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War on traffic needs new strategy
Posted May 11, 2007

Tom Anderson
Editor in Chief

It should go without saying that I love cars, but I also know that there are way, way too many of them on Southern California roads.

Most of the instant experts with a soapbox to stand on pontificate that this is the result of some mysterious behavioral disorder that has become increasingly prevalent in our collective psyche over the decades, causing people to become dangerously self-absorbed and stubbornly independent.

I, on the other hand, have a much simpler, succinct and dare I say more accurate theory: The fact of the matter is our mass transit network, when compared to those in the world’s other great megalopolises, flat out blows

Yes, I know, there are about a zillion-and-a-half buses of all shapes and sizes scurrying around the L.A. Basin at any given moment, and I know that local leaders also have to worry about stuff like crime, pollution and skanky, empty-skulled pseudo-celebrities running around on suspended driver’s licenses. But you would think the MTA (or as I like to say, “EmptyA”) would have a rational, cohesive and comprehensive approach to trying to ease the region’s growing gridlock pandemic.

You certainly could think that.

Trouble is, you’d be wrong.

Instead, the approach that those in power have toward transportation planning seems to involve equal parts blind conjecture, sitting on their cans waiting for state and federal funding to be sent their way, signing off on red tape- and bureaucracy-induced delays whose lengths would leave even geologists in awe, and kowtowing to self- and special-interests.

Case in point: The Foothill Extension of the Gold Line has been repeatedly excluded from the EmptyA’s short-term construction plans in favor of projects in the Valley, the Westside and the South Bay, areas which have, not coincidentally, routinely illustrated their ability to out-rally, out-lobby and straight up bully the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys.

As a result, the 210 is quickly starting to resemble a parking lot during rush hour.

“So what?” ask the powerbrokers Downtown. “You’ve already got plenty of buses and a Metrolink line to San Bernardino, so quit whining!”

Well, maybe we wouldn’t be whining if those buses weren’t abysmally slow, or if we didn’t have to drive far to the south (read: out of our way, defeating the purpose) to hop on the monumentally-pricier Metrolink train. Also, it’d be kinda nice if you guys were, you know, willing to share and equitably-distribute whatever meager quantities of funding get tossed your way once and a while.

Of course, if that’s simply too much to ask, we can always form our own breakaway “San Gabriel County,” taking our boatloads of sales tax and property tax dollars with us. I mean, it’s not like you guys in Downtown and points west would miss them or anything, right?

But the above scenario would probably best be left as a last resort. Realistically speaking, combating traffic is going to take cooperation, compromise, decisiveness and, horror-of-horrors, maturity from all corners of the Southland.

Unfortunately, this battle is also going to require an investment of capital on an unprecedented and unimaginable scale. However, the price tag (not to mention the need for more mobility options) is only going to go up the longer we wait, so the sooner we start, the less painful it will be.

In a perfect world, our forefathers never would have signed-off on the phase-out of the “Big Red Car” interurban trolleys that criss-crossed the region for the first half of the last century.

Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world. But until we suck it up and get serious about our traffic problem, we’ll continue our race to the bottom of the list of the best major metropolitan areas to live in. Is that a race we really want to win?

Tom Anderson, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at tanderson1@ulv.edu.