Hot time, summer in the city

Decades ago the Lovin Spoonful sang of the allure of summer in the city. An overwhelming majority of Americans now live in metropolitan clusters. The newest of these are largely in the south and west and they especially are facing daunting challenges as they mimic the density of their eastern brethren.

I have lived most of my life here in Los Angeles, watching it explode in size geographically at first and all the while in the size of our population. I watched a proud city launch the freeways that broke us free to climb into Detroit’s behemoths and go where we wanted when we wanted. The resulting suburban sprawl was celebrated for giving the average person a house and yard to raise a family in.

But we have pretty much run out of land here and yet there are more and more of us every day. More of us, for one reason or another, crowd into places convenient first to a freeway and increasingly near a stop in the area’s mass transit lines. While some would hold back reality by trying to stop or slow development, others say it is time to get serious about mass transit.

I am unapologetically a fan of mass transit and have been since as a boy of 7 I rode alone around Milwaukee by bus and streetcar. Increasingly, residents in this megalopolis favor spending money on mass transit of various types, and a ballot proposal may test that sentiment this fall. But in large part we still expect someone else to be the one who leaves their car at home and takes a bus or train to work.

In many cases here, that is because our mass transit system has yet to reach a critical mass of service to enough places in a timely fashion. But to a large extent it is also a function of viewing mass transit as beneath one’s place in life. That has to change. We need to invest in our transit infrastructure the way we invest in cosmetic products. The way we lavish money on electronic gadgets and devices.

There are many major cities facing similar decisions. Taxpayers have to be willing to add to their current burden in order to provide for a future capable of handling the increasing population. The federal government needs to recognize the opportunity to build a stronger infrastructure, build confidence in government, and provide jobs and build the economy.

We need to reduce as quickly as possible our investment in Iraq, trim from our budgets much of what is spent on earmarks, eliminate most subsidies to corporate agriculture, war industries and expenditures that do not aim at building America’s people and common wealth.

There is much that will reach out for funding – research and development, health care, and a long list of worthwhile investments. Our transit infrastructure, from the busses, streetcars and subways of Los Angeles to reviving Amtrak as a high speed network between population centers, needs money now.


  1. Sandra Price

    I am third generation Los Angeleno and have seen the sprawl of which you speak. We had a great electric car system bringing people to and from the beach. For a nickel I could take that street car east to South Gate to visit my aunts and it was as safe as my own front yard. Our Mayor made a deal with Standard OIl to pull down the streetcars and introduce the current buses.

    I could no longer afford to live in California as the cost of just about everything drove me to a cheaper location in Arizona. Rapid transit may suit you but not for the retirees. The schools were not up to the cost of our property taxes. I miss the social liberals who pretty much accept people for what they are. I’m in the winter playground of the bible belt in Arizona and am very uncomfortable when many of my gay friends and family members enjoy a visit.

    This problem of over population has even made San Luis Obispo Country too expensive to live. From a spread out community of ranches and small homes, the County Zoning board had to make changes to pack in as many homes and condos as possible to pay for the schools, hospitals and other services. Crime is sky high, the oceans and creeks are contaminated and the schools are failures with the exception of Calpoly. Our local kids have a problem qualifying for that State College and need 2 to 3 years of junior college. In my opinion, the greed of the Zoning boards destroyed Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. Follow the money and work two jobs is the answer.

  2. Ladywolf55

    Direct Democracy, do you think you could stop spamming every message board on this site? I won’t even LOOK at your website, because I absolutely HATE SPAMMERS. Go away!

  3. woody188

    Our governments are selling public property to private interests, not investing in more infrastructure. They want to sell our toll roads to the highest bidder. How long until we can’t afford to drive on the turnpike?

    Our mayor in Columbus, OH wanted to bring back the street cars we used to have here. They are cheaper to operate than the current bus system but would take a major initial investment to get up and running. The idea was tanked by detractors and likely will not be brought up again.

    Our schools here are a mess. We pay so much in property taxes while cheap laborers living in apartments send 5-8 kids to our schools for free. The apartments are corporate owed and tax-abated so they are essentially free-loaders on a broken system.

    We buy our kids supplies but they are required to pool them together so that all the kids share pencils and paper. No one is allowed to have their own supplies.

    Private schools are popping up in every old strip mall. They qualify for public funding and are free to attend, but they have little oversight and they commonly inflate the number of students in attendance to keep their public money flowing.

    All the while the school administrators (public and private) take home salaries of $100,000 or more while the average family makes $40,000 or less. Why are PUBLIC SERVANTS making so much more than their private counter-parts? They claim it’s to keep the talent from going into the private sector, but there are plenty of talented people willing to work for less in the private sector that the argument no longer holds water.

    I keep warning my teaching friends that they need to watch out as they are about to get a huge pay cut. GM workers settled for $11.60 an hour and that is what teachers can expect to make in the very near future. GM unions have traditionally always set the wage for America.

    So look out worker bees, we’re about to be asked to work for less, or not at all!

  4. Timr

    woody188. So true. Corporate fascism owns the rethuglician party, and what they want is to turn back the clock to the robber baron days of totally free unbridled-by law and regulation-**CAPITALISM**. And if st john is elected, that is what we will get. Ex sen Phil Gramm-he of the bill to deregulate banks-and current VP and senior lobbyist of UBS, is the #1 econ advisor to st john, if he is elected, you can see now what he would do to the rules, regulations, and safegards that have been put into place after previous disasters. Reregulate the banks and the oversight of the stock markets, and you eliminate most of the problems, except the corporate owners of congress will not allow it.

  5. Warren

    There’s a significant difference in the funding of highways vs. the funding of buses and light rail. Highways are to a large extent paid for by the people who use them through taxes on fuel. Buses and light rail are paid for by the taxpayers at large. Here in Phoenix, the taxpayers put six bucks into the till for every buck that a rider puts into the fare box on a bus. Now we have a light rail system which will give the taxpayers the joy of paying twelve bucks for every buck paid by a rider.

    I remember when bus and commuter train companies paid their own way through fares. Then, government stepped in and started subsidizing. Then, governments took over the companies outright. Public transportation has become just another big government income transfer scheme.