In 2008, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised voters that extending the city’s Red Line subway would relieve congestion. Voters believed him and supported a sales tax increase to build the line. Now the environmental impact report finds that the subway line will increase rush-hour traffic speeds on parallel streets by, at most, 0.3 mph (p. 3-34). Not surprisingly, some voters — or at least writers at the LA Weekly — feel ripped off.
LA Metro’s response quibbles about the cost of the project. LA Weekly says “Metro plans to use up to $9 billion in sales taxes” on the project, while Metro says the construction cost will be only $4.0 to $4.4 billion. Metro is being disingenuous as both statements can be correct if (as is likely) Metro borrows enough money to incur $4.5 billion or so in interest and finance charges. (Half of the overall payments on a 30-year loan at 5.3 percent turn out to be interest.)
Meanwhile, Metro says nothing about the impacts on traffic. LA Weekly urges that the $9 billion be spent on “county road-capacity projects put off for decades, extensive bus lines to bring the region into the 21st century, and scores of less glitzy projects.” These would be far more cost-effective at reducing congestion.
Still, rail nuts are still claiming that the project is “key to solving traffic problems.” The new EIR proves this wrong. New rail transit lines never relieve congestion because they simply do not attract enough people out of their cars to make a difference. Yet voters often support them because they foolishly believe politicians who lie to them about the benefits of rail. Los Angeles voters should demand that their money be spent more effectively than on a 9.3-mile train tunnel.