Writing Congress About LA's 30/10 Mass Transit and Jobs Initiative

07/02/2010 07:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What's every Angelenos favorite excuse for being late to a business meeting, lunch, or job interview? That's right, traffic. And of course it's not just a problem here, but around the world. The new president of the Philippines was recently 40 minutes late for his first address to the military as he kept his promise to suffer like ordinary people in the capital's heavy traffic. President Benigno Aquino's excuse, "No more wang-wang," the local term for sirens and the strategy of the rich and famous for moving around Manila in loudly blaring cars.

Closer to home, as we already knew, Los Angeles doesn't rate very well either. In IBM's just-out international "commuter pain" survey, true to form, LA rated the worst of the three US cities (LA, Houston and NY) honored. And it should be of little consolation to Angelenos that 12 cities including Beijing and Mexico City scored higher ratings on the Commuter Pain Index, which measured the most frustrating aspects of driving. Surprising to me, LA tied with bike-friendly Amsterdam.

Fortunately, at least for LA's mass transit riders, relief is on its way in the form of the 30/10 Initiative. 30/10 is Metro's plan to build 30 years of critical transportation projects within a decade. Still, we are not there yet, and won't be, in my view, until construction is completed on the twelve overdue projects.

Since I care about congestion's drag on the LA economy and about mass transit, friends and perfect strangers alike often say to me, "I know that we need more mass transit in LA but what can I do to help get it built?"

Here's my answer. Like the stale old joke about Carnegie Hall, how do we get to 30/10? Practice (riding Metro), and join Move LA, the non-profit coalition focused on winning approval of the 30/10 Initiative and bringing LA a true transportation system that's cleaner and greener and will help stimulate an economic revival. If you need a stronger endorsement than that, here's one. I joined!

But don't stop there. LA also needs you to call and write and implore Congress to support 30/10. The fact is, we still need to convince a deeply divided Washington to facilitate the acceleration of these overdue transportation projects. So here's some suggested text for a letter or call to members of the critical House Ways and Means Committee.

My letter is addressed to Congressman Xavier Becerra and Congressmanwoman Linda Sanchez because they are both on the Committee. But don't just write to them. Everyone on the Committee can use the encouragement about the novel and visionary 30/10 Initiative, and many can use the love in this difficult election year. My sample letter reads:

Congressman Xavier Becerra
1910 W Sunset Boulevard, Suite 810
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 483-1425

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez
17906 Crusader Ave. Suite 100
Cerritos, CA 90703
(562) 860-5050

Re: The 30/10 Transportation and Jobs Initiative

Dear Congressman Becerra & Congresswoman Sanchez:

I am writing to urge your support of the 30/10 transportation and job creating initiative for Los Angeles. This novel funding program, a model for critical infrastructure financing across the country, needs your support to move forward. Given the size and importance of the Los Angeles economy, LA's recovery is critical to the nation's overall recovery.

In November 2008, Los Angeles County voters by a two-thirds majority approved a half-cent sales tax for the construction of mass transit and other critical transportation projects. The transportation tax paid by County residents will generate an estimate $40 billion over the next three decades, but Los Angeles County commuters need congestion relief now, not later. The Committee's support of the 30/10 Initiative will help ensure construction of twelve critical transportation projects over the next decade rather than over the next thirty years.

With 30/10 scheduled to come before the Committee, I urge you to be supportive of this visionary program which asks the federal government to facilitate a loan to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) so that it can start construction. Since the loan will be paid off using future County tax revenues, 30/10 is a unique means of funding critical infrastructure building in the municipal transportation sector. As a Los Angeles commuter I thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

Yours in transit,
[Your name here]

I know calls and letters are so last century in this Foursquare and Twitter world, but at least in Washington, they can still make a difference. As I wait for the traffic to move from the back of this bus, I sure hope so.