The Times Looks in on the Battle Over Connectivity in Los Angeles

Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne has been one of the more critical thinkers at the Los Angeles Times these last several years.  Over the weekend he weighed in on the growing conflict in Los Angeles between those that see a future for the city with subways, light rails, bike lanes and inviting places to walk and those that can’t see beyond the dashboard.

Rendering of future park space from the Times.
Rendering of future park space from the Times.

Critics Notebook: There’s a Growing Disconnect on a Better-Connected L.A. should be read in its entirety.  After juxtaposing the public’s reaction to CicLAvia to the media’s lazy reaction to the Westside Subway EIR; Hawthorne closes his piece by clearly defining the battle lines, and the path to victory, for those that want a “connected city.”

More and more, I am convinced that the gap between those who welcome additional density and crave mass transit and those who are on guard against such change is widening, and indeed will come to define the political landscape in Los Angeles for the next decade or two. To a certain extent, CicLAvia and events like it have a role to play in helping bridge that gap, mostly because they provide a way to see the cityscape with fresh eyes and at unusually close range.

But in the end, it’s not CicLAvia and other special events such as the Tour De Fat that will define Los Angeles, but the concrete changes in the way people move in their day to day life.  Hawthorne, and apparently the people that read his piece, get that.

Hopefully, everyone with a dashboard perspective can join him soon.

  • So nice to see some credible writing on transit projects at the Times.

    Wonder why Hawthorne didn’t mention his own paper’s role in framing the Subway as a failure because it wouldn’t reduce traffic on Wilshire from today’s levels?

  • Erik G.


    Or the Chandlers’ long-lived policy of promoting single-family dwellings over apartments and other transit-supporting densities? Plus the promotion of roads over rail.

    The Times is one big reason we got in this mess in the first place.

  • poncho

    This divide is not just in LA, here in Portland its very strong (probably has a lot to do with regional policy driven entirely by LRT and UGB). In Portland where you live is a political decision and says everything about your politics.

  • I liked the piece and especially the callout of the Weekly for its entrenched resistance to thinking differently about Los Angeles. Outmoded thinking won’t solve difficult urban problems.
    Good folks can disagree on the most productive strategy to move people around our increasingly congested city, but I think we can agree that, going forward, value won’t come by way of cars and roads but rather alternative forms of transit. And it will come at the expense of those who choose to motor individually.
    Whether it’s rethinking the outsized appropriations for auto infrastructure or literally making way for other solutions via road diets, bike lanes, and bus corridors, the future is clear, and one needs no crystal ball. Just follow the smart money as it invests in new modes of transit infrastructure and existing and new housing near to it.
    Dollar for dollar, however, one find a more productive transit investment than creating incentives to get out of cars and buses and onto two wheels. By the same token, every billion bucks invested in another freeway lane or parking structure represents misallocated money and human effort which could be better put to use for more productive uses.

  • It’s an excellent article – and great that he’s looking at it from not just a dashboard angle… and I am glad that Hawthorne affirms that territory has changed in a post-CicLAvia world! (I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, somewhat serious.)

    One reservation I have about the otherwise excellent article, is that I think he made a little bit more than is truly needed of the “divide” (taking sides in a “battle.”) Families in suburbs want safe streets, clean air, a planet with a climate that supports life, health, etc. Plenty of folks who drive feel stuck in their cars, yearning to be free… but see no viable alternatives. There are differences/tensions and competition for resources… but there’s plenty of common cause, too. Peds, cars, bikes, transit can all get along in a rich urban mix!

    To the extent that we boil it down to a drivers vs. non-drivers split… it becomes an us/them fight. The actual case is less cut and dried. Drivers bike. Bicyclists drive. If a person who drives to work most days can see herself/himself taking a multimodal trip on a saturday (say bike/bus to the beach) now and then, she/he will more amenable to supporting a balanced healthy transportation mix.

    Anyhow… thanks, Times – for contributing a worthwhile thoughtful article to an important dialogue!


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