Friday, October 23, 2009

MTA Gold Line--Everything That's Wrong With Government

The Gold Line is an expensive train line that currently runs from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles. Nobody uses it. The trains only go 20 to 25 miles per hour due to local noise and safety requirements, so it's not especially convenient. Indeed, the SCRTD didn't want it in the first place, knowing full well that it was not a key element of the Los Angeles master transportation plan. However, that did not stop San Gabriel Valley politicians from forcing a San Gabriel Valley leg onto the rapid transit map by mandate from the California Legislature. And why did the San Gabriel Valley politicians push so hard for a rail line? Not because anybody would ride it, but because they felt that their region deserved their fair share of the transit pie.

So the Gold Line was built and not surprisingly usage is well below projections. However, this has not stopped San Gabriel Valley politicians from demanding more. They have plotted the extension of the Gold Line to Azusa and then Claremont. And frighteningly they have just convinced the MTA to commit to the extension of the Gold Line and to seek federal funding. As far as I can tell, the Gold Line extension is just another version of the infamous "Bridge To Nowhere". Except that in the case of the bridge, "nowhere" was an uninhabited island in Alaska, while "nowhere" here is in sunny Southern California.

Of course, building useless transit systems is nothing new in Los Angeles. The Green Line stops a mile from LAX, and empty buses drive up and down the dedicated upper level Harbor Freeway roadway Private industry has equity owners who keep an eye on the bottom line. But nobody watches the bottom line when government spends on ill advised projects.

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