Light at the End of the Freeway
Posted on June 23, 2013
Who says LA is doomed to perpetual freeway crawl and sprawl? Yesterday's article in the Natural Resources Defense Council's onearth opens a hopeful window onto the city's transportation future, with major new extensions of the Metro Rail network and 1,680 miles of bikeways slated for the coming decades.
On a visit to LA last month, I got an overwhelming sense (it's hard not to) of car travel's still-tenacious grip on the city, but I also enjoyed a foretaste of what rail transit can bring to the freeway metropolis. Staying with friends in Studio City, on the far side of the Hollywood Hills from downtown LA, I was determined to give Metro Rail's Red Line a try. After all, its Universal City stop was just a mile from their home, and its Metro Center station was only a block or two from my midday meetings at City Hall and the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP). When I told my host, he laughed. "No one takes the train downtown," he said. I put my foot down when he suggested that I reserve two parking spaces -- one at City Hall and another at the LADWP, just four blocks away!
I ended up taking a bus downtown from my first meeting in Beverly Hills -- a slow, jarring ride to be sure -- but Metro Rail's Purple Line will someday make this a seamless journey. And I was later rewarded by a sleek 20-minute glide back to Universal City on the Red Line. As we passed quietly beneath the Hollywood Hills, I thought smugly of the snarling, multi-lane traffic overhead.
The Southern California Association of Governments last year approved a stunning $525 billion for transportation over the next 25 years, with nearly half to be spent on public transportation. Those funds should go a long way toward loosening Angelinos' grip around the steering wheel.