Life in the Fast Lane

10/04/2011 04:59 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

By Ron Radziner

Give me a billion dollars to expand L.A.'s 405 freeway and I would add light rail, not more carpool lanes. As an architect, I spend my days zooming from home to home on the windblown highways of Rayner Banham's Autopia.

If there is one thing I've learned from life in the fast lane, it's that building more car lanes only brings more cars. I believe that there are many Angelenos who would agree with me and here's why.

First, let's look at the numbers. It will cost just over a billion dollars to build a one-way northbound carpool lane along 10 miles of the 405 freeway. The city's latest light rail project, the Expo Line, cost $932 million to move travelers two ways over an 8.6-mile route from downtown to Culver City.

Therefore, building a carpool lane in both directions is almost twice as expensive as building a light rail line to cover the same distance. Even worse, between 2000 and 2009, the number of people carpooling dropped by 4.3 percent.

Second, the city is more than capable of adding light rail to freeway corridors, though never enough. Despite the fact that the Green Line, which travels a median of 105 and stops just short of the Los Angeles International Airport, still boasts a ridership of about 43,000 people daily.

Lastly, everyone knows that light rail is good for the environment, but let us also consider what light rail does for the democracy of cities. Light rail brings people from all walks of life face to face. It allows us to explore new parts of the city in the company of others rather than alone in our capsular cruisers.

Even a few furtive glances at the other guy is better than no contact at all. The time has come to traverse the City of Angels staring at faces rather than fenders.