Pining for a Subway to the Sea (and other Public Transit Projects)

delayed metro extensions

As any longtime resident of Los Angeles - such as this one - will tell you, the city's public transit system is, to put it mildly, highly impractical. Many us have been willing to grit our teeth and weather its inconveniences in the hopes that, one day soon, we'd see some concrete improvements - and a few extra extensions. Now it looks as though two of our most pined for projects - the so-called subway to the sea (an extension from east LA to Santa Monica) and the bullet train from Anaheim to San Francisco - will be delayed, if not shelved entirely.

Bill Rosendahl, the LA City Councilman who has been spearheading efforts to bring the subway to the sea project to the fore, recently remarked that: "My plan is to be alive when the subway to the sea happens." He may yet get his wish - as an article in the LAT noted:

"Rosendahl's chances were increased last week when Congress repealed a ban on federal funding of subway tunneling in parts of the city. The repeal is part of a $516-billion appropriations bill that President Bush is expected to sign.

The repeal triggered a City Hall news conference at Union Station, where Rosendahl made his remarks, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he's working on a funding plan."

As things stand, Rosendahl said that the subway project still faces several challenges: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has only approved an "in-progress study" to determine whether the subway is the best mass transit option; worse, there is the funding issue. "It is also starkly clear that no one has $5 billion sitting around for a subway," Rosendahl wrily pointed out.

The best we could hope for, he notes, is a sales tax increase to raise revenues for future transit projects - a difficult proposition given that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has yet to endorse it and that it is likely to face fierce opposition from homeowners (LA County already has one of the state's highest sales taxes).

Similar funding issues have been bogging down the San Francisco bullet train - a project that first saw the light of day several years ago now. So when can we expect to see it? We shouldn't hold our collective breaths, says Mehdi Morshed, the rail authority's executive director: "Whenever there is money to do it . . . even if we had all the money in the world we can't build everything at once." Encouraging news.

Siel reports that there are currently several funding proposals under review, including:

"To fund the $30-billion Anaheim-to-San Francisco line, officials are planning 1) a $10-billion state bond issue on the November ballot next year for seed money, 2. federal matching funds (if the bond issue passes), then 3) private investment, via the public-private partnerships Schwarzenegger's been promoting."

Hard to believe LA has the best public transportation system in the country.

Via ::Los Angeles Times: Deadline for L.A.'s subway to the sea is a literal one (newspaper), ::Emerald City: Funding it! SoCal-NoCal bullet train and the Subway to the Sea (blog)

See also: ::How Public Transportation Might Just Save Your Life, ::The World's Newest (and Cheapest) Subway: Beijing's Line 5, ::HopStop: City Transit Guide for Bus and Subway Directions

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