If you think light rail is expensive, try building a subway. LA did: The Red Line subway cost $4.5 billion and took 17 years to build; yet it serves only a tiny fraction of the people who use public transit. It was a phenomenal waste of money that could have been better spent upgrading bus service, putting in far-cheaper light-rail lines and busways, and improving freeways. The subway project was such a turkey that county voters – who twice supported tax hikes for transportation – overwhelming voted to never again let politicians throw away their money on subways. Yet now Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge would like to revive subway building. He said last week that he will seek an initiative to have voters overturn the 1998 county law. Shows how politically resilient bad ideas are, particularly since LA has the nation’s worst congestion, and is at the bottom of the list in per capita freeway miles.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.