What's Going To Happen?
I became discouraged reading and riding. A couple of articles that came my way last year discussed studies of transit-based housing. Housing that is near a subway line. What they found was that these housing projects were actually increasing automobile traffic in the neighborhoods, because the subways don't go many places, and the buses that you would need to ride to get to your final destination are too slow, often late, and infrequent. As much as I like to ride the bus, I have to agree with this. The key factor as far as I'm concerned is that when you are on a bus, you are still in traffic. So you have slow and late, just like with a car. I tend to ride the bus when I can get on one, maybe two buses, and go a reasonably long distance, certainly greater than 10 miles. For less than 10 miles I'd rather ride my bike. For more than one transfer, the time lost is just not worth it. I believe a system of dedicated bus lanes would go far toward making public transit more workable in LA. Get the buses out of traffic. They'll run faster, on time, and be a much more attractive alternative to sitting in a car. Especially since adding bus lanes would reduce the number of car lanes, making the 1-person-1-car habit even worse than it is today.
I also became discouraged as I rode my bicycle more and more. I love riding my bike. I think it is quite safe. It's SO much more pleasant than getting in a car. I find it clears my head, in part because I'm not cursing at all the bad drivers like I do when I'm in my car. I get on the bike, and I know I'll get to where I'm going at a rate of 7-9 miles per hour, regardless of traffic. So I can take my time and enjoy the ride.
In addition, LA is absolutely made for bicycles. We have great weather and it is mostly flat. A change toward a more bicycle oriented culture would be great. Yet, when I ride, I see hundreds, perhaps thousands of automobiles for every bicycle I see. Maybe tens of thousands. It's very discouraging.
I had meant to write months ago that I thought the only thing that would provide the impetus to get LA residents out of their cars was if the true cost of driving was actually felt. I've been an advocate of a much higher gas tax and much higher parking fees. Well, it seems that the price of oil is having an effect. I would be much happier if this were a planned happening. I am somewhat fearful of leaving the impact of higher gas prices to the marketplace. I am fearful of the forced change in lifestyle it requires from so many people. I am fearful of the terribly regressive nature of this new cost, falling SO much more heavily on people who can't afford it. I am fearful of potential chaos that a continued rapid rise in gas prices could cause in society in general. But it does seem to be getting some people out of their cars. Transit ridership is up and traffic is definitely a tiny bit lighter both measured statistically and reported in the papers, as well as anecdotally. More Vespas, MiniCoopers, and SmartCars on the roads and less Hummers. In fact, I have not seen a Hummer on the streets in a couple of months.
I wonder what's going to happen.