New UCLA study finds Gold Line and Orange Line produce less smog and fewer greenhouse gases in both near- and far-term

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One of the arguments frequently made for building more mass transit — in particular rail projects — is that it will help reduce pollution and, as a byproduct, greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change. The above chart comes from a Federal Transit Administration report updated in 2010 that considers the impacts of cars versus transit. Although in some circles this remains a disputed issue (mostly by critics of rail transit), the FTA finds transit is the clear winner.

Comparing the emissions of cars versus transit is not always a clear-cut issue because of the number of variables involved. Which brings us to a new study by several UCLA researchers that drills down deeper on the subject by comparing the Orange Line, Gold Line and average automobile in Southern California. The study was published in Environmental Research Letters and is posted below.

The study found that in both the near term and long-term, the Orange Line and the Gold Line produced less smog and greenhouse gases than the average auto driven in L.A. County. In addition, the Orange Line and Gold Line used less overall energy than cars and will create less particulate matter than cars in the long-term, although the Gold Line currently produces about the same as cars, due mostly to its electricity coming from coal-fired power plants used by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Four key points from the new study:

•Both cars and transit are expected to get cleaner over time as fuel mileage increases for cars and transit relies on cleaner energy sources, i.e. solar, wind, thermal and natural gas.

•Construction remains a big challenge for transit projects because things such as pouring concrete and the use of heavy equipment tends to result in high emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollution — and it can take years, if not decades, for transit to make up for the big cost in terms of greenhouse gases made up front.

•Transit vehicles spend far less  of their time parked than cars, which spend 95 percent of the time sitting around. That means that the energy and emissions needed to manufacture, transport, and park transit vehicles are spread over a lot more passenger miles and hours of operation.

•Transit needs to shift 20 percent to 30 percent of its riders from cars to transit order to have less impacts than cars and, as the study says, “the larger the shift, the quicker the payback” when it comes to meeting environmental goals.

Getting people out of their cars onto trains is crucial to improve efficiency of transit. Photo of Expo Line by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Getting people out of their cars onto trains is crucial to improve efficiency of transit. Photo of Expo Line by Steve Hymon/Metro.

I think that last point is crucial for policymakers. To put it another way: if transit agencies and politicians want transit projects that truly improve air quality and such, they have to build projects that will appeal to motorists and pry them out of their cars.

It’s always difficult to compete with the door-to-door convenience of the automobile, but I think it’s do-able but it means building projects that stop where people want to go, making it easy to get to and from stations by car, foot or bike and either designing projects that are fast and/or operate frequently enough to reduce the time-munch that is standing around and waiting at a station.

One other point: earlier this month, it was reported that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere probably haven’t been this high in the past three million years. Carbon dioxide is a primary greenhouse gas and it’s a byproduct of burning fossil fuels for things such as transportation, heating, construction etcetera. Seems to me that transit agencies across the world — many of which shun being political — could market transit as a way to help people perhaps make a difference when it comes to climate change.

Sermon over. The study is below. Kudos to Mikhail Chester, Stephanie Pincetl, Zoe Elizabeth, William Eisenstein and Juan Matute for putting this together. Finally, Metro issues an annual sustainability report that details its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases used by the agency’s transit vehicles and facilities. In fact, Metro cut its greenhouse gas emissions five percent between 2007 and 2011, the last year numbers are publicly available. 

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28 replies

  1. So, if METRO’s own studies show that the Gold Line produces much less smog than freeways, why on earth is METRO spending $30 million+ of taxpayer’s money for PR to promote a multi-billion dollar smoggy toll auto/truck tunnel on the SR-710 route in Pasadena? Doesn’t METRO’s highway dept. know what METRO’s transit dept. knows? Stop the toll tunnel and extend the Gold Line in its place!

  2. Metro,

    I think you’re overplaying how many people really care about “going green.” Going green is only a small factor in people’s decisions. How it impacts people’s finances is a bigger decision maker than green, especially in this tough economy. That’s how people make changes. “What’s in it for me” is a big factor than the guilt factor of people “going green.”

    Be realistic. That’s what most people do.

    Why do people switch to CFLs and LEDs over incandescent light bulbs? It’s not because its greener, it’s because people end up saving electricity in the long term. If one switches every light bulb in the home to CFLs or LEDs, your monthly electricity bill is halved by 50% or more. Add it up throughout the year, it adds up to hundreds in dollars in savings. And they last a lot longer than traditional light bulbs. That’s the “what’s in it for me” factor that makes people change to a greener method.

    Why do some people switch from traditional gas cars to hybrids and electric vehicles? It’s not because they care about the environment, it’s to save on gas. A traditional car that gets 15 MPG versus a Toyota Prius that gets 50 MPG. The person can save literally thousands of dollars in gas every year with better gas mileage. For those with EV, they pay nothing in gas. That’s the “what’s in it for me” factor that makes people change to a greener method.

    Same with people changing to paperless statements and doing online bill payments through their bank. It’s not because they want to save a tree. It’s because they care about identity theft, and being less worried about important things being lost in the mail, and saving on ever increasing postage prices and reordering physical checks.

    Going green is a small factor in people’s decisions. It’s not a big game changer to make all those car drivers change to public transit.

    So what’s the “what’s in it for me” factor to make all the people driving their cars to take train?

    There’s no cost incentive. It’s not cheap for short rides. No one is going to pay $3.00 for a round-trip between Culver City and La Cienega/Jefferson or from Little Tokyo to Union Station. They might as well just drive the mile or find an alternative like walking, biking or riding a moped than be ripped off $3.00 just to get back and forth between 1 miles of transit.

    There’s no speed incentive. It doesn’t come that often and it makes people wait for it to come. Might as well just hop on to a scooter instead and get going with your life rather than being felt like a loser as you see all the other people get going with their life. It’s far cheaper and faster that way.

    There’s no privacy incentive. When you deal with public transit you have to deal with all those wierdos who hassle you and try to sell you bootleg DVDs, the drug dealers, the loudmouths who yell on their phones, the phone snatchers, the hecklers, and deal with those rude bicyclists shoving bicycles onto your clothing. With a car, motorcycle, moped, you don’t have to deal with these people.

    There’s no delay. When there’s a delay on Metro, they don’t make announcements. People are forced to guess what’s going on. And since you’re already paid for it, there’s no refunds, you can’t get off the platform and take the bus. In a car, you get the most up-to-date traffic info on KNX 1070 every six minutes.

    There’s amenities. If nature calls, people can pull into any gas station and go do their business. On public transit the people have to suck it up and do the potty dance because of lack of public restrooms anywhere throughout the system. If car drivers get hungry or thirsty, they can pull into any 7-Eleven and buy a soda and a hot dog. They can go through the In-N-Out drive thru. You don’t get that with public transit. No eating and no drinking. No amenities at any station. Everything is “you can’t do this, you can’t do that” like some fascist bureaucracy trying to control every aspect of people’s lives.

    Why would anyone want to take public transit? If you really think the “guilt factor” of “going green” is a big decision maker, you’re living in a dream world. It’s “what’s in it for me” first. “Going green” is a subset of that.

    • The “what do I get out of it” viewpoint on public transit may or may not be accurate for Los Angeles, but it is for rest of the developed world which is pro-transit. Maybe Los Angelenos are missing something in the fog of smog? More public transit please!

  3. Tom,

    The rest of the world HAS a “what’s in it for me” factor for mass transit.

    They have amenities. Restrooms and shops are readily available at stations. Eating and drinking are allowed in their mass transit systems. What does Metro have. Nothing?

    Look at the condition of our stations and theirs. Ours is ugly, dirty, reeks of urine, has absolutely nothing attractive, and has zero amenities that the public wants. It’s just a place to wait for the train and nothing else. It’s a magnet for illegal activity. And it deteriotes into urban decay because the stations don’t make any money at all. Theirs do, that’s why they get to earn the capital to hire janitors to clean their stations everyday. BIG DIFFERENCE.

    Their mass transit is on time. Look at Japan, it’s so accurate you can time your watch to it. In Japan, you hop off a train, the connection train comes within SECONDS. It’s dead accurate that missing one minute is subject to become news headlines.

    Their mass transit has a logical fare structure. Look at Taipei and Singapore. Shorter trips cost less and longer trips cost more. It makes sense that one station trip costs 80 cents while a ten station trip costs $2.00. Ours, Metro thinks the public is stupid enough to suck up $1.50 for a station ride that’s less than a mile.

    Their mass transit is clean and safe. You have fare gates keeping fare jumpers out of the system, they have businesses operating within the stations that act as another set of eyes to keep the area safe, and you have officers patroling the area. It’s a three layer security system. Look at what we have. A poorly planned system that some genius thought it was a brilliant idea to do the honor system. A genius who thought it was a brilliant idea to build the stations with art over direct spaces for businesses.

    There’s a speed incentive. Look at the bullet trains they have. It’s faster to get to places than taking the airplane in Japan. We can’t even get digging.

    And they do all of this privately as a for-profit enterprise without continually asking the people for taxes and crybaby stories about how they have no money as a poor excuse to raise fares or whatever.

    Metro has none of these appeals. What did you expect from a government agency run by bureaucrats?

    • Indeed the reality is METRO needs improvements, but they cannot come until a basic system is running well enough. The car is the most expensive and dangerous way by far for one to commute. Add to it buying the car, the tire replacements, the insurance, the engine and brake repairs, highway construction plus filthy air with costly health impacts–most of which carry over with electric cars. It is a mindless system foisted on the public by the Highway Lobby for the enrichment of the few. METRO has to start somewhere and it will take a few more generations before we get to where we are going, but we will get there with or without civic shortsightedness such as some posters. When I lived in New York we did indeed board a bus to go to the market…but the big issue there and here is commuting. As for privatized systems, the results are just in from UK’s public railways turned private. The public has ended up paying more now for worse service–after about a decade of trying to make private rail work. Get real, join the 21st Century.

  4. if Metro were as half as good, clean, efficient, self sufficient and on time as Japanese public transit then there’s an incentive. Unfortunately, Metro fails to accomplish none of them so meh.

  5. Tom,

    While I’m all for public transit as you are, but the reality is that in LA it’s going to take a lot more convincing and a lot more hard work by Metro than spewing out “go green” propaganda to change all those car drivers over to public transit.

    Metro cannot compete with the cheapness, flexibility and speed of the car. And for being green, we now have hybrids and electric vehicles that make cars even greener. How do you create smog from electric vehicles that consumes no gas or spit out fumes from the exhaust at all?

    If Angelenos want to go to Ralphs or Vons at 11PM, their cars can do that. I doubt anyone is going to wait the bus and pay $1.50 each way just to go to their neighborhood Ralphs or Vons several blocks away in the middle of the night. No matter what you include like insurance and repairs, the cost of driving per mile is just way cheaper to drive a car, especially at shorter distances, than going Metro. Make it a hybrid or electric vehicle or even a motorcycle or scooter, it’s even cheaper.

    And the reality is that majority of Angelenos actually do short and frequent trips on their cars. Studies have shown that Angelenos actually drive the second least amount of miles in the US, right behind NYC. This is the biggest contributor of traffic jams on our surface streets in LA. And people aren’t going Metro.

    The factors are against Metro. It’s too expensive for shorter, frequent trips that LA car drivers expect and it just doesn’t have the flexibility to go where you want, whenever you want. No one is going to pay $1.50 for the bus or train for short trips. No one is going to pay $3.00 each way or a $5.00 day pass if the trip is short but happens to involve a transfer. No one is going to pay $75 a month when their commute is less than 10 miles in each direction – a hybrid, electric vehicle or two-wheeled vehicle still comes out way cheaper per month than a monthly pass and that’s including maintenance and insurance.

    Metro has to improve on a lot of things to make transit more convincing for car drivers. They need to revamp their stupid fare system, make changes to frequencies on high ridership areas, make the surrounding areas more transit oriented, and utilize their station properties more efficiently and relax some restrictions.

    Who’s going to ride a system where power tripping cops fine you for drinking bottled water? People are just going to say, screw this, I can drink whatever I want inside my car.

  6. First, while I agree that “going green” is not going to be the major factor for people, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be promoted. For some it WILL be the main factor, and for those who care more about the economics or convenience sides of the equation, they probably at least appreciate the environmental benefits of transit, even if it’s not their main concern. I don’t like the implicit argument behind your point that “if it’s not the most important thing then we shouldn’t bother to discuss it.” I think that’s clearly mistaken.

    And to R Camino, you’re making so very broad generalizations. You speak as though no one uses transit, despite the fact that in fact hundreds of thousands of people use it every day, many by choice and not of necessity. You’re right to complain about the quality of service and upkeep, and we should expect more, but plenty of people value and rely on Metro services already. One thing I’ve also noticed, as someone who still lives in Seattle but is moving to LA in a few months with no plans to purchase a car, is that transit in LA has a much larger class divide than many other cities. I’m not sure what the reason is because in general LA Metro, and the rail in particular, isn’t actually that bad–I think it’s just going to take a change in culture, and that’s going to take time.

    Beyond that, the reason I actually wanted to comment, and the point not made in this article, is that transit trips, on average, tend to be much shorter than auto trips because transit users tend to live closer to work/school/restaurants/entertainment/etc. So while the per-mile benefits are pretty clear, that doesn’t take into account the fact that transit users are also moving fewer miles, so the benefits are compounded.

    • Hi Shane;

      Excellent point about car trips vs transit trips. And welcome to L.A.!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  7. Coincidentally, this was one of the next headlines I saw on my RSS feed after leaving this comment:

    “Orange Crush
    The Orange Line is feeling the squeeze. An immediate success upon its opening in 2005, ridership continues to surge on the San Fernando Valley’s dedicated busway, which runs from Woodland Hills and Chatsworth to North Hollywood. The line currently handles more than 30,000 passengers on an average weekday, making it the second busiest bus line in Los Angeles County. While that success is something to celebrate, elbow room is getting hard to come by.”

    http://zev.lacounty.gov/news/orange-crush

  8. Ah Angelinos,

    I remember being one (have been born and raised in LA before life took me elsewhere, namely the SF Bay Area, and Boston). Not ever really seeing the “what’s in it for me” factor (A.K.A. incentive) for not taking a personal automobile from one place to another.

    I believe there are a few items that “Face reality” really is missing:

    1. This article is more about providing evidence to support a widely help assumption rather than giving people incentive to take transit. All it is saying is that based on a pretty well defined and enacted study, it is generally evident that using public transportation produces less CO2 emissions than using a personal vehicle on average through various modes (even taking into account emissions produced by construction activities).

    2. Everyone is correct in their observation that southern california (and LA County in particular) was general planned and conceived of as a system of sparsely populated urban centers connected by suburban residences. This, along with a few other factors, really did dictate that the automobile be widely conceived of as the best way to get around LA (by the way, from an engineering and individual prospective this still is very true). The issue is that overloading that transportation system, which is what has been happening from sometime in LA County, has created a host of other effects (pollution, gridlock, road-rage, etc), which does mean that possible solution to these effects due have a meaningful sociological (if not personal) incentive

    3. As for incentives: the kind of costs that “Face reality” is concerned with are final stage costs not upfront costs, which are obviously significantly larger for automobiles.

    Auto Loan, Insurance, License, Registration, and Regular maintenance before fuel and parking for a car in Los Angels for one of those Hybrids or Electrical Vehicles that you seem to think are so easy to come by can run anywhere between $800 to $1600 a month depending on your credit, accident history, and other factors based on a 2-3 year depreciation. (Those numbers come down to the $300 range based on a 5 year depreciation by the way)

    During that same period you could pay something like $75/month for MTA and $25/month average for a car share service.

    Powerful incentive even with a cop telling you you can’t drink a bottle of water of having to deal with service disruptions or delays or the occasional public nuisance.

    4. Every suggestion that you had for metro improving its service to remove people from cars (Seriously, each and every one), is being taken on by Metro as we speak (or write). And there are other articles to show that it has been working
    See:
    http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/04/one-year-later-who-riding-expo-line

    5. Your point about the bike is smack on for short trips. But that also invalidates your notion that a car is better. Efficiency-wise no mode (other than walking, running or skating) even comes close to minimal CO2 emissions or costs to a bike. Cars are just as far removed as transit in this category.

    That being said, improvement to metro are necessary, but at least they are striving towards those improvements which (and will continue) to make in roads into transportation in the LA region.

  9. Orange Crush??? Convert the Orange Line to light rail, it has been done some years ago in Sacramento. Ballast, ties and rails mounted to an abandoned freeway deck. Light rail cars are BIG, plenty of room. One operator per two-car train—cheap! Go Big Train!–(Old Union Pacific RR motto.)

  10. Shane,

    Actually, there is absolutely no way at the present moment to find out whether Metro transit riders tend to ride longer distances or shorter distances. We do not have a TAP-in and TAP-out system that is able to log and collect data on the average distance use of riders within the Metro system.

    In many cases, like the Metro 720 bus, people tend to ride longer distances from Santa Monica to DTLA. It’s always full and people never get off creating room for other transit riders. You hear problems where people constantly complain about bus drivers passing people by because the bus is too full. In such cases, it illustrates people take the bus over longer distances than shorter distances as you mention.

    And you don’t see people taking quick one station trips on the Gold Line from Little Tokyo to Union Station either. People walk or bike that distance.

    The Expo Line users tends to be those who get on at the stations near the end to destinations to the other terminus, like Culver City to Pico. You rarely see people getting on the Expo or Blue Line at Pico and go to Metro/7th for a connection over to the Red or Purple Lines; people walk instead to save a $1.50.

    So in many ways, Metro is missing out on capturing this market. If they can make shorter trips much cheaper, they can be making extra money.

  11. I don’t harbor racial stereotypes, as has been suggested by one of the posters, and I think the moderator should remove such baseless accusations. The contention that automobiles, of any sort, would be better for society than public transit is like other long ago disproven notions such as a flat earth.

  12. Lock the gates,

    The problem when trying to talk some sense with these conservative old time transit riders is that they tend to have what’s called “selective favoritism” when it comes to citing examples of public transit.

    1. “The rest of the world is moving to public transit.” Yes they are. However…

    2. Once a knowledgeable person cites examples of privatization, conveniently, the “rest of the world” suddenly becomes only failures in Europe rather than the successful private mass transit operators in Asia. Somehow the rest of the world is now only Europe. LOL.

    3. When citing examples of “ok, let’s then at least do what the rest of the world does and let’s latch the gates, move to zone or distance based fares using tap in/tap out technology so we can gather transit data and increase our farebox recovery ratio to reduce taxpayer burden,” the “rest of the world” idea is thrown out and becomes “no one in the US does this.” The basis usually becomes “well just because they use it doesn’t mean we have to do it.”

    So in three steps, you went from “rest of the world” to “only Europe” to “nobody in the US.” This is what is meant by selective favoritism, use examples that benefit their case but throw out other ideas that they mentioned previously because it doesn’t help support their case.

    It’s sad because they think that’s how debates are won and it’s even sadder because they really know so little of how mass transit is run in the rest of the world.

    They somehow have this wild imagination that the rest of the world get to have nice things because they just spend, spend, spend, when they can be so far from the truth.

    Yes, there’s a truth to initial spending. But at the same time, a lot also went to carefully planning out the economics and financial aspects of running a mass transit system and investing in areas like locked gates, computerized technology to do zone and distance fares, to recuperate their costs, reduce tax payer burden in opertations, as well as exploring other options like gradual privatization and business diversification (in Asia, this usually means transit agencies diversifying into real estate developments). Something that many old timers here who never visited cities all over the world, including the people that run Metro, fail to realize.

  13. I admit that I’m just speculating when I say transit trips are shorter on average, but I feel pretty safe making that argument, even without hard data.

    LA is by no means representative, but just looking at some nationwide data out there, it looks like the average car commute is 16 miles (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Traffic/story?id=485098&page=2#.UZxkw7W1Ewg) whereas the average unlinked bus trip is 3.9 miles (http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/FactBook/APTA_2011_Fact_Book.pdf). In a city as spread out as LA, it’s likely that the numbers for both modes are higher.

    Again, that’s a very qualified snapshot, but people who expect to rely on transit have an incentive to live as close to their work as possible because bus and rail trips be concentrated nearer the core of the city, both in terms of the number of lines and their frequencies. Drivers don’t have to worry about that as much. And while long-distance bus commuters do often travel quite far, they’re a small percentage of total transit trips–most are in the core of the city and therefore can’t really be more than 5-10 miles–and there are tens of thousands of drivers making trips from the termini of commuter buses, or even further out.

    And while you may be correct about trips from Little Tokyo to Union Station, what about trips from LA Live to Union Station? It’s still a short trip by car commuting standards, at just 2.5 miles, but is too far to walk for most people, and as yet few people bike to get around (hopefully that’ll change!).

    Anyway, I hope we can get some good information to decisively answer the question, but I’m pretty confident that even LA falls in line with the rest of the country in the tendency for transit commutes to be significantly shorter on average than car commutes.

  14. @Tom Savio,
    I would like to see the Orange Line become LRT, but according to wikipedia: “there are significant legal and political challenges. Metro is currently prohibited by law from converting the Orange Line to any form of rail other than a deep-bore subway. Due to a 1998 proposition, Metro also cannot spend the sales tax revenue from previously passed propositions, but can use revenue from subsequent tax increase propositions such as Measure R funds (conversion of Orange Line to rail is not included in any Measure R projects, but does include the “subway to the sea” along Wilshire Boulevard and other subway proposals) and other sources of revenue on deep-bore subways.”

    • Bus Rapid Transit is better than no rapid transit at all on the Orange Line. So, OL may need more and higher capacity buses. But aren’t there other locations on METRO that need more buses too and have been waiting a long time for them?

  15. Shane,

    While I don’t have any figures either because there is no data, I think majority of transit riders tend to ride long distances.

    Majority of transit riders are poor who are unable to afford a car. This means that public transit riders are the most vulnerable and require them a cheap way to travel as far as they can when they need to.

    That’s why we have a flat rate fare system. This makes people who have longer commutes get a better deal than those who have shorter commutes. This is the reason why a person living in Long Beach can go all the way to DTLA on the Blue Line. That’s close to 25 miles for $1.50, it comes down to less than 6 cents a mile.

    But when you ride it shorter distances you end up paying more per mile. From LA Live to Union Station, you actually have to take 2 trains to get there one from the Expo or Blue Line to 7th/Metro and use the Red or Purple Line. This becomes $3.00 for a 2.5 mile trip (remember, it’s $1.50 for the Expo/Blue Line to 7th/Metro and another $1.50 for the Red/Purple Line to Union Sta.), coming out to a rip off price of $1.20 per mile.

    When it comes to forking over $3.00 for a 2.5 mi trip, transit dependent people, especially those who live in DTLA don’t walk, bike, or use Metro to get between LA Live and Union Station area. They use DASH because it’s 50 cents for 2.5 miles.

  16. Tom,

    No one is arguing that public transit is good for society.

    But REALISTICALLY speaking, you cannot expect 100% of car drivers in LA to switch over to public transit magically at a snap of a finger tomorrow. You can’t stick a gun to the head of every car driver out and forcefully say “tomorrow you take the public transit!”

    At best, at the present moment, is to try to convince car drivers to take public transit. But Metro doesn’t seem to be doing a good job in convincing a lot of motorists to go Metro. As the article mentioned, the “go green” propaganda has little effect in changing motorists’ behaviors switch to Metro. In order to make more motorists to switch to Metro, a lot more has to be done. And those changes require drastic changes into how Metro does their business.

    You can argue as many as you want from different levels, but the reality is at the present moment, cars are still the most convenient way to get around the city. And because of that, that’s what the vast majority of Angelenos use to get around.

    Moving to the “21st century” involves a lot of complex issues. A lot of those complex issues have to be resolved first. And those things takes a long time to get resolved. Changing from an automobile centric society like LA to a public transit oriented one is not going to be a snap of a finger, wake up to a whole new world tomorrow solution, no matter how you like the way it would be.

    In a perfect world, “moving forward” would be done by a benevolent dictator who forces everyone to move forward at gun point. Past history however, such plans ends up with disastrous outcomes. Ever heard of the “Great Leap Forward” by Mao Zedong or the five year plans of the Soviet Union?

  17. It doesn’t take a study to show public transit emits less than single passenger automobile but nonetheless good that it comes out. I think the issue around why people are not switching out is one we live in a 4,000 plus square mile county and transit is not providing service that brings you to the million and one destinations in a timely and affordable manner right now. It’s going to take much more frugal spending, like investing in more affordable BRT implementable right now not 30 years from now after we’ve hit another 100 parts more million of CO2 in the atmosphere. Second no transit project alone no matter how fancy or modern, will get people out of their cars unless its implemented with real auto restriction policies. Bogota’s success comes from creating permanent auto ban zones and prioritizing physical space for bike, peds, and transit that actually takes away space from the cars. You can’t expect to get people out of cars investing billions into expanding more road space, parking lots, and making it far more convenient to drive. LA’s infrastructure and planning is so rigged towards more driving that unless that changes you can’t just build enough transit to magically lure folks out of cars. The roads should not be free game and why not make it harder for folks to drive–transit and pedestrians need the road space and move more people–why shouldn’t they get priority? Why shouldn’t there be less parking lots and more parks especially where I live in Koreatown? I have no place for my children to play without fearing being run over or breathing in traffic congestion pollution from lack of green space. Transit planners and policymakers in MTA are way too complacent and lack expediency and vision.

    • There is a plan for more parks in LA. In the early 20th Century, Olmstead, who created NY’s Central Park, was commissioned by the city’s movers and shakers for an LA park plan. He did draw up such a plan, but when the “city fathers” realized how much money could be made developing the land for commercial use instead, it was quietly shelved. Some of that plan is still viable, from what I have seen, its the will that’s lacking. It largely comes down to money. There is money to be made by leaving the commuting public little choice but private autos–BIG money in many ways. As for the spread-out nature of LA not being practical for transit, au contraire, it was transit that originally spread LA out. Eventually, as money becomes more scarce, and our natural world becomes more strained, I believe transit will play a much bigger role in LA and the freeways less. But it will take a couple of generations of good will and progress and yes, mistakes and false starts. No one said that re-inventing the (flanged) wheel was going to be quick and easy–so let’s get on with it!