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Will It Take an Earthquake to Bring the Subway to the Sea?

It shouldn't take an earthquake to bring the subway to the sea, but the eternal wait for rapid transit in Los Angeles suggests that maybe it will.

Where are all the catastrophic earthquakes when you need one? Nineteen years ago last week, Los Angeles and much of the L.A. region were paralyzed when the Northridge earthquake decimated critical public infrastructure including sections of the Santa Monica Freeway.

Of course I am not wishing for an earthquake, mudslide or fire. What I am hoping and praying for is my usual elusive L.A. fantasy: a subway to the sea, a north-south rail or bus rapid transit (BRT) line that will speed passengers from the San Fernando Valley to LAX and the South Bay, and a court docket free of NIMBY lawsuits by misguided and mean-spirited neighbors who seem to pine for the good old days of smog alerts and a city defined by restrictive covenants that limited African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jews and others to certain neighborhoods in the city.

As any good student of L.A. history can tell you, following the Northridge quake the Santa Monica freeway was rebuilt in less than three months. According to an April 6, 1994 article in the Los Angeles Times,

"Spurred by the promise of an extra $200,000 a day for every day work was completed ahead of schedule, the contractor... will finish the project 74 days before a June 24 deadline and rack up a $14.5-million bonus for the company. The high-speed construction was made possible by crews working around the clock, seven days a week, and by state officials cutting through red tape."

These sorts of incentive contracts are commonplace today, spurring contractors to complete infrastructure construction work ahead of schedule. Still, how many Metro employees have spent their entire career at the agency and its predecessor agencies driving to work because the long-promised subway and other transit improvements came decades late or never came at all? Sure, there is much to celebrate in the current boom in Metro construction. No one, save Darrell Clarke of Friends for Expo Transit, will be happier than Joel lui-même to ride Expo from 7th Street in downtown L.A. to the Colorado terminus near the Pier in Santa Monica.

With the president of the United States showing welcome courage in confronting gun advocates on gun control, we need a similar concerted push to get built the transit improvements this city needed desperately as long ago as the Northridge quake. I like what I am hearing from the front-runner candidates for mayor about rapid transit. Now what we need is an ironclad contract that gets Metro and the City to guarantee that the subway and a line through the Sepulveda Pass will be built pronto, not someday, as prior generations of City Council members, mayors and Congress members said they hoped for, when some of them were actually voting against the subway.

And please, even if public transit is not anything you can hold your nose long enough to ride on, join the rest of us in showing your disgust at the eternal construction on the 405. I doubt even the smartest among us can understand and explain why that project will take years rather than months or a year at most to complete.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, after the Northridge quake, a study by the governor's Office of Planning and Research concluded that the closure of the Santa Monica Freeway cost the economy of Los Angeles and neighboring communities about $1 million a day. Multiply that number by 365 days times 30 years, and adjust for inflation and you start to get an idea how devastating the lack of rapid transit options for millions of LA workers has been on the region's economy.

Speaking in 1994, then governor Pete Wilson said, "This freeway, with its broken bridges, broken connectors, became one of the most visible signs of the devastation brought upon Los Angeles by the Northridge earthquake. Now its rebuilding and its reopening... will serve as one of the... symbols of the energy of this great community."

It shouldn't take an earthquake to bring the subway to the sea. The Metro Board's unholy alliance of South L.A. and North Valley Supervisors needs to stop grandstanding on issues like Beverly Hills and Crenshaw and join the rest of the Board in demanding that construction go forward at many times the speed at which it is currently proceeding. It is past time that Angelenos has a transportation agency that worked as one to deliver a rapid transit system worthy of the creative energy of this otherwise world-class city.

Joel Epstein is Chief Talent Officer at Bliss Lawyers and a Los Angeles based strategic communications consultant focused on transportation and other critical urban issues  For more about Joel visit JoelEpstein.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

robert February 22, 2013 at 01:43 AM
I never said anything about the supposed "Zionist Conspiracy." I was just mentioning the fact that you stated that Jews are known to be a restricted class in Los Angeles, but, its a known fact that Jews have played a prominent role in opposing transit in Los Angeles and through the county. Ive looked up past articles about the Orangeline and the Orthodox Jews here in Valley Village played a dominant role in the demise of the light rail train along the Chandler Corridor and even tried to stop the Orangeline Busway. Not to mention that they came up with the most insulting reasons to oppose it including stating that only the poor working class would utilize it. Henry Waxman and Zev Yaroslavsky passed legislation limiting funding and banned a subway along the westside and light rail along the Chandler path, appeasing the NIMBY sentiment, especially along the westside route. I never said anything to insult Jews, I was just pointing out to you that Jews have played a dominant role of NIMBYISM when it comes to transit, that's all. If it were Blacks, Latinos, or Whites, then I would point that out too if you said that any of those groups were restricted.
robert March 18, 2013 at 03:32 AM
Joel, you better have your a** at the Metro meeting on the 27th at the Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center in Van Nuys in support of the East SFV Corridor project. If you don't with us, the NIMBY's sure will.
Bob March 18, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Mr. Gardner...if you live in this town, please leave! There is no room here for vile disgusting bigotry. I am refraining from equating you to a necessary body that prevents us from eventually exploding onlybecause that body part performs a USEFUL function.
robert March 18, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Bob, can you not read? Did you even bother to read my second post? I think you need a time out.
Joel Epstein March 18, 2013 at 03:18 PM
I am out of town on business but will be there in spirit. Thanks for the heads up.

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