Larchmont to Downtown Los Angeles: completing this trip on public transportation today takes fifty-one minutes and three busses. However, from 1901 to 1963, the Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars traversed this very route using a hydro-electric powered streetcar to complete the journey in under twenty-five minutes. Line 3 made its way straight down Larchmont Boulevard before continuing along a private right-of-way for most of the journey to Downtown. In addition to Line 3, the Yellow Car system was comprised of nineteen other lines all terminating in Downtown Los Angeles. Both the Yellow Car and the more extensive Pacific Electric Red Car operated during the first half of the 20th century before the entire streetcar system was removed and replaced with diesel buses in 1963. At the peak of their service, the Red and Yellow car Railways had a combined 1,100 miles of streetcar track. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the Red Car had lines to Santa Monica, San Pedro, Pomona, Corona, Santa Ana and even up to the Mount Wilson observatory (Miles par.
9 map). Today, all the local rail in Los Angeles is comprised of just 105 miles of track (Metro 2). Such a low number leads the Los Angeles rail system to be dwarfed by systems of other US cities, such as New York City.
According to the article in the Huffington Post, New York City currently has a rail network consisting of 842 miles of track (Miles par. 2). Yes, at one point, Los Angeles had a longer and wider-reaching rail system than that of New York. However, today Los Angeles is left with less than ten percent of what it once had. Los Angeles should develop more light rail because light rail will ease congestion from streets and freeways, allow individuals greater avenues of economic mobility, and spur economic growth around the rail stations. Los Angeles needs more light rail to ease congestion because Los Angeles has some of the worst traffic in the world and cities with larger rail systems have less traffic. Streets and freeways in Los Angeles are among the most stress-inducing across the largest world cities.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “The Greater L.A. area has four of the world’s most-congested freeway segments, including … the 5 Freeway between Highway 133 in Orange County and Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles and the 10 Freeway between the city of Santa Monica and Alameda Street” (Nelson par. 7). That Los Angeles has freeway segments with some of the worst traffic in the world shows the need for more light rail to alleviate the high demand on our freeways. Light rail will get Angelenos out of traffic and the snail-paced freeway speeds because light rail mainly operates on private corridors where trains run quickly without obstructions.
According to a global traffic study by INRIX Research, the I-10 Eastbound in Los Angeles has a PM peak average speed of 25.2 MPH, the I-5 southbound has an AM peak average speed of 25.7 MPH, and the US-101 southbound has a PM peak average speed of 16.4 MPH (Cookson and Pishue 23). With such low speeds on Los Angeles’ freeways, Angelenos have a harder time getting where they need to go. More light rail will enable people to get out of their cars to get to their destinations. Bad traffic also has a financial impact not only for residents, but for the city as a whole.
According to the global traffic study by INRIX Research, “Los Angeles tops the ranking of US cities by both peak hours spent in congestion and the INRIX Congestion Index…. Last year, congestion cost Los Angeles drivers over $2,400 on average, equaling more than $9.6 billion to the city as a whole” (Cookson and Pishue 18). Drivers in Los Angeles are suffering from the many problems of traffic. Traffic costs drivers large sums of money, money that could be used to improve everyone’s overall economic standing.
Across the country, light rail has proven that it can help alleviate traffic as cities with larger rail systems have less traffic. According to the global traffic study by INRIX Research, in Los Angeles drivers spend 104 hours each year in congestion, while commuters in Chicago spend only 57 hours a year in congestion (Cookson and Pishue 19). Chicago has a rail system consisting of 224 miles of track, more than double Los Angeles’ 105 mile system. Thus, commuters in Chicago spend about half the time in traffic per year as those in Los Angeles.
More rail encourages more people to get out of their cars and leads to less traffic for the city. A similar phenomenon occurs in Boston as well. According to the global traffic study by INRIX Research, commuters in Boston spend 58 hours a year in traffic and traffic costs the city less than $2.9 billion a year (Cookson and Pishue 19). With a rail system consisting of 664 miles of track, Boston’s system is more than six times as large as the system in Los Angeles. With a larger system providing more access to transportation, Bostonians experience less traffic than Angelenos.
Less traffic precipitates a smaller financial impact on Boston and its residents compared to Los Angeles’ $9.6 billion yearly impact. Los Angeles has some of the worst traffic in the world and traffic is a large issue for residents, but light rail can help to alleviate the burden of traffic as it is doing in other US cities.Light rail will allow individuals greater avenues of economic mobility because the communities with the worst transit are among the most impoverished and increased transit allows more economic opportunities for everyone. Communities with limited access to public transportation tend to be less financially stable than others. An article in the New York Times said, “Residents of the areas least well served by mass transit relied on personal vehicles. Areas in the middle third — those with some, but insufficient, access to transportation — had the highest rates of unemployment and the lowest incomes” (Bouchard par. 7).
Although many large areas are served with public transportation in Los Angeles now, like Koreatown, Westlake, and Hollywood, some areas may have insufficient access. For example, the areas of Baldwin Park, Valinda, and Puente Valley have population densities of over 10,000 people per square mile, yet they are all more than five miles away from the nearest light rail station. Adding more light rail will improve transit access for many communities that currently have insufficient systems, as light rail is faster and more reliable than busses. Greater accessibility to rail increases one’s financial opportunities. An article in The Atlantic stated, “A recent study from Harvard found that geographic mobility was indeed linked to economic mobility, and a 2014 study from NYU found a link between poor public-transit access and higher rates of unemployment” (White par.
3). Because public transit access and unemployment rates are connected, Los Angeles needs more light rail to extend the reaches of its current public transit system in order to provide new riders better access. In addition to new riders, because light rail also cuts down on commute times compared to busses, it can allow more geographic mobility and therefore more economic mobility to people already using the system. Not only does Los Angeles need to create more public transportation, but this new transit also needs to be efficient, which light rail can help to accomplish. An article in the New York Times said, “In a large, continuing study of upward mobility based at Harvard, commuting time has emerged as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. The longer an average commute in a given county, the worse the chances of low-income families there moving up the ladder” (Bouchard par.
4). Currently, the bus and rail systems in Los Angeles are wide reaching but mainly made up of infrequent, slow, and unreliable busses. Busses have to stop at traffic lights, deal with road closures, and fight traffic, which lengthens commute times. Light rail, not having to deal with the same problems, will speed up commute times and, therefore, allow families increased economic mobility and less of a chance of dropping into poverty. Building light rail will also help to increase economic mobility because transit allows more opportunities for economic progress. According to the article in The Atlantic, “Access to just about everything associated with upward mobility and economic progress—jobs, quality food, and goods (at reasonable prices), healthcare, and schooling— relies on the ability to get around in an efficient way, and for an affordable price” (White par. 3). Light rail can offer a more efficient way to get around than busses and, thus, can increase opportunities associated with achieving a better financial situation.
Los Angeles needs more light rail so that more residents can have the opportunities that better transit provides. According to the article in The Atlantic, “Transportation is about more than just moving people from point A to point B. It’s also a system that can either limit or expand the opportunities available to people based on where they live” (White par. 1).
Los Angeles needs to increase light rail so that more residents, especially low-income residents, are not restricted from having opportunities based on where they live. All Angelenos, no matter where they live or what their socioeconomic status is, should have the same access to mobility, which can be offered through increased light rail. Indeed, Los Angeles needs more light rail to allow greater avenues of economic mobility and to help the communities with the worst transit achieve better economic status.Los Angeles needs more light rail because it will spur economic growth around the rail stations. According to an article in the LA Weekly, “The Crenshaw Line is expected to open in late 2019, and Leimert Park fought for, and won, its own station at Vernon Avenue. There is widespread hope that the line will help revitalize the neighborhood, bringing in diners and shoppers to support black-owned businesses” (Maddaus par. 42).
That the Crenshaw light rail line is creating development around its stations is economically beneficial. Diners and shoppers visiting the neighborhood will contribute to the economy of the area, as restaurants and stores will see an increase in business. More customers patronizing the existing businesses will draw additional businesses to the area, giving the neighborhood increased variety. The same article in the LA Weekly also talks about the changes in Culver City around its light rail station. It says, “The city has encouraged midrise housing development downtown and next to the Expo Line station…. A few years ago, it was an unremarkable industrial corner. Now it’s changing fast.
The Platform development — a mix of high-end galleries, boutiques and pastry shops — just opened to the southwest of the train station, on the site of a former used car lot.” (Maddaus pars. 29-30). Light rail, like the Expo Line, is helping the economy by revitalizing drab areas of cities and communities into bustling places that attract business from rail travellers, as demonstrated in Culver City.
Economic development can be seen on virtually all lines of the Los Angeles Metro system. According to the article in the LA Weekly, “One particular project — the Millennium Hollywood — calls for nearly 500 condos, plus 200 hotel rooms…. The project would be about a block away from the subway stop at Hollywood and Vine, and its developers contend that it would help ease traffic by providing convenient transit access” (Maddaus pars. 17-18). As further demonstrated by the construction around the transit stations of the Red line, increased light rail helps the economy because it will encourage economic growth and neighborhood revitalization. Indeed, more light rail should be added to Los Angeles to encourage development, in turn reaping an economic benefit.That Los Angeles should not build more light rail because it will be too much of a financial burden for the city is wrong because light rail is less expensive than other forms of rail and voters have shown that they are willing to pay.
When compared with the other options Los Angeles has for expanding its rail infrastructure, light rail proves to be significantly less expensive. According to Metro Los Angeles, the Blue line had a construction cost of $877 million for 22 miles of track while the Red/Purple lines had a construction cost of $4.5 billion for 17.4 miles of track (Metro par. 3). Therefore, the Blue line, a light rail line, cost around $40 million per mile while the Red/Purple lines, subway lines, cost around $259 million per mile.
This one example means that building a mile of light rail is 6 times less expensive than building a mile of subway. Light rail is easier for cities like Los Angeles to afford. It wasn’t just one light rail line that was much cheaper. According to Metro Los Angeles, the Green line had a construction cost of $718 million for 20 miles of track while the Red/Purple lines had a construction cost of $4.5 billion for 17.
4 miles of track (Metro par. 3). Thus, the Green line, a light rail line, costs around $36 million per mile while the Red/Purple lines, subway lines, cost around $259 million per mile.
This example, yet again, proves that building a mile of light rail is significantly less expensive than building a mile of subway. Light rail doesn’t have as drastic an economic impact for the city as would building other types of rail. Furthermore, even though it does cost $36-$40 million per mile, Los Angeles voters have shown that they are willing to pay for these lines by passing ballot measures such as Measure M, a half cent sales tax to fund public transportation projects. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “In giving the Measure M transit tax roughly 70% support, a full 3 percentage points above the super-majority it needed to pass, county voters virtually guaranteed that L.A. will finally build the mature, comprehensive public transit system it has been working toward, often haltingly, since the 1980s” (Hawthorne par. 2). Angelenos, by passing Measure M, showed that they are willing to pay, and want to pay, for more public transportation.
More light trail will not be a financial burden for the city of Los Angeles. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Some transit projects funded by Measure M are ambitious enough to radically remake the region’s public transportation map” (Hawthorne par. 3). Voters have shown that they want a lot more public transportation and are willing to front the costs.
Now, Los Angeles needs more light rail to satisfy Los Angeles’ public transportation needs. While some may say that adding more light rail will be too much of a financial burden for the city of Los Angeles, not only is it significantly cheaper than other types of rail, but Angelenos have proven they are willing pay for it.Los Angeles once had the most expansive rail systems in the United States. However, as the car consumed Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s, the amount of operating streetcars slowly dwindled to none. From then on, Los Angeles became a car-centered city, but now is the time for a change. According to Governing, in 2016, 54.4% of New York City households do not own a vehicle, while just 12.2% of households forego their cars in Los Angeles.
Residents in Washington, D.C. have an average of .
86 cars per household, while in Los Angeles, residents have an average of 1.62 cars per household. (par. 5 table) Los Angeles clearly has a car-centered culture. Dodgers fans can be seen leaving baseball games at Dodger Stadium early, just to beat the traffic.
Few people hop on public transportation with their bags packed, heading to LAX, while in Chicago, connecting straight to the rail system from the airport’s front doors is a common occurrence. A change needs to occur. Los Angeles needs to have more light rail because light rail will ease congestion from streets and freeways, it will allow individuals greater avenues of economic mobility, and it will spur economic growth around the rail stations. Combined, these factors will improve the quality of life for all Angelenos.