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Get Los Angeles Moving?

May 3


A new plan calls for building almost 400 miles of new rail lines — mostly subways — in Los Angeles. A citizens’ group called Get LA Moving (GLAM) has prepared a detailed rail map and financial plan.

Click on the map to download a larger version in PDF format.

GLAM uses the following brilliant logic:


To be fair, that is not the only logic they use. They also say things like, “I drive around in a minivan, but I long for the day when someone will build me a train to ride instead.”

Okay, that’s not an exact quote. But it pretty accurately expresses the thought behind the plan.

Won’t it be hugely expensive to build 400 miles of rail lines? Yes, they estimate $31 to $38 billion. That’s presuming an average cost of $100 to $125 million a mile for subways. They argue that new technology allows subway construction for a fraction of the amount that American cities typically spend.

I agree that cities spend too much on rail transit, but GLAM’s numbers are still pretty optimistic. New York City is spending $2 billion a mile for a new subway in Manhattan. San Jose says it will cost well over $500 million a mile for a 4-mile BART subway. I suspect a 75 to 95 percent reduction in costs is just a bit much. A more realistic bare-bones cost is probably more like $100 billion.

You know what they say: “A billion here, and billion there, and pretty soon . . .” (Often attributed to Everett Dirksen, but he denied he ever said it.) Most people really don’t understand just how much a billion dollars is, so they have no qualms proposing multi-billion dollar plans.

Remember, Los Angeles is the city that was building rail transit under a plan written with the help of those powerful rail advocates, Wendell Cox and Tom Rubin. But the initally projected costs turned out to be far too low, so the transit agency, MTA, had to cut back on bus service to continue construction. This led to the famous Bus Riders’ Union lawsuit, which MTA settled by agreeing to restore bus service. To cover the costs, MTA halted plans to contruct many of the proposed rail lines.


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Reprinted from The Antiplanner