Letter to the editor, Daily News, November 13, 1998

The MTA's consideration of enhanced bus service along the travel corridors, which will not get rail service for several years, appears to have found fans who believe that "finally, bus service will replace rail as the agency's focus.''

In "Express bus service may replace doomed subways'' (Daily News, Nov. 9), UC Irvine professor Charles Lave was quoted as saying, "People repeatedly discover express buses are better for them than light rail'' and points to Metropolitan Transportation Authority figures that rail carries less than 10 percent of daily passenger trips. However, Lave does not take into account how small a percentage of MTA's route miles rail consists of.

According to the MTA's scheduling department, as of Nov. 1 the agency had a total of 3,324 route miles. The three rail lines operate on only 46 of those miles, or approximately 1.5 percent of the total.

If 10 percent of the passengers are served by 1.5 percent of the mileage, then it stands to reason that those miles are the most efficient for the passengers.

Thus, we should be looking for ways to efficiently construct more rail, not continue to find ways to eliminate that option. The "gold standard'' rapid bus service is nothing more than MTA's existing limited stop service, which already operates along its busiest corridors. Even if implemented fully with the proposed 300 to 400 buses, it will not come close to the same passenger-per-mile average that Metro Rail already achieves.

While subway is not necessarily the answer along all the high-traffic corridors, light rail is relatively inexpensive to build, and the MTA needs to seriously consider the potential passenger benefits as they determine which options are best for which corridors. San Fernando Valley leaders who are crying foul at the MTA board's decision to concentrate on the Eastside and Mid-City regions in considering transit alternatives ("Transit board vote angers Valley leaders,'' Daily News, Nov. 11) are woefully ignorant of the immediate goal, which is to provide enhanced service in those areas where rail projects have been suspended.

The cross-Valley line has been on hold since before the current rail moratorium, and the MTA must first concentrate on the Red Line extensions to those two regions, where long-term route planning was already in progress, before turning its attention to other corridors where enhancements are needed.

Rail is not evil, and neither is waiting your turn for it.

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