Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The real question

Last January, I was temporarily cheered by the LA Times'  uncharacteristically critical examination of LA's rail transit madness.  The awful record made it to their front page. Check it out.

That was then. Now it's election time and various propositions to vote to throw more good money after bad are on hand. Measure M is on the ballot. It would bump up the county sales tax by anther half penny to fund more transit boondoggles (and various trimmings to make it appear to be "multi-modal").

Yesterday's Times front-page "L.A.'s traffic battle plan: transit, yes, but cars too" cites the MTA chief's goal of converting 20-25% of the county's population to regular transit users. LA transit use has been near 6% of commute trips for some years. Is the chief a betting man -- with his own money?

Re the proposal, the Times' story these days is "yes, but."  If we could allow and prompt more high-density and mixed development near transit stations, then perhaps we have a shot. But what are the odds? And what are the costs? And who pays?

Finally, what are the essential details? Airy statements about density and mixed use miss the point. It is the details of what goes on the ground that matter. What density? What mix? There are thousands of details that only the actual risk taker can be trusted with.

Will developers have the leeway? Probably not in the politicized (cronyist) arena of LA planning. Can the rules be made simple and clear and minimal? These, and not another tax increase, are the essential questions.