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Transit May Not Reduce Congestion—But It's Still Important
Los Angeles County Metro's ambitious plans for the next 40-50 years rely on $120 billion from a proposed sales tax. Laura Bliss writes in CityLab that to win voter approval, the MTA needs to reassess how it presents the core purpose of building transit.
Transit advocacy, including Metro's own, often relies on the idea that access to transportation options reduces driving, which reduces congestion, which reduces carbon emissions.
But plenty of factors affect transit ridership rates that agencies cannot control—land-use planning and density, gas prices, free parking and other invisible driving subsidies, etc.—and research has disputed whether increased transit options really do replace driving. Bliss argues that they shouldn't have to:
"Transit doesn’t have to reduce traffic to be successful. Indeed, its central aim probably shouldn’t be serving the people who don’t actually use it. Transit’s best selling point is that it offers mobility to those who, for any number of reasons, can’t or choose not to drive. It also underpins bustling economic activity, pushes people into job centers, and improves long-term sustainability."
Embracing that angle could increase agencies' success, or even alter their project priorities—and go a long way toward clarifying the issues facing Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.