Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MTA v. OCTA: Who's Making Who Look Bad?

OK, I just saw this latest piece of folly from every one's favorite Republican Insider, Jubal/Matt Cunningham of Red County/OC Blog:

The Los Angeles Times published a truly remarkable article today: "MTA Fears A Bottleneck At OC Line."

Basically, Metropolitan Transportation Authority is complaining the Orange County Transportation Authority's ongoing program of freeway widening is making MTA look bad. OCTA's freeway-centered investment collides with MTA's lightrail-centered priorities at the LA-OC county line in the form of traffic bottlenecks. It's a vivid illustration of the different outcomes of the two agencies priorities.

OCTA has funneled its money into transportation modes the vast majority of people actually use: freeway and roads. As a result, our freeways move faster than those in Los Angeles. The MTA, by contrast, has prioritized its money into modes of public transit that far fewer people use, i.e. light rail. Or as OCTA Director Jerry Amante put it:

"We build lanes, not trains."

And we're supposed to be proud of that? OK, so widened freeways may be useful in relieving traffic in the short-term. As long as we have all these cars on the road, we have to have something for them to drive on. But really, wouldn't some long-term solutions also help here?

Follow me down below for more as I explain why OCTA shouldn't exactly be gloating over this...

(Cross-posted at Calitics)

So why should LA County MTA not feel so bad about not keeping up with the freeway expansion happening across the county line in Orange County? Perhaps because MTA has surpassed all the other transportation agencies in Southern California in mass transit? After all, MTA was named "America's Best Public Transportation System" due to record high ridership, very high commuter satisfaction, and the amazing success of the Orange Line rapid bus service in the San Fernando Valley. MTA should really be proud of the high quality of transit service that they offer to Los Angeles County.

But what do I know about this? What does some "crazy environazi, anti-car zealot" from Orange County know about how successful MTA has been with its transit lines in Los Angeles? Well, I actually use the subway and the bus whenever I'm in Los Angeles, and boy is it great! I can take the Red Line from Downtown LA to Hollywood, and I never have to wait too long for a train as there's one about every 10 minutes. I can take the 720 Rapid Bus down Wilshire Blvd. from Koreatown to Santa Monica, and I can be at the pier in about 45 minutes. That actually isn't bad when compared to the nasty congestion often seen on the freeways (with OR without widening). And even late at night, I'm never stranded as there are now 24-hour bus routes throughout LA. Just look at the MTA system map, and try to tell me that Los Angeles County's transit agency isn't doing a terrific job of moving people.

Obviously, LA County has figured out the secret to success in not just relieving traffic, but also reducing air pollution and doing something to stop the climate catastrophe. We all know that our vehicles emit much of the carbon dioxide that's causing climate change. So what can we do about it? Well, how about riding the clean, efficient local mass transit service?! And with all these people riding Metro buses and trains, LA County MTA really is doing its part to fight climate change. But of course, pollutions isn't the only thing that's reduced by all this mass transit service. We have to realize that more people using these buses and trains also means FEWER CARS ON THE STREETS AND FREEWAYS. And fewer cars on the streets and freeways means LESS TRAFFIC! If anything, LA County is really

Now compare and contrast what Los Angeles County is doing to Orange County's preferred "traffic relief" plan. Now yes, we do have buses. And yes, there is Metrolink rail service to Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. However, our transit network in Orange County doesn't really cover the whole region like what MTA is trying to do in LA County. Perhaps this is because our transportation "solutions" have been centered on expanding freeways and streets. And oh yes, let's not forget the toll roads. Now don't get me wrong, roads are important. And so long as we have all these cars on the road, we have to improve our roads to help people with their commutes. However, this is only a short-term solution.

Over the long term, we can't sustain all these cars on all these roads. So long as we continue developing farther and farther away from urban cores, and all we do about this is build more roads that only spark more development, we'll never see long-term traffic relief. This is why we need smarter development and smarter transportation planning. And when it comes to smarter transportation planning, Los Angeles County is doing this. If we want long-term traffic relief, environmental health, and an overall better community, we need to figure out how to take these cars off the road and get people moving in a more efficient manner.

This is why Jubal/Matt shouldn't be gloating about temporary bottlenecks in South LA County. LA County MTA might have a temporary problem that they will have to solve by improving the 5 and 405, but they are implementing a long-term solution to their overall traffic problem by expanding bus and commuter rail options. Hopefully one day soon, more people here in Orange County will push OCTA to do the same.

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