Transitory thoughts

Two days in a row linking over to Balloon Juice might be a bit much but once again John’s touched on something dear to my heart:

The need for a giant vehicle penis is something I never really understood, and in fact I have lived for several years without a car in a place that has sub-optimal public transportation. To each his own, but cars are just not something that motivate me or interest me that much- when I think of a car, I think of an expensive pain in the ass. Others, to say the least, think otherwise.

There’s been a good discussion in comments on a variety of things in that post and I’ve thrown in a number of observations, as well as linking back to my earlier mass transit post from a month ago. As gas prices continue to climb and everyone starts wondering what’s up, there’s going to be more talk, always welcome.

An interesting sign of what may be yet to come in Los Angeles has just surfaced — businesses supporting a local tax to get improvements made? And why not?:

One of the key leaders in the business community in L.A. — David Fleming, chairman of the Los Angeles County Business Federation — told me late Tuesday afternoon that as an MTA board member he intends to vote to move the sales tax forward toward the November ballot. He just wants assurances that the money won’t be raided later.

Fleming has deep ties to the business community (he’s a partner at Latham & Watkins, the giant law firm, and former chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce) and lives in the San Fernando Valley.

He also was appointed to the MTA Board by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who wants to build the subway to the sea. If Fleming is a bellwether on support for the sales tax in the business community or the mayor’s office, that could translate to serious financial and political support for a campaign that must ultimately win two-thirds support from voters.

Fleming is one of many business leaders from across Los Angeles County that are gathering Wednesday morning at the City Club. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the proposed half-penny sales tax hike and whether it’s something that business wants to get behind.

“We did a poll of our members in the business federation and asked them what are the three things you want us to work on,” Fleming said. “We expected them to say taxes and regulation, but the number one issue was congestion.”

This is all welcome news to hear — it’s a tentative step, but a step nonetheless, that there’s a recognition on a wider scale that the worse things get, the more problematic it is for businesses that need to get out to clients and vice versa, that need their employees to come in on time, and so forth. It may be self-interest but it’s a paramount one that affects loads of people, and if the lawyers and high-powered money folks are getting frazzled by this, then some sort of shift in the wind is happening.

Meantime, the third and fourth parts of the LA Times stories on the state of local traffic and transit have run — on the impact of cargo freight and on the possibilities of better commutes in general — and again while they are taking a fairly mainstream approach to the subject, it’s at least good to see discussed with this level of attention, and there will be more such stories. The cargo freight story is good to note for this detail:

The problems are most apparent in Riverside, which has 26 railroad crossings. Individual delays of 28 minutes per train have been recorded.

In January, an ambulance was delayed seven minutes while rushing a teenage motorcyclist with a serious head injury to a trauma center. The youth, who was hurt in a dirt-bike crash, was unconscious and having seizures. He is recovering.

“Transporting someone with a broken leg might not be a problem,” said Peter Hubbard, a spokesman for American Medical Response, which provides the city’s ambulance service. “But a person with a serious brain injury or in cardiac arrest needs to see a neurosurgeon or a heart specialist right away.”

After the city threatened the railroads with fines and criminal prosecution last summer, railroad executives and Riverside officials agreed to work together to reduce delays for motorists.

It should not have to come to this extremity, of course, but if it will force the railroads to stop taking the presence of the tracks for granted — hard to do in a state whose power structure was essentially built on and served the interests of the likes of Union Pacific in the late nineteenth century (any good book recommendations out there covering the rise of UP, BTW?) — then the classic ‘prospect of being hanged = concentrating the mind’ effect has a place. The article’s conclusion lays it out simply:

Traffic congestion regularly delays about a fifth of commercial trucks in the region, increasing the cost of shipping by 50% to 250%, studies show.

“There is increasing concern in the region about moving goods,” said Joseph Magaddino, chairman of the economics department and the global logistics program at Cal State Long Beach.

“It does no good to off-load cargo in port if you can’t move it quickly.”

Something will give. Some things will. But will they all give in the best possible way together? That is the big question that we’ll all have to answer collectively.

One Response to “Transitory thoughts”

  1. Eve Says:

    I have no need for a car in JC, which is why I haven’t replaced Achilles, but man, I miss having a car so much.


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