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Crazy Days in LA: The Transportation Gap — Sidewalks and Streets, Subways and Bullet Trains

Several years ago, city workers descended onto my tract and cut ramps for wheelchairs at every corner, which seemed insane since broken and uneven sidewalks posed a safety hazard even to walkers. To this day, wheelchair users prefer to risk life and limb going on the street where it’s easier to scoot around potholes than taking their chances on the sidewalks.

This comes to mind because of the news the city has settled two lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act for $85 million — “money will be used over the next two decades to build
thousands of sidewalk access ramps at curbs” — and faces four others while conservatively estimating 42 percent of LA’s 10,750 miles of sidewalks are buckled, cracked or otherwise in disrepair.

More than a decade ago, then Councilman Mike Feuer didn’t help his campaign for City Attorney — a position he is gearing up for again as part of the musical chairs legislators takeover of City Hall — by arguing it was cheaper to do nothing about the sidewalks problem since it was only costing $7 million a year for trip-and-fall cases.

 

For nearly 40 years now, the city has done absolutely nothing about sidewalks, not even being able to define a policy on who’s responsibility it is to fix them.

Dovetailing with the sidewalk news is a flurry activity on the transportation front or at least the promise of activity some time in the future.

Never shy to boast before the cameras, the mayor came all the way out the West Valley on Monday to announce the four-mile Orange Line Busway extension – also known as the Westfield Mall Busway since it connects the companies Warner Center malls with Chatsworth as well as the East Valley with the original Orange Line — will be operational in June and that the $180 million cost was paid for by state, federal and local money rather than the Measure R sales tax measure. 

Someday out in the future, MTA will spend the $180 million allocated for the project from the sales tax on other Valley transportation needs like more rapid buses or busways, the mayor said.

That brings us to Feuer’s swan song as a legislator: A bill that would allow a public vote on the indefinite extension of the 30-year Measure R sales tax hike so MTA can borrow billions more from our own federal government or even from Chinese capitalists to spend now on subway and rail projects everywhere in the county except, of course, the Valley. A second bill would get rid of the environmental study process or curtail the ability of anyone to do much about things that are wrong with transportation projects just as the CEQA process for Farmers Field has been cut short.

Everyone that matters is aboard these schemes: business, labor, Westsiders who mistakenly think the subway will ease the traffic congestion nightmare when it’s just a lure for massive high-rise developments, bikers who are hoping the mayor’s 35-year plan for bike paths will be speeded up.

A comprehensive and glowing report on the various funding options was pulled together at streetsblog.org by Damien Newton, who does note there is “still has a long road to go.”

“The (Feuer) bill has
to be signed into law by the Governor, the same Governor that hopes to have a
statewide tax to balance the state budget on the ballot,” he writes.

“Some tax experts
believe that the more tax initiatives on the ballot, the less the chance that
they will pass.  It’s also possible that funding for High Speed Rail could
be on the ballot.  Will Jerry Brown want to risk one his statewide
projects to allow a local sales tax proposal?  With this governor, it’s
hard to predict.”

It’s incredible if you think about it: 

The reality on the ground is that LA in particular and California in general are bleeding good jobs and good businesses so unemployment and under-employment are high and the middle class fleeing, the infrastructure has deteriorated badly from neglect, governments at all levels are running massive deficits with balloon payments for public employee pensions and benefits coming due in the years ahead.

But in the high places of power and influence, we’re ready to spend $100 billion for a high-speed rail and billions more for subways and trains that will not return benefits if any for years to come except for giant contractors and construction trades. 

Thanks to the Occupiers, there’s a lot of talk these days about the gap between rich and poor and inequality in America but the decisions that are being made are driving these disparities. 

We are not victims of acts of God or of nature. Our problems are of our own making. It’s not the curb cuts that are crazy despite the broken sidewalks. It’s not the gleaming rail cars that are crazy despite the crumbling roads. 

What’s crazy is how business, labor and government have become a single entity pursuing what’s good for them and handing the bill to the 77 percent who aren’t impoverished, to the 88 percent of the work force excluded from unions, to the 99 percent that aren’t rich and to the 100 percent who feel apathetic and helpless and don’t know what to do about it.

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9 Responses to Crazy Days in LA: The Transportation Gap — Sidewalks and Streets, Subways and Bullet Trains

  1. Ankur Patel says:

    Everywhere except The Valley. It’s funny cause it’s true.
    The entire Bus Rapid Transit Project they are calling The Orange Line is an insult. It should be a light rail. Even when they build infrastructure it is diminutive.

  2. Ankur Patel says:

    Everywhere except The Valley. It’s funny cause it’s true.
    The entire Bus Rapid Transit Project they are calling The Orange Line is an insult. It should be a light rail. Even when they build infrastructure it is diminutive.

  3. tedhills@sbcglobal.net says:

    Thanks,, Ron, for the following in today’s column:
    “That brings us to Feuer’s swan song as a legislator: A bill that would allow a public vote on the indefinite extension of the 30-year Measure R sales tax hike so MTA can borrow billions more from our own federal government or even from Chinese capitalists to spend now on subway and rail projects everywhere in the county except, of course, the Valley”
    That is of course why more than ten years ago the San Fernando Valley was disenfranchised from winning the Secession effort, Los Angeles was greedy about the money the Aero Space Industry represented. I have been aware of how all money is always spent downtown, on the Westside, and in all of the Council Districts southeast of the 405 freeway. Villar was here yesterrday thrilled about the Canoga Avenue (4 miles) project. Duh!!!
    Between your excellent columns today and Sunday and the comments made in the Daily News this morning about redistricting by Rick Orlov, I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Valley is long overdue from being THE HELP here in Los Angeles.
    Who am I? This has beeb a crusade of mine since 1966 when we moved from Westchester to work
    for Hughes. I used to bug Mayor Yorty for things like flies in the uncovered trash barrels -WHICH HE FIXED BY THE WAY!!!!
    I wonderr what he would have thought of the sidewalks today. My conclusion, these
    “Pros” are really ignorant about how to manage a city. It is not to make it grow, it is to make a real city which it is not today.

  4. Yes the people are fools says:

    Intra-city fixed rail transit is myopic. We usually call them subways even though at time we have an extra large dose of stupidity and build them on the surface.
    The insumrontable problem with fixed rail transit is that it goes from one station to another station. Thus, people must walk from their point of origin to the station and then walk from the station to their destination. The need to walk to and from the station adds between 20 and 30 minutes to the travel time.
    The first solution is to de-densify the city so the traffic congestion decreases which will allow buses to travel at a more rasonable speed.
    Assuming we have any subterranean tunnels, they should have high speed buses. The bus needs no station to which people walk. Instead they walk to the corner, the bus picks them up and then it makes a few more stops boarding more people and then it descends into the “subway.” After that the bus wisks along at 85 mph to Westwood UCLA, where it surfaces so that it can deposit its passengers at their various destinations.
    Telecommuting, however, would reduce traffic by 30% to 40% so the streets and freeways would flow without congestion. Not only could some people stay at home all day, people could work 1/2 day at home and then drive to the office at non-rush hour times.
    Telecommuting, however, increases the demand for something that LA already has — an ample supply of R-1 homes. When one telecommutes frequently, one needs a larger home and a yard. I telecommute most of the time and I do need time to sniff the flowers and trim the hegde or just stand in the sun light. The, I am back inside to the telecomuting. I also save almost two hours a day. Telecommuting from a CRA apartment is a prison sentence.

  5. anonymous says:

    This is very interesting. The moment I heard Council wanted the homeowners to fix side walks in front of their homes, my immediate question was who assumes liability for such things as a person being injured tripping.
    Feuer’s comment that it costs less to pay for lawsuits than to protect individuals from personal injury is despicable. Does anyone have a link to that comment? This is the last person we need in office–one who further’s the political culture of money first and people last.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What is really amazing that some of you people (actually most) would vote for somebody like feuer.
    You deserve the government you got in LA and CA.

  7. Anonymous says:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-legislature-20120201,0,6454692.story
    Revenues are low??? My sweet revenge of taking my upper middle class pay elsewhere outside if CA. This is my revenge for you people shoving the likes of Villar, Boxer, brown etc down my throat. Hasta la vista, suckers. Enjoy your utopia.

  8. Thanks for this essay, I feel genuinely auspicious I came across this blog!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dear January 31, 2012 10:22 PM
    Maybe he did not say it. Quoting a person out of context is simply to tell a lie.
    He may have been stating a fact and he may also have said that would be a bad reason not to repair sidewalks.
    Where Feuer is weak is his support for the corrupt CRA. Thank goodness, the CRA is dead. Some people on the far Right and the far Left believe that they have the right to tell others how to live their lives. That may be why people like Feuer think the CRA can design a better home for you than you can and it is also the reason Santorum thinks he can dictate your sexual behavior.
    We need to focus on kicking out the corrupt politicos like Garcetti — he is the biggest threat LA faces. He has virtually destroyed Hollywood and now we plans to do the same to the entgire city — and the voter-fools slumber on

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