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Subway to the Sea Won't Cut Auto Congestion

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A new environmental impact study about the westside "subway to the sea" casts doubt on the belief that it will help ease auto congestion.

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L.A. Weekly reports that transportation experts aren't necessarily surprised:

When USC professor and transportation expert James Moore heard the findings several days ago that the $9 billion Subway to the Sea won't relieve congestion on the Westside, as vowed by Antonio Villaraigosa, Moore was among a number of transportation insiders who wasn't stunned.

"I didn't need an Environmental Impact Report to know that," says Moore, iconoclastic director of transportation engineering at USC, referring to an environmental study by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Moore says the truth about how Metro plans to use up to $9 billion in sales taxes being paid by 8 million consumers in Los Angeles County is: "We're not building [a subway] to ease congestion. We're doing it for political reasons."

If the "Purple Line" won't ease transit congestion, than what is it for?

Opponents called the subway...a giant public works project to please unions and special interests, and that the $9 billion -- reaped from a half-cent county sales-tax hike approved by voters in 2008 -- should go to county road-capacity projects put off for decades, extensive bus lines to bring the region into the 21st century...

Here are the details of the study:

Metro's Sept. 3 EIR found that in 2035, the subway extension from Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood/UCLA will create a virtually unnoticeable, less-than 1 percent reduction in cars, as measured in "vehicle miles traveled" and that crammed freeways and arteries -- the San Diego Freeway, Santa Monica Freeway, Wilshire Boulevard and others -- will remain badly congested as more people move in.... The embarrassing data left top backers grasping to explain how Metro's board and L.A. leaders got so far into a $9 billion project without solid facts.

The MTA strongly objects to the Weekly's article. One of their points of contention concerns ridership figures:

The story states: "Metro has poured billions into light rail and subways, letting road systems badly age. And still, only 2 percent of residents in the greater Los Angeles urban area, stretching from Orange County to Pomona to the Valley, use public transit." That statistic is unattributed but presumably includes people of all ages, including children. Perhaps it's more relevant to look at the number of people 16 or older who use public transit to get to work -- the people mostly using the roads at rush hour. In the Los Angeles urban area, that number is 6.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Los Angeles County, 7.2 percent of the workforce uses transit and 11.1 percent does in the city of L.A.

The MTA environmental impact statement/report in question.

Past City of Angles blogging on L.A. subway extension controversies.

Image taken by Flickr user army.arch. User under user Creative Commons license.

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