Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fix

Los Angeles has long been ensnarled in huge traffic jams thanks to the lack of a real transit system, and there have always been numerous plans and strategies developed to deal with it at some point. Initially it started with the Red Line from Union Station over to the west side of downtown, then the Blue Line was finished going down to Long Beach. Later, the Green Line not-quite-reaching-LAX and the Gold Line to Pasadena were completed with the artwork incorporated at each station. Given this, it seems that fixing LA's transit issues has become a real possibility, particularly with the political approval of the Gold Line extension out to Azusa and ultimately Pomona. The system evolved over the old access lines from earlier rail and transitway developments in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles' Mayor Villaraigosa has recently taken the transit issue to a new level by proposing a financing scheme that will allow immediate starts for a light rail transit network in the City of Los Angeles that extends the existing hub of the system out to the various distant regions within 10 years instead of 30. This is done by borrowing from the Federal Government and repaying the monies from the existing Measure R income, which would pay for the construction of the system as is laid out above. The feasibility of this approach is under debate, but the necessity for it is not; it was unanimously approved by the US Conference of Mayors in mid-May in Oklahoma City.

What this will mean for the form of Los Angeles, as the infill grows around the transit lines, is a far more dense urban system with development pressures coming to bear on the old neighborhoods fronting the original traffic ways that formed the backbone for the new and expanded system. With any luck, the City will have guidelines, ordinances and review bodies in place to make sure that the resulting development is done sustainably and preserves the character of old Los Angeles while conserving resources. It will be interesting to see how much influence the neighborhood councils will have on proposals put forward by developers in the future, especially given the new State Green Codes as well as the Low Impact Development ordinance currently being developed by the City.