The paper’s had a series of guest editorials about traffic, transit and urban planning—specifically, how sprawling, congested LA can get itself out of the fix it’s put itself into over the last 60 years or so. The LA area is surprisingly dense, but the population is spread out fairly uniformly over a large area—which makes it very hard to service the region cost-effectively using transit. At the same time, building new roads has become both exhorbitantly expensive and politically unpalatable.
Sounds a little like some parts of the Northwest, no?
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- Jonathan Richmond argues that the city should forget about expensive transportation megaprojects—both highways and rail—because they’re simply too costly and not effective in a dispersed urban environment. Instead, he says, "the only way to dramatically improve traffic flow in Los Angeles is to charge tolls." A pay-as-you-drive system would keep streets and highways clearer; when coupled with a first-rate bus system, it could improve mobility for everyone, not just the well-off.
- UCLA professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, argues that free parking clogs the roads and undermines transit: "Even if Southern California spends billions of dollars to build a larger rail system, a big problem will remain: Few commuters will ride the train if their employers continue to offer them free parking."
- USC prof. James Moore thinks that the government should let the private sector enter the transit business: "If we want transportation services – jitneys, private buses, cabs – that can compete effectively with automobiles, we are going to have to bring transportation entrepreneurs out of the shadows."
- USC professor William Fulton writes a sprawling and disorganized piece that makes a number of points, among which that LA’s new mayor should "make it cool to get around town without driving." (How a mayor can do that, I don’t know. Mayors aren’t cool.) He also argues that the real task is to shape development patterns over the next 30 years: "Most importantly, the new mayor must aggressively use his power over the development process to promote dense new projects around rail and bus rapid transit stops."
Obviously, I don’t agree with everything these folks have written, and haven’t thought a lot of it through. But it’s interesting to see the US city with the worst traffic problems in the country trying to figure out some solutions—the nuggets are revealing.