Clean air panel tackles the transit issue

A smoggy day in L.A. in 2008. Photo by photos_mweber, via Flickr.

The group Breath California of Los Angeles County held a panel discussion last week that focused on transportation’s role in reducing air pollution.

I thought a few points were made worth sharing:

•The moderator, Neal Richman, the director of programs and advocacy for Breathe LA, said right off the top that the group hopes to persuade people to drive less — and the only way to do that is to increase public transit.

•About 500,000 adults and 300,000 children have asthma in L.A. County, resulting in about 10,000 hospital visits or hospitalizations annually, Richman said.

•Esperanza Martinez, a senior organizer with the Bus Riders Union, said that in her view one of the best ways to increase ridership is to keep fares low and not increase them.

•Denny Zane, the executive director of Move LA, said that he believes that when it comes to building new transit, the federal government could be more effective as a lender than a direct spender. Zane is one of many advocates pushing for the America Fast Forward to be adopted as law to allow federal loans and other financing to be used to build transit more quickly.

•If the state of California suspends the sale of bonds under Prop 1B — to save repaying interest and help the ailing state budget — financing for some Metro projects could be impacted, said David Yale, deputy executive officer of regional programming for Metro.

Interestingly, all these topics — in a variety of ways — are very likely to come before the Metro Board of Directors in coming weeks. As we reported yesterday, Metro CEO Art Leahy has proposed lowering the day pass from $6 to $5 on a trial basis and the Metro Board should be tackling the Prop 1b issue in this month’s round of meetings.