Opinion: Better public transit is as good as Gold – San Gabriel Valley Tribune & Pasadena Star-News

The following Opinion originally appeared in the Thursday, November 13, 2013 print edition of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star-News.

Opinion: Better public transit is as good as Gold

By Mike Gatto

Los Angeles County has the most congested freeways in the nation.  Despite the years of congestion, we lack a mass-transit system to effectively serve our communities, especially in the San Gabriel Valley.  Workers lament lost productivity, and families long for more time together at home.  We need a transportation system that will reduce the time we spend sitting in gridlock.

Ten years ago the Metro Gold Line from Los Angeles to Pasadena opened for service.  A controversial project at the time, the Gold Line has proven to be an efficient and worthwhile public investment.

Even better, it was completed on-time and under-budget, and now serves more than 40,000 individuals in the San Gabriel Valley each day, who complete more than a million rides each month.

Unfortunately, the system is incomplete.  More than half a million residents of the Foothills communities still have no reasonable means of utilizing Metro Rail or any affordable or efficient public-transit option.

The original Gold Line proposal called for construction of the project in two stages.  Phase 1, a 13.7-mile line from Los Angeles to Pasadena, would be constructed first.  Later, Phase 2 would extend the line an additional 20 miles to Claremont.

Since then, Phase 2 has been divided into two parts.  Construction of Phase 2A, which will extend service to Azusa, is currently underway.  But Phase 2B, which would extend service to Claremont and Montclair, continues to face significant political and financial hurdles, and is in danger of being tabled.  Meanwhile, formal plans to extend the line to Ontario are not even down on paper yet.

While the current effort to extend the line to Azusa is a step in the right direction, this extension will bring the rail service to less than a third of the more than 550,000 people who live in the region.

Cities like San Dimas, which has more than 30,000 residents, will continue to be out of reach.  And Ontario, which is home to more than 150,000 people and the region’s largest airport, will still be more than 20 miles from the nearest Gold Line or other commuter rail service.

Recently, Rep. Judy Chu announced her support for plans to expand the Gold Line to Claremont and Ontario International Airport, saying “This will truly not be regional system until you get it going all the way to the Ontario Airport.”  I agree.

Public transit is about more than just commute times.  It is about connecting a region in a sensible and efficient way.  It is about reducing air pollution by taking cars off the road.

It is hard for any of us who take pride in our region, to accept that the second-most densely populated metropolitan area in the nation struggles under an incomplete, disconnected transportation and transit system.  Residents of other metropolitan areas around the country use well-conceived public transit systems to connect to their airports, shopping centers and business centers.

The San Gabriel Valley deserves effective and efficient transportation options, including a light-rail system, and flexible carpool lanes that are available to single occupancy vehicles during nontraditional commute hours.  (Another issue I am working on.)  We cannot continue to construct transit in a haphazard and patchwork fashion.  It’s time for community organizations and government officials at all levels to come together and get on-board to complete the Gold Line extension through the San Gabriel Valley to provide us with a transit system that truly connects.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz and Silver Lake.

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