Five things I’m thinking about transportation

In this relatively new feature for The Source, 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. It seems clear that Republicans don’t have the votes in the House or Senate to eliminate federal New Starts funding as a money-saving move. That’s a good thing for Metro, as federal New Starts money is critical to both the Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector projects.

2. That said, the fact that 165 Republicans backed cutting New Starts as a way to reduce the federal deficit is also a sign that the 30/10 Initiative to speed construction of Measure R projects won’t be an easy sell. Why? While 30/10 relies on the federal government making loans and providing other financing to local areas, it could also mean that the feds assume some of the interest costs. It will be very interesting to see how this goes down when Congress tackles the next transportation spending bill, which hopefully will have language needed to make 30/10 happen.

3. I thought it was interesting that President Obama emphasized inter-city high-speed rail in his State of the Union speech last week and not urban mass transit. If the idea is to get people out of their cars, the policy question is which does it better: fast trains connecting major metro areas or fast, convenient transit to get commuters to work each day?

4. Driving eastbound down 6th Street last week, I glanced down into a giant pothole I was trying to avoid — I think it was near 6th and Hoover — and thought I saw streetcar tracks at the bottom of the crater. I don’t think I was seeing things.

5. If you like old black and white photography, there’s some terrific vintage street scene shots from London, Paris and the U.S. for sale at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station. If you’re in the area, check it out. In a few years, of course, there will be an Expo Line station at 26th and Olympic, adjacent to the galleries at Bergamot.

5 replies

  1. #3 – just as much as the federal government is suppose to focus on interstate highway travel (and not local freeway projects), the government should focus on intercity high speed rail over local rail. Local rails (and local freeways/roads) should be the focus of counties, not the federal government. Having said that, programs like New Starts are good for certain local intercity rail programs that need initial funding to start construction. Plus, it’s only $2.5 billion / year out of $500 billion for transportation all year.

  2. You know, Steve, it’s been my observation with these columns that you seem to be straining to reach 5 things sometimes. I’m sure readers won’t mind if the series is renamed “Things I’m thinking about transportation” if that would be easier to make a little more coherent. It’s really more important that your opinion shines through than that you preserve the format. You also might think about dropping the bullet points in favor of writing paragraphs if it would make it easier to elaborate on your ideas.

    Sorry for the purely editorial note. Just a suggestion! 😉

  3. I’d personally rather see an expansion of new starts than investment in high-speed rail at this point. It probably has more impact on transit ridership and people’s daily lives.

    On the other hand I’d be happy to cut the military budget enough to have a world-class high-speed rail system and an adequately funded new starts program.

    If only America weren’t insane . . .

  4. Totally agree that we need to get people out of their commuting cars before we spend that money on high-speed rail. I takes me about an hour and a half to get to San Diego (100 miles). It takes me an hour and a half to get home from work (20 miles). The costs of high speed have the potential to turn off public opinion for all things rail (urban or otherwise). Funding mass transit is a delicate PR balance. Anything that could threaten public opinion should be avoided (like a high speed boondoggle).

  5. RE: #3 inter-city high=speed rail.

    I find it interesting that a ‘volunteer’ from the National Assn of Railway Volunteers attended the Westwood Metro presentation and spoke out in favor of the proposed subway. A Google photo shows him in Washington and listed him as a member of their board.

    Subway trains run on tracks beneath the ground – isn’t that just an extension of surface high speed rail?