How Rail Screws the Poor: As Los Angeles Spends Billions on Light Rail, Transit Use Declines

By Cavanaugh, Tim | Reason, August-September 2012 | Go to article overview

How Rail Screws the Poor: As Los Angeles Spends Billions on Light Rail, Transit Use Declines


Cavanaugh, Tim, Reason


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

THE DIRTY SECRET of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is that it provides some of the finest public transit service in the country. With a network stretching over 1,513 square miles, the MTA runs a fleet of 2,723 buses every weekday, operates trains over 87 miles of track, and carries more than I million passengers a day.

The authority's newest service, the long-aborning light-rail Expo Line from downtown L.A. to Culver City, rides like a dream along its eight-mile route. Shortly after the Expo Line opened in late April, my colleague Scott Shackford and I found Expo Line riders unanimously enthusiastic about the train.

Unfortunately, we also found very few riders. Based on our counts and calculations, we estimated total daily ridership could not exceed 13,000 people. A few days after we rode the rails, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky came up with an even smaller figure of 9,000 daily riders.

Here you begin to see how the MTA is simultaneously increasing operating costs, reducing operating revenue, cutting service for working-class and poor customers, and dismantling a functioning mass transit system, all in the service of a fantasy that was pushed on an unwilling L.A. by wealthy liberals.

Since 2009 the MTA has added eight miles of train service, at a capital cost of about $2 billion. These new trains, the Expo Line and an extension of the east-county Gold Line, carry a total of about 39,000 people a day.

In the meantime, the cash-strapped authority radically reduced bus service twice: It cut bus lines by 4 percent in 2010 and 12 percent in 2011. These cuts were made even though buses move more than four times as many Angelenos as trains do. In 2009 MTA buses carried about 1.2 million riders a day. Multiplying that by 16 percent, we can estimate more than 180,000 people had their service canceled while fewer than 40,000 had service introduced.

Not surprisingly, the result is that fewer people are using mass transit overall in Los Angeles than in 2009 (about 5 percent fewer, according to MTA statistics).This is a continuation of a long-term trend. Since the MTA began rail construction in 1985, more than 80 miles of railroads have been built, but mass transit ridership as a percentage of county population is lower than it was in 1985.

Bus riders get screwed in another important way: We have to pay for a ride, while train riders don't. Every MTA bus has an enforcer, a driver who collects the standard fare of $1.50. Trains operate on an "honor system" in which fares are not collected. Although the MTA claims to conduct occasional spot checks and lay heavy fines on fare cheats, its rail revenue numbers suggest very few train riders pay. (The MTA is planning to add gating at rail platforms later this year.)

Why would a public transit authority want to reduce its number of paying customers while adding costly, inflexible capacity that is destined to be severely underused? Part of the answer lies in the nation's light rail obsession. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How Rail Screws the Poor: As Los Angeles Spends Billions on Light Rail, Transit Use Declines
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.