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I'm glad that you've mentioned the single biggest and most important transit improvement that LA needs to make in the next two decades, which seems to be largely missing from the popular consciousness. It's not subways or light rail. Nor is it buses. It's trees. At both ends of the transit trip, riders become pedestrians, who generally walk on sidewalks, and the walk can be made considerably more pleasant if there's some shade from the baking hot sun in the summer. The "iconic" five-story palms are so useless in this respect that it feels almost like they're mocking you, especially when they drop the occasional leaf on your head. But with some intelligent tree-planting to provide shade, the walking part of the transit trip can be made more comfortable and attractive, which ought to increase the popularity of transit as well.


@anonymouse I'm in full agreement with you that trees, and other implements of providing shade, make transit trips so, so much more attractive.

When I was in Baltimore last summer, which doesn't even have anything close to the summers of Los Angeles, one of the things that kept me indoors on days I might have otherwise taken the bus and spent some time in various places downtown was the need to walk in the hot sun.

Similarly, I saw a family waiting in the sun for their bus, and I heard who I assumed to be the mother say "This is why it sucks not to have a car". Q.E.D.

David Keddie

You paint an attractive picture Jarrett, at least to a transit enthusiast. To play the devil's advocate though I'll present an alternate picture:

Driverless cars whisk people along the boulevards congestion and accident free, powered by electricity or hydrogen or synthetic fuel from coal or gasoline from oil shale and conventional sources, whichever is the cheapest. The cars are guided to available parking seamlessly by smart parking networks, making automobile driving, if more expensive, nonetheless just as preferred in 2030 as it is today. The potential greater fuel and parking costs are offset by the purchase of smaller cars, similar to the response in Europe and Japan to high costs.

Just a thought... no offense intended to your excellent work and ideas :)

It's important I think to consider how potential technological changes could change the nature of the debate. I still think walkable and transit-capable urban landscapes have a great deal of appeal irrespective of the ease of automobile dependency. I'm less certain as to whether current trends in favor of transit and walking won't be overcome by the implementation of existing driverless and smart network technologies, not to mention alternative sources of fuel for automobiles.


D. K.

Any alternative source of fuel would likely be more expensive than gasoline is now (to say nothing of the pollution involved in oil shale extraction and conversion). The bottom line is that personal transportation would still require moving about 1-4 tons of steel, aluminum, plastic, and glass to transport a 100-250 lb. individual.

Driverless cars are an interesting idea. Let me know when they're successfully implemented on a large scale and all of the logistical, technical, and legal challenges are solved. Rail, rapid bus, bike/walking infrastructure are proven technology that can be easily implemented in within a generation's time.

Relying on personal transport (automobiles) and existing land use patterns (suburban sprawl) as the be-all-and-end-all is just kicking the can down the road. Traffic congestion is only one of the downsides of automobile use. Driverless cars do not address the environmental issues of automobile transit (or the social issues). Even a Smart Car-sized driverless car running on clean nuclear power or renewable sources would use more energy than effective public transit.

We need to think outside the box of the personal-transit oriented model.


The bus lane as part of streetscape is natural to most big urban centers in Europe and Asia but that concept as yet to take hold in LA. Witness our latest fallout from the Wilshire Blvd BRT project... a couple of wealthy condo owners is going to torpedo a real improvement in transit service in the busiest bus corridor in the country. Progress is great but just like Congress, the real power to change lies where the money is and those interests aren't aligned with getting buses integrated with the streetscape.

Mark Elliot

I will agree that 20 years on we'll see not only changed streets, but a changed consciousness. Granted, it's very difficult to envision this now. That is the single-biggest challenge to making change, IMO, in any area of land use or mobility or the nexus thereof: Getting policymakers and their constituents behind new ideas that most folks have never seen illustrated, much less implemented.

Most folks go with their gut, their experiential knowledge, and moreover are distrustful when Metro or whichever comes calling with a 'vision.' Who can blame them: Los Angeles plan books are full of monorails, jetpacks, and Jetson-like cities-of-the-future imagery. Fast forward forty years from them, though, and LA is still a wreck.

What makes this different, I think, is the overall acceleration in the pace of change. Productivity, for example; and our personal relationship with technology. Our relationship to time. And a nagging understanding that if we're not moving ahead (individually & country-wise) we're falling behind.

So I expect that the next 20 years will be more packed with change than the past 40, though you can never underestimate the parochial self-interest of condo canyon residents or those in my own burgh of Beverly Hills.

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