We can’t keep on destroying the public transit system in order to save it — that surely is the lesson we need to learn from the defeat of Measure J on Tuesday.
We all want a real public transit system. We want to park our cars and ride comfortably to where we want to go. But Measure J was phony, a taxpayer rip-off that was brought down by an extraordinary coalition of the rich and poor and so many from virtually every corner of the region. It was historic and offers a blueprint of what people can do in defense of their own interests if they respect the interests of others.
For more than a century, the rich got richer profiting from sprawling development of this giant county. The demographics may have changed, but greed knows no racial or other boundaries, and so they are seeking to profit from vertical — rather than horizontal — development without building the kind of public transit system that is needed.
The King of Greed in L.A. today, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — in a desperate effort to salvage his own political legacy — drove support for Measure R four years ago knowing full well the $30 billion from a one-half-percent sales tax hike over 30 years was a fraction of the cost of building the subways, light rails, freeways and bridges he sought.
The transportation lobby — with generous aid from contractors, consultants, construction trades and naifs, like cyclists — managed to fool two-thirds of voters.
Needing a lot more money, they lobbied Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — for billions as if the largest city in the largest state that always votes Democratic has any real leverage. The result was they got far less than needed, so they came up with Measure J to borrow against another 30 years of sales tax revenue — as much as $90 billion — to have a chance to deliver what they had promised.
But there were issues.
Since 2008, bus service was gutted by 1 million hours, persecuting the transit-dependent and making their lives so much harder with fewer routes and longer waits for service when everybody everywhere knows it isn’t a “transit system” without high connectivity and high frequency of service.