Re: David Lazarus' consumer column, "A tough sell for public transit," Aug. 5:
Lazarus had a terrific column on public transportation. The lack of political will, foresight and common sense have prevented the U.S. from having an efficient public transportation system. Finally we have an administration that is moving us in the right direction with regard to high-speed rail. How refreshing to have some leadership for the good of the country. Plans for a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco started in the mid-1960s. It has taken 40 years to finally get some serious money to invest in high-speed rail. That's as slow as rush-hour traffic on the 405 Freeway.
Cynicism about politics may be well placed, but Lazarus need only visit Seattle and Portland, Ore., to see successful growth-management policies that mandate high-density neighborhoods. Washington raised the state gas tax more than once in recent years, as much as 9.5 cents at a time. In Seattle, parking fees are being instituted in new neighborhoods on an ongoing basis. Seattle just opened a new light-rail line; voters in the three-county metro area of Seattle authorized $18 billion in new taxes to extend it to a 55-mile system and improve commuter rail and bus service. So while we've got a lot of work to do, the public transit picture in the U.S., at least in the Pacific Northwest, is not quite as bleak as Lazarus fears.
It's hard to believe that people like UCLA's Brian Taylor actually use public transit. If they did, they would find that the Red Line subway is packed all day. The Blue Line is standing room only. The Valley's Orange Line is heavily used, and there is little doubt that the Gold Line's soon-to-be-opened Eastside extension and the planned Expo Line will have similar successes. This did not happen because people were forced to pay obscene amounts to park or drive but because we were offered viable alternatives. I take the Red Line from Universal City for most trips to downtown or Hollywood. If I could find parking in the Metro parking lot, I would use it every time I go downtown despite driving 10 miles to reach the station. I'm a discretionary rider, using the system about six times a month. I chose the subway because it is reliable and rapid, not because of punitive measures. The crowds of people riding with me are making the same choice.
May I ask what the purpose of building more public transportation is? To improve our lives by making us take longer to get to work and live in cramped high-rises?
I would gladly get out of my car and on the subway if it were not made so difficult! Not only does our public transportation not go where people need to -- the subways are impossible unless you happen to live near one and work near one. The trip to my job downtown by car takes 30 to 45 minutes. The trip by bus and train can easily take an hour. As an ex-New Yorker, I wish I could get out of my car.