June 24, 2004 - From the March, 2001 issue

MTA's Draft Long Range Plan: Cooperation Needed! Is MTA's Recommended Alternative Sufficient?

Martha Welborne

Goal #1: Mobility-The MTA shall pursue activities and

make investments that improve traffic flow, relieve congestion, and enable residents, workers, and visitors to travel quickly throughout Los Angeles County. The MTA shall also pursue activities and make investments that support and enhance our region's economy by enabling the safe and efficient movement of goods to and from our international seaports and airports.

Goal #2: Air Quality-The MTA shall pursue activities and make investments that improve air quality by reducing mobile emissions, increasing the number and percentage of people using public transit or carpooling and improving the efficiency of the transportation system.

Goal #3: Access-The MTA shall pursue activities and make investments that enable all residents, workers, and visitors to gain access to the many economic, educational, social, medial, cultural, recreational, and governmental opportunities and resources in Los Angeles County.

Analysis of Alternatives

The alternatives vary in the extent to which they stress the movement of people or of vehicles. Most alternatives assume the forecasted $11.2 billion as a budgetary constraint, but two alternatives reach beyond the budget and test the performance of additional projects. Finally, one alternative tests a slower population projection, revises the distribution of population growth, and includes pricing strategies which assume additional taxes on automobiles and higher parking costs. These funds are then used to pay for additional transit service in this alternative.

• 1998 Base Year-Conditions that existed in 1998.

• 2025 Baseline-Future population with all existing system and currently approved projects.

• 2025 Vehicle Moving Alternative-Future population, fiscally constrained improvements which maximize vehicle flows.

• 2025 People Moving Alternative-Future population, fiscally constrained improvements which maximize person trips.

• 2025 Balanced Alternative-Future population, fiscally constrained improvements which balance vehicle flow and person trips.

• 2025 Strategic Alternative-Future population, requires additional resources.

• 2025 Smart Growth Alternative-Reduced future population, revised model assumptions, requires additional resources.

Recommended Alternative

The best performing alternative of those restricted to the $11.2 billion budget was the 2025 Balanced Alternative. In all categories but one, air quality, this alternative performs either better than or as well as the others. The 2025 Balanced Alternative is, therefore, the Recommended Alternative, and is referred to as the 2025 Constrained Plan throughout the remainder of this text.

However, the analysis of all the alternatives indicates that without reaching beyond the $11.2 billion forecasted funding, conditions are not likely to be acceptable to the public. For example, analysis indicates that all constrained alternatives will result in a morning peak hour highway speed ranging from 14.7 mph to 16.1 mph. This is compared to 1998 Base Year morning peak hour highway speed of 31.6 mph. Analysis further indicates that only Alternative 7, which includes growth management, population distribution focused on existing urban areas, and pricing strategies, succeeds in improving highway speeds beyond 1998 levels, in this case to 32.2 mph.


Therefore, while the 2025 Balanced Alternative is the best choice within existing fiscal constraints, it is very clear that more aggressive strategies are needed to identify additional resources beyond $11.2 billion. It is also clear that a dialogue must begin immediately with the private sector and other governmental entities concerning growth, land use, and the impact of the automobile.

The Benefits

The true test of the Long Range Transportation Plan, of course, is whether it actually improves our quality of life. The goals of the plan identify improvements in mobility, air quality, and access as ways to measure quality of life. When compared against the 2025 Baseline condition, improvements are seen in all three areas. However, when compared against the 1998 Base Year, improvements are seen in air quality, access, and transit mobility, but not in mobility on the highways.

Mobility- This analysis clearly shows that we cannot build our way our of our transportation problems. We must begin to coordinate decision-making about land use and transportation and find ways to encourage use of rapid transit and discourage use of single occupant vehicles.

Air Quality- Improvements in air quality are indicated in all future conditions when compared against the Base Year of 1998. This is accounted for by increases in transit ridership, increases in the number of carpools, improvements in the efficiency of the transportation system, and increasing use of low emission vehicles.

Access- The range of both transit and highway projects proposed in the Constrained Plan is broad. With the introduction of the three-tiered approach to coordinating the transit system, passengers will gain access easily to local feeder buses that then take them to fixed guideway service that quickly moves across the County. A total of $59.8 billion will be invested in both rail and bus capital and operations over the next 25 years. By directing this investment toward developing a coordinated public transit network, access will be greatly improved for residents of all parts of the County.

The highway system already reaches extensively around the County. Improvements over the next 25 years are focused on moving more people more efficiently on the system.

The Remaining Challenge

Even if we spend $11.2 billion on the Constrained Plan and more than $20 billion on the Strategic Plan, planning the future transportation system for our County remains a daunting challenge.

It is clear that even with our highest expectations of resources, we cannot build our way out of our transportation problems. Growth cannot remain unchecked based on the assumption that transportation services will follow. Solutions are possible, but they have not been favored by the public in the past. The time has come, however, to face the fact that public resources are not infinite and increasing congestion is facing us if we do not act soon.

There is hope in the results of at least one alternative that was tested as part of this planning effort. The 2025 Smart Growth Alternative clearly indicates that taking aggressive measures concerning growth, density, and the cost of operating autos can result in a much more positive future for Los Angeles County.

The alternative assumed a lower population growth of 2.7 million additional people by 2025 instead of 3.5 million. The alternative also assumed that this growth would be concentrated in existing urban areas more so than outlying areas. Other assumptions include a higher parking cost, and a higher cost to County residents for operating autos. Revenues raised from increased costs on autos are then available to expand and improve the rapid transit system. The Simulation Model does not define the source of revenue, but it could be from gas taxes, emission fee charges, congestion pricing, etc.

The analysis of this option is striking. Transit ridership by commuters surges to 29.8%, and morning peak highway speeds rise to 32.2 mph. Both of these figures effectively double the projections for the 2025 Constrained Plan.

Why is this not the Recommended Plan? Most of the revised assumptions made in this simulation exercise are out of the control of the MTA and they therefore cannot be assumed without the concurrence of other municipal and county government entities, the business community, and the public.

The challenge remains and the dialogue must begin. Perhaps the most important recommendation of this plan is that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority must lead an effort to bring the appropriate groups together to collectively plan our future. In working together we can create the future that we all want: one which preserves and improves for everyone our cherished Southern California way of life.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.