Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Quickly Things Change – in LA and Honolulu

Yes2Rail reported six months ago today that newly elected Governor Abercrombie said he would not consider a financial study on Honolulu’s rail project commissioned by former Governor Lingle in deciding whether to accept the project’s final environmental impact statement.

Lingle’s $300,000 study was released soon thereafter and predictably was critical of the planned system inasmuch it was partially written by a pro-bus, anti-rail activist whose long-time advocacy of buses instead of rail transit for Los Angeles received considerable media attention.

Within 10 days of taking office, Abercrombie accepted the FEIS, an act that set in motion a chain of events that included final action on the Programmatic Agreement, the FTA’s Record of Decision, a SMA permit from the City Council and the appointment of members to the New Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

That’s a lot of transit-related change within six months in Honolulu, and Los Angeles hasn’t been standing still on transit either. As Dana Gabbard of the Southern California Transit Advocates wrote recently:

“What an amazing era we are living in for Metro in its press release on the budget to state ‘Trains on the new Expo light rail line to Culver City are being tested, and the second phase of Expo to Santa Monica is about to break ground. Construction of the Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line to Azusa is in the construction phase. Within a year construction should begin for the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line with other rail projects in the immediate queue.’ Not so long ago some of us wondered if the Gold Line to Pasadena would be the last rail project completed in our lifetime. I knew the situation would eventually improve but the magnitude of where we have gotten in a fairly short period of time is truly breathtaking to contemplate.”

Rail transit in the LA Basin has never been stronger, so has Hell frozen over? With no personal knowledge of that improbable event, our conclusion is that common sense has taken hold in the Southland.

LA has moved beyond its era of single-minded car dependence. Honolulu is moving in that direction, too. Our gas price set yet another record today.

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