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Joel Epstein Headshot

Hey Hollywood, Who Needs a Car in LA?

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Living in LA I am a grumpy commuter like most everyone else I know. For now, it's not a particularly bad slog and there is Metro and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus to get me where I need to go, but it could still be better. And LA and Washington willing, it will be. But we need the creative community's help and that is why I penned this. Like the viciously ironic lines in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, "Who needs a car in LA? We've got the best public transportation system in the world," the fact is, many can't or wouldn't dream of living here without a shiny new, or late model, gas guzzler or hybrid.

Of course Roger Rabbit is make-believe or history or both, and we have years of lost track to make up for. Sure, for ten years now Hollywood has had the excellent Metro Red Line subway which for those smart enough to ride is remaking an LA some said would never get out of its car. But it's not enough. LA needs a subway under Wilshire Blvd all the way to Santa Monica and nearly a dozen other light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines to get Angelenos around the hydra-like city we've built and populated over the past century.

First things first. With more public transportation no one is going to make you get out of your car. What public transportation does is give you the choice and answers the call for those who have no alternative means of getting from home to work.

Fed up with some of the country's most crippling traffic, in November, 2008, 68 percent of LA County voters approved Measure R, a half-cent sales tax projected to raise $40 billion for critical transportation projects over the next thirty years. Best of all, nearly 70 percent of that money will go for public transportation including the overdue subway to the sea and 11 other light rail and BRT projects.

But thirty years is too long to wait for a train. So public transportation nuts like me and many others are asking the federal government to do something good for LA and for the country by coming through with grants, low interest loans and mostly interest rate subsidies on private loans, so that these projects can be completed within a decade rather than over three.

Dubbed the "30/10 Initiative", the plan will accelerate the construction of the Measure R-promised transportation relief twenty years, or so, ahead of schedule.

For once, large sectors of the downtown, civic, environmental and labor communities are together urging Washington in a united voice to do the right thing. And, in the creative community, Fox Entertainment and NBC/Universal have signed on as backers of Move LA, the coalition in support of 30/10.

But others have been slow to seize on public transportation in Los Angeles as a means to our economic recovery that is at once good for air quality and public health, gives commuters an alternative to the freeway and will put thousands back to work.

It's not too late. Move LA has started a petition drive for both organizations and individuals to express their support for 30/10. By going to Move LA and signing on, writers, directors, actors, agents, studio heads and all of the others who make film, TV, music and new media come alive, can help convince Washington to help LA be something other than a great big freeway. And of course Hollywood can lend its name and financial support to a cause which benefits us all.

30/10 rewrites LA's public transportation script by green lighting Metro and shooting it here rather than in Toronto.

Maybe someday people won't laugh when someone says, "Who needs a car in LA?" And maybe within a decade we really will have not just the best weather but also the best public transportation system in the country. That's a reality show we can all sit through.

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