This is a new feature for The Source in which I express actual opinions while working for government. Members of the media: please take any of these ideas and run with them — we could use the coverage!
1. Like many readers, I was pleased to read in a recent Metro staff report that the so-called “stored value” for TAP cards is finally planned to roll out in the second quarter of next year. I think that this could have a huge impact in attracting discretionary riders. This would allow Metro riders to put, for example, $20 on their card and simply have the cost of a ride deducted when they take them. My domestic partner is one of those discretionary riders who takes Metro once or twice a week — meaning that once or twice a week I get to hear how she missed a train while fiddling with a ticket vending machine. And that’s the whole point of “stored value” — no one should have to visit the ticket machines twice a day.
2. I think the flyover ramps being built for the 405 freeway-Wilshire Boulevard interchange aren’t getting the attention they deserve as part of the 405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project. Of course, the carpool lane for the northbound 405 is the main attraction, but flyover lanes are a great idea, separating traffic trying to exit the freeway from traffic trying to enter the road. Across the region are entrance and exit ramps built too close to one another decades ago and those shortsighted designs are responsible for daily tie-ups across the region.
3. I agree with LA Observed’s Kevin Roderick that the prospect of a downtown L.A. football stadium will be one of the most interesting local political stories of the year. I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around the fact that the region needs three giant football stadiums for USC, UCLA and a possible NFL team, respectively. That said, if the downtown stadium happens, at least all three would be accessible by rail — the Coliseum by the Expo Line, the Rose Bowl via the Gold Line and shuttle bus and the NFL stadium via the Blue Line and Expo Line.
4. I still find it quite a bit unbelievable that elected officials in Ohio and Wisconsin would surrender $1.2 billion in federal money for high-speed rail — more than $600 million went to California for its bullet train project. Even if the projects in those states were a bit pie-in-the-sky or ultimately too costly for the states to carry the rest of the costs, couldn’t the plans have been revised? Political deals can always be cut and I highly doubt the Obama Administration was eager to steer funds away from two states that will likely loom large in the 2012 elections.
5. I liked Steve Lopez’ recent column opining that the Westside Subway Extension should go all the way to the ocean in Santa Monica. And I agree in a perfect world that would be great. That said, I ask readers to consider two points: 1) It is still possible to greatly enhance bus service between the subway terminus at the VA Hospital in Westwood and downtown Santa Monica on Wilshire to help passengers reach Santa Monica, and; 2) even Measure R funds not going directly to the Westside project are still building projects that will help people get to the subway. The Gold Line Foothill Extension is a good example — allowing someone to board a train in Monrovia and get to Westwood with one transfer in downtown L.A. If someone in Monrovia in the future opts for the train instead of driving, that’s a 25-mile car journey that has been eliminated. Not bad.