Solving LA’s terrible traffic problem
There are a lot of factors working into why LA doesn’t have a better transportation system. LA was not a planned city that got larger but was a lot of suburban areas that grew until they all meshed together. That is not to say that there isn’t a downtown and central area to LA. LA is also a newer city that for the most part was built in the age of cars and a car lifestyle. This is a huge factor in why there is more infrastructure around personal car driving. There aer also theories about large car and tire companies getting together and buying out the bus and transportation companies, crippling them, effectively pushing people into using cars.
There is actually a theory of a large-scale conspiracy spearheaded by GM in the 1930s. LA actually used to have a huge mass transit system, The Big Red Cars, that carried around 80 million people every year towards the end of the ’30s. The theory goes like this: GM, along with eight other supergiant companies including Firestone and Standard Oil, bought up the entire trolley system in LA and others in many other cities. They began a systematic dismantling of the trolleys and tracks, to implement bus lines and encourage the sale of cars to urban residents. The companies were convicted in a circuit court of monopolizing the transportation systems, a ruling which was overturned upon appeal. GM maintains that the trolley systems failed because buses and cars proved to be more efficient.
As of today, there are 2 main reasons why mass transit is so pathetic in LA.
1.) Cluture. If you have ever been to LA, you know that it is culture out here to drive everywhere! (even down the street) People are so used to driving out here and it has been pushed down their throats so much that they just think that its life. Trafic Jams and hour-long commutes is just life out here. People don’t want it to change.
2.) Segregation. Now this is going to sound bad, but it is the honest to god truth. By having horrible mass transit the city has been able to stay highly segregated keeping trash out of the areas where they are not wanted. There is a good reason why there is NO rail service to the west side…Its because the westside doesn’t want trash coming in. (I lived in Chicago before moving here and I have to admit, the more mass transit you have the more the area goes downhill)
Much of the reason why LA does not have an effective mass transit system is simply due to geography. To make mass transit effective you have to have a high population density; you get a high population density when a growing population is bounded by rivers/mountains/etc like New York. In New York a single subway stop can service tens of thouands of people (customers) per day, who all live within a 5 minute walk of the station. For people who live further than 15 minutes away from the transit station, it is easier to take their car; for a transit station to break even on operating costs they need a lot of people to ride. Europe is not limited by geography because they have codes against suburban sprawl.
That is an interesting point about population density which makes a lot of sense. However, the counter-point would be– “what about the San Francisco Bay Area?” Other than downtown San Francisco, the population density in the Bay Area can’t be much greater than Los Angeles. Yet, the Bay Area has the BART and Cal Train which do a much better job of moving people around the region than the LA Metro. While the Bay Area mass transit it is not nearly as efficient as New York, in my personal opinion it is 100x better than LA’s.
So, while I think population density is one factor, political leadership and public culture are probably equally important.
I agree with all of the above posts. LA doesn’t have a massive subway system due to a number of factors. I can identify with the culture aspect of what some people were posting. Most people want to drive in their fancy cars (and be seen in them of course.) I do think it would be a smart move to expand the subway system already in place, but it would be difficult logistically to cover all of LA.
To be honest, much of it probably has to do with money. Los Angeles doesn’t exactly have a surplus of money right now, in fact it is quite the opposite. Upkeep and even building new lines is quite expensive, and it would appear that the LA Metro system is low on the priority list. I would also agree with the culture reference. In southern California, the people are very individualistic, and having your own car is like having your own cell phone. I will also give give credit to the 1930′s story about the Red Car trolley system, as I have heard the same thing. The Metro system in LA as it stands does not service a good chunk of LA anyway, so I can see why people would find it inefficient to use.
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