It doesn't matter where you live, you know about LA. Those two letters bring words like "smog," "sprawl," and "traffic," straight into any brain that hears them. LA is a marvelous place, as long as you don't have to drive anywhere. But, you may also have heard, you have to drive everywhere. LA started out as a mass-transit mecca. Its train routes were the best and largest in the country, and the city grew with this system its backbone. But when the car took over, Los Angeles paved over its rail lines.
The next fifty years were spent talking about how nice it would be if there was some mass transit. In the last ten years, they've actually been doing something about it! Folks may think of LA as the capital of sprawl, but it's actually the densest metropolitan area in America, it just happens to be gigantic.They call it "dense sprawl," and it happens to be perfect for mass transit, if it's managed well. Unfortunately, it has not been. Misspending and inefficiency at LA's transit authority kept the system broken for decades. But now, LA is returning to its roots and developing one of the largest and most robust mass-transit systems in the world.A lengthy and excellent article at the Washington Post this week chronicles the change, including expanding light rail lines and massively ambitious subway projects. Developers are clamoring for spots near rail lines, and communities that, 20 years ago, shunned mass transit are now begging for it. Things are shaping up in the hundred suburbs, maybe there's a city lying underneath there after all.