July 11, 2008
Why Trust Mta With More Cash?
By JONATHAN DOBRER
CAN we all stipulate that efficient and affordable mass rapid transit would be a wonderful thing for Southern California? Can we agree that it would be a pleasure to get out of our cars, the traffic jams and escape from high-priced gasoline?
Can we also agree that none of this is likely to happen in our lifetime?
Yes, I'd love a subway to the sea. I'd love a monorail in the San Fernando Valley. I'd love a light-rail line to the airport. But I won't vote for the tax increase to make this happen, because I have lost my faith in the planning, efficiency and common sense of our Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Why would I trust them with my money when they have a history of treating the Valley as a foreign, enemy nation which can count on little of our money returning in the form of services?
Why would I hand them my money with their traditional cost overruns that are massive, even by government standards? Their headquarters -- an inspiration, I'm sure to Cardinal Mahony -- is a marble monument to bureaucratic waste and abuse. The care and comfort of bureaucrats comes before customer service.
Why would I give them control over projects that obsolesce as they are being studied? How many times do they need to commission multimillion-dollar studies in order not to build anything at all?
As they study and pitch the subway to the sea, they are looking at two routes -- and even dreaming of building both of them. Yes, they have taken leave of their senses.
One route is to go down Wilshire, the other Santa Monica Boulevard. Forgetting for a moment how happy the merchants in Beverly Hills, Westwood and Santa Monica won't be with the disruption, mess, noise and traditional earth subsidence, please notice that Santa Monica Boulevard has just undergone a major restructuring, with Little Santa Monica eliminated in parts of West Hollywood and Westwood. Digging a subway should get lots of support from residents and merchants.
Now look at the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards in Beverly Hills, and the new Waldorf Astoria hotel, condos and remodel of the existing hotel Hilton. Let's build a subway while we're at it. This should be well-tolerated by the wealthy. No one could foresee any problems getting this through.
If the MTA were to get some kind of approval for a subway to the sea, where, in fact, would it go? Given the history of the amazing, wandering existing lines, we know that this will be a political food fight -- with wealthy neighborhoods trying to keep it out and others fighting for it. If you look at how the present line meanders, you see that decisions were made politically and not geographically or even sensibly.
Another good reason not to trust the MTA with our money is its stunning decision not to build the subway or light rail to the airport. This is such a "what were they thinking?" issue that I actually interviewed a spokesman who bravely (or perhaps cravenly) tried to defend the indefensible. His explanation was that they decided not to build the rail line to LAX because they thought that Palmdale Airport might become a big draw, and besides, it made more sense to go where the aircraft industry was -- and was likely to remain.
So, no to LAX, and yes to McDonnell Douglas and Northrop.
Great international cities have rail lines from their airports to their centers -- London, Paris, San Francisco. What other city has a nearby rail line that doesn't go to the airport but demands a shuttle bus?
Oakland. Enough said.
Then, in another fit of bad judgment -- both business and personal -- just when ridership is increasing because of gas prices, just when people have begun to make the calculation of time and money and begun to ride, the MTA raises its fares!
Talk about good will. Talk about encouraging people to make the switch. Talk about clever.
Talk about any of these things and you won't be talking about the MTA.
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