Readers React

Even with declining ridership, Metro rail is a good investment

To the editor: It is misleading to imply that the “billions spent” on rail transit in Los Angeles County has had no positive effect on ridership, given the 10% decline in boardings since 2006 reported by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. As the article notes, Orange County, which spends far less on mass transit, has seen its ridership plummet by more than 30% over the same period. ("Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California," Jan. 27)

The real question should be, are we getting our money's worth when we put our dollars into light and heavy rail? Take the Blue Line between Long Beach and downtown L.A. USC transit critic James E. Moore II predicted in 1993 that it was “unlikely” that Blue Line ridership would increase beyond its initial forecast of 35,000 boardings per weekday. In truth, the Blue Line now has some 72,000 boardings each weekday. That turns out to have been a good investment. And the Expo Line reached its 2020 ridership projection of 27,000 daily riders in 2013.

I'm sure that commuters who sit in standstill rush-hour traffic on the newly widened San Diego Freeway have plenty of time to wonder whether the billions spent on that project would have been better used for a mass transit link between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.

Bob Wolfe, Hermosa Beach

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To the editor: I am 74 and have relied solely on public transit in L.A. since l994. I am proud of my transit literacy. However, the mental and physical agility required to use the L.A. system surpasses all of the systems I have used elsewhere, both in the U.S. and abroad

I try to help tourists as well as locals use the system, but it is not user friendly. The challenges are numerous. Finding a seat during rush hour, for example, requires diplomacy that I seem no longer to possess.

Los Angeles continues to be a car-dominant culture. Costly investments in rail transit lines will not change the psychology of this area.

Ruth Kramer Ziony, Los Feliz

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To the editor: Of course most people in L.A. County choose to drive rather than take transit. We subsidize them lavishly.

Fuel prices are unrealistically low (the federal gas tax hasn't been adjusted for inflation in 23 years). Most parking is free or low cost. Motorists pay nothing for the environmental and climate change impacts of their driving. We continue to optimize our roads for cars, only grudgingly providing meager accommodations for people who walk, ride bikes or use transit.

To encourage a widespread shift to sustainable transportation modes, we need much stronger pricing incentives. A good place to start would be to put a fee on carbon-based fuels like gasoline.

Kent Strumpell, Los Angeles

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To the editor: It seems clear that more people would use transit if the fares were lower. Also impacting ridership is the decrease in gasoline prices. We know that when gas prices increase, use of public transportation typically goes up.

If we believe that it is a public good for people to use transit, we need policies that will realistically have an impact. The solution seems obvious: Reduce the price of bus and rail fares and increase gasoline taxes.

Put additional gas-tax revenue to use on buses instead of on costly rail. In communities such as East Los Angeles, bus lines were eliminated once the Gold Line began service, making people walk greater distances, discouraging them from using transit.

Clara Solis, Los Angeles 

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