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Was L.A.'s $8-billion investment in rail worth the money?

Metro Link marks 20th anniversary

TalkBackLAL.A. County had made an huge investment in rail in the last two decades  -- building several light rail lines and a subway.

But was it worth it?

Although the region now has a gleaming system of subways and light-rail trains, some transportation experts say the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's $8-billion effort — less operating costs — has done little to reduce traffic congestion or increase the use of mass transit much beyond the level in 1985, when planning for the Metro Blue Line began.

Rather than bolster ridership, these experts say, the emphasis on rail has come at the expense of the MTA's vast network of buses and may have cost the agency at least 1.5 billion passenger boardings from 1986 to 2006.

"Overall, the push for rail has forced transit ridership down," said Tom Rubin, a veteran transit consultant and former chief financial officer for the MTA's predecessor. "Had they run a lot of buses at low fares, they could have doubled the number of riders."

Rail transit advocates contend that it is premature to judge urban rail's performance because the local systems are not fully developed and have yet to substantially benefit from being part of a broad rail network.

Read Dan Weikel's story here. Tell us what you think.

Photo: Marcia Baker, 21, gives boyfriend Ramon Diaz, 20, a kiss while riding the Metro Blue Line with fellow commuters in Los Angeles. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (84)

@Amanda.. I agree with you.. I used to commute from Long Beach to Simi Valley, and I would have to get up at 4:00am to catch the first Blue Line by 5:00am.. That would then get me up to Simi Valley by 8:00am, and I would still have to walk another 2.5 miles to get to the office.. And, the return trip would get me home around 9:00pm.. All these hours on the light rails, subway and train (yes, I had to use all of them), and it still cost me around $350.. So, I bought a more fuel efficient used Honda and only spent $250 per month on gasoline..

Way too many stops, some are only a block or two from each other.. Why not do longer runs between stops, and use the bus system for block to block? They should also run two or three trains between Union Station and Orange County/Simi Valley.. this would give people way more time options..

People are bad mouthing the bus system...

It's not the bus, it's the criminals they transport...The Metrolink will be the same soon enough...torn-up seats, graffiti etched into the windows, the stench of urine wafting throughout the subway cars...etc...

The bottom line....it was not worth it for those in East Los Angeles, A nunber of businesses suffered as a result of poor planning by the MTA and Ms. Molina's should of rode the bus to learn this. The original route was to go to First St and Indian and should of continued either on First St or to Cesar Chavez. No one walks to 3rd St to catch a bus, duh. That was the main route for major traffic and she/MTA screwed that up. When there was major heavy traffic everyone knew that you could take 3rd street to go around the traffic on the 60 Fwy east. It took you all the was into Montebello. The only one who made out as a result of this rail is KING TACO! That's it.

Most of the businesses on 3rd st are gone, out of business, lost customers (major economic loss) and are struggling. They need a revolving loan program to help them sustain themselves during this transition period. Get it?

City/County and MTA Planners give great service and special attention to the West Side and Downtown communities (White areas) , not to East LA residents. They always get poor services and our great leader does not care. Why do they vote for her I cannot understand.

Here is what you all can do, File a class action lawsuit and claimas a result of this poor planning...a major ecnomic loss by interviewing all the businesses that suffered as a result of that construction and etc. Prove that and you will win some compensation.

If i was a board of supervisor for this area I would meet with everyone who suffered and support them with marketing and a no interest loans, and they should not be forced to pay it back because you (MTA AND GLORIA) failed to help them . It happen to all the businesses with all the rail lines.

May the Great Spirit Guide you all wisely.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention the most important fact. This Rail Line to East LA has the lowest rail ridership. Less then the buses. And when they (MTA) cut back on services to the community they always cut based on low ridership. Now, from 4pm to 7pm just stand on the corner of 3rd St and Gage and count the number of passengers riding during prime time going east. I could not count them on my two hands. It was less.

If we can only get the MTA to stop or chage the rail direction that would be great. It only caters to her (Gloria's) Civic Center, .....she could of planned the rail route to go down Cesar Chavez and turned the rail Right on to Mednick and left on 3rd. that would of served the major population and businesses. AND THE STUDENTS GOING TO EAST LA COLLGE. Duh, does it take a study to prove this as well? They could of had been served. hun, NOT! A mjaor Waste of money, just walk the area. Sad Sad Sad leadership, this does not take a genius to figure out. Like the Green Line to LAX. WHAT.... It stops and does not have daily shuttle service to LAX. WHAT A SAD CITY PLANNER WHO EVER DID THIS.

So why do people still cling to their cars? One reason is that you have your own space and do not have to put up with persons who are foul mouthed, inconsiderate, drug addicts and more. Another is that despite the traffic, it is still quicker than public transit.
Family recently visited and a trip was planned to the beach by my brother (starting point was near Beverly and Normandie). Total time from start to finish was 2 1/2 hours. The return, more than 4 1/2 hours due to a fender bender. Time by car to the beach would probably have been 30-45 minutes...maybe a bit less on the return.

"The subway doesn't go to JFK because the MTA is afraid of the powerful and very violent taxi drivers' union."

It's at least close enough. You can take the Airtrain to Howard Beach or Sutphin subway stations and there it is. But the point is probably still true.

That's the problem with these government-run projects. Supply and demand are never considered - only patronage. If the private sector were to plan something like this, it would have focused on the Westside first, duh.

That's why you get crap like this. And is why the California High Speed Rail is just a disaster waiting to happen.

Road congestion in L.A. is horrible, and carpool lanes and hybrid electric cars aren't going to solve that -- so everyone KNOWS public transit is needed.

But the reason ridership is stuck at no growth is that it is 2010 and we still are talking about deploying early 1900s transportation systems such as light rail and bus. The reason I don't take public transit more often is because it usually takes longer than driving, and also because the experience is not great.

It's past time to explore personal rapid transit (PRT) systems. Why should I wait for the train? The next train car should be sitting there waiting for me! As long as we think of rail as being multi-car trains, piloted by a human and which stop at every station -- we won't see massive shifts to increasing ridership.

Of course, there will be huge resistance to PRT from those affiliated with the legacy transportation systems of light rail, heavy rail (Metrolink), and bus For example, if the system switches to driverless personal rail car systems, you'll need less drivers. Currently, because it is expensive to transport a broken down bus or train, huge dollars are spent on maintenance yards and staff. When small personal rail cars be easily transported to normal scale repair garages, costs drop.

But we as a populace aren't offered any options other than to invest more by adding another percent of our sales taxes. These workers with their salaries and pensions will keep doing exactly what they have been doing. And we'll keep not riding public transit because it still isn't better than driving.

Are they sure? Last year's marketing campaign("Turnstiles are Coming!") clearly demonstrates that MTA's previous honor-policy on Metro Rail probably undercounted the number of riders.

In any case, while it's clear that we have a skeletal light rail system, could any of us really imagine going back to an all-bus network? Since I live in Wilshire Center, I can definitely say that I use Metro Rail daily; however, the genius of the system is that each new line effectively expands a new part of the city to new ridership. Let's go Expo and Wilshire lines!

I heart Metro.

Awesome article, I am an avid reader of your blog, keep on writing these great posts, and I’ll be a regular visitor for a very long time.
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