The Vote NO on County Measure J Urban Design Study
Vote NO on Measure J so that better plans can be made to improve transportation, achieve better city design, and obtain needed social and economic development.
Planning issues take a long time to perfect through the democratic and economic processes and it is best to give them time so that citizens are represented fairly and projects will be successful. Metro has no federal funding lined up anyway for Measure J. Metro is hoping and wishing for a Federal “subsidy” whose legislation does not exist. Measure J is wishful thinking in the form of a Measure that might obligate citizens for a long time and to something that they can’t understand or live with because Measure R plans, and the projects to be accelerated are inadequate. How inadequate? Well the following list of issues starts to define how inadequate and flawed these Measures J and R really are.
Before we get to that however, it is proper to identify that it is due to Mayor Antonio Villaragosa who is most responsible for setting up this Measure J and the steps leading up to it. As Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and as Mayor of the City of LA he has fired and removed competent LA city planners and County transportation planners, has rigged the Measure J acceleration concept and its connection to the America Fast Forward idea of heavy Federal spending on infrastructure. While doing so there is within it the choosing of a few winners and a broad list of losers not only by specific areas of transportation improvement projects but by the ongoing character of social and economic development that results from the financing and lack of representation these expenditures employ. Among these effects is a change of how business is carried out generally, generational theft is used by borrowing from the future, exacerbated abuse to young workers by the senior ratio phenomena, lessening of education and employment opportunities, increased financial risk to the County and the long term undermining of what characterizes the values of Southern California lifestyle.
Earlier in the history of Los Angeles water was the issue that was fought over. Now it is transportation and its relationships to land use. There is a mighty struggle going on now compounded by the 2008 Financial Crisis that has depressed the LA economy. Some desperate aspects have worked there way into Measure J that impact the majority of citizens.
But who can blame, the Mayor? Well you can blame him by Voting NO on Measure J.
The bottom line to this design analysis is that by adding transportation capacity and land use growth in corridors the average length of trips in LA County can get shorter. When trips get shorter there is less traffic and miles traveled. So much so that the two million additional people that become LA County citizens over the next 25 to 30 years will not experience any additional traffic if Flow Boulevards are added to the transportation network but just the opposite, less traffic. That is a twenty percent increase in population but less travel and no congestion.
The mileage traveled now each day in LA County is about 80 million miles. Twenty percent of that is about 17 million miles. By adding additional transportation capacity with Flow Boulevards that also add land use opportunities to increase higher density of housing, businesses and other land uses in low density suburban areas, the additional population and its travel demand is absorbed by virtue of the resulting shorter trips being made between home, work, shopping, and recreation etcetera. The proposed growth of 130 miles of Flow Boulevards that is recommended in this study would increase capacity on average about 65,000 person trips per mile times the 130 miles equals about 8.5 million miles per day of additional capacity. It would be a conservative assumption that the trips in these corridors where there are the closeness of connections between home, work, shopping and recreation etcetera would be just half as long. The average trip length now in LA County is 15.5 miles long. Half of that is 7.75 miles long. I am sure you can imagine that the average length of trips could be even closer to 5 miles long. But in the 7.75 mile average length case the two million addition people in the County of 2040 would have been absorbed with no appreciable increase in total County travel mileage. Using the 5 mile average length case there would be less traffic and mileage. And remember there would be no traffic congestion because Flow Boulevards FLOW!
The lessening in traffic comes in two ways. First there are half as many miles traveled by trips being half as long. Secondly, due to the free flow of vehicles on Flow Boulevards there is no congestion, therefore quicker and shorter trips. Considering that trips from adjacent areas would be shorter as well to close by land use destinations there would be even more efficiencies to be gained and more shorter trips. Then the effect of adding two million more people to LA County would make it seem like there was much less traffic.
The technical aspects involved in transportation and land use relationships are still being brought to light. Future Measure J and R projects and programs are insufficient for LA County transportation needs because they add few miles, add little useable capacity, do not effectively engage land use and the addition of two million more people would create greater congestion for the majority if not dealt with by Flow Boulevards. LA County has the necessity to consolidate its urban form. The transportation facility that is greatly needed is not the one that provides travel further and maybe faster for a few but the facility that accommodates travel for the majority with more convenient, faster and shorter trips. That transportation facility is the Flow Boulevard concept that accommodates the growth and its demands for travel. It is with further benefit that it is low in cost, protects existing suburban and urban communities and is connected to existing travel destinations by the utilization of existing street rights of way using autos, trucks and true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on exclusive lanes.
Briefly the Issues that Measures J and R do not Address
(These are short statements of issues contained in the longer statement that follows)
1. There is myth surrounding what improvement the rail projects will actually provide because once completed they will serve less than 3% of movement in LA County still leaving congestion just about everywhere.
2. Outside of the LA Basin there is a great need to structure the sub-regions (suburbs) and their communities with low cost improved transportation and community growth to accommodate the consolidation of population over the next 25 to 30 years. These improvements would reduce vehicular miles traveled (VMT). This fact goes totally unrecognized in the Measure R projects.
3. There are many locally needed transportation improvements that do not involve rail that are going unplanned for and not built, for example in the Westside of LA (see the expanded discussion on issue 6 below).
4. Unfortunately there are premature “R” projects that represent “bailouts” for existing real estate speculators but function as wasteful spending by being not needed for decades and in some cases there are better projects to replace them altogether.
5. With an unwarranted emphasis on commuter rail, there is an incomplete range of multi-modal transportation solutions in practically all areas of LA County. Low cost transportation improvement that supports adjacent land use growth is clearly not in evidence in Metro’s plans and processes to obtain such. In this regard there are few rail miles needed but there are many corridors where auto and bus service is needed to serve the commercial and residential growth of LA County.
6. There is currently a mania and frustration underway due to traffic congestion in many parts of the County, but this is mainly due to the inadequate relationships of transportation to land use that Metro chooses not to plan for and is not addressing.
7. LA is not New York City, and its transportation needs require greater coordination with existing sprawled development patterns where low cost improvements for autos, trucks and bus transit mileage provides better service than a few miles of commuter rail to Downtown LA.
8. There is a major flaw in designing for the County and that is in Metro’s lack of coordinating of local social developmental needs and the economic development of a supportive overall affordable transportation and land use plan that evolves through time and has the ability to respond to new problems that emerge. Offering a commuter rail plans that favors a few and ignores the many is a major flaw that means they will be back for more money later.
9. Unintended Consequences: The stimulus of accelerated construction can lead to a County “Transportation Bubble” and then a Crash leaving future needs of economic and social development unmet. At that point the pressure to raise taxes to fix conditions that were unplanned for could finally take out Proposition 13. This consequence would weaken, if not remove, one of the main underpinnings supporting Southern California lifestyle and opportunity.
10. One hundred miles of Flow Boulevard removes twice as much CO2 as do all of the rail improvements.
11. There are underserved existing and future communities by the lack of transportation improvement which detracts and limits opportunities of small, medium and large business activity and its growth.
12. Metro supported transit oriented development with crony capitalism crowds out free market business development and places losses on the public balance sheet.
13. Generational Theft is an aspect of Measure J by getting near term benefit for a few older commuters but leaves the underserved younger majority to pay for it over the long term. Adding insult to injury the younger underserved must originate new projects to provide transportation needs that they will have.
14. The “Senior Ratio” means that fewer younger people will be paying for a greater number of non-working retirees than normal because of the unusual 66% increase of the Boomer generation increase. If the younger generations do not have transportation and land use support that bring good jobs and community development, it is all the more burdensome on them.
15. Institutional Risk brought about through “moral hazard” which is a new risk entering politically inspired rail projects that elevates the chances for public financial losses while lessening the chances for productive projects to occur.
Abstracts of Seven Issues
Following below are Abstracts of the seven issues contained in this article for the benefit of those that want the answers fast without reading the entire article or to use as a way to direct themselves to the various issues that concern them most within the longer statement and reasoning. But it would be a good idea however, to read all the abstracts to obtain the overall viewpoint.
Issue One; Metro’s Incomplete Transportation Concepts and Plans.
The main objection to an expensive addition to the existing commuter rail system is it does not answer the real critical overall needs of transportation improvement in LA County. Metro’s Measure R plans emphasize centralized transportation improvements for commuter rail that benefit a few, deals with less than 3% of total travel in LA County when it is completed, while Metro’s plans neglect the solving for the related 90% of overall congested travel in LA County. If instead of a few more miles of extended light rail, an extensive rapid bus system in “growth corridors” were added to the existing rail that is being completed now, a low cost countywide transportation system would make a structure that would produce the jobs, economy and communities to accept the more than two million additional residents that will come to reside here in the next 25 to 30 years. By missing the need to plan for the increased population makes Metro’s plan totally incomplete.
Regarding the Measure R improvements to already congested freeways; such “repairs” will not accommodate long range growth and development but are maintenance and bottleneck oriented, leaving the countywide land use growth in density and effective reductions in vehicular miles traveled unaddressed.
Issue Two; Missing Transportation Elements, Representation and Money
By missing low cost transportation improvement elements, which can address LA County land use development needs, those missing elements would reduce the County ability to provide for social and economic development. By cutting out the opportunities of the majority in seemingly dictatorial planning processes, it results in having the affect of “taxation without representation”. Metro seeks to avoid governmental planning processes that involve local government and citizen participation by asking for long term monetary commitments combined with their incomplete plans. This opens the door to very large misallocations of resources and the unintended consequences that can bring about social and economic failures by not having supported broad social and economic development in the first place with complete plans and processes. This makes the idea of borrowing from the future to accelerate incomplete plans extremely risky because there will not be the economic base to pay the loans back. Because the loans are over a 57 year period, making plan adjustments and refinancing adjustments become a dark quagmire beyond transparent scrutiny; malfeasance becomes a likelihood. This all can be avoided by not passing Measure J and with obtaining better and complete plans instead.
Paying for public improvements with a sales tax is proportionately higher for the middle and working classes than through the traditional property taxes and fees that are paid by the properties being developed. It is in effect inequitable, in that with Measure J (and R) the majority is paying for those few beneficiaries associated with the high income properties and businesses being commuted to. But the real inequity is in lost opportunity for the majority and for LA County to become globally competitive.
Issue Three; LA City and County Plans Need to Generate Productivity
Transportation improvement plans must contain the objectives of productivity by providing jobs and sustainable growth as opposed to being for consumption of resources that in many ways are wasteful, not needed or are untimely. Instead of adding a few miles of expensive commuter rail lines in outlying areas of LA County for commuting to Downtown, an extensive low cost vehicular transportation network featuring bus rapid transit can support short and long term productivity and growth. This begins with addressing our “unemployment crisis” with construction jobs of course with the transportation improvement but also with the extensive associated land use areas to be developed. Longer term these low cost transportation “growth corridors” and centers become the communities to provide the prosperity we need as LA County consolidates.
These areas educate and attract entrepreneurial business growth. This is part of recognizing that the additional two million people to live in LA County will need jobs, efficient transportation, growing communities and that obviously all cannot all be fit into Downtown LA and the LA Basin with the use of commuter rail. The concept of making the LA Basin function well and the suburbs efficient and productive with growth corridors is integral with the significant reduction of vehicular miles traveled as well. This is a planning task that takes time to represent communities adequately and a necessary planning task that is not addressed by Metro Measure R projects and plans. As it stands the majority would be cut out of the decision making resulting in less available jobs and weakened future communities by the passage of Measure J.
Issue Four; These Times Require that we Do More with Less.
The stressed existing economic condition, the need for extensive development for new productivity, and the dubious sources for availability of money requires that we “do more with less”. This means becoming economically more business constructive, environmentally responsive and developmentally more entrepreneurial and comprehensive by our use of transportation improvement to structure a better Los Angeles. The Federal Transportation Administration says “do more with less” whereas Metro is saying “do less with more money”, by the plans as presented in the Measure R projects and their acceleration with Measure J. Such ventures with public funds often lead to misallocations of resources, when they start out with inadequate plans, missing essential plan elements and representation and then can lead to potentially catastrophic economic failure. It also means that Metro would be back yet again for more money to try to get it right. In fact it seems they are already back for more money stretched over a longer period with Measure J. In that their plans and objectives are incomplete and given what needs to be done, it would not be the last time they went to get money from the public for their way too expensive plans and ambitions.
Issue Five; Risk, a Transportation Bubble and the Consequences of Failure
Metro indicates that it would be dependent on a Federal “subsidy” that has not been legislated and that the program does not now exist. In other words it is wishful thinking that Metro wants to obligate voters to for a long period of time but don’t know on what conditions there would be and that the whole thing could blow up to begin with. This looks like just another risky and reckless financial maneuver in a series of bubbles that has depressed our economy and put the middle and working classes into the depths of debt (not to mention the speculators that need bailouts). If Metro tried to get $40 billion dollars through Wall Street it would be very likely to end up in a County bankruptcy with further direr consequences.
Also touched upon is the possible new risky use of “cheap money” in stimulating transportation and that such miss use of financing has been used to perpetuate devastating economic bubbles over the last two decades. With the inadequacies of Metro’s plans and the potentials for economic failure by not having revenues to pay the debt, a likely Transportation Bubble could form putting the County into enormous debt, then taxes would then have to be raised and could have effects like busting Prop 13. That would undo a major underpinning of Southern California lifestyle fundamentally changing LA County. If the net result of the productivity of our cities and industries do not exceed our expenditures it is but a matter of time that such unintended consequences can come about and thereby change living in Los Angeles and California for the worse.
Then “Generational Theft”, the “Senior Ratio” and “Moral Hazard” are shown to be working in the plans that Metro has devised for rail transportation improvement.
Issue Six; Metro Not Getting It Right, the Example of West LA
The lack of providing enough improved transportation and growth is obvious in the suburban areas of LA County by the small amount of improved access in Metro’s plans. But what is also true is that rail does not work well with the community scale and it does not in itself reduce congestion in areas such as in the LA Basin. In most all areas of the County there are experiences of congestion on freeways and on streets within communities. The study of West LA brings the issue of congestion into focus as well as the deficiency of rail to deal with the problem of maintaining balance between infrastructure and land use and the resulting stability of a community.
The West LA situation shows that multi-modal transportation improvement is necessary and must be planned for in balance with land use and for the desired character of community. Much can get out of kilter unknowingly and without due diligence. Some would say that Metro’s inadequate plans and inability to deal with the City of LA, show it does not know what it should be doing or how to do it.
The longer version of this issue below and the referenced studies show these relationships in detail.
Issue Seven; Getting Plans Right over Time
The first step in getting plans right at this time is to make sure Measure J is defeated. Then we go about getting the plans right. The following acknowledges that it is a difficult task due to all the parts that have to be coordinated but a task that must be done.
Urban design that is more structural in organizing urban land use and transportation elements is looked to be a major discipline to solve the physical design challenges presented within the dense urban setting as well as with growth corridors and centers in the suburban areas.
Then it is discussed that Metro does not have the “big picture” right yet and part of that is not understanding what the nature of Los Angeles is. By this fact combined with big ambitions and an authoritarian disposition Metro is demanding a long term commitment to a plan that does not work for the people of LA County. These last few characteristics exhibit the unwillingness to anticipate necessary changes and adaptations and to represent citizen needs over time. Metro has an adversarial and dictatorial stance combined with a lack of flexibility to respond to change over time. In other words it has set itself for failing the public to provide the transportation that it needs.
A final summary and prescription of the basic transportation needs for the consolidating of two million more people into LA County are laid out. Then a final appeal is made for voters to take responsibility and the necessary involvement in participating in making their own social and economic future.
Further Discussion of Issues
(The longer versions)
Issue 1; Metro’s Incomplete Transportation Concepts and Plans
What is truly threatening about Metro’s incomplete planning concepts and plans is that they are not likely to establish the productive economy that LA County needs and then Metro will be coming back for more taxes and money to try to get it right. This would be after running up a $35 billion dollar debt in ten years and with some very obligating contracts to repay such moneys. Then the taxpayers of LA County could be in a very weakened financial position. The Federal Government says that it does not have the kind of money that the Metro proposition is asking for. So where does Metro go for such funds and reasonable terms; China? These are serious questions that there are no answers to at this time and Metro is asking for too much of its citizens when it presents such unworkable plans and unknown financial questions that would obligate LA County. It is best to avoid such risk and proceed on the “pay as you go” basis that already exists and get the plans that we truly need worked out over time at the right cost.
A very different housing and community development procedure is needed in “mixing in” the higher density land uses and transportation improvement in the “anti-sprawl” consolidation process that LA County is in. It is essential that an improved transportation network emphasizing vehicular circulation is made to provide the land use structure for development while eliminating congestion in these consolidations. Such a network must be evolved from the existing street rights of way to preserve communities and not impact them, but at the same time provide the evolving of land uses for the better.
Metro does not acknowledge this fact. The very limited increase in density they acknowledge is rail transit oriented development (TOD) that is generally very expensive with land costs and high rise construction costs. More to the point it has not been working to date on the rail that has been built where most of the condominiums are unsold.
The expectation is that very little of this would be developed, would be untimely and be in the wrong places to support the kind of growth and economic recovery LA needs. Being that Metro’s plans can’t provide support for significant land use development it should acknowledge the fact and get local municipalities to organize such improved vehicular and land use networks and for Metro to coordinate that into an overall transportation plan.
The investment in sprawled land use relationships that currently exist means that the auto has a guaranteed continued validity in LA mobility. What is needed is to reduce the length of trips by bringing work and shopping destinations close to those existing residential areas. Also needed is supplementing auto travel with improved low cost bus rapid transit (BRT) tied in to the consolidation of the LA city form in growth corridors connected to the work and shopping destinations (as per SB 375 the “anti-sprawl legislation). This means creating high capacity low cost circulating networks within the great sprawl where the majority of LA County trips and mileage are produced. And over time low cost energy can once again occur in Southern California with low cost natural gas energy in vehicles and by generated power for electric cars and vehicles. Metro does not have plans that recognize these relationships.
Looking into the future, it should be acknowledged that our existing system of vehicles and roadways will evolve and become much improved over time. The technology of combining computer controls of autos and other vehicles to bring about higher capacities within existing street right of ways provides a long term ideal for Southern California mobility. This is where individuals may self control their vehicles in low density settings from home on streets but drive onto high capacity computer controlled guideways into dense locations yet can drive off that system back to self controlled mobility to wherever roads may lead them seamlessly without transfers and waiting. Metro has no recognition of this coming ideal of mobility that would obviously be superior to rail transit with the advantage of using an automobile that works on or off guideways seamlessly. And there are obviously steps between now and that ideal which have efficiencies to take advantage of and be part of evolving Los Angeles mobility over time. The point is that the evolution of individual mobility is happening and will preserve the basic investments and spatial distribution of development that already exist. Low cost transportation improvement such as Flow Boulevards bring improvements affordable and quickly now. And they establish the structure for computer controlled vehicles that would antiquate Measure R projects. But LA would be paying for Measure R projects with the extension through Measure J out to 2069.
Metro has put the majority of its planning into commuting with expensive rail to places it does not need to go to with high capacity commuting systems. The answer is not expensive commuting systems but is to distribute work, shopping and necessary land uses that support self sufficient communities and sub-regions. Metro’s priority is with commuting not with solving LA County’s transportation and development needs. What it means specifically is the extensions of expensive rail lines are not needed now because there are not enough person trips to make the expenditure justified. And as outlined above are inappropriate as transportation structures for extensive land use and community development. It would appear that Metro does not know what better to do but is caught up in a cheap money spending mania and all it can come up with is more of the same; commuter rail.
Metro simply has a big rail system mind set but they are forcing the issue against actual transportation needs. Metro is getting way ahead of what should be happening in its obsession with commuter rail. All the more reason not to accelerate with Measure J which would be an instance of misallocating resources (waste). Often such plans are politically driven as opposed to providing for needs. It is probable that the commuter rail in the suburbs is a product of Downtown LA businessmen directing what should be happening there. Suburban locales probably have not given it much thought to date but have to do that to get transportation structured right for the benefit of their communities and all of LA County.
Citizens can get caught up in the mania as well and be maneuvered by not knowing what the consequences of plans may be. Citizens have good intensions but with a lack of knowledge of issues they can be mislead. These issues are complicated and require time and process to get things worked out right. It is all the more reason not to vote for an acceleration of rail through Measure J. An example of this is adding more rail to the overdeveloping of the City of Santa Monica, much to the dismay of the Westside generally because of the additional vehicular traffic that would be attracted to new regional development. But the West LA is fighting back by reducing and eliminating of transit oriented development projects which to a large degree contradict Metro’s justification for rail. The mania and contradictions of the Westside will be dealt with in issue six below.
Metro does know however that it wants to build rail because it will be on their real estate, they will effectively own it and operate it with a minimum of interference by people. In this regard it is not Metro’s first choice to deal with the dispersed low cost system of improving existing streets that are needed in the consolidating form called greater Los Angeles because it is complicated having to deal with people. However, citizens must get Metro to address needs and to organize the process to get the local governments to respond to County needs. This would not happen under an accelerated Measure J program. It thereby builds in poorly thought out plans and misallocates resources. And it leaves a major inadequacy in transportation outcome with improvement needs being unmet for the majority of people.
LA County needs effective plans to accommodate consolidation of the great sprawl that has been created and to begin that now. The San Fernando Valley, South Bay and everything east of or west of Downtown LA needs more efficient circulation networks for these areas where trips total over 90% of LA County travel including the connections between them. The commuter rail movement from the suburbs to the downtown area would comprise less than 3% of LA County and does not address the widespread congestion. And Measure J is more than likely an indication that Metro is already back for more money acknowledging they do not have the right plans to get the transportation improvement they need for their expensive rail system plans. Rather than trim the expensive and underutilized parts of their plans back, and add more constructive low cost improvement plans, they simply ask for more and more money. And if the truly “in need” do not speak up, they will not be served.
Parts of the LA Basin do not want or need rail for some time. The congestion issue is more important and the structuring a multi-modal transportation improvement planning instead of just slamming in a subway in and seeing what happens. But Metro engineers typically do not want to get into the particulars of planning. They typically do not get the LA City Planning and Transportation Departments into solving for the community scale. The lack of expertise distorts the City’s Community plans and at some point all will have to be done over. So we have to bear the burden of LA City Planning and Transportation Departments’ lack of expertise and their deferring to Metro’s inadequate concepts and lack of interest in the community scale with the resulting Community Plans that are not good enough. Inadequate regional plans and inadequate Community Plans is what we have. This problem comes under the heading of inadequate coordinated design processes among the various scales of planning and not solving for all the citizens needs.
Influenced by the current rail mania created by Metro it glosses over the fact that rail technology may itself become antiquated and of use in only a few narrow cases. The aspect of the physical commitment in LA sprawl means that we simply can not just “get out of our cars”. Individual mobility will remain as a dominant mode of travel. The evolving of its technologies, energy use and the physical settings it is used in is of prime importance in transportation planning even though it is largely being ignored by Metro at the sub-regional and community scales. Considering this fact it is all the more reason not to go overboard with long term commitments to rail transit and by accelerating what clearly are over done, premature and unsuitable proposals. There are also definite rail transit impacts to community land uses, poor choice of transit corridors and in other cases where rail is simply inadequate to solve mobility needs in Los Angeles.
Issue Two; Missing Transportation Elements, Representation and Money
What is also surprising is that Metro is asking for major long term economic commitments to inappropriate city design, inappropriate transportation improvement and antiquating transportation technologies in financial conditions when there is such a shortage of money. But Measure J may not be a serious Measure. Metro is betting it will get a subsidy in order to carry out its acceleration. There is a desperate motivation lurking behind such a proposal. LA has lost much of the economy it once had because of the housing bubble and Financial Crisis that business is pressuring politicos that are then pressuring Metro to ask for so much money. So the Measure is a bet and one than can obligate taxpayers in a negative circumstance if they go along.
The world we live in today has been made with the extending of excessive credit to the point that in many cases the borrowers can’t pay the money back. Whether it is the developed countries of Europe, Japan and the US, or the States, Cities and Municipalities, or the borrowing for homes and cars or collage educations; most everyone is carrying too much debt. The average citizen in the US, with money adjusted for inflation, has been extended five times the amount of credit (debt) as the average US citizen in 1960. This is credit gone wild. And now Metro is asking of the citizens of LA County to indebt themselves further on misdirected projects for the probable sake of people and institutions that have likely gotten caught at the top of a real estate market that has now contracted, -that is a bailout situation-. And remember, LA County has 12% unemployment generally, 8% underemployment, 23% unemployment of the young and early retiring seniors that will never work again so it’s more like 25% in effect overall. The rude fact is that LA must rebuild its economy. But the citizens of LA should not take on more debt and unclear obligations of debt now that could easily cut off a bold and bright future with short term stimulus based on inadequate plans that easily could lead to failure.
Basically the private sector, which are the citizens (non-governmental sector), has difficulty in expanding its activity because it is deeply burdened with the debt it already has. It has a long work-out ahead and this is not a time for citizens to take on massive unending debt that is fraught with the planning pitfalls that the acceleration of Measure R could make happen. Unlike LA County Metro which is asking voters to do less productive transportation improvement with much more money, the Federal Transportation Agency says “do more with less”. This is where specific alternatives that make more sense, that are affordable and can bring about growth in our economy and communities need to be made known. Metro has not yet found what has to be done or how to do it.
Voting down the acceleration of Measure R would be the beginning of getting them to coordinate with others in order to do that. The missing low cost transportation improvement element that is largely still not known about is the Flow Boulevard concept that includes Bus Rapid Transit. An introduction to the concept can be seen at the following link (www.FlowBlvd.com/page2/page4/index.html). On the link provided image 2 has the LA County Travel Movements diagrams and the indicated less that 3% commuter movement to Downtown, then image 3 has the preliminary plan showing 5 Miles of Rail or 100 Miles of Flow Boulevard comparison. Take note that a 3 mile and a 2 mile segment of light rail extension is called out in yellow circles. These 5 miles are the trade off, to not be built, so that the 100 miles of Flow Boulevard shown in orange can be built. Flow Boulevards and their derivations can provide the low cost improved transportation networks in the consolidating of low density areas of LA County and can become the needed circulation improvement in the LA Basin that eliminates congestion.
As for available money, Metro has an adequate supply if they don’t rush expensive rail development prematurely and also obtain more cost effective transportation improvements such as the Flow Boulevard concept. Arthur Lehey, the current Metro director has stated in 2006 they have an annual working capital of $3.5 billion. It would likely be less now but everyone must respect budgets now.
The current sales tax process of “pay as you go”, sometimes called Pay-Go, is the prudent way to proceed and gives the necessary time to make appropriate plans and adjustments to plans that are needed. The argument that borrowing now at low interest rates is bogus because any savings is off-set by carrying interest debts longer and the fact that “accelerated” work would be less competitive and therefore more expensive than it should be. With regards to inflation, the more costly the cost of projects in the future is off-set by the greater amount of sales taxes obtained by the inflated dollars; the two are locked together by the value of the dollar.
Also consider excessive costs due to accelerated work that relies on non-competitive specialized expertise and equipment. Rail work does not involve the average unemployed LA worker nor does it support the formation of new businesses and households that need an ample supply of lower cost transportation and community improvement that the consolidating existing lower density areas of LA need.
The prospect of having to refinance because of changes in projects, terms and ability to pay back loans timely could be more that just worrisome. Jefferson County Alabama began borrowing and spending $3.2 billion in 2003 for sewer repairs, which were not done well. And through the need to refinance and the use of interest rate swaps which actually increased the debt, finally filed for bankruptcy in November of 2011 owing more than $4.1 billion. In Los Angeles where much of the proposed rail is not needed now and there is often opposition to transit oriented development which are supposed to provide revenues to the various cities, it could be found that spending far out weighed revenues in total. The LA borrowing would be ten times the amount in the Jefferson County bankruptcy which is the largest municipal bankruptcy to date in the United States. Taxes overall would have to go up to make up the differences which have consequences.
A Federal subsidy for Measure J is not likely; so then where do you go? In February of this year banker Hank Paulson, former US Treasury Secretary (TARP fame),and former Goldman Sacks CEO stated on CNBC Squawk Box program that he and Mayor Villaraigosa had been talking about Fast Forward borrowing and that there would be more information announced in late May. Bankers put investment lenders and borrowers together for a fee. A further May announcement did not take place to my knowledge. Hank Paulson while CEO of Goldman Sacks made 72 trips to China in a four year period. Obviously China is a source for investment money. But it would be a shame if LA does not develop the ability to be productive instead of living on credit and having to end up selling pieces of the City and County to make payments on a loan for rail transportation that we did not need and could not pay for in the first place.
The banks and real estate speculators that got caught in the housing bubble can’t expect the middle and working classes to take on debt to provide some stimulus to bailout their mistaken speculative investments by making what would likely be in effect a transportation bubble. Business tradition says that mistaken investments are taken as losses not transferred to the public as debt that they are responsible to pay back.
And since the majority, the middle and working classes, would not be using the commuter rail to Downtown jobs; it is in effect “taxation without representation”. They would not be represented by not getting transportation improvement they can use in their communities. Underutilized new commuter rail falls into the category of consumption as opposed to productive transportation improvement that helps rebuild an economy with new businesses and communities, and that eliminates wasteful existing traffic congestion. Be sure to read about issue six, West LA and its traffic woes.
Regarding congestion generally, Metro seems to help bring it about by not dealing with providing the low cost transportation improvements that are needed at the community scale. The condition of congestion is akin to a way to extort more money out of weary people seeking mobility. In a similar way Metro cuts off bus lines serving the transit dependent.
Conditions can be addressed to a great extent in the future city plans that we make to correct that kind of deficiency. These plans can be in effect “business plans” for the cities of LA County. We must get good plans that represent the whole of the citizens of LA County and bring about sustainable jobs that not only provide an economic recovery but a restored economic base for LA County.
Also in the Flow Boulevard link provided above look at the travel demand diagrams to familiarize yourself as to what areas of travel improvement is required. And note the less than 3%of commuter trips go to the Downtown area. The majority of trips and mileage occur in the large sub-regional areas of the SF Valley, South Bay and east of Downtown LA. The total daily mileage of movement in LA County is about 80 million miles per day with an average trip length of fifteen and a half miles. This is where the majority of population growth and job creation will need to be accommodated. These areas need a transportation improvement structure to build that community growth upon while reducing the length of the typical trip in the County. Also with efficient communities, possibly even the number of trips counted can be reduced as they become very small vehicles, bikes and walking trips; it’s possible. These facts and objectives with low cost Flow Boulevard types of growth corridors are not represented in the Measure R project plans.
Issue Three; LA City and County Plans Need to Generate Productivity
It is necessary that LA gets the right long range plans along with the required short term supportive projects that establishes what looks to be the building of a new era in our economy. The economy of “sprawl” has been set aside by SB 375 the “anti-sprawl” legislation. The need now is to make LA productive in this framework of bringing consolidation to our city form with greater density and that it is affordable. With the price of energy having gone up extensive bus rapid transit, shorter vehicular trips and more productive jobs are necessary in order to afford for our lifestyle. It is also important to be able to have transportation and housing at affordable levels so that other expenses like education and healthcare can be paid for.
Over the years, job loss in the segments of aircraft production and the aero-space industry has not been effectively replaced. Yet manufacturing is still a key part to America’s future. Low tech supports high tech and America still competes well in the world economy. The area America still has the edge in is producing things that are complex and need custom design. This ability must be exploited with products for LA and for export. As LA becomes denser and more complex, the things that make up its built environment can adopt technological innovation, building transportation systems and the like become new LA industries. It is a continuing growth opportunity being adjacent to the export-import channel of the port of LA and the distribution networks through the US. By extending existing business growth with innovation and by attracting new entrepreneurial business, exporting product to the rest of the US and the world economy would be a consequence. Business growth can share in our highly skilled work force, low business startup cost suburban areas, new improved plans for affordable housing, efficient transportation and the continued benefits of LA climate and connections to the US and world economies. A small amount of additional commuter rail does not afford that growth.
Government, education, health and services typically provide 30% of California Gross Domestic Product. Trade, transportation, utilities and manufacturing provide another 26%. Real Estate, rental, leasing and construction provide another 21%. And finance, insurance, information, professional and technical services provide another 21%. These are the productive parts of the economy that need a place in the growth corridors in our consolidating LA County. Without a structure of growth corridors you would miss out on a lot of productivity and GDP in your communities.
A small amount of additional expensive rail is by comparison consumption of resources instead of leading to a real support of productivity, growth and worthwhile development. The path of developing productive, affordable growth corridors, centers and communities can lead to LA being able to compete in the world economy whereas excessive rail expenditure is more like consumption; as in “eating your seed corn”. The risk of not providing for productivity must be avoided by not spending on unproductive expenditures.
In short provide infrastructure and places that support community growth. Much of education is becoming downloadable. Now even Ivy League courses are on line for free; MIT, Harvard and Berkley have combined with www.edX.org. What is needed is the incentive and opportunity to self educate and by application through work in creative and technological fields. Places can be organized to provide easy circumstances, including low cost start up, for business expansion and to attract new business from here and elsewhere connected to the resources of Southern California. Buildings and transportation structures will become more complex and high-tech in the process of LA County consolidation. And the things that go in them like prefabricated building products, cars, trucks and a myriad of other products can be built here. There are many foreign entrepreneurs and companies that can relate to the US consumption of products and services by having some aspect of their business being here. There are advantages and opportunities by being part of LA to participate in the custom and complex design technological era of production that is in the growth of a stable society with “best rules”, property rights and access to strong and emerging markets.
There is currently an unemployment crisis. While much of the problem of business not spending and growing are the circumstances of uncertainty surrounding tax laws and whether a business friendly setting is available in place and functional. Part of the unlocking of the potential is to show how uncertainty and business expansion can be worth the effort of starting up or expanding here. A Flow Boulevard plan can create the vision of a “city business plan” to attract business expansion in the many cities of LA County.
The Flow Boulevard concept is a phased transportation improvement concept. It pays for itself through property taxes and fees as the community grows. This is the tried and true traditional way to provide improved infrastructure. A first stage Flow Boulevard is a low cost initial transportation improvement that provides the vision for growth and by committing to it becomes an attractor of new business and productivity supporting community growth. Such a growth corridor could grow for 25 years or more before a second stage was needed to evolve. Read more on how the FB pays its own way at www.FlowBlvd.com/page2/page19/index.html, then just scroll down to the green dollar image where the discussion occurs.
A second stage Flow Boulevard has some grade separation of arterial cross streets involving some special construction but is all very affordable for the increase in capacity it provides. The third stage Flow Boulevard something that would probably be fifty years away if ever in many areas, provides continuous flow of vehicles and can be a guideway to receive specialized intelligent transportation systems (ITS) if so chosen. The third stage would probably just be in a segment of a Flow Boulevard network that was primarily stage two FB or less and could accommodate several technologies and vehicle types in its various lanes. As you can see the Flow Boulevard roadway evolves and is also a very open technology that receive progressive technological innovations over time.
What is not open to innovation is just a little more expensive commuter fixed rail in a seemingly power grab and bailout that stifles growth while involving risky obligations with “cheap money” and not having much of a say in it. And what are the chances of a subsidy? The Federal Transportation Infrastructure Financial and Innovation Act has budgeted only $17 billion for use over the entire US? Further these funds are to address “critical” needs and generally the FTA is basically saying “do more with less”?
This behavior can be explained as part of the general excessive use of credit for a couple of decades now and of borrowing from the future that has now crept into the thinking by some in the area of transportation infrastructure. Excessive credit and liquidity has accompanied the disastrous bubbles experienced in the last two decades. The viewpoint that endless money can be applied to any problem or at least be able to “kick the can down the road” with it seems related. So the current scariness of the rail mania probably has as much to do with the high degree of debt that influential people have tied up in Real Estate, the ease with which some politicians are able to spend other people’s money, as it does with the ambitions of Metro to have a New York style rail system. This is the setting for a Transportation Bubble and the November vote is to sucker in the taxpayers to pick up the tab. The Transportation Bubble gets into high gear, if funds were ever to be released, building Measure R projects at an accelerated pace and the bubble pops when debts can’t be paid. More thinking on the issue of big spending with cheap money is made in Issue Seven.
The cost of five miles of light rail can instead build 100 miles of first stage Flow Boulevard. And the cost of two miles of subway can build 100 miles of first stage Flow Boulevard. The Flow Boulevard concept is an appropriate form of transportation improvement to provide low cost increases in vehicular capacity within existing street right of ways and higher land use to adjacent property. It is essentially a way to both utilize existing streets better for vehicles (cars and trucks) and to introduce high capacity rapid bus transit (BRT) on exclusive lanes. If you are unfamiliar with the concept a body of work has been developed on the subject for application to Los Angeles at the website www.FlowBoulevardPlan.com. Flow Boulevards would establish the low cost growth corridors that can help structure the consolidation of LA County and provide for future productivity.
It would help to use the AIA presentation at the above link to help in understanding the concept and its use. Then look at and read the list of Abstracts on the website to search issues in greater depth.
When the Olympic/Pico Boulevard one-way pair was being studied by the City of LA, it was determined that the average per mile cost for developing the new signage, striping, minor curb construction and the electronic synchronization of the traffic signals so they allowed the traffic to flow without stopping in each direction of the pair of one-way streets, would cost about $300,000 per mile ($1/3rd of a million per mile). So the initial use of existing street rights of way are down right inexpensive. The problem with the Olympic/Pico one way pair was that it was essentially in the wrong corridor being one of widely separated residential streets that meant traffic impacts to residential communities because of traffic circulating between the two paired streets (see link for a critique of the wrong corridor being chosen at www.flowblvd.com/page2/page15/index.html ).
To make Flow Boulevards compare to rail expense, add the cost of large articulated buses, at 12 buses per mile to provide 10 minute headways for each direction and with associated construction costs. Construction costs being the added strength to the exclusive BRT lanes to carry the increased bus loads and usage. However the bus purchases and roadway improvement adds on average just $8 to $10 million per mile. If it is figured at $12 million per mile, to estimate conservatively, it is still just one twentieth the typical cost of light rail and one fiftieth the cost of a subway mile of construction.
The increased person trip capacity in a first stage Flow Boulevard corridor would typically be in the vicinity of 80% whereas the increase by light rail just 30%. Then compare the compatibility differences where using up-graded existing streets which are integral with the community little impact as opposed to light rail that is a totally different technology requiring its own right of way. Displacement of business and residential land use brings about major impacts to the existing community and grade separation from street traffic is needed for operation. In the case of using a subway, most corridors cannot justify the costs of subway construction because the heavy rail subway capacity would never be used. Subway in LA will continue to be rare and used in pinched locations that require high capacity like the area connecting the SF Valley with the LA Basin through the Cahuenga Pass to provide more person trip capacity within a narrow space.
So using the low cost Flow Boulevard concept, and its variations, is the appropriate way to provide the “growth corridors” in LA County as it consolidates with higher population and higher density land uses. The growth corridor concept recognizes that the existing sprawl of single family housing tracts will need preservation and protection whereas the commercial corridors and centers can better receive the evolved higher densities and land use up-grades both commercial and residential with the utilization of Flow Boulevards. These concepts are integral with the anti-sprawl legislation of SB 375 where such higher densities, bus transit corridors and connection to major work and commerce centers will be lowering the overall vehicular miles traveled in LA County.
So an overall LA County low cost transportation improvement plan could be to build a 30 mile LA Basin Loop (www.flowblvd.com/page2/page19/index.html) and 100 miles of Flow Boulevard in the LA County sub-regional areas of the San Fernando Valley, South Bay and areas east of Downtown LA. The concept plan for developing the 100 miles in the more suburban locations is very preliminary at this time waiting on suburban planning to express their needs and desires. That network would likely be discontinuous at first and later fill in with additional growth and density as shown on the AIA presentation image 3.
The 130 miles of Flow Boulevard would be a comprehensive transportation improvement plan establishing growth corridors and nodes that make our consolidating urban form efficient and able to provide that supportive transportation infrastructure for new productive growth that is needed at low cost.
The amount of dwelling units (du) for an additional 2 million more people in LA County at 2.5 people per DU is about 800,000 du’s. If half of these people were accommodated in the existing 88 municipalities that would leave the other half to be located in the Flow Boulevard growth corridors and adjacent to them. Given 2000 du’s per mile in a typical Flow Boulevard it would take 200 miles of Flow Boulevard to make up the other half of the 800,000 du’s or 400,000 du’s. These are rough assumptions but they begin to indicate distribution. A earlier allocation is at the following link (www.flowblvd.com/page2/page14/index.html) , scroll down to the text area with the Legend table.
So to continue with these thoughts, 200 miles of Flow Boulevard with 2000 du’s, or equivalent commercial construction could make a second stage Flow Boulevard that would have its own basic pedestrian circulation and open space system separate from the vehicular roads of the Flow Boulevard. The separate pedestrian circulation system is a safe, aesthetically designed environment for pedestrians, bicycles and other open space friendly elements. By eliminating pedestrians crossing in the street levels it removes the need for traffic signals so the vehicles “flow” at high capacity. A second stage Flow Boulevard has many of the arterials that cross the Flow Boulevard grade separate to remove those signals. A third stage Flow Boulevard, which could be developed in some areas in something like 30 to 50 years would have continuous flow of vehicles, which is essentially a guideway in character and able to receive all kinds of technological innovations. I would hope to see it.
In the LA Basin the use of “complete streets” has attraction for their ability to provide an urban desirable form of higher density. This is where commercial streets are infused with medium density residential use and high pedestrian usage resulting in more traffic signals for pedestrians to cross streets and also less vehicular capacity. This is fine however the loss of through put for vehicular circulation has to be picked up in some form of increased vehicular capacity. This is where the necessity of the Flow Boulevard Basin Loop (www.flowblvd.com/page2/page19/index.html ) becomes the answer to that problem.
If the 18 east-west arterial and boulevard streets lose 25% of their through put capacity that would be a deficiency of approximately 250,000 person trips per day. The existing east-west traffic condition, on conventionally used streets, is that there are some under utilized street capacities but most are mired in congestion. This is why the necessity of a Flow Boulevard Loop is required in the LA Basin. It is required for both its ability to pick up the vehicular capacity loss but it also provide the continuity of pedestrian/bikeway circulation across and along the Flow Boulevard in its grade separated circulation and open space system constructed by the adjacent architecture integrated into the vehicular and open space concept.
A first stage segment of the 30 mile Basin Loop is in effect already built in the Santa Monica Boulevard between Century City and the 405 freeway in West LA. And a portion has been approved by the LA City since 1975 in the Western and Oxford Avenues corridor of the Wilshire Community plan. The proposed segment of the loop with the paired streets of Venice and Washington Boulevards are easily developed and would support the numerous proposed and existing Downtown land use attractions. The West LA segment of the Loop between Wilshire and Culver Boulevards would be the key to solving Westside congestion and that preliminary design can be see at www.FlowBlvd.com/page2/page27/index.html. In all these areas, a Flow Boulevard can be built as a segment at different times and levels of development, since they evolve from the existing rights of ways without widening streets. That is not to say that in some instances there are discontinuities where a small amount of acquisition would be needed. But in most cases it is a matter of creative urban design to make these transportation improvements to eliminate congestion and support a new pedestrian circulation and open space system that brings a new and unique urban amenity as well. Solving congestion with Flow Boulevards is intended to bring an abundant and vibrant pedestrian urbanity to Los Angeles along with it.
Where the problems of West LA are somewhat unique, there are emerging problem areas throughout LA equally as difficult. In architecture, Mies van der Rohe’s statement “Less is More” was a statement referring to aesthetics. It may however, be an important statement in urban design for functional reasons in Los Angeles. Spreading out development, making everything more affordable, generally doing more with less and being creative in solving problems of the urban environment with architecture and multi-modal transportation could be the watchword for successful urban design. The point is that by solving problems directly in the nature of what LA is, becomes simpler and requires “less” and provides “more” instead of disrupting existing communities and regional lifestyle with transportation elements that counter all those relationships that exist.
In summary; The Flow Boulevard concept is getting close to its breakthrough acceptance as major transportation improvement because it can deliver the necessary structure for County consolidation, solve congestion and provide protection of traffic impacts at the community scale and it is affordable. It is a true mobility problem solver for Los Angeles. Once these issues are thrashed out, the Flow Boulevard concept will emerge as a key element in allowing Los Angeles to evolve to the next level of development “in character”.
Issue Five; Risk, a Transportation Bubble and the Consequences of Failure
Part of determining the risk in voting on Measure J is the issue of whether there would be a Federal Government subsidy legislated or if a more traditional local government issuing of bonds would be set forth to pay for the accelerated construction. Because we don’t know where the money is coming from and what effects it could have there is risk involved with the Measure J proposal by not knowing what we are being obligated to. The third alternative is to not accelerate and instead go with pay-as-you-go local funds with matching Federal funds for deserving projects giving much less risk to all concerned.
To Metro and some others, Measure J is based on the bet that it can pass because they are using government money which is like “free money”; It’s printed “out of thin air”. The problem is that it is not free, there is recklessness attached to the situation by “moral hazard” and big misallocations of resources (waste) can result like building things that are not really needed now or even ever. Also if the non-big spending administration gets elected in November and the measure passes there will be no “subsidy bond” from a fiscally responsible administration and no way to realistically pay for the acceleration of Measure R projects. “Measure J vanishes into thin air” unless Metro chooses an unrealistic way to try to fund the $40 billion dollars of acceleration by going to Wall Street. Then the losses go on the County balance sheet and at 5% interest you are talking $2 billion in debt service per annum. That would bankrupt the County in a hurry.
Regular municipal bonds are issued by the local government and private investors pay for the bond as an investment in order to receive payments of interest and a return of their original invested principle at maturity of the bond. In the case of a subsidy form of bond, the government becomes the investor and is supposed to be paid back without interest at some future time, in this case with a half cent sales tax over 57 years. These are two very different scenarios having all kinds of different considerations and potential complications presented if the Measure passes with one political administration or the other in the November election (and lots of potential bad outcomes and confusions).
First consider that it could be easily said that since the Federal Government can print money “out of thin air” they certainly have the ability to come up with the money. On the other hand, LA is almost in the condition of being a sub-prime borrower and is developing bad investment habits. What private lender would lend LA that kind of money unless the terms were of some kind of exceeding great advantage to them or that the quarterly interest rate payments were so very high? There is a desperate influence trying to get short term benefits for someone else to pay for.
If the Measure passes the voters can be put into a limbo situation of not knowing what kind of borrowing could be made and it may depend on what kind of administration is obtained in the November vote. On what authority and what risk go along with extending and accelerating of the construction by passage of Measure J in each funding instance? How can, or can there be changes and adjustments to projects to make them better? What borrowing deals can be made and with whom if no Government subsidy is legislated? How locked-out are the citizens of LA in the planning process of having a say in determining their own future as is part of the liberty that Americans have a right to if the Measure is passed? It would seem that citizens are cut out of the planning process almost completely.
Here are some quick downside scenarios because these are the more likely given our economic state. a/ A Government subsidy is legislated, a construction spending spree is commenced, productivity is not developed and as a result insiders did well but the general public suffers, there are great losses, social problems and the losses are added to the national debt for future American to pay off some how but it is becoming increasingly dubious. b/ A government subsidy is not legislated and Metro goes through Wall Street to get the money to accelerate the construction or part of it. They make a bad deal and as a result the Griffith Park, LAX and certain sections of the rail transit system are sold to the Chinese to pay back the losses on the loan. Don’t laugh! Jefferson County, Alabama the biggest US bankruptcy ever went bankrupt with one tenth the amount of borrowing. It is not only best to wait for what the conditions of borrowing might be it is best to have workable projects that will not fail leading to bankruptcy as well.
The point is there are too many open questions as to outcomes and a loss of freedom and self determination by naively handing over, to who knows on what kind of authority to have decisions made by Metro. And these issues run deeply into how we run our lives, our County economy and the way we provide for problem solving through our democratic processes of self government. It would be flippant and irresponsible to turn over such authority to Metro and to be so subject to their determinations with not much citizen participation and with what determines outcomes for ten million people in LA County. It looks like the sub-prime public is being once again led into a financial deal with a bad outcome. Instead of a Housing Bubble, this time it’s a Transportation Bubble!
The transportation bubble comes about by spending a lot of money on transportation that cannot be fully utilized. Whether it has been buried or the rail line is so far out in the periphery as to not contribute to the cause of moving people the artificial condition has been made. The collapse of the bubble is in recognizing there are no longer moneys for projects that would be of much more worth than what has been built. And further when there is no return on the investment and there are debts of one kind or another to be paid. In the case of the subsidy an economic failure goes to Washington as additional debt, LA does not receive any more hand-outs, no one will lend to such profligates and LA sinks into their own little depression. That is an economic bust for the majority.
.The concept of “moral hazard” comes from the insurance industry where insured people act more recklessly than non-insured people because they have the insurance company to fall back on if they have a loss. The concept has transferred to conditions of political thinking where politicians take more fiscal risk because they have the taxpayer to fall back on for more money to spend or maybe money “printed out of thin air” (also known as “cheap money”).
Closer to home we now have Metro thinking that they can have stimulus money and bailout money to spend in that there are those in Washington that can maybe be persuaded to spend with abandon. Throwing caution to the wind combined with inadequate transportation projects is a recipe for disaster. Also close to home are more indications that moral hazard is brewing when you see the advocacy record of the Council District 11 Advisory on the Westside where they have supported an additional $23 billion in expenditure for rail transit on the Westside which do not solve traffic congestion but would make the problem of congestion much bigger. The problem is having too much regional transportation inducing dense commercial construction attracting traffic of all distances and modes but not having vehicular infrastructure to control traffic so it does not inundate the surrounding communities. Such is the inadequate understanding of the relationships between transportation and land use, wishful thinking and combined with ideas of easy money that makes for excessive spending on things that are not needed, resulting with transportation problems and no money to fix them. In Issue Six below there is more discussion on the Westside dilemma for it is quite relevant.
The Federal policies that come out as a result of the November election will have a great deal to do with such matters as taxation and spending and it is incumbent that we wait to see how local matters best match up with those policies. If we are presented with a “Big Spending” administration it would be advantageous to have better plans that are less likely to fail when spent upon. So changes would be appropriate. The bet has been made with Metro however, is that a “Big Spending” administration comes out of the election. But the problems are just too many and possible failures so evident that it is best to defeat Measure J and start with something that does not incorporate so many major faults. Have the Board of Supervisors come back with better methods and plans to make such massive spending be more effective if they want to ask the public to stimulate or not. If some kind of “jump start” is desired by the majority there has to be better safe guards to avoid failures.
The better choice is to proceed with what we have now, a steady work-out, but to do it with better and more effective plans. The “steady work-out” is much more consistent with the pay-as-you-go basis that we are already with. It also means less risk and the process gives the needed time to make good plans and the strategic sequencing of improvement projects that provide short and long term growth and productivity can be given a priority. Less risk is a very attractive characteristic given what has been deemed by many an economist that we can’t escape a long period of the “new normal” of high unemployment and slow growth period. It is best to address that circumstance with considerations of broad employment and community development making productivity instead of a flash of stimulant money for expensive projects of limited use.
Again it would seem that the acceleration is motivated by a need to bailout RE Companies, banks or both. In the instance of Capitalism the private business sector is to take the profits or losses in the case of what turns out in an investment. In cases of Democratic Socialism and Crony Capitalism often the losses are transferred to the public sector to pay off. This would be the case with losses from a subsidy method of paying for the acceleration. Losses and bailout costs could be transferred along with the bad investments from the private sector to the public sector; the already burdened and burnt private sector humbled by the Housing Bubble and Financial Crisis. True some outcomes depend on the deals Metro would make with private investors with TOD and the like. However putting expensive rail in prematurely or in unsuitable corridors that will always present problems lets the existing speculator out of a losing investment to be taken over by “a greater fool” while the expenditure goes on the public as debt to be paid off. Taking the risk out of making transportation improvement is a very necessary thing to do so there is not a Bubble, a Crash and a local depression.
The use of too much credit has risen to historically dangerous levels. Foolish spending on unproductive transportation can have repercussions throughout the entire society and economy. The issue of Generational Theft is another result of using too much debt flowing to unproductive expenditures with a resulting debt to be paid by younger generations instead of say the Boomers that brought the debt about in the first place. And the Senior Ratio is a demographic reality; where again the Boomers, 65 and older will burden working-age residents for increased levels of support through social security or healthcare, and will pay a higher percentage of expenses that normal. It is due to the ratio going from 20 seniors per working-age resident recently to 36 per resident by 2020. Combine the two and you have a dynamic where the few seniors receive large benefits while leaving debts to a potentially less equipped young working group with possibly few provisions to provide productivity, partially because of poor transportation and social planning.
With all the debt that is being carried, LA is a sub-prime borrower and has a long workout period ahead of it to work off debt. It is also a necessity that spending be made on the development of a productive and sustainable economy for future generations and not to be spent on short term injections of stimulus that are wasteful and not productive. A spending spree on inadequate projects and bailouts to insiders can not justify spending for some elusive effect.
Stimulus versus a steady workout
Throwing stimulus money around is having less effect these days. In the case of Measure R projects some have characteristics of near term conspicuous consumption and not really being needed at this time as opposed to alternatives that would be able to produce productivity in the short and long term. Roger Snoble, the former Metro chief said the Westside Subway Extension was decades from being needed; it remains premature especially in this economy and it needs to be in a multi-modal supported corridor (link www.flowblvd.com/page2/page22/inden.html ). In the case of the suburbs, the excessive extensions of light rail do little to give transportation structure for consolidation that develop communities and establish the sustainable productivity that is needed socially and economically.
A Flow Boulevard suburban network is a better alternative for mobility and land use development in the suburbs in that they can cultivate, educate, help establish communities and develop new businesses that provide for short and long term benefit. The network can be discontinuous at first in that it responds directly to local needs and because it is evolved from the existing arterial road system which has existing continuity now.
Another big consideration is whether taxes could be raised significantly on the public generally because of the overspending and failures that could result from misallocations of resources due to spending so much money so quickly. Money misspent would certainly dry up the government subsidy in a hurry. Then it would not be sales taxes that are looked for but property taxes. Efforts have been made for years to break Proposition 13 in order to raise property taxes for spending by government. As the debts of everyone rise there is less savings to be used for investment and sound methods of growth and development.
The expansion of credit that politicians have become enamored with on behalf of some of their constituents injects the risk factor in a big way. Easy money distorts markets so supply and demand no longer are representative of reality. Speculation leads to oversupply, bridges to nowhere and the like. It has led to some very big bubbles that have burdened the middle class with debt and the working class with higher unemployment by the debts being absorbed by the government by “doing something” instead of letting markets self correct with sell-offs and the clearing of debt.
The expansion of credit has happened in a number of ways leading to all the recent bubbles. The Tech Bubble was affected by interest rates left too low for too long leading to excessive speculation in technology and dot-com stocks reaching a blow off high in the year 2000. When that bubble burst and sent the market down the housing industry was stimulated in 2003 with low interest rates to re-inflate the market and then with sub-prime lending leading to securitization of sub-prime mortgages which lead to the financial crisis of 2008. The injections of TARP, balance sheet expansion by the Federal Reserve and Federal deficit spending has made an artificial re-inflated economy and stock market where the private sector is uncertain of investment which has resulted in slow growth inflation and the Federal debt equal to the GDP.
The market swings with manipulations of credit and regulations make investment difficult because the markets are unreal and untrustworthy. The great amount of debt has contracted spending weakening the consumer economy which is 70% of the American market. Other factors at play have made our economy less competitive globally, have made wages lower in real terms for the American worker than 30 years ago and has developed a greater dependence on government by the citizens generally. The American economy having become less competitive and has greater government spending is of the greatest concern because this is not sustainable long term. The reverse of that, becoming more globally competitive and with less government involvement is the needed business plan for our cities.
Both Europe and Japan have seemingly violated historically documented limits of these conditions by the excess use of stimulus, easy money and excessive debt. The industrialized countries are walking in precarious economic realms and that includes the United States. The cities of the US should perform the business plan of becoming productive and become able to turn around the defects of our weakening economy. It would be advisable for Los Angeles County to not join the risky businesses and involvement of cheap money.
The Westside has terrible traffic caused by development that has attracted traffic that exceeds the capacity of its infrastructure. Metro has proposed two rail projects, the Expo Line to the City of Santa Monica and the Westside Subway extension to the Veterans Administration complex at Wilshire and the 405. But neither of these rail projects do much in eliminating congestion and the subway to Santa Monica has the impacts equivalent of a bull in a china shop attracting too much traffic.
The Expo line helps but is no where near enough help. The Westside Subway Extension coming from the east is not really any help at all. The travel demand to the Westside comes primarily from the south (South Bay)and from the north (Valley) via the 405. The I-10 travel demand from the east feeds into both the I-10 to Santa Monica and into the 405 serving WLA on either side. The terrible traffic is a vehicular problem that is made by a bottleneck involving the 405, the lack of capacity in the interchange of the I-10 and 405 and Sawtelle Boulevard which is effectively discontinuous through the Westside north of Olympic. This bottleneck can be fixed with the increased capacity of a Flow Boulevard used as a frontage road to the 405 that then allows added capacity to the freeways by “not failing” with excess demand. Further it would improve the I-10/405 interchange, the co-ordination of the freeways and the Flow Boulevard improves the distribution and collection of traffic from the freeways by adding addition turning movement capacities overcoming ramp deficiencies. The cost of eliminating Westside congestion, if Caltrans is not allowed to run wild, would be in the vicinity of 400 to 500 million dollars and could be constructed in just a few years.
Drilling down with numbers and comparisons: The relevance of the Westside Subway using the Metro year 2035 station projections is about 5% of Westside total daily trip ends. The Expo Line to Santa Monica is about 2.8%. The direct involvement of a Flow Boulevard is about 15% but the fact that the FB allows the 405 and I-10, including their interchange to operate without failing adds another 14% of traffic to be taken out of the streets and communities of the Westside. Therefore a total of 29% less in congestion is provided essentially by the Flow Boulevard to creating the additional capacity to eliminate congestion in West LA.
The importance of comparing the effectiveness: a/ the FB vehicular “fix what is broken” approach to eliminate the bottleneck is not only more effective, quicker and cheaper; the fix stabilizes the community by not bringing more trips to the Westside. This is because the six and one half mile “congestion fix” is between Sunset Boulevard on the north and Culver Boulevard on the south thereby effectively not allowing more traffic from the Valley and South Bay, b/ rail is dealing with regional trips and relates to serving regional land uses of retail shopping complexes and office complexes who’s modal split brings more vehicular traffic. The former allows the Westside to solve its congestion problems and continue as a balanced community of residential and commercial without radical change, expense and time involvement. The latter, rail approach, sets the Westside communities into a process of change that would continue until there was exhaustion of one form or another. Forms of exhaustion; essential removal of single family living, total and unending gridlock from commuters, expenses beyond belief.
The Flow Boulevard solution was proposed to the councilmen of the 5th and 11th councils while showing that Metro had no Measure R transportation improvement projects listed between Wilshire Boulevard to the north and to well beyond the LAX area to the south. Following these events Bill Rosendahl, Councilman of the 11th district, influenced a planning study to provide north-south rail connectors that would connect from LAX to Expo to the Westside Subway Extension at the Veterans Administration station in some future date (add another $3 billion to the Westside rail transportation improvement costs). And the CD 11 Advisory Group has added to the rail proposal for the Westside a “rail tunnel” through the Santa Monica mountains to connect Van Nuys and beyond (add another $2 or 4 billion depending how far) to Westwood, also the extension of the Westside Subway Extension to Santa Monica (for an added $2 billion to the now proposed $9 billion) and more rail south of LAX possibly to Long Beach (another $6 to 8 billion for Lt rail). Not counting the Expo Line cost, which is the only rational rail enhancement to the Westside that is warranted at this time; that totals $23 billion that is “supported” by the Westside transit groups. The Flow Boulevard used as a frontage road to the 405 was not “supported” but only recommended for “study”. A rail tunnel through the Santa Monica Mountains gets a hardy “support” whereas something that is affordable and solves the congestion problem early gets a “study” recommendation from these rail-advocating-fundamentalists. So goes the prejudice and politics that makes for not fixing the Westside problems. It’s good for a laugh, but that’s certainly not going to relieve the problems and economic impacts made on a daily basis to the Westside.
The Federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program has a total budgeted amount of $17 billion for the entire United States and is to be directed to “critical” transportation needs. The bottom line to the Westside is whether it wants to totally transform its character with rail and its associated development and wait for the decades of impact it would involve as money was being sought after, or alternatively to “fix what is broken” quickly and at low cost (see A Plan to Eliminate Westside Congestion at www.flowblvd.com/page2/page27/index.html ). That would leave planning for the extended future to be made when more informed circumstances prevail.
It should be noted that NC’s (Neighborhood Councils) have not been good problem solvers. There is the native constraint of NIMBYism of course. And being somewhat an extension of local government they don’t want to be “out of line”. But this is more a matter of not having a healthy problem solving outlook and enough technical understanding of what is real. In this respect you can encounter the backdrop of petty authoritian behavior with those closely identifying with the hierarchy. The closer you get to the Councilman’s office the greater the narrow viewpoint of rigidity and the less open to realistic innovation occurs.
The inactivity of NC’s is however a detriment to each other. NC’s that truly need help can’t get it. Then again the politicians both from downtown and local have been promising and misleading the people with thoughts of “endless money” for projects on the Westside for so many years the citizens don’t know what to expect.
It was noted in Issue 5 (Getting Plans Right Over Time) that greater expertise is needed to be available in the issues of LA consolidation, gaining productivity and doing more with less. The Westside can certainly use that guidance.
Where the Expo Line will likely be a successful project due to the good fortune of obtaining the former trolley line right of way at a good price, that it can be made to connect to Santa Monica and that it can divert some of the existing regional attracted traffic to rail trips. The right thing to do is not let regional land use development get to attracting more regional trips along with addition medium and short commuter trips. That is the objective of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (www.smclc.net ) to cut back the proposed development plans at the Bergamot site.
The Expo trips exchanging with the Westside are in the vicinity of the low 20 thousand person trips per day, not enough to solve or create problems. Remember that the real deficient capacity is north-south in the 405 corridor to the extent of approximately 90,000 person trips per day and that is after the additional HOV lane has been added to the 405 under construction now. The more recent study (the link above) is an informative study that simply cuts to the matter of solving the problem of congestion realistically using a multi-modal solution. The net effect of the plan is that it cuts out 100,000 person trips both north-south and east-west out of the arterial and boulevard grid of West LA thereby eliminating congestion in the Westside communities.
The Westside now exists with confused objectives, too many conflicting promises, unreasonable prejudices, and the lack of having a problem solving process that can get them out of an absolutely crushing traffic dilemma; my sympathies.
Issue Seven; Getting Plans Right over Time
A key professional area of design to get plans right is urban design. It is the interface between densely constructed land uses and the roads and infrastructure that serve land use and circulation within it. This kind of urban design, as opposed to the decorative kind, is more than likely to deal with the three dimensional organization of both land use and circulation modes. Architects are well suited for this design effort but they will have to learn more about large scale circulation in order to be successful at resolving both the suburban growth corridors and work centers but especially the dense urban areas involving both existing and new development.
Architects are well positioned ethically between the public service professions, the planners, engineers and politicians and the private sector developers that are attracted to be the implementers of civic needs and desires. Allowing politicians to get too close to developers has brought many a difficulty to getting things right. With that said a general discussion of trying to get things right regarding the urban organization itself and pointing out many things that are not right is in order. While this is a huge area of consideration only basics can be sketched out here and also recognize that many an issue will only be identified in the fullness of time.
Among the “needs and wants” of LA are to preserve the existing single family dwelling communities, to drive less, reduce the length of trips, replace the jobs that have been lost (and add more), improve education and healthcare and secure LA’s future productive economy in foreign and domestic terms and to develop the urban systems that are required to the future function and work. However it is basic that Los Angeles can’t have an uncompetitive economy and over spend because it is not sustainable in the long term; our plans must be affordable and naturally able to be implemented from our present urban form.
Metro does not have the big picture right yet, so after Measure J is stopped the right plans cans be made. What Metro does not have right is the importance of the community scale of making it a productive setting and the first step is in increasing capacity for vehicular travel to eliminate the congestion and to provide the additional capacity to accommodate the increase in population growth.
Simply put the right big picture is getting transportation that makes efficient communities out of growth! This can lead to reducing vehicular miles traveled and then educate and develop a people through societal and economic development. An affordable, societally adept and productive community becomes the enrichment setting where technology adoption and innovation is programmed to develop the capable people to compete globally.
By making communities work with increased capacity, generally making shorter trips and supplementing mobility with bus rapid transit and even bikes and roller-whats (something not invented yet); this is the basis for transportation improvement that will support community growth in societal and economic terms that all of Los Angeles County needs. It can’t be overlooked. This approach allows the affordable growth of urbanity that in turn supports the other needed expenditures such as education improvement and healthcare. An affordable community enrichment and economic development must be programmed to make the basic urban and suburban units to work well.
It is necessary to repeat once again that expensive rail does not provide enough transportation improvement or the adjacent land use structure to fulfill the requirements for societal growth. Furthermore regional rail does not solve the congestion we have in our dense urban areas where it attracts vehicular trips from any distance and in all directions which leads to congestion. There must be a coordinated vehicular improvement made in conjunction with any rail addition. In fact the vehicular improvement should come first; busses before higher capacity rail. But Metro does not plan for that. These basic inadequacies can’t be allowed to go forward unattended to by not having urban design make progressive improvement and development to accommodate the growth that is being planned for.
And the community needs to be represented; this is a representative democracy where self determination is of the essence of living a life with liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This has to be said because so many of us are being run over and dismissed with such a proposal as Measure J that is asking you to step aside and not be involved in how it effects your lives.
If Metro is so concerned with getting rail in place it had best start to come up with workable plans to coordinate the many parts that make up the urban environment, beginning with getting the “big picture” right.
Conflicts, Disconnects and Inadequacies
Recently in the City of LA the planning process has been closed down and made narrow by Mayor Villaragosa. It must be opened up, made transparent, while becoming competent, representative and creative in solving problems. The LA City mayor and the County Supervisors have removed much of the necessary planning processes to do this at present so it must be reinstalled.
Continuity with and extending Southern California lifestyle is essential; it’s why we came here. The New York economy crowds around money center banks, primary dealers and the trickle down of credit and investment. This is the Alexander Hamilton legacy. Los Angeles has the legacy of Thomas Jefferson where productive life springs from the land and upon it with innovative enterprise. That means that the transportation of goods and people must be made efficient.
? Metro is running out of money to build its unneeded expensive rail system. It is attempting to save money by excluding social groups by under serving locals and as well as denying demographic, lifestyle preferences and the citizens of LA their representation in favor of building what is good for Metro, a big comfortable bureaucratic transportation “authority” that favors a well connected few but in reality it is a detriment to all groups, classes and the majority in general by making a dysfunctional city form that does not deliver what is needed. ? where?
A major component of Southern California living is the single family home that is not only the chosen accommodation of LA County it is by far the major investment and instrument of wealth the middle class has and the working class is working to obtain. The housing bubble has put many home owners on a financial edge and this is of major concern in making improvement plans including that of transportation. In other words, don’t even come near making a Transportation Bubble, because it is a clear threat to the financial well being of LA County and everyone living here.
Metro must get real about the LA situation. Metro doesn’t really accept that buses provide public transit even though more of it is needed and is attainable at low cost in both the low density areas that need growth structure and in the LA Basin where improved road design can eliminate congestion and provide really fast bus rapid transit inexpensively. Metro definitely has New York envy and in that, it is counter to what Los Angeles is. Not that there is not some use of some rail in certain cases but that to try to project great amounts of expensive rail to centralize great areas of Los Angels to the conflict of what LA is and how it lives is wasteful and disruptive.
The Department of Transportation in the City of LA is not competently staffed to carry out the analysis and innovative planning to structure problem solving plans for LA and for Community plans. They basically defer to Metro. But Metro does not really concern itself with the community scale. So there is not the problem solving available to bring unity among the scales of regional, sub-regional, community and neighborhood.
There are inconsistencies and conflicts among the parts and the whole. One of the problems is that we are not looking to plan ways of solving traffic problems but are finding way to make more traffic congestion. Complete streets that raise the pedestrian experience also reduce vehicular travel. If the 18 major east-west streets and arterials lose 20% to 30% of vehicular capacity due to making them more “complete” then the LA Basin develops a greater deficiency in moving traffic by 180,000 to 270,000 person trips per day without adding any person trips going through the Basin. In other words complete streets choke off the function of circulating through the Basin and sends those trips into residential communities as cut-through traffic. That can deteriorate environmental quality on a broad scale.
In the study for the Westside Subway Extension (link www.flowblvd.com/page2/page22/index.html ) it became evident that such a facility needs to have multimodal facilities in that corridor to support the increased travel demand that accompanies regional land use development that would clearly be induced by the subway. A subway without vehicular capacity improvement is another such plan that would create greater vehicular congestion if not planned for initially. The location of a subway in the Wilshire corridor presents a bottleneck in Beverly Hills that would be unsolvable making the subway in the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor extending from Hollywood the more logical choice.
Another point is that additional rail has received development opposition to the point of bankrupting private sector development projects. An example is the Westside Bundy Village project and there are continual efforts by the community to downsize projects. That can make greater rail capacity of little use; hence a bridge to nowhere. It’s hard to find successful TOD projects anywhere. Doubt and uncertainty surround the feasibility of both the worth of some addition rail at this time and the projects that are supposed to benefit by them and pay back the investment. At this time the portion of the proposed Wilshire Subway between the Western Avenue Station and the new La Cienega Station in Beverly Hills would be like giving billions of dollars a burial only to be out done by the Neptune Society that would burn the money first and then cast the ashes into the ocean. Further, be aware of this that adjacent commercial land use ends up creating traffic problems unless there is forethought of multi-modal improvement and construction that contains traffic and does not allow it to spill into adjacent residential communities.
Avoid Big Borrowing and Stimulation
Stay away from stimulus and acceleration in that it does not effectively solve transportation problems we have now. TOD has not shown itself to be successful and does not pay back the cost of rail development nor does it effectively solve traffic congestion. Rail transportation investment should be postponed except for critical elements so that more effective problem solving can be made in preparation of impacts due to concentrations of regionally attracted traffic.
Cheap money stimulus which is behind the notion of Measure J threatens the democratic process that is essential in getting representation and plans right. Measure J has the fast and lose set up that can do great damage to the democratic plans and planning that is necessary by closing the democratic process and injecting cheap money combined with inadequate plans. Cheap money has been responsible for the recent economic bubbles and the financial crisis that led to the global recession. And now with central planning that picks winners and losers is presented to LA County as a way to corrupt, make a bubble and then a crash leaving LA without means for growth of our communities and economy to be productive and sustainable.
The US should take note of the problems facing Japan and the Euro Zone in Europe. Japan has stimulated and stimulated itself into a position of debt reaching 300% of GDP while in a deflationary “death spiral”. It can’t get out of it without going through bankruptcies and starting its economy over. Europe is in the “lend, extend and pretend” cycle of borrowing that it too has become insolvent through too much spending and not enough productivity. It’s just a matter of time for it to be seen how it can survive the inevitable bankruptcies and how it can start over economically (possibly by having Germany pay the bills).
Misallocations of resources with ineffective plans and accumulating debt which depresses the economy which results in structural unemployment, is the worst thing that can happen to an economy at this time. Reverse those occurrences through plans and policies that are quick to implement and establish the procedures and objectives that keep a democratic citizenry on top of the problems by providing solutions through time. Metro’s plans are sorely lacking in what it takes to bring about economic recovery and is a prescription for not providing the plans and projects that are needed by favoring a few and ignoring the majority over time.
Jefferson County Alabama borrowed $3.2 billion seven years ago and now owes $4.1 billion through some needed re-financing it had to do. LA wants to borrow in the vicinity of $ 35 billion accumulating over 10 years when it has trouble being solvent now in this economy. A $200 million dollar deficit for the City of LA becomes a major financial problem. So an annual interest payments of $1.75 billion on $35 billion at 5% would become a real major financial problem to be able to service the debt. You say 5% is too much to be paid; well LA County would in effect be a “sub-prime” borrower and lucky to get it that low. The subsidy issue has been discussed above. Even if it were to occur, the Metro plans would certainly lead to difficulties and likely failures; possibly socially as well as economically.
When there are failures taxes would have to go up; way up. In a County of 10 million people, deducting dependents, the young and retirees that leaves approximately 3.5 million income earners to pay that annual debt service. That works out to be over $500.00 per income earner to pay the debt service on the annual bill one way or another. With interest and principle would be about $900 per year. Politicians have been eyeing the breaking of Proposition 13 for years as a source for more tax moneys to spend on their projects. This would literally strike at the single family home and other properties through increased property assessments covered by rentals and operations of businesses.
And it is worth saying again but in a different way: With inadequate transportation there is inadequate commerce. With inadequate commerce there is inadequate livelihood. The right plans provide the means to bring about the transportation, commerce and derived livelihood that we are looking to have in LA County.
The 1and1/2 cents/dollar in sales taxes that we pay now on transportation improvement is about $160 dollars in annual taxes for the average person. But it is not the $160 bucks that is the problem, it is the taking away of the “needs and wants” that would occur over time; the opportunities of developing businesses and building communities that would be taken away, that is the real loss!
Signs and consequences of failure;
But the signs of failure for Metro’s plans already can be seen as they are not representative, they are inadequate and they do not provide the support for developing the productivity that is necessary for a growing County. The objective of spending so much for a little better commuting to Downtown will not unify and rebuild the LA economy leaving a huge bill that can’t be paid back because the re-establishment of a productive economic base has not been made.
The big worry is that with the high probability of failed TOD projects, of not making productive transportation improvement and by running up debt that can’t be paid back is that desperate times would result. Desperate times means looking for money to pay for necessities. If LA has demonstrated profligate behavior and borrowing is no longer feasible this could mean raising taxes. This could deconstruct Proposition 13 which is where the middle class in Los Angeles have the majority of their wealth. By doing that it would cast a downward slide of society into the conditions of just having the rich and the poor. Without the middle class, democracy would certainly suffer.
Metro makes structural problems.
Much of planning is about preserving what is good and adding what is necessary to solve problems and create desired ends. The consolidation of the existing built environment in LA County will require much objectification to be made by the participants to show how to preserve what is good and add what can solve problems and achieve desired results in their sub-regions and communities. If Metro gets the control of transportation planning processes that are implied with Measure J accelerating Measure R projects, there will be no way that good planning for communities and sub-regions can come about. It all would become too authoritarian and narrowly conceived and executed. There are so many essentials that are missing and through Metro no way to presently obtain them at present. They have to be made to stop and be made to listen and to revise the plans to better serve the majority.
A Summary and Prescription
I don’t know if the political persuasion that produced Measure J is democratic socialism, crony capitalism or both. I just know that it does not provide the required transportation planning to accommodate for the increased social developmental needs and the economic development to provide for two million more people in LA County over the next 25 to 30 years. It lacks the amount of transportation improvement and it lacks the improved land use structure to do it in. This applies to both suburban and urban areas.
Today we are a society with too many potholes and a crumbling environment. We are deeply burdened with debts while at the same time in need of the social and economic circumstances to advance our people to the task ahead to become productive and globally competitive. Learning and applying the principles is part of the task of achieving the task and making it sustainable.
Here are some facts and figures to sketch out a framework that should be used in making better plans for LA County after Measure J is defeated; And make sure it is defeated!
A Brief Prescription for Transportation Improvement
By adding the hundred suburban and the thirty urban miles of Flow Boulevard that gives a hundred and thirty miles of increased capacity over the existing condition. Of course the following figures would evolve and build over a period of time. So in the future, on a given Flow Boulevard corridor the daily increase of 65,000 additional person trips per mile can be attained and on average gives:
130 miles X 65,000 person trips = 8.45 million miles/ day added capacity in LA County
If these 8.45 million miles result in lessening the average trip length of these trips in Flow Boulevards, by having built efficient and self sufficient communities, there would be a reduction of the length of the average trip from the over 15.5 miles that occurs today in LA County streets and roads to 7.5 miles in the future on Flow Boulevards. The effective amount of capacity that has been added to the County transportation system would be about 17 million miles of travel (2 times 8.45 million miles) in the future County transportation system where a consolidated urban form has been accomplished.
With the average amount of movement in LA County today being 80 million miles/day, divide the 17 million by the 80 million to see what the increased effective capacity is:
80 million person trips
Adding, 2 million people to LA County
10 million existing population
By making shorter trips by the distributed land use in the Growth Corridors, they effectively absorb the new population but does not add congestion; in fact with the flow of the boulevards congestion is eliminated. So with the Flow Boulevard approach to transportation improvement in the LA County 2 million people can be added with no increase in Vehicular Miles Traveled!
It is fitting to end this discussion with a statement on enterprise generally. It is the subject to which we are engaged upon, of making industrious plans to fully activate our selves to get our cities and communities back to being productive. Here the inclusion of free markets, personal freedom, property rights and the rule of law all add up as necessary activities and responsibilities that are not to be given away by the diversion of something like short term stimulus.
In the statement below with the ending of attributing failure when the principles have been violated could have also read when those principles have been given away. In short self determination is part of the responsibility that must be taken by a free people in shaping their communities.
“The only successful system to avoid grinding poverty and subsistence levels has been free markets, embodied in capitalism, accompanied by personal freedom, property rights and the rule of law. These are the conditions under which countries, counties, cities and businesses can prosper. Every attempt in human history to create wealth for a broad people has failed when those principles have been violated.” (or given away)