Welcome aboard!

“Welcome aboard!” is written on the front door of every MTA bus in Los Angeles. Most have no idea that is so nor any interest in taking the invitation to “go public” anytime soon. We have, as a nation, squandered our fortune and future on satisfying ego’s need to cannibalize the planet for our private comfort and luxury by insisting on basing our life around the automobile. Time to put it in the garage and get on board!

Some cities never fully climbed on the gas guzzling mania and they are fortunate to have adequate public transportation systems. If not, New York City would not exist as it does today. Chicago would be even more dysfunctional and San Francisco would look like Los Angeles. Which, by the way, once had a public system which was among the best in the nation.

Today my home city is scrounging around for funds to try and repair some of the damage done when big auto-related corporations destroyed our expansive bus and rail system. Despite that rape of the ’60’s we today have a quite good system if you live and work in the right places. But years of addiction to fleeing to the suburbs and linear expansion have made it nearly impossible for at least 50% of our people to use any public system.

As a result, we have legendary air pollution which now is shared by every other city in some measure. We have consumed huge portions of of the world’s natural resources and are a major contributor to planetary crises. Los Angeles prides itself on leading the nation, but where have we led it?

The efforts to make automobiles more efficient are laudable, but woefully inadequate to meet the challenges to pollution, carbon emissions, infrastructure crises and overall costs of operation. We have to stop getting in a vehicle, no matter how high the mileage, as much as most of us currently see as necessary and appropriate.

We need to reallocate some of the money spent on improving airports toward building and improving rail transportation. We must redirect money from expanding highways toward building subways, light rail and busways. We need to spend our limited funds where it will do the most good — getting ourselves weaned from automobiles and airplanes and onto the bus, train or subway.

Welcome aboard!


  1. Sandra Price

    Phil. I remember the electric red cars on tracks that could take me from Ocean Avenue east to any point I chose for a nickel. San Francisco kept their electric cars that went just about anywhere and a tranfer to a bus was possible.

    Phoenix is trying a single rail system through town but the cars keep crashing into them. Sun City is full of golf carts that go anywhere at any time without signaling. The panic of being an elderly resident is that everyone must be in constant contact on their cell phones. Even in the supermarket I stay away from any old codger/codgeress with a cart load of food heading down the aisle talking on their phone.

    Nice Commentary

  2. almandine

    Interesting metaphor, that “joined down the road”. Even our language and idioms are rooted in the vernacular of the automobile.

    I understand the “planning” part, but how long do you think building that Ohio system will take… and cost? The latest figure I’ve heard for “suburban” light rail construction (eminent domain issues not considered) is $20M per mile.

    I love trains, have ridden them in Europe time and again, always being amazed at how they run right on schedule… to the minute… all the time. I’m not sure we have it in us.

  3. almandine

    I’m not going to ride at 79 mph on any track laid that way… although the “road bed” (another auto term) was clearly put in ahead of that footage.

    The $20M figure is what our city govt is claiming in its current initiative petition. Heck, (highway) asphalt done right costs about a mil per mile.

  4. woody188

    Ya, the base material is dumped from a truck, then that tie machine buries the ties and lays the rail on top, then another machine comes along and aligns the rails and makes sure they are level. They can lay a few miles in a day. It’s probably more accurate than laying rail via manual labor.

    I wonder if your 20 mil wasn’t for underground or elevated track? Or else it might just be cost of living/property differences. Ohio is pretty cheap when it comes to cost of living/property.

  5. Kent.Shaw

    I hate driving. I would LOVE to live in an area with good public transportation availability.

    Kent Shaw