L.A. Times Editorial Board: California Could Have Better Transportation Options

“But only with a concerted effort to change”

Californians drive too much. With so much highway space, why not? Photo: Minesweeper/Wikimedia Commons
Californians drive too much. With so much highway space, why not? Photo: Minesweeper/Wikimedia Commons

The L.A. Times editorial board agrees with what Streetsblog has been saying for years: the designs of our cities and streets and the transportation investments California is making are leading us in the wrong direction.

The Air Resources Board published a report this week showing that despite a decade of thinking and planning for better, more sustainable communities, emissions from California’s transportation sector are still rising. Is there something wrong with the plans? No. The problem is those plans have stayed on the shelf:

On paper, California may have committed to building more walkable, bike-able, transit-friendly communities. In practice, cities, counties and the state are failing to follow through.

Not only that, but California continues to spend its transportation funding very heavily prioritizing roads, highways, and infrastructure that serves driving:

Despite the goal of getting people out of their cars, there has been little move to spend a greater proportion of dollars on other modes of transportation. No wonder that transit ridership and carpool rates have fallen across the state, and that three out of four commuters drive alone to work.

No wonder indeed. And the result is a world that leaves many California residents believing that driving a car is the only reasonable way to get anywhere:

And so people are often forced to make bad choices. It’s too expensive for many people to live near their workplaces in coastal urban areas, so they buy or rent homes in far-flung suburbs and make the long commute. Within communities, there aren’t enough good options for getting around without a car. Homes are often far from grocery stores and schools. There aren’t enough parks within walking distance. The design of our cities can make it challenging, time consuming or downright dangerous to walk, bike or take public transit.

It’s not easy to shift a culture, but if California truly means to do something to prevent cataclysmic climate change, that something has to be done now. The passage of S.B. 1 and the defeat of Prop 6 mean that there is enough money to invest in a better transportation system, one that sustains our communities and improves our health. But will California do it?

The state will spend $1.1 trillion on transportation over the coming decades, which could dramatically expand the options for Californians to get around without a car — but only if there is a concerted effort to change. It’s clear that simply adopting sustainability plans isn’t enough. If California is going to meet its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction commitments, lawmakers and local leaders have to live up to the commitments in those plans.

Will the California Transportation Commission understand the urgent message in this report and drop its insistence that congestion is the biggest transportation problem the state faces and that widening highways is necessary? Will Governor-elect Gavin Newsom and the new legislative teams arriving in Sacramento next week recognize and act on this issue with urgency?

It won’t be easy. Housing, transportation, equity, the economy, public health—all are intricately connected and all need big solutions.

Kudos to the L.A. Times editorial board for an excellent editorial that is timely, bravely contrarian, and gravely important.

(Maybe this will inform the newsroom next door – can readers expect a more balanced Times take on, say, high-speed rail in the future?)

  • Melanie Curry

    Okay okay, I just…. one thing. Concern about carbon is not the reason for suppression of controlled burning. I appreciate that you like to see things in black and white, but it’s never that simple.

  • Dave

    I liked the Michael Moore plan for GM and Chrysler in 2009–that the feds should have just bought up a controlling interest in both companies and turned them into train and bus manufacturers. We could do rail car building in the Northwest–what would it take to get Boeing to collaborate with Portland’s Gunderson Manufacturing, who are a freight rail car builder?

  • Dave

    Again, Gov. Newsom needs to go almost full-bore commie on housing prices–the free market in real property needs to be at least put on a leash if not ended.

  • Dave

    California needs state controls on the cost of housing to force rents and home prices down! I grew up in Hollywood, moved away forty years ago. Places that were, in my USCF racing youth, remote locations where you could organize bike races with no permit and regarded as “middle of f—ing nowhere” by most Angelenos are now commuter suburbs putting people in their cars for as much as four hours a day. Want Californians to drive less? Force the price of driving up, force the price of housing down!!

  • thielges

    Huh? Is this a joke ready for theonion.com? Or is this a misguided attempt at being a CO2 apologist? BTW, nobody says that CO2 is bad. It is in fact essential to life. But excessive CO2 is bad.

  • Daisy’s World

    The city of Los Angeles will soon get 3,000 more electric scooters, after issuing a conditional permit to Uber-owned JUMP. Both dockless scooters and bikes are being rolled out now in West Los Angeles and in the central part of the city on what is a 120-day pilot agreement. The deal could be expanded to a full year with more requirements, such as a parking plan. We’ve seen great success with our bikes and scooters in Santa Monica, so L.A. was a natural next location for us to expand into, said Megan Prichard, Southern California general manager of JUMP. “Given Los Angeles notoriously has one of the worst congestion problems in the world, adding a mixture of ebikes and scooters will offer affordable, environmentally friendly ways to get from point A to point B. http://www.daisylimo.com

  • 1 Less Car

    You are a joke on yourself.

  • 1 Less Car

    Thanks for that Hannity. Now, go back to your video gaming.

  • 1 Less Car

    Time for a congestion tax. The money should go towards making transit free for all users and the rest to multi modal improvements only. The tax within LA county should be $5 per hour your vehicle is on the road 0700-1900. License plate readers should take care of that. Should track stolen cars too.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The problem is that Californians have to travel too far, not that they can’t travel fast enough. Transportation urban design policy needs to focus on the shortest trips. Increasing capacity on long range trips needs to stop.

  • crazyvag

    Are you aware that very few things in the world aren’t toxic? The device you used to write your comment is toxic, and yet we figured out how not die.

  • maddog49

    MELANIE CURRY CONCL. — Dead vegetation in California had not been removed by controlled burning for several years due to concerns about carbon dioxide emissions. The catastrophic fires of a several weeks ago are blamed on excessive carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. I must remind you that 4 carbon dioxide molecules per 10,000 air molecules is not capable of trapping heat radiation. The lack of dead vegetation removal by controlled burning is what caused the fires to be monstrously large.

    Can’t you see that the obsession with carbon dioxide suppression is harming the human race?

    Furthermore, each fire was caused by high voltage electrical lines. Yet, California is supposed to be all-electric by 2045.

    The issue of toxic waste from used-up solar panels and storage batteries not recognized by leadership is another way that overzealous carbon dioxide suppression is hurting the human race.

    More insidiously, children are learning not only to be against the very carbon dioxide gas that comes out of their noses and mouths, they are mostly learning that science consists of data correlations. Too many of them aren’t learning underlying causes and mechanisms. This will lead to many more mistakes, including catastrophic ones. They won’t understand why the trouble happened.

    STOP THE SENSELESS WAR ON CARBON DIOXIDE GAS!

  • maddog49

    MELANIE CURRY CONT’D — If you think that suppressing carbon dioxide emissions is going to lead society to paradise, you are kidding yourself. I hereby remind you that YOU emit carbon dioxide gas continuously every second you are alive.

    Carbon dioxide is part of our everyday lives. Plants that make the OXYGEN we must breathe depend on carbon dioxide gas to breathe. This is the reason why the “Brown Is The New Green” fad during the past drought was a terrible philosophy. Urban and suburban areas were DEFORESTED as though having vegetation in the first place was somehow idiotic. Similarly, the San Joaquin Valley had its water taken away, while smart-aleck bloggers sneered at the idea of ever growing produce in a naturally dry area. FOOD is the most important product of all! A lot of college-educated men talk as though computer software is a more important product, but we cannot eat software for dinner.

    If Governor Newsom takes food and oxygen for granted, he won’t be a very good leader.

    You probably think that the Earth is getting warmer and that this is because of Greenhouse Effect from carbon dioxide gas. This is FALSE SCIENCE. Democratic Party leaders realize that factories, oil refineries, cattle ranches, farms and dairy farms are mostly owned by Republicans. The vilification of not only carbon dioxide gas, but also methane gas, is an attempt to force Republicans to their knees under a horde of shaming Democratic fingers.

    Carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere is only 4 molecules out of 10,000 air molecules. The so-called scientists (Climatologists) are glorified weathermen who depend on data correlation (Item A goes up when Item B goes up) without caring about UNDERLYING CAUSE OR MECHANISM. They have no idea how Greenhouse Effect really works, so they don’t know that 4 molecules out of 10,000 air molecules won’t block heat radiation.

    Volcanoes and molten material near the Earth’s surface are causing the warming. 4 major volcanoes have erupted in 2018 — Hawaii, Guatemala, Ecuador, Krakatoa. Molten material is getting closer to the Earth’s surface in New England and the Arctic Circle. Volcanic areas like Indonesia and Yellowstone Park have had earthquake activity in 2018. Is today’s Alaskan earthquake related to volcanic activity? We’ll never know if volcano research doesn’t occur due to obsession with carbon dioxide suppression.

  • maddog49

    MELANIE CURRY — You are trying to tell us that Governor Newsom’s job is going to be to plan the lives of Californians. What if millions of Californians don’t agree with his ideas? Is it also his job to PUNISH those who disagree?

    Newsom needs to repeal two very bad ideas that have already been passed.

    The first is the 55 gallons/person water rationing that is supposed to start in a few years. This will make life miserable for most everyone. Desalination plants are being vilified for political reasons. Not allowing us to create access to fresh water is destructive to society. This is a self-inflicted wound. The water usage monitoring equipment, the cost of installing the equipment, the act of monitoring everyone, and the enforcement of penalties against violators shall not only be expensive, but shall create long term hate towards the state government.

    The second very bad idea is the solar panel mandate for all new homes. Solar power installations are already expensive, and don’t tell me that government subsidy removes the expense! Mandate requires new bureaucracy to enforce the mandate for which the home buyer would have to pay. Furthermore, the home builder would need regulatory compliance personnel, another unwanted cost for the home buyer.

    Are you aware that large storage batteries (like Tesla’s) and solar panels themselves are made of toxic materials? If California becomes completely dependent on electrical energy, the disposal of untold tons of toxic waste shall be untenable. Nobody in charge thinks the problem even exists, so what hope is there of solving the problem?

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