9.13.2007

LA Story

Two of the three panelists in the session I moderated were from LA,
and since my sister and brother-in-law just moved there, I have been
learning more about that city, so it was good to learn even more. I
have to confess some disdain towards SoCal, having grown up in San
Jose and pooh-poohing a lot of things about LA culture. But I am
warming to LA, as I learn about its storied past and the things it's
doing in the present to reclaim that past.

Most notably, LA is greatly improving its public transit
infrastructure. My sister and brother-in-law both commute to work via
public transit, and every week it seems they are excited to tell me
about yet another fun destination they can get to without a car.

From the late 19th century to just about World War II, LA grew around
transit. Post-WWII brought massive federal subsidies for highways,
and a literal tearing down of transit lines. As a result, growth in
the second half of the 20th century had no connection to transit.
Smog and gridlock quickly resulted.

LA is now basically maxed out, hemmed in by the ocean to the west and
south and the mountains to the north and east. And vast swaths of
land are unserved by transit. So far too many families, rich and
poor, have to depend on one car or more per adult.

Let's hope the recent trend of building more lines and stops
continues. Because more people are moving to LA. And somehow, the
city will have to figure out how they're going to get around, without
mashing them like sardines onto already crowded freeways and further
polluting air and water.

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