The automobile reigns supreme in Los Angeles. But that wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, Los Angeles actually had a rail and streetcar system, but that era ended in 1961 with the death of a passenger rail line that ran from Los Angeles to Long Beach.
Today, Metro’s rail system is enjoying renewed support. Measure R passed in 2008 with just over 67 percent of the vote. It imposes a half-cent sales tax for LA County to partially fund a dozen rail projects. The Purple Line extension, which would lengthen the line to La Cienega in the west side of the city, is expected to open in 2023. And construction is underway for the Foothill Gold Line extension.
The rail system isn’t without its critics. There’s the age-old charge that in putting so much emphasis on rail, Metro is abandoning the riders it needs to serve the most: low-income Angelenos that commute by bus. Concerns have also been raised about how expensive—and how slow—it is to get these projects off the ground.
Will Metro’s rail system be able to transform Los Angeles the way it envisioned and get car-shackled Angelenos out of their automobiles and into public transport?
Ethan Elkind, Associate Director of the Climate Change and Business Program, with a joint appointment at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law. Author of the book, "“Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City"(University of California Press, 2014)
Art Leahy, CEO, Metro