Op-Ed: Transportation policy in need of radical thinking

With local elections upon us, all concerned citizens should be attending the various forums around town and asking the candidates their most pressing concerns. One of the most important issues in Glendale right now is transportation and safety.

However, for Glendale and Los Angeles in general, when it comes to policy and implementation of transportation improvements, piecemeal improvements are not going to do it for a city as vast and constantly evolving as Glendale and by extension Los Angeles. A typical local public works improvement related to alleviating transportation congestion will take more than a decade to be designed, approved and constructed, whereas new permits for new construction of apartment units are issued by the dozens daily, with developers cashing in hand over fist.

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The multitude of new construction across Southern California, not least in Glendale where close to 20,000 new apartment units have either been constructed, are in construction or in planning and design stages, will pose a serious challenge to existing transportation infrastructure and the future livability of this region. (On a side note, who in Glendale approves these thousands of units, and what kind of fraud is taking place in the environmental impact reports that tout no significant effects to traffic and congestion?)

Recently we have endured significant delays and challenges as Metro has added one lane in each direction for the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda pass. This classic boondoggle involved heavy grading of mountainsides by oversize excavation equipment typically used in open-pit mines, 100-foot-high retaining walls, and billions upon billions of taxpayer money, over almost a decade of delays, road closures, detours and Carmaggedon. All of this for one lane! Anyone who frequents this most congested pass in America will say that the added lane has had little impact other than invite more cars on the road. (Why, in their infinite wisdom, Metro didn't use this opportunity to add a light rail connecting Westwood to Sherman Oaks is beyond my comprehension.)

A similar boondoggle is now occurring on the 5 Freeway closer to home in Burbank, a project that started over a decade ago and is nowhere near completion, where the net benefit will be one additional lane and an exit to the Empire Center shopping plaza, which will so quickly be overrun by cars and semi-trucks that most of us will forget an improvement ever even happened, and the net benefit to traffic congestion will be marginal at best. The worst part of these boondoggle freeway projects is that beyond wasting precious transportation funds, they reinforce the prevalent but outdated car culture.

Let's vote a resounding no on huge freeway-improvement projects that add one lane over 10 years and tens of billions of dollars, and vote for policy makers who are willing to be brave and undertake radical measures to improve our transportation infrastructure at a pace that will keep up with the furious pace of real estate development. Ask this and other such questions from your council candidates this election season, and demand answers.

In my next contribution to the GNP forum page, I will expound on what I think is the future of transportation in Los Angeles: the bicycle.

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SHANT MINAS can be reached via email at Shant00@yahoo.com.

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