Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Metro Journal: Last.... Stop.....

I completed, more or less, my promised month-long saga. Maybe if I have an exciting story I'll post it, but right now I'm sick of trying to take notes on the bus and am too distracted to do a good job. I think it was important to survey an extended period rather than picking a day here or there with good stories, because no two days are exactly alike, but there's a rhythm to it. So maybe I'll pick it up and do another month sometime down the road.

I didn't set out to write this blog to try to convince people whether they should use public transportation or not. Especially here in Southern California, it's a crap-shoot a lot of the time. You can thank the state government for that for cutting $1.3 billion from the transportation budget last year (only a portion of which is earmarked for public transportation, but you get the idea) and for people not giving it a chance.

I don't know the precise economics of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and, ok, I'm too lazy to look them up right now. I just assume that it will probably never be profitable on its own and will always require government subsidies. But think of the ways everyone benefits, whether or not they ever ride a bus or train. With fewer vehicles on the road, you get...
  1. Less traffic. Less time spent in traffic for everyone, whether they're on a bus or in their own car.
  2. Less wear and tear on the roads. I'm not saying that's going to save the government money on potholes they don't have to fix, as taxes on gasoline go towards that, but just think how long it takes potholes to get fixed!
  3. Fewer pollutants in the air. With asthma and other respiratory illnesses growing problems, cutting down on damaging particulates in the air will mean increased productivity and less burden on the health-care system, which saves the state money when the patients depend on Medi-Cal, but mainly it means better quality of life for patients and their families.
  4. Less noise pollution.
  5. Better quality of life for everyone.
As I said in the beginning, though, getting more people to ride the bus or rail here rests on a chicken-and-egg quandary. People with a choice won't ride if the buses are unreliable, too infrequent, or otherwise inconvenient. The Metro can't add more coverage and buses to make it more palatable to more people without money.

And the next time you're stuck in traffic, or waiting forever for your bus, or spilling your morning coffee all over yourself because you hit a pothole, or choking on exhaust, think about our dear old Governator riding around in his private jet.

P.S. Over a week later and I haven't gotten a response to my complaint letter in the last post. Therefore I have no qualms in announcing that My Airline Experience From Hell was on United.

P.P.S. Last night I was on the 207 with the "Hollywood.... Western..... Last.... Stop....." driver again. When we got to the last.... stop.... I went out the front and asked him, "You just can't wait to get us all off this bus, can you?" He laughed.

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