Good News and Bad News About Old Transit
Los Angeles has a notoriously terrible transit system, which of course makes sense when you think about it. The city was literally designed around automobile transportation – one of its most iconic images is the freeway system itself. The Metrolink, which is the Los Angeles area commuter rail, is the 7th largest in the nation, in terms of its ridership, but it has been neglected and underfunded almost from its start, 17 years ago. Perhaps as a result, Metrolink is the deadliest commuter rail system in the country. With a dearth of safety measures in place, two horrific accidents have occurred in the last decade, and little was done to rectify the problems facing the system. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that on election day, a sales tax measure was approved by the voters, and the expected $1.2 Billion in revenues will be channelled to the Metrolink system. This will allow for improved safety measures and network expansion. It shouldn’t take a label like “deadliest in the nation” for lawmakers to seek out ways to fund transit safety. Transit can be extremely safe, when attended to properly.
Overall, trains and light rail are undeniably safer than automobiles, by a HUGE margin. Highway deaths in 2006 numbered 42,642. Railroad deaths were 911, and Transit deaths were 213. That is a margin of more than 40 to 1. AND if you read the footnotes, you’ll notice that the totals for Rail and Transit are inflated because they include deaths not related to in service transportation, which is not the case for the numbers of automobile deaths.
I hope that as we move forward in infrastructure planning, both as a region and as a nation, money is not only spent on roads and on bridges, but on expanding the transit options available to all of us.