Officials Explore Mass Transit Possibilities for L.A.'s Westside

State and local officials met this week to discuss the possibility of bringing a subway or light rail line to L.A.'s Westside. The meeting was, appropriately enough, at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Kitty Felde: These state and local officials represent a region with more cars per square mile than anywhere else in the nation. It seems like most of those cars clog the streets of West L.A. all day long. But Dave Mieger with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says there's a hunger on L.A.'s Westside for a subway or a light rail line.

Dave Mieger: In the 25 years I've been doing this, in all the corridors from Green, Orange, Red, Expo, I think we've seen more support out there in the community during the first month of our initial scoping than I've seen on any of the other projects. It's just incredible the amount of outpouring of people coming out to these meetings saying, "Please give us a transit project."

Felde: Wanting transit is one thing. Paying for it is something else. L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents traffic-clogged Westchester and Marina del Rey, says what's needed is a 20-year transit plan. He says it should include an extension of the Red Line subway to Santa Monica. The price tag for a comprehensive Southern California transit system? $100 billion.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl: I believe we can get more action out of the federal government if our congressional delegations are not Democrats or Republicans, but Californians first, and fight hard for more of our fair share of the pot in Washington.

Felde: L.A. Congresswoman Diane Watson says the feds usually cover 60% of the cost of local projects like extending the Red Line to Santa Monica... if local governments pick up the other 40%. That might mean local bonds, higher property taxes, maybe even a "greenhouse gas" emissions tax on cars. Watson says Congress is about a year away from writing the next big transportation funding measure. But she says don't get your hopes up.

Congresswoman Diane Watson: The perception nationwide and in Congress is that California can and should build large projects without federal aid.

Felde: Congresswoman Watson says some in Washington think we're a bunch of "johnnies come lately" to public transit... that we don't use the trains and buses we have... that we have no regional vision for a public transportation system that links everyone... basically, that we don't deserve Washington's help. Changing that mindset will be tough. Maybe as tough as changing lanes in rush hour on Wilshire Boulevard.