Transportation Alternatives for Southern
Peter Gordon and Ross D. Eckert
Conferenced Proceedings of a Symposium Sponsored by:
The Institute for Public Policy Research Center for Public Affairs University
of Southern California
April 12, 1976
Table of Contents
- Introduction to the Online Edition Peter
Gordon January, 1998
- Rail Transit for Southern California:
An Expensive Mistake Peter Gordon, Ross D. Eckert
- Riding the Sunset Coast
Line John W. Dyckman
Discussion - Harry
- The Case for Rapid Transit:
Before and After the Fact Martin Wohl
- The Case for Bus Rapid
Transit in Los Angeles Martin Wachs
Discussion - Morris
- What Did We Give Up With
the Big Red Cars? George Hilton
Discussion - John
- Giving the Plan a Bottom
Line, Suggestions for Adding Cost-benefit Comparisons
to the California Transportation Plan Ward
Discussion - Aurelius
Discussion - Robert
Introduction to the Online Edition
By Peter Gordon January, 1998
It has been more than 20 years since my colleague, Professor Ross D. Eckert
(deceased since 1994), and I decided to arrange the symposium that produced
the papers and comments that follow. These papers were never published. They
are worth reconsidering because of the current state of local transit service.
Ross and I were not the first to be skeptical of rail transit for Los Angeles.
We did believe, however, that enough relevant research had accumulated for
a useful airing of views to take place. We almost took it for granted that
we would, thereby, inform the local policy debate and, perhaps, help the region
to avoid a big mistake.
I would say that we were less than half right. The Sunset Coast Line transit
proposal was defeated by the voters in 1976. It is not possible to say that
our conference prompted this result. In fact, the Sunset Coast Line was just
one of many rail transit proposals put before Los Angeles voters over the years.
They had defeated them all but finally supported the one placed on the ballot
in 1980 (in the form of a dedicated sales tax).
The various plans that followed this victory gave us the rump rail transit
system that is now being abandoned. As the authors of the following papers
had predicted, ridership would be low, costs would be high, the enterprise
would be a waste. Yet, they had no way to predict the amount or the scope of
waste. In a nutshell, since 1985, transit use in Los Angeles county is down
by 30% whereas several billions of dollars of rail capacity have been added!
L.A. transit planners have spent upwards of $7 billion in capital and operating
subsidies while losing approximately 100 million (net) transit boardings per
year. This is a 10-year average. Roughly, $7+ per boarding has been spent to
remove about 1 billion such boardings. The resource transfer has unquestionably
been regressive. All of this took place while the county's population grew
by about 12%. The details of this fiasco are available at http://www.publicpurpose.com.
I leave it to others to decide what our experience suggests for the power of
ideas when there is pork on the table
The authors' affiliations noted throughout these pages are those that were
effective at the time of the symposium.
Source: Transportation Alternatives for Southern California Conference Proceedings
of a Symposium The Institute for Public Policy Research Center for Public Affairs
University of Southern California April 12, 1976
Copyright 1998 University of Southern California School of Policy, Planning,
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