouldn’t have to descend into vitriol and insult. I’ve dealt with far too many extreme types, and they without exception are ineffective dead ends. You can continue your crusade. I have no interest in such and welcome your not denigrating we activists who exercise our right to think for ourselves and choose our own path.

  • If the BRU were truly serious, they would be doing two things that go beyond having rallies and trotting out “low income people of color”:

    1. Go to Sacramento and lobby the Legislature to restore the State Transit Assistance fund which was cut indefinitely during this year’s state budget negotiations. The STA is the only source of state funds that can legally be used to operate service. None of the other funds from Sacramento can be used to actually have a bus on the street, despite the BRU constantly insisting that cancelling capital projects would free up operating dollars.

    I’m going to be in Sacramento next week precisely for that reason. I have been there many times over the years, and I have NEVER seen anyone from the BRU in the halls of the State Capitol. Now would be a good time for them to start, because the loss of the STA means Metro is going to have to run $200 million less service next year … and the year after that, and the year after that …

    2. Lobby Congress to start providing public transportation operating subsidies again. Stimulus packages are all well and good, but a lot of the jobs that Congress hopes to create will be meaningless if workers depending on transit to get to those jobs can’t get there. If I could afford to, I’d happily spend a few days in D.C. promoting that message.

    This rally is just another disingenuous move by an organization which has lower and lower credibility as each day moves on. I do not doubt that the BRU’s grassroots members (as opposed to its hierarchy) really care about bus service, but they need to take some concrete action instead of constantly yelling at Metro to do things that aren’t fiscally possible.

    A last point, if I may:

    The Metro service changes for this coming December and for June of next year are going to be the most difficult and contentious, because about 20% of the bus service (and even some part of the rail service) is going to have to end to keep transit service running in the region. This is a hard reality: 85% of Metro’s budget is transit operations, and if they can’t balance the $200 million operating deficit the state created for them, they will go bankrupt. And that means little to no service whatsoever.

    Southern California Transit Advocates will be monitoring and providing realistic comments and suggestions as that process evolves. Those who are truly concerned should consider joining and adding their voices and perspectives to the discussion. Posting on a blog isn’t going to change the world (and is, indeed, a very small part of what I do in advocacy), but being an active part of the solution-seeking process does make a difference.

    Click on my name above this post to get to the website. You can even join online using PayPal.

  • Spokker

    Here’s the reality. A good transit system has freeways, bike lanes, bus lanes, light rail and/or heavy rail.

    Raging against freeways is just as retarded as people who rage against taking lanes away for buses or building railroads because they are “too expensive.”

    It’s all about choice. I want to see mass transit become a viable alternative to the automobile but not because traffic is awful or pollution is too high. Mass transit should stand on its own merits. Some people will exclusively drive. Some people will exclusively take mass transit, and others will drive sometimes and take mass transit other times. It’s all about choice.

    The Bus Riders Union, on the other hand, wants everybody to be poor bus riders. They claim to be working in the interests of the poor but in reality they are keeping them down. They will never stand on their own two feet. They will always be looking for handouts like artificially low bus fares and high levels of service where high levels of service aren’t warranted.

    Cars don’t pay their way and neither do buses. Neither does rail. Those who complain that drivers don’t pay their own way then turn around and want the buses to stay as subsidized as they’ve ever been. It’s hypocrisy at its finest.

  • ubrayj, as I’ve said before: I would totally support going after car money. I’d love a gas tax increase or vehicle registration fee increase that would send some money toward transit. L.A. needs to get over it’s addiction to cars and build some real transit options that minimize the amount of time and people would have to sacrifice. I don’t oppose the spirit of your cause, and I don’t turn a blind eye to the fact that driving on interstates means that people’s driving habit is subsidized as well. I just think you’re advocating for something that is so completely pie in the sky, you are spinning your bicycle wheels.

    You don’t think so? Can you point to an example of getting MTA money from cars in L.A. county successfully any time in history? (I won’t hold my breath.) I can point to three successful sales tax initiatives (prop A, prop C, and Measure R) that have (or will) lead to real transit expansions just in the past 25 years. You can bash your head against that brick wall all you like. Most of us have realized it’s a dead end, and have moved on to supporting what works.

    I didn’t see an option to go after car money for transit last November. I did see a sales tax measure. If the BRU had had its way, we’d be left with no extra MTA money, plus the loss of the state money that would have happened anyway, and their poor bus riders would have been in dire straits. So the policy they were advocating would have hurt the people they claim to be representing. You can’t get around that, as much as you claim they are “working in the right direction”.

  • Barnard

    Who else is organizing rallies for green transportation in L.A.? You all need to get your act together…

  • Spokker with the recent bail out of AIG and the automakers are we still going to talk in terms of poor people waiting for a handout? I mean come on, you want to rail on someone stealing your money and standing around waiting for a hand out, you need to focus your energy on people like AIG, rich people steal way more of our money than poor people do.

    Even the rich that got taken by Madoff are getting their hands held and hankies for their losses.

    “Investors allegedly defrauded by Bernard Madoff and R. Allen Stanford will be allowed to claim theft losses as deductions on their tax returns, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman said.” By Ryan J. Donmoyer, Bloomberg

    If those were poor or working class people that got taken for a ride with their money and the IRS had done that it would been everyone screaming, “They are so stupid. why we should help stupid people…”

    What’s the deal with everyone alligning themselves with the privileged, like they give shit about you.


  • Spokker

    “Spokker with the recent bail out of AIG and the automakers are we still going to talk in terms of poor people waiting for a handout? I mean come on, you want to rail on someone stealing your money and standing around waiting for a hand out, you need to focus your energy on people like AIG, rich people steal way more of our money than poor people do.”

    Your fallacy is believing I’m not angry because of the AIG nonsense. And if I recall correctly I never said anyone was stealing my money.

    “What’s the deal with everyone alligning themselves with the privileged, like they give shit about you.”

    And the poor don’t give a shit about me either. I’m aligning myself with nobody.

  • Spokker

    Here’s the reality of the mass transit struggle. Everybody wants what they want and are not willing to give anything up to get it. The bus ‘tards want cheap ass buses and plenty of them, yet they don’t want to pay higher fares or higher sales tax. The rail queers want expensive ass trains but can’t find a single reliable funding source nor can they get anybody in California to believe that trains are the future. The car people are shitheads of the highest order.

    Everybody will continue to support or oppose whatever they see fit as long as it benefits or does not benefit them. You’re seeing this in the struggle over the Expo Line, and even in the drama surrounding high speed rail on the Bay Area Peninsula. As much as people like to talk about finding common ground, all sides will keep on screaming and won’t stop until we simply have a result, not a solution.

    For example, I think the California High Speed Rail project will be severely neutered. I believe the terminus will be San Jose, the project will not be profitable and service to Sacramento and San Diego will not happen in our lifetimes. I think Expo will see massive speed restrictions similar to the Gold Line. I think outrage over spending on rail transit will only intensify in the coming decades as it comes to affect more and more people and creating more and more NIMBY’s.

    Do I want it to be that way? No. But that’s what I think is going to happen. And it’s a story that is going to repeat itself many, many times over.

  • cph

    Re: AIG: Didn’t several transit agencies lose money over leaseback agreements (encouraged at one time by the Feds) made with this outfit? Some effort ought to be made to restore the funds lost, at the very least.

  • On with the anti-car jihad!

  • Michael T. Greene

    Once again, the BRU is putting on another dog-and-pony show, done more to publicize itself than to help out the people they purport to help. The sad thing is that they’re still trotting out the same act as back in the day. Their demand for a $20 monthly pass…I remember that one from a 1999 show of BRU’s at an MTA budget hearing that I attended. When the BRU broke out its act, I broke out a copy of the Los Angeles Times, and promptly began to read it…not out loud, mind you, just as one would read it on a bus or one of the rail lines, but it caught the attention of some of the Southern California Transit Advocates members…Kymberleigh Richards can attest to this. It should also be noted that Eric Mann, one of the BRU honchos, once worked for GM in Van Nuys…hmmm…wasn’t GM once supposedly part of a “conspiracy” to elimiinate streetcars…the real deal is that only a 1917 Russia-style revolution will make BRU happy. We all know how that worked out..?

  • I’ll lighten up a bit on the rhetoric, but seriously, every time I take a look at the MTA’s financial reports my eyes bug out when I see what huge slices of the pie go to highway infrastructure and support. The news coverage of the MTA makes it seem like all they do is buses and rail lines and fare gates – never a mention of the billions they spend on cars.

    I, personally, think building more car infrastructure is a black hole of resources – a collective pissing away of the wealth we have amassed stripping the earth for resources. We won’t get back our money with car infrastructure, and it’s ruined vast swaths of our economy. When oil becomes scarce again, all of this will come crashing down on our heads. I’d prefer that we were protected from that with a better investment in transportation options. Bicycling projects are near and dear to me because they are dirt cheap and easy to do. They can move people pretty far, pretty quickly, with almost no capital investment. Bikes spur all sorts of indirect benefits where they are helped. I feel the same about buses and pedestrian amenities. The costs come down from billions borrowed from the future to hundreds of millions we can pay with current budgets (if we strip out auto-subsidies and entitlements).

    Bicycle u akbar!

  • Spokker

    “I, personally, think building more car infrastructure is a black hole of resources”

    Agreed. New freeway construction should be tempered and any funds going to highways should be for repairs only. I want to see more equality in the shares of funding that go to highways and mass transit in the long term, and in the short-term a higher share of funding going to mass transit than highways just to bridge a gap that has been forming for decades.

    “and it’s ruined vast swaths of our economy.”

    I don’t agree here. Car infrastructure been vital in helping our economy work. Try starting a business with no street access and only bus and rail access. You’ll find that you won’t be in business very long unless you are Downtown or something. People get to work and be productive with the help of automobiles. I think they’ve helped the economy more than they hurt it and continue to do so. But I also think our economy can be more prosperous with easier access to bus and rail.

    The end of the era of cheap oil is looming over us, and there is a good reason to start looking at greater mass transit funding. Not only is oil running out, but as Asia becomes more developed their demand for energy goes up and the rate at which we exhaust our oil supplies grows. But let’s keep in mind there is still no alternative energy source that can we can substitute for oil. The sun is the most promising, and if we could harness the energy this star dumps on us on a daily basis cheaply and efficiently, a lot of problems in the world would be solved. Watch the documentary A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash for more info.

    But if we can’t find a good alternative to oil we might find ourselves in a position where we are screwed whether or not we build mass transit or change our way of life.

    “Bicycling projects are near and dear to me because they are dirt cheap and easy to do. They can move people pretty far, pretty quickly, with almost no capital investment. Bikes spur all sorts of indirect benefits where they are helped.”

    Agreed here. I remember watching a commercial that shows no cars on the freeway, only bikes. But that’s blue sky idealism that will never, ever come to fruition unless we all get hit with DUI’s.

    Bike lanes are great but they would have to be very extensive. If there’s any part of a trip that you’d have to hit the street to complete, there goes a fraction of the population that is going to consider the bike. I will not ride a bike in the street. I never, ever will, and I’m sure there are many like me.

  • Cars are not inherently evil. The main problems with them are traffic and environmental/geopolitical. The environmental/geopolitical problem is mainly due to the fact that our cars run on oil. Give us a few decades. We’ll go from hybrids (already ubiquitous, whereas they were nowhere near mainstream and mainly novelties just 10 years ago) to plug-in-hybrids to electrics with re-chargable, swappable lithium ion batteries that can be quickly re-charged from home, and the electricity can be generated by gradually more enironmentaly friendly means. Saw a NOVA episode that said that if you kept our current fossil-fuel sources of electricity, but instantly changed all our cars to electric, you end up producing 30% less greenhouse gases than with the mobile internal combustion engines we have now. Conversion and improvement will be gradual and take time, but It will happen. The anti-car Jihad is mis-placed hatred. Be anti-oil-use if you want. Cars enable freedom, commerce and convenience. They can be abused, just like anything else, but they have an important place in our society.

    As for the traffic problem, if you want to be serious, that is not limited to being associated with cars. Convert everyone to bicycle riders and ride your bikes with thousands of other people down the street, and tell me THAT isn’t traffic. Or wedge yourself onto a packed-in-like-sardines subway car and tell me THAT isn’t a form of traffic. Shoot, turn everyone into a pedestrian have them walk around in Time’s Square and tell me THAT isn’t traffic. Congestion is due to high population density, and we’d have some form of it even if no one had cars.

    I think more subways, more buses, and more light-rail are one majore part of the solution FOR LOS ANGELES because these modes can help to keep people moving without them having to drive their big cars everywhere and find a place to park. It’s because this city is so dense and so spread out, that we need a better mass transit system to make it tolerable.

  • David,

    I think you’re missing the point of the jihad – orienting our roadways and planning efforts around cars has resulted in massive mis-allocations of resources. We cannot continue to run our economy how we are running it without cheap fossil fuel, but beyond that building for a car-only transportation network had insidious effects on local economies and the quality of life

    A great example is what happened to Highland Park in North East L.A. The 110 freeway cuts through this area – providing a rapid means for people to leave the neighborhood and to work or spend dollars elsewhere. Every street in the area is oriented towards car use – and it prevents the money people earn from being spent around where they live. Instead, everyone in Highland Park gets in their car and drives outside of L.A. to places that are designed for people to hang out and be people, or work.

    All the neighborhood turns into after that is an edifice of its former commercial district and a cheap place for people to live.

    Orienting a community like Highland Park away from aggresively pro-car right-of-way design can radically alter the retail foot traffic and the value of renting the smaller warehouses in the area for business (instead of quirky artists lofts for later conversion into yuppie dwellings).

    Orienting away from automobiles, in a shrinking economy, makes a lot of sense in another way: when there is less wealth, propping up consumerism is tough when 20% – 30% of wages go to transportation. Bicycling and heavy subsidy for mass transit puts more cash in the lower classes hands – and they will spend it if provided a place to do so (i.e. pedestrian- and street-life-friendly areas) stocked with goods they can afford.

    But now I have revealed the inner secrets of my faith, and yet I have not converted you! Surely the sword can be the only answer for this! Onward with the jihad!

  • Your point is well taken. And I’ll always agree that we should be orienting our spending toward mass transit and making communities more “walkable” or at least “bikeable”. But no one is going to tear down freeways or even let them decay. We’ve made a huge investment and this country now has a world-class interstate freeway system. Conversion from fossil-fuel guzzling cars to energy efficient “green” cars will allow us to continue our economy the way it currently runs, without many of the geopolitical/environmental impacts that we’re currently tied to.

    Again, I’m happy to support raising car-related taxes so that drivers come closer to paying for the costs of car transport. But I still doubt that’s going to become a reality any time soon. Look how, after all the fighting the state legislature went through, they still managed to eliminate the potential gas tax increase. You want that to change? Heck. . . run for office. Or support someone who “gets it”.

  • By the way, Umberto, a bit off topic: Have you ever considered becoming a dealer for Bike Friday? I’m sure you’ve heard of them, the folding-bike makers based up in Oregon. They make the Tikit (which I’m currently saving up for), which is that fast-folding bike that allows you to fold and unfold without messing with any latches or readjustments. Ideal for intermodal commuting and biking around town without having to lock up your bike. I’ve even seen videos of people using it to go grocery shopping, since there is a large front pannier available that stays in an upright position when you fold the bike and roll it around one-handed. I would think this bike would be perfect for L.A., where short bike distances mixed with bus-rides (with often full bike racks) are the norm. Seems like your philosophies are pretty well aligned, and I’ve noticed that there is a big vacancy of bike friday sellers in the L.A. area. Closest I’ve seen from the bike friday website is a small bike shop up in Ojai and one down in Laguna Beach. But nothing in L.A. County. Of course, they do a lot of their business via phone order, but having a local dealer allows people who wouldn’t normally find these bikes or think about them to get exposed to them and test-ride.

    Anyway, just a thought that popped in my head.

  • Hmmm .. new shop is right next to Heritage Square gold line station … maybe you’re on to something here.

  • Marcotico

    David said “But no one is going to tear down freeways or even let them decay. ”

    That is not entirely true. The freeways are decaying, and through ignorance many people are not doing anything about that. But in regards to tearing them down there are various grassroots efforts to tear down urban freeways and replace them with high speed parkways and boulevards. I agree with your overall point about cars and freeways being here to stay, and that the problem is mainly one of the effects of cars and not the cars themselves. But it is encouraging to read about the Central Freeway and the bay freeways in San Francisco getting torn down. There is also a group in New York, and the urban freeway in Seattle that may not be replaced.

  • I suppose it’s too general to say that no one is going to try to tear down freeways. My point in general is that the interstate system was a major investment into our nation’s infrastructure, and it has had a major impact, both good and bad, on our way of life.

    Regarding car-related taxes, I heard on the radio this morning that Arnold Schwarzenegger is still trying to get a gas tax increase for CA. Larry Mantle was talking about it on Airtalk this morning with someone from the Sacramento Bee. Sounds like good news to me, hope it can become a reality.

  • Matt

    I think the bus-only lanes are a good temporary solution while we’re waiting for the Westside Extension and Expo Line and Crenshaw Corridor line to be completed…if anything it will speed up the construction when Wilshire Blvd turns into a one-lane parking lot and the business community along the entire Wilshire Corridor has a collective heart attack. In essence, we need better bus service NOW but we cant make that a replacement for smart rail transit – once people can get from Downtown to Santa Monica in a straight shot on a train in 45 minutes, we won’t need the buses quite as much. The federal stimulus should be reserved for the rail system – it accomplishes another long-term goal by reducing our dependency on oil, which is good for all of us.


BRU: No Fare Hikes Without Public Process

Image of "Times": Strategy Center/Flickr Earlier this morning, the Bus Rider’s Union rallied at the Wilshire/Western Transit Station to urge the Metro Board to not go forward with planned fare hikes for Metro bus and rail services until a full public hearing schedule is announced and executed. In May of 2007, the Metro Board adopted […]