Forget Rail, L.A — Try Tolls and Private Transit

The L.A. Times ran two pieces this past weekend discussing ideas long advocated by Reason to reduce congestion and improve mobility. In the first piece, Jonathan Richmond writes:

Like a beautifully wrapped toy train at Christmas, shiny new light-rail projects offer an excuse to cut ribbons. But this symbolic mode of transportation will lead Los Angeles nowhere. L.A. is too dispersed for a rail system to take most people where they want to go, nor can rail’s relatively low rider capacity influence urban development in significant and desirable ways. Meanwhile, rail’s huge construction costs and operating subsidies divert resources from more suitable transit projects. Advocates of rail transit say it would siphon excess traffic from roads and freeways. But the proportion of travelers riding rail is invariably minuscule, and any increase in freeway speeds is fleeting, as new drivers fill the available space. . . . . But the only way to dramatically improve traffic flow in Los Angeles is to charge tolls. Ideally, as traffic congestion worsens during the peak hour, transportation agencies will charge higher tolls for road use, with lower fees at other times. This would encourage motorists either to travel at less-congested hours or take routes that cost less.

Reason’s own Bob Poole has been THE vanguard of the tolling movement for years. Check out his latest study on reducing congestion in California through tolls and public/private partnerships, among others. In the other piece, USC’s James E. Moore (who has authored several Reason studies) writes:

If we are serious about improving transit and easing traffic in Los Angeles and nationwide, we should allow smart entrepreneurs and successful corporations to make money moving people from place to place. As matters now stand, public transit agencies are franchises: They have an exclusive right to provide service in their communities. It is illegal for private providers to enter the market for transit services and compete against a franchise operator. In truth, though, transportation is just another service. A public franchise for bus or rail service is no more necessary or natural than a public franchise for selling shampoo.

Read both pieces, then check out Reason’s Transportation Resource Center for our extensive body of work on these topics.