The 101 is getting worse every day. Traffic was backed up in both directions around 9am this morning. Not only was I going slow enough to count drivers on cell phones heading North, I could describe what people were wearing that were heading South. I chugged along at 15mph, and I thought to myself, how did they let this happen?
Then I stumbled upon a 1988 article in the New York Times about a proposed East-West rail line that would have connected Warner Center with the Red Line at North Hollywood Station, and who may have prevented it from ever being built.
The article has an amusing view of the Valley as “Little League games, Boy Scouts and cruising into Bob’s Big Boy on Van Nuys Boulevard.” It also refers to the 818 as “mostly middle class white.”
No doubt, many things have changed in 20 years. Some, have not.
Whatever the definition of this home for half the population of Los Angeles, everybody agrees on one thing: traffic is terrible.
A plan to reduce congestion and put a commuter rail line across the Valley has stirred a rancorous debate that goes to the very definition of what the Valley is. Mass transit is hailed by many as the answer to jammed freeways and smog, but opponents say it will destroy the free, suburban way of life that attracted them.
As envisioned, the electrified rail line would carry 46,000 thousand people a day by the year 2010 between the Valley’s eastern end, just northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and the western end, about 15 miles away. The estimated prices range from $700 million for a trolley-like surface line to $2.3 billion for a subway that would connect with the one being built in central Los Angeles.
Probably the most bitter opposition comes from the Orthodox Jewish communities near the Chandler-Victory route, particularly the Shaarey Zedek congregation of Rabbi Sugarman. In one proposal the train would run right in front of the temple, dividing the neighborhood of about 5,000 Jews, a community whose members must walk to temple on the Sabbath. The rabbi said the train’s ”blight and noise” would destroy the community. ”We recognize the need for transportation, but there are other options,” he said.
Singling out one group for the short-sidedness that led to our current traffic disaster is careless. Surely, many neighborhood groups and city officials who were resistant to change also contributed to the demise of what could have been the Orange Line. Some groups oppose fixed transit systems dividing their neighborhoods because of their religious beliefs. Others, simply don’t want “those people” traveling down their street. Then there’s the MTA, whose lack of vision has failed to create a truly regional master rail plan that would benefit all of L.A. County.
I wonder how religious groups, business leaders, and homeowners in the Valley feel about their 20-year-old decision now?
Something for them to think about, as they fight traffic to get to the polls today.
Photo of a bus that thinks it’s a train from Wikipedia