In one of my last trips to Los Angeles, my hometown, my father-in-law nabbed tickets to the Dodgers-Cubs playoff game (the Dodgers won! Sorry, Cub fans, but you’re used to defeat).
We started driving to the game 2.5 hours before start time. The freeways were clear; we figured on ample time to get parking and Dodger dogs.
Then we hit the bottom of the hill upon which Dodger Stadium sits. It would’ve been perhaps a 15-minute walk. In the car, it took an hour. And that was before the quest for parking. We found a lot that was so far away, you could see the stadium in the crest between the hills.
Upon leaving, it took 40 minutes just to get out of the parking lot.
I was reminded of this because on my most recent trip back to L.A., the Lakers beat the Celtics in the NBA playoffs. And something happened that could never have happened when I was growing up there—fans took mass transit in droves to the victory parade.
I was, like, that is totally awesome! (Did I mention I grew up in L.A.?)
I was back in L.A. to attend a high-speed rail conference held by the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. It not only featured global builders and suppliers of high-speed rail, it included many state and local transit advocates representing everything from light rail to trolleys to buses. They are a passionate group, intent on creating a truly comprehensive network of transit throughout this car-crazed county.
Denny Zane, executive director of the non-profit Move LA, noted that two years ago, Angelenos (I'm guessing most probably had driven to the voting locations) approved by 67.8% a sales tax increased that would provide $40 billion for transportation – 70% of that for mass transit -- over the next 30 years.
“It’s the only thing that has ever united all of L.A. County,”
he remarked wryly.
Now, under a “30-10” plan, they hope to build these projects in 10 years. Doing so will shave $4 billion in construction costs. Doing so will require early systems agreements under the New Starts program, expanded use of TIFIA loans and transit investment bonds, perhaps private capital backed by federal loan guarantees, added Zane.
Pretty ambitious. But ambition, passion and unity are exactly what the transportation industry needs as a whole.
I learned about France’s world-record-setting 358 mph train (that’s for steel-wheel HSR; Japanese maglev trains have gone 361 mph), about Spain’s wildly successful three-tier trains (if it’s five minutes late, you get a full ticket refund!); China’s mind-boggling rail expansion plans (120,000 km of new rail by 2020; 16,000 of that to be high-speed).
I heard sobering cautions by American financial and legal experts about building it here, and heard that the California High Speed Rail Authority
has received 28 letters of interest from private investors for the $10-12 billion that it hopes to raise for its $40-billion effort.
Then I got into my rental car, got on the 134 freeway, and promptly got stuck in traffic.