The 30-year transportation plan of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority is out of touch with the realities of transportation in Southern California. This region is characterized by low population density and the decentralization of jobs via continued suburbanization. These factors have led to continued growth in auto use and decline in the use of public transit.
Rail transit is the wrong kind of transportation for this region. Other cities that have tried adding rail transit have failed to increase transit’s mode share, despite the expenditure of billions of dollars (and frequent infliction of harm on the pre-existing bus system). The same pattern is beginning to be evident in greater Los Angeles. Our first new rail line, the Blue Line, has a taxpayer cost of $21 per rider per day. Since few of its riders are former drivers (as opposed to bus users), the system costs taxpayers $37,489 per year for every car it removes from the freeways.
The key to solving L.A.s’ transportation problem is to go with the flow rather than fighting it; i.e., to develop a transportation system consistent with our chosen land-use patterns. The key to doing this is to achieve higher vehicle occupancy on our streets and freeways. That means encouraging new forms of door-to-door transit via a three-part program: 1) create an expanded network of transitways, to permit meaningful time savings for eligible vehicles; 2) deregulate van, taxi, and jitney services to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in creating these new modes; and 3) introduce peak-hour pricing on freeways, beginning with High Occupancy/Toll lanes.
In parallel with these three policy changes, those new rail lines that are not already fully committed should be canceled, permitting major savings in both capital costs and operating subsidies. In addition, the Metrolink commuter rail services should be canceled, with express bus and van services meeting the needs of those commuters.
The net effect of these policy changes would be significantly higher average vehicle occupancy, higher average speeds and reduced traffic congestion, greater transit use than under current rail-based plans, reduced air pollution, and over 125,000 new jobs in new transit firms (many of which would be entrepreneurial opportunities).
The net savings to taxpayers over the next 40 years from implementing this Counterplan would be more than $123 billion.