Planning and Public Transportation 20/20 Hindsight


Planning and Public Transportation 20/20 Hindsight

I know, I know, I’m an expert in 20/20 hindsight.  But planning isn’t my job.  I would have thought that the planners who designed the light rail systems in cities like Los Angeles that are spread over a gazillion square miles might have realized that there would be parking problems around the stations. See for the story (Scroll down or search for Azusa)

Here’s the deal – They extended the rail line out the San Gabriel Valley and the areas around the stations are jammed with cars. Local merchants are having folks towed, neighborhoods are up in arms. Gee, who would have predicted that?

The problem is, of course, that there is no way for folks to get to the stations except drive. So they drive and search for places to park.

The planners say that the real solution is to entice (force) people to live near the stations so they can walk to the trains. That’s fine if your city is vertical like New York or Chicago. But what about horizontal cities like LA where people like to live on their own 10,000 square feet of dirt and drive their Belchfire 800s.

Planners need to get out of their ivory towers and take a look at successful transit systems. Amsterdam, San Francisco, Boston, are good examples of cities that combine light rail with bus and trolly feeders. The trolleys run down the major boulevards and people simply walk out to stops a few blocks from their homes, hop on the car, and ride either to their work or to a station where they can take light rail to their eventual destination.

Why is this so difficult to do?  The street systems are much less expensive than light rail so they can be located in more areas.  If you don’t want to install rail, what about electric buses. String some wire and paint a few stations, and you are in business. OK, its not that simple, but its certainly easier than the construction of a billion dollar a mile subway or surface light rail.

The Azusa (Gold) line in Los Angeles worked too well. When it opened riders flocked to the stations, but they drove. If you want folks to use an alternative, you need to give them an alternative.

Planners seem to work from a blank slate.  Isn’t it time we took into consideration what currently exists and work with it?




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John Van Horn

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