Earlier this week, UCLA Law released my new report on how to speed public transit projects, “Back in the Fast Lane: How to Speed Public Transit Planning & Construction in California.” After studying the LA rail system for my book Railtown, I became exasperated by how long these transit projects take and cost. The report and Chronicle op-ed feature one egregious example (the downtown Regional Connector, which costs thirteen times more in inflation-adjusted dollars than essentially the same kind of tunnel built in 1925).
But there’s more: the Expo Line from downtown LA to Culver City had its groundbreaking in 2006, but this 8.6 mile first segment took six years to build, despite the fact that the right-of-way already existed and was used by freight trains through the 1980s. Only a small portion of the line had to be trenched, and the rest runs at street-level with a few overpasses. We built the Golden Gate Bridge in half that time.
I could go on and on. The sad part to me is the complacency — we should demand more from these projects and our elected officials who are supposed to oversee them. We have limited resources for transit and need to spend them wisely. We also have a pressing need for them to get built as quickly — and safely — as possible.