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Joel Epstein Headshot

Rain, Snow and the Prospects for 30/10 in 2011

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It's almost January. Which can only mean that it is time to run those end-of-year stories about the best things that happened in 2010. At Curbed LA, Streetsblog Los Angeles and The Source it is all about CicLAvia, 30/10 and the Wilshire Subway to the VA.

And well the focus should be on these three grand ideas that came into their own in 2010. Granted, some are no longer calling it the Subway to the Sea but given all the lawsuits and "independent" environmental studies brewing, for starters I'll take the Subway to the VA any day over driving a car or riding the bus to downtown.

Even the ceaseless coverage of the LA Mayor, portrayed always in the harshest light in once august publications like the LA Times and the LA Weekly, can't dim the optimism of these ambitious programs. What could be better after all, than a day when walkers and bike riders turn the streets into a park and the possibility of fast, affordable and convenient trains and buses that will make LA a better place to live becomes a front burner issue. So while the Times is busy slamming the Mayor and disingenuously fretting about the loss of civility in a restaurant's public outing of its food critic -- Quelle horreur! -- I'm keeping my spirits high. I'm feeling good even without the New Year's Eve champagne, focusing on the possibilities in the forward-looking troika of a pedestrian, bike and public transportation friendly Los Angeles.

The end-of-year deluge is not getting me down. Instead, I see the storms, which have blanketed the East in snow and LA in rain, as more evidence of our need to build the Subway to the VA (and then the Sea) and complete 30/10's eleven other critical projects. After all, it was during the worst December blizzard in memory that New York and New Jersey's trains generally kept people moving while the streets were clogged with snow and cars abandoned by their owners.

No, I'm not saying we need the subway because it snows in LA. But like the storm which shut down the Northeast's roads and highways our streets and freeways are often jammed with single passenger commuters who feel there is no alternative but to drive. 30/10 and more fixed rail transit to the Westside, to the San Gabriel Valley, south to Crenshaw, Torrance, and LAX, and from the Valley to the Westside and South Bay, will give drivers from all over the region a reason to leave the driving to someone who knows how to keep the train on track and on time. With a significantly expanded public transportation system a future LA Mayor will be able to run off to Disney feeling none of the deserved outrage New Jersey residents felt this week when their Governor, Chris Christie, left town for Orlando with the storm bearing down on The Garden State. And if the California High-Speed Rail Authority has its way, Mr. or Ms. Mayor will be able to get to Anaheim on a pretty fast train to boot.

I guess King Christie needed some R&R before making his next move in the game of chess with the U.S. Department of Transportation over the $271 million he still owes the federal taxpayer for the ARC tunnel project he killed.

November's election has changed some of the players in Washington but this doesn't mean that 30/10 is any less worthy or that LA's transportation needs require any less attention than they did before we voted. If we want to get this critical region's economy humming again we will need the jobs and permanent public transit mobility 30/10 will create.

With a new Congress packing for Washington it is critical that we redouble our efforts in the New Year to underscore for the newbees and veterans alike that the 30/10 Initiative and Measure R (the transportation sales tax that will largely pay for the projects) are self help measures both sides of the aisle can love. A Washington used to hearing pleas for 80-20 funding packages in which it carries the lion's share of big public works projects won't find a better deal that the 20-80 help we are seeking to build out 30/10.

I hope it's been a restful holiday season for everyone. We are going to need an energetic chorus singing as one for 30/10 in 2011. Happy New Year!

Yours in transit,
Joel