Times Columnist Wants a Regional Transit System, Mayor Agrees

Earlier this week, Streetsblog discussed a piece by Times’ Business Writer David Lazarus on the problems that Metro is facing with its funding.  The piece was almost entirely opinion, and there was very little research besides Lazarus’ gut and experiences in the column.  Despite that, Lazarus helped bring the debate over whether or not Metro should offer transfer passes into the mainstream.

Lazarus’ piece was read by more than just "the usual suspects" in the advocacy community, and thus he found himself sitting across the table for a debate with Deputy Mayor for Transportation Jaime de la Vega for a discussion of ways to grow the agency.  Lazarus quotes the Mayor as sharing Lazarus’ concern that not enough people that ride transit; although he remains mum on whether the Mayor thinks that will solve Metro’s financial crisis.  You can read Lazarus’ ideas after the jump, or read the entire Times column here; but here’s some weekend homework for our transit advocates.  If you could sit down with de la Vega and make suggestions for some quick fixes to make transit more accessible, what would they be?

So Job One: Put someone in charge already. The head of the MTA seems
the most likely choice, but perhaps other system operators would prefer
a more neutral party. Whatever. The most important thing is that
someone be responsible for presenting commuters throughout Southern
California with a regional approach to public transit.

Next up (and these are the easy fixes): Offer commuters daily, weekly
and monthly passes good for all local transit systems, and make those
passes available at all supermarkets, post offices and other locations.
People won’t know how viable public transit might be unless they give
it a try. Let’s make that as easy as possible.

And let’s create online resources that can crunch all the variables of
getting people from Point A to Point B and come up with the best
possible route and itinerary. There are such resources available — the
MTA offers a decent trip planner — but they could be a whole lot more user-friendly and intuitive.

  • Brian

    de la Vega could start by actually using transit.

  • More HR offices/benifits officers could distribute TAP cards to their employees and chip in half of the cost. They should also raise the cost of parking. LA could enact neighborhood parking permits (like Boston and many cities back east) that really only allow people to park in their own ‘hood, at a lot or a meter. When all that free parking evaporates, people will get on the bus.

    Also there are relatively reasonable East-West bus options 24 hours a day on Sunset, Santa Monica and Wilshire, but the north-south connections are terrible and it only covers a small portion of greater LA. So much for getting drunk drivers off the road.

  • I have been mulling a commentary challenging the underlying assumption that many officials espouse and media coverage propogate that getting people out of their cars is the main goal of transit.

    Lazarus is an uninformed blowhard. Personally I haven’t been impressed at his occasional transit rants. As I have noted in previous comments:


    Kymberleigh Richards has e-mailed Lazarus an invitation to attend one of the upcoming SO.CA.TA meetings for a dialogue with our members. If he is going to keep writing on these issues it would be nice for him to actually be a bit better informed. Which won;t happen from talking with the clueless Jaime de la Vega.

  • Just to clarify, my supposition is a lot of lip service is paid to the idea of transit but as I like to say ignore the lips and keep your eyes on the hands.

    There are also practical obstacles, as we learned during the surge of ridership during $4+ gasoline. Which we may be heading toward soon and after recent drastic cuts in service, fleets, etc. should be an even worse situation than last time.

    We would need major structural changes to make this happen–this involves not just fleets and routes but also minds and land use planning. And of course funding.

  • Erik G.


    If you given them TAP cards, they’ll not be able to get anywhere since Santa Monica BBB hasn’t fallen for CUBIC’s scam.

  • Is this really news? Columnist writes a self-congratulatory piece about how the mayor wants to see him to discuss recycled ideas about mass transit. Enough about me. What do you think of my new book?

  • Lazarus jumped the shark today by calling for elevated “monorail” on top of 405 and 10 freeway… lol

    Credibility, this guy has none.

  • Unfortunately, Lazarus writes from the perspective of “no one ever noticed these possible ideas before I did, so now I give them to you in my own sense of personal largesse”.

    Meanwhile, an invitation to enter a dialogue with Southern California Transit Advocates at our June 12 meeting goes unanswered by him.

    One thing we do NOT need is another “I have all the answers so do it my way” blowhard.

  • Update: We made contact with Mr. Lazarus yesterday by phone and he has agreed to participate in a dialogue with So.CA.TA members (and any members of the public who choose to attend) for one hour before our June 12 business meeting.

    The dialogue will take place from 1:00 until 2:00pm. Meeting location (and transit directions) at the So.CA.TA website:

    Now that I’ve had a chance to talk with him, I withdraw my suggestion that he is a “I have all the answers so do it my way” blowhard; he says he is simply a citizen with concerns about public transportation and that he simply used the bully pulpit of his column to express them. Unless he says or does something at the June 12 meeting to show the contrary, I take him at his word.


The Week in Livable Streets Events

Those L.A. County Bike Master Plan meetings roll on.  Speaking of rolling, there’s a fun looking "Midnight Ridazz" event this Friday.  And for those of you who are into policy, there’s a surprise addition to the City Council Transportation Committee meeting (more on that later) for this Wednesday at 2:00. Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday– Outreach for the L.A. […]

So.CA.TA. Meeting with David Lazarus

The monthly meeting of Southern California Transit Advocates for June will feature a dialogue with David Lazarus, business columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Lazarus devoted three recent columns to the topic of mass transit expansion in the region, receiving a sizable response from the readership and even local leaders. The intention is to hear […]

Are Free and Low Cost Transfers the Key to Fixing Metro’s Operations Mess?

Photo:CJaneBuy/Flickr Without some shocking turn of events, 48% of Metro passengers (seniors and students are exempted…this time) will see a fare increase this July.  For whatever reason, last Saturday’s "Special Board Meeting" held at Metro’s headquarters was sparely attended.  Perhaps because the hikes were viewed as inevitable, perhaps because the hearing was on a Saturday, […]

Today’s Headlines

Lazarus: Metro Too Frustrating, Expensive (LAT) Infrastructurist looks at Lazarus Piece and Sadik-Khan Visit. Study: Climate Laws Not Hurting State Economy (LAT) Activists, Cyclists, Residents, Upset at Proposed Speed Limit Increases (LA_Now) ABC7 Discovers the Bicycle Kitchen South Bay Cycling Group Wins County Grant to Map Bike Routes (Daily Breeze) Columnist Laments the Third-World Maintenance […]

30/10 Survives the Metro Board of Directors

The Measure R map. For a full sized version, check out The Transport Politic Today, the Metro Board of Directors voted to endorse the 30/10 proposal, but for a long-time it didn’t look good.  All of the signs were there for a disaster…a highway sellout of "30/10," the proposal to use federal loans to front-load […]