Untapped Potential for Mass Alternative Transit in Los Angeles

Living in Los Angeles for a few years will make one realize how much potential and opportunity there is for the ‘city of cities’ to have better integrated public transportation. The key word in this statement is a “city of cities”. L.A. County as a whole has 88 incorporated and incorporated cities and approximately 10 million people living and working within this boundary. This makes it the second-largest metropolitan area in the country. Needless to say, it is the automobile city of our time, generally taking the cake of top 3 worst traffic regions in the nation. No surprise there. But what is surprising to people is when I tell them that L.A. has a metro network that includes buses, trains and an underground subway.

The subway has various routes going east to west and north to south as well. As a commuter on the subway for about 6 months going from downtown to north Hollywood, I can vouch that these trains were always filled to capacity, even more so during rush hour. From an existing constraints and opportunities perspective, the city has several potential reasons it could be a leader in the nation in mass public transit. First, much of Los Angeles is flat, in theory making it easier to have broad reaching bicycle transit plan. Second, the Los Angeles River- a vast open space network that spans the county that could potentially have certain areas for bike infrastructure. Lastly, city leaders need to continue to push for regional mobility funding to expend the Metro subway network.

Needless to say, county and city leaders have a lot more work to do to get Los Angeles up to par with 21st century expectations in regards to regional public transportation. In the short term, there are a couple options that the city can pursue to make relatively rapid improvements to transit infrastructure. With all of the human capital and industry in L.A. County, city and policy makers need to better incentivize local employers to provide complementary transit service for their employees to get to work rather than relying on the conventional and costly mode of SOV transit. Additionally, the city needs to do a better job of making bike and cycling infrastructure a priority, particularly on large corollary roads. This would greatly improve the confidence of commuter cyclists as well as those who would otherwise consider biking to work if there were safer alternative routes of transit.

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