EV bus arriving at Union Station (photo: Bike SGV)

Metro’s Brilliant, Frustrating, $120 Billion Plan

Posted by on March 29, 2016

The best thing about a first draft is that it’s a first draft — you can always make changes.

This week, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) released its draft expenditure plan for a new transportation measure slated to appear on the November 2016 ballot.

It is a fine initial draft, many wonderful projects . . . but I have some real concerns.

As currently conceived, the plan calls for 17% of revenue to be spent on highways. Of course, we’d all like to fix our freeway’s worst bottlenecks — count me in — and HOV lanes make sense. But expanding lanes on existing freeways, or building an entirely new freeway in the desert? Hell, that’s simply not rational.

As seen with the San Diego Freeway expansion, wider freeways don’t solve our traffic problems. They make them worse by inducing more people to travel by car. Build it — and the cars come. And sprawl is synonymous with high greenhouse gas emissions.

To quote Wes Reutimann, “Have you ever noticed that the world’s great cities are also bad car cities?” Los Angeles is changing, and our “way of getting around” needs to change as well.

It’s frustrating, because the $120 billion plan has so much good in it. There are literally dozens of amazing projects that promise to transform the Southland for the better — I especially love the idea of connecting the San Fernando Valley to Westwood by train and building a line connecting southeast LA to downtown.

But Metro’s highway expansion proposals makes a mockery of the City’s and State’s climate goals. The California Air Resources Board is working on a 15% reduction in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions within the next ten years. In Metro’s draft plan, our local agency is proposing a mere 4% reduction over the next forty years!

So I’m asking you to write Mayor Eric Garcetti and other Metro board members. (Can you drop what you’re doing and write them now?) Please ask them to live up to their climate commitments and eliminate the needless expansion of freeways.