There are too many vehicles and not enough roads in Los Angeles, an area that lags behind other large metropolitan areas in the United States in terms of road capacity so any suggestion that the solution to traffic is just cramming more buses on the streets is not going to ease congestion. Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox claim that the percentage of those who commute by transit here is low but they don’t cite any sources. According to the Southern California Association of Governments, the percentage of daily transit commuters in the Los Angeles region is 9 percent and has stayed steady over the last several decades. That’s a healthy percentage. One reason Los Angeles has more transit commuters than other metropolitan areas is that 96 percent of residents in the los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region have access to transit according to Brookings. That’s second best in the United States.
Moreover, Kotkin and Cox ignore the fact that Metro bus fares already are among the lowest in the nation and our riders only pay about 26 percent of the cost of operating the service – more than $1 billion a year – and the agency is facing a serious operating deficit. And there’s no guarantee Metro will lure more solo drivers out of their cars if it lowered fares and deployed hundreds of more buses. During a 10-year period starting in the mid-90’s where Metro added 1 million annual bus hours of service and largely froze fares to comply with a federal Consent Decree to improve bus service, the agency didn’t gain new riders.
Two million traffic weary voters in Los Angeles County have mandated a multi-pronged approach: improved bus and rail service, make street and highway improvements, and expanded carpool and vanpool programs as well as bike and pedestrian projects. That’s a more sensible approach in dealing with a complex problem that defies simple one shot measures that haven’t worked in the past.