Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Open Letter to the Metro Board

Honorable Metro Board Members:

Last night while waiting for the 720 bus at the busiest intersection in Los Angeles (Wilshire & Westwood), I conducted an informal study of vehicles passing in the curb lane. First, the roadway was so congested that over the 5-minute period I surveyed an average of 14 people per minute passed through that curb lane. Second, about a third of the vehicles with identifiable dealer plates came from Burbank or points east along the I-210 corridor (Longo in El Monte, Claremont Toyota, etc). Third, I then boarded a bus, which was much delayed due to the congestion, and counted 55 people aboard that bus. One slow, delayed 60-foot bus carried as many people as 4 minutes of traffic. Public transportation is essential to getting Los Angeles moving again and recouping some of the $10 billion lost annually due to traffic congestion.

The transportation reauthorization bill is likely to expand funding opportunities for transit, but future projects will be continue to be evaluated based on cost-benefit criteria. Two proposed projects serve as significant system-wide ridership multipliers to all projects connected to the network. These projects will increase the potential benefits of all future transit projects in Los Angeles County more than any project, proposed or conceived. These projects are the downtown regional connector and the subway. These projects will create a robust core transit network by providing quick reliable access to job centers and areas of dense population. All peripheral projects will benefit, and jump well ahead in the competition for federal funds as a result.

The benefits of both the Wilshire subway and regional connector will be both substantial and regional. To focus substantial efforts on building other projects before making substantial progress on these core projects is akin to building the second floor before the frame (it’s an important part of the house, but there is nothing yet to support it) and appears parochial and short sighted. I urge you to pass a Long Range Transportation Plan that reflects this reality.

Juan Matute
MBA, MA Urban Planning