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I’d like to respond to the Letter to the Editor by Nathan Bousefield published in The Signal April 18 under the title “Need to change how we work.”

In it, Bousefield asserts that if, instead of spending money on improving road and freeway capacity, we spend the money on mass transit – trains and buses – we’ll see a more significant impact on relieving road and freeway congestion.

In his letter he focuses on one sole aspect of traffic: commuting to and from work. That’s the fatal flaw in his position.

People drive all the time for all kinds of reasons, to go to many different places to do all kinds of things.

Who’s going to take a bus, or a train, to go get a pizza? Or pick up some home improvement materials? Or visit Grandma? Or see a movie? Or go to a restaurant?

Or hit the mall? Or visit Vasquez Rocks or the zoo? Or take their kids to school? Or go to the beach? Or to the mountains? Or skiing? Or to go grocery shopping?

Ain’t gonna happen.

There’s a reason “rush hour” is an all-day condition, including outside of normal “commute” times. The only time the roads are clear is way deep at night, when people have finally gone home to sleep.

Mass transit works fine in some places, typically older cities that were designed and built in the era before personal transportation became available: NYC, Chicago, Boston, D.C.

But those cities that boomed after the personal car became common developed along a different paradigm, centered on a less structured and less centralized environment that exploited the freedom of movement afforded by cars. A centralized mass transit system won’t work there.

Why would I spend at least 45 minutes using a bus system – in addition to having to walk to a bus stop, not one of which is at all close to my house – to go to the mall when I can hop in the car at my front door and be there in 10 minutes? And then have to reverse the process to go back home, lugging my purchases with me?

Further, this is Southern California, the epitome and birthplace of the “car culture.” You are what you drive. Who wants to be “that guy who uses the bus”?

Nope. As I said, this is just one more example of the socialist utopian fantasy of turning people into ant colonists. The same “logic” that’s brought us the not-so-bullet-train-to-nowhere boondoggle. It’s nonsense.


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  • lois eisenberg

    Bravo to the mass transit users !!

  • Eric Heilbrun

    I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1961 and never would have imagined using public transit. But times have changed. Yes, the post WWII culture of Southern California embraced the car. “Going for a drive” was something people used to do just for fun. It wasn’t so much the destination as the journey. Those of us that grew up in that culture have difficulty appreciating alternate modes of transit. Only those that couldn’t afford a car took public transit. But like I said, the times have changed. Youngins’ (or millenials as they are called) never really new the free wheelin’ days of driving in So Cal. They only know the unbearable congestion, gridlock, road rage, etc. and because of that, living in Transit Oriented Housing in NoHo, Hollywood, Pasadena, and now Culver City is appealing.

    Public transit will never end congestion, but it does provide an alternative to those that don’t want to sit in it. While our roads need maintenance and repair, the potential for adding capacity to alleviate congestion is very limited, especially with respect to the painful 405 and 101 corridors.

    And as a grey haired commuter to DTLA, I have completely embraced the expansion of our public transit options. Nothing looks more like ant colonists than those slogging to work 5 days a week on the 405 averaging 15 MPH for an hour and a half. At least now when I fall asleep during my commute I’m not driving.

    • Brian Baker

      Not responsive to what I wrote, nor the issue.

      What Bousefield proposed was increasing mass transit at the expense of road improvement. An either/or approach. And as I point out, that’s not an “answer” at all. You’re NOT going to increase the use of mass transit, NOR are you going to alleviate road congestion.

      • Nathan Bousfield

        That isn’t what I argued. I’m totally in favor of appropriate funding for maintenance. It’s more lanes that won’t reduce traffic that I think are a waste.

        • Brian Baker

          Sorry, bud, but that’s EXACTLY what you argued. Here’s the quote from your LTE:

          “How many expensive new lanes will it take for us to realize that the solution to traffic is not more lanes on the freeway, but a change in how we get to work?”

          Which is exactly what I call nonsense, and what I addressed in my column by pointing out that traffic congestion is NOT just a function of the work commute, as I clearly stated.

          “Maintenance” isn’t “road improvement”. You don’t “improve” something by simply maintaining it. A “road improvement” means doing something that actually changes the current state of that road system, by either adding new lanes or new roads.

    • Ron Bischof

      I think the concept of inferior goods is applicable here to explain economic behavior, Eric.

      That said, if it works for you, cool. But let’s not assume that “investing” in mass transit is addressing demand.

      • Eric Heilbrun

        Ron, Thanks for sharing. The video affirms what I have been saying. There is an opportunity cost associated with commuting. Certainly those using local bus service in almost any community do so out of necessity. But those using commuter bus service and/or light/regional rail do so precisely because of the opportunity cost associated with NOT using mass transit. I’ll make a deal with you. Lets pick a weekday and we’ll each leave our homes at 6:55 AM. We’ll meet at the Pantry at 9th & Fig. You drive all the way. I’ll take the Metrolink/Red Line. Last one there buys breakfast. Not only are our transit systems often faster than sitting in traffic, but stuff is getting done while on the train. The video speaks of opportunity costs and the value of time. What’s getting done by a driver inching down the freeway in bumper to bumper traffic?

        • Ron Bischof

          My counter offer is: You commute to work via mass transit and I telecommute from my Santa Clarita home office, as I’ve done for over a decade.

          Deal? 😀

          • Eric Heilbrun

            My reality is that I work for a large company that has not exactly embraced telecommuting. I agree, telecommuting is the best option IF it is truly an option. For those of us not self employed we are subject to adherence of the policies established for us and telecommuting is often not in the cards.

          • Ron Bischof

            I’ve found field based consulting gigs for Fortune 500 companies offer telepresence as an option, Eric. In fact, it’s the default and you’re no longer assigned space in field offices.

            As you stated, it depends on position and industry. Physical presence may be a hard requirement. That’s the case for my wife.

            I led a consulting engagement at AMGEN last year and they are aggressively implementing hoteling and telepresence globally for positions outside of applied research and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

  • Jim de Bree

    Brian–your points are well taken. One additional comment is that for mass transit to work, you have to achieve a certain population density. We are nowhere close to the requisite density.

    Furthermore, our roads have so much deferred maintenance we cannot shift funds from doing the postponed repairs to mass transit.

    • Brian Baker

      Thanks, Jim. I couldn’t agree more.

      That density is exactly what I was discussing. The urban planning that took place from about the WW2 era on was based on personal transport — cars — and not mass transit. That was why the trolley systems were discontinued and the local freeways built.

      • Jim de Bree

        One other point about commuting to work. Today, most companies are reducing office space, so they cram more people into less space. Frequently that space is shared space. One of the side effects of this phenomenon is that people are encouraged (at least on a de facto basis) to work from home (i.e., telecommuting).

        • Brian Baker

          Great point.

          Also, I’m reading about companies implementing staggered work schedules.

          All of this is great, but really, “congestion” is pretty much a function of population density, as you pointed out.

          I know you’ve spent time in the Far East, so I’m going to point to two cities with which I’m very familiar, as you may well be also: Tokyo and Hong
          Kong. In both cases, they have outstanding and heavily utilized mass transit, as well as very advanced road systems. The result? The roads are STILL congested all the time, even worse than LA.

          There is no magic bullet.

          • Eric Heilbrun

            JIm and Brian….I think we can all agree that there is no CURE for congestion. My point is that mass transit provides an ALTERNATIVE to congestion. Without Metrolink or Santa Clarita Transit/Red Line there is nothing to do but endure a painstakingly long commute unless you want to get to work at 6AM and stay until 7PM. As an alternative, mass transit is “working” for me. Brian you made the distinction between road maintenance and road improvements. Maintenance is badly needed but will not increase capacity. “Improvements” were made to the 405 with no tangible benefit.

            “Maintenance” isn’t “road improvement”. You don’t “improve” something by simply maintaining it. A “road improvement” means doing something that actually changes the current state of that road system, by either adding new lanes or new roads.”

            What improvements would you like to see that would make a meaningful difference?

          • Brian Baker

            Couldn’t agree more, Eric.

            It’s absolutely an “alternative”, a matter of choice as to what one wants to subject themselves to. I’m all for choices.

            But that’s not the issue as put forward by Bousefield. From his original LTE:

            “… the solution to traffic is not more lanes on the freeway, but a change in how we get to work”.

            In other words, commuting. Further:

            “If you really care about traffic, invest in buses and trains to get people where they need to go, not more pavement.”

            Again, the plain English is “more mass transit, not more road capacity”. And again, those are direct quotes.

            The first step here is to accept the fact that there is no “solution”. Heavy population means heavy traffic. Period. If someone wants to live where there isn’t road congestion, then move to Montana or something.

            When we’re paying targeted taxes, such as gas taxes, the funds of which are supposedly pledged to improve road capacity, then THAT’S where the money has to go. Not to trains and buses that, outside of commute times, are going to be running mostly empty. That doesn’t “solve” anything. It just wastes money.

            Where possible, build new roads, and widen existing roads, to increase capacity. Get rid of diamond lanes.

            And learn to live with traffic.

  • lois eisenberg

    “The March for Science demonstrates our passion for science and sounds a call to support and safeguard the scientific community.”
    There will a March of Science world wide tomorrow Sat 22nd and Palmdale will be one
    of the sites.
    The Best way to get there would be to take our public transportation system to save one’s
    energy that one may march with enthusiasm in this worthwhile event.
    Yeah for the March of Science !!

  • lois eisenberg

    “Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.”
    And if we don’t believe in Earth Day we the people will turn into ants !!

    • Jim de Bree

      Lois, you keep posting irrelevant posts. If you want to comment about Earth Day, please do so in response to Cher Gilmor’s column.

      • Brian Baker

        Lois stay on topic?

        THAT would be a first!

  • lois eisenberg

    God Bless Earth Day and any other day that advocates a clean environment !!

  • lois eisenberg

    “President Trump had no misgivings this week about praising his record as president.”
    “Disregard the scandals, the challenges, the failures, he suggested in Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday. “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days,” he said.”
    Has anyone measured the liar-in-chief for a straight jacket yet ??

  • lois eisenberg

    “Trump’s record so far:
    Muslim ban: Halted by the courts.
    Trumpcare: Dead on arrival.
    Tax reform: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
    Approval rating: Worst ever.
    FBI: Investigating Trump for colluding with a foreign power to steal an election.
    But Trump has been really good at one thing: getting Democrats to vote.”

  • lois eisenberg


  • lois eisenberg

    Almost a 100 days fearing what the next 100 days will being !!

    Immigrants Deported: 50.
    Walls Built: Zero (0).
    Mexicans Billed: Zero (0).
    Swamps Drained: Zero (0).

    Jobs Coming Back: Zero (0).
    Coal Mines Opened: Zero (0).
    Gubbermints Shrunk: Zero (0).
    Trade Tariffs Issued: Zero (0).

    Infrastructure Projects: Zero (0).
    ObamaCares Repealed: Zero (0).
    Militaries Expanded: Zero (0).
    Tax-Cuts Declared: Zero (0).

    Fighting with our Allies, fighting with the Capitalists.
    Fighting with the Press.

    Wars brewing: Three (3).

    Scandals: Infinity x 1000 + 1.

    • Brian Baker

      Silly comments by Lois: 12,349,053.

  • lois eisenberg

    “The first three tumultuous months of Trump’s term have seen a perhaps unprecedented number of personnel casualties. A big part of the problem is that his transition team did a lousy job of vetting.”
    Just some more off topic posting! OH WELL !!

  • lois eisenberg

    “German crowd boos Ivanka Trump for calling her father a ‘champion’ for families”
    Rightfully so !
    She is over her head in the political arena.
    She is cut from the same cloth as her father.

  • lois eisenberg

    Anti-antisemitism is up 86% since the liar-in-chief became President per the ADL.
    This is what happens when you preach hate and fear.

  • lois eisenberg

    “Trump’s border-wall fantasy is crumbling”
    Humpty Dumpty Trumpty sat on a imaginary wall,
    and Humpty Dumpty Trumpty had a great fall !! AMEN!!