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

July 23, 2010 | 11:03 am
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