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Opinion

Sen. Feinstein is wrong: L.A.'s love affair with cars is over

Public TransportationCommutingBARTDianne Feinstein
It's time to retire the old adage that L.A. has a love affair with cars
The $1.25-billion federal grant to build the Purple Line subway to Beverly Hills is great news
Create a convenient, comfortable alternative to driving, and many people will take it

It’s time to retire the old adage that Los Angeles has a love affair with cars. That vision of L.A. is so tired. Really, how could anyone maintain a fondness for driving after experiencing rush hour on the 101, 405 or 10 freeways? Or getting stuck in a traffic jam on a weekend? Or paying $4.30 a gallon for gas or $10 for parking?

So, it’s a bit frustrating to hear California’s senior senator question whether Angelenos will actually use public transit.

In the midst of celebrating the $1.25-billion federal grant to extend the Purple Line subway to Beverly Hills (which is great news), Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted that one and a half million people are expected to board the train each month.

 “I’ll believe that when I see it,” the senator said, "because there is this kind of glue connected to a car and the bodies of Angelenos -- they love their cars."

A Feinstein spokesman said later that the senator was joking and noted that she had clearly added that she hoped the subway extension would get people out of their cars.

Still, the canard about Angelenos and their cars persists. Anyone who spends time at L.A.’s subway and light-rail stations, or on its buses, will see a lot of people who have unglued themselves from their cars. In fact, Metro already has about 1.5 million boardings on buses and trains on a weekday. Ridership has exceeded projections on new routes, such as the Orange Line busway across the San Fernando Valley and the Expo light-rail line from downtown to Culver City.

It’s not hard to imagine why. Traffic stinks, and if you create a convenient, comfortable alternative to driving, many people will take it. So much for L.A.’s love affair with cars.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

6:55 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Senator Feinstein's comments were not made in response to a question and to add context about her remarks.

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