Category: Transportation

California’s High-Speed Rail Needs a New Mandate

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor, USC Price.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 11.

Over the last few weeks, the California High-Speed Rail Authority both lost and won fairly significant battles. It lost when a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that its proposed funding plan violated the voter-approved law, Proposition 1A, that created the agency. The judge has set a hearing to give the state a chance to show that it can comply with the law and environmental reviews.

How to Slow L.A.’s Rising Rents

RAPHAEL BOSTIC, director of the Bedrosian Center on Governance, Price School.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 4.

Los Angeles, a city where 63.1% of residents rent their homes, is in the midst of a crisis in rental housing.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development laid out the stark facts. Los Angeles rents have increased, after adjusting for inflation, by nearly 30% over the last 20 years. During the same period, renter incomes have decreased by 6%.

One important part of the problem is an inadequate supply of affordable rental units. Only 37 units are available and affordable for every 100 would-be renters living at the average renter income level.

Life at the Extremes — Not Really

DAVID TREUER, professor of English, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

During the election cycle we tend to ask: What does America mean; where are we going? And then someone decides to check on the Indians to find out the answer, as though Indians represent America’s soul hidden in the attic. And of course politicians have long stood next to their “souls” and posed for pictures on the campaign trail.

Within the last year, Diane Sawyer and “20/20” did a special on the sorry conditions at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the New Yorker featured a grim photo essay on Pine Ridge too. The New York Times published a piece on brutal crime at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and another on the deep financial problems at Foxwoods, the Pequot-owned “world’s largest” casino in Connecticut. Indians make the news, but the news

What Brought L.A. Back From the 1992 Riots

MANUEL PASTOR, director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, and KAFI BLUMENFIELD, president and CEO Liberty Hill Foundation.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

In 1992, the acquittal of four police officers accused of beating Rodney King was the match that ignited a city, setting off a wave of violence that left 53 dead, thousands injured and hundreds of businesses destroyed.

There was a lot of accumulated tinder to burn. Los Angeles was struggling with a faltering and de-industrialized economy that left too many without good jobs, a wave of demographic transition that caused ethnic and generational tensions, and a widening gap between rich and poor that was just beginning to emerge into public view — a bit like the U.S. today.

Keeping L.A.’s 30/10 Transit Plan on Track

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor, USC Price School

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s 30/10 plan may be in trouble. The proposal calls for borrowing from the federal government over 10 years the total amount expected to be raised and repaid over 30 years from a half-cent sales tax authorized by L.A. County voters in 2008. With the money, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could complete transit and highway projects in 10 years instead of 30.

However, on March 29, Congress extended federal transportation spending for only 90 days — the ninth such action since 2009 — to avoid a complete shutdown of Washington-funded highway work. Funds for the mayor’s proposal were not part of the bill. The possibility of movement won’t come until after the November elections, and even that may be a pipe dream.

The 30/10 financing model, widely heralded among transportation experts, thus appears to be another hostage to partisan acrimony in Washington. A two-year bill, which passed 72 to 22 in the Senate, included financing for the 30/10 plan, but Democrats in the House could not force a vote on the legislation. Some House Republicans simply do not want to expand federal loan programs, which they believe encourage overbuilding and mismanagement.

There are options that do not depend on Washington pulling itself together. But Villaraigosa must first decide what is truly important about his plan: fast-tracking the money or developing a model for the federal government to do so. That’s a debate worth having because there are three options for fast-tracking money into Southern California to pay for our needed transportation projects.

The first is the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, which has been around since 1994. Because California’s economy is bigger than that of most countries, it can finance much of its own infrastructure. The bank has an AAA credit rating and thus can offer competitive rates. It has helped fund some large projects, including the Bay Bridge‘s deck replacement. Given its modest size, the bank probably wouldn’t bankroll more than a handful of projects at once, so Los Angeles would need to prioritize its projects. But then, nobody really expected the feds to finance the entire 30/10 wish list either.

Villaraigosa also could look overseas for some fast money. The European Investment Bank has lent money to 78 countries to build highways and transit projects, the bulk of it to member states of the European Union. Although the bank has not financed a project in the United States, its mission is to foster infrastructure projects that support EU goals, among them slowing global warming. The 30/10 plan has multiple transit projects — the Westside subway and the Green Line/LAX extension — that dovetail nicely with this environmental goal. Villaraigosa could make an unprecedented proposal to the European bank. What’s the worst that could happen? It says no and mocks our soccer teams ?

How to Prevent Another Titantic

COSTAS SYNOLAKIS, professor of civil and environmental engineering, USC Viterbi.

his op-ed originally appeared at the HuffingtonPost.

The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is now with us. Dozens of events have been planned and the story keeps enthralling us, despite the fact that so few of us travel by large ocean liners anymore. For the record, the beginning of our fascination with disasters of titanic proportions started with the great Lisbon tsunami of 1755, which changed the way Europeans viewed nature and God, as candidly described by Voltaire over two centuries ago.

Recent events provide clues why ship disasters captivate us. In January’s sinking of Costa Concordia off Isola de Giglio in Italy, 30 died, a surprising number given that the ship was only 5 years-old, and the accident occurred within a few hundred feet off the nearest port. Survivors described harrowing scenes before evacuating, conflicting

The President’s Transit Pipe Dream

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor in USC Price School of Public Policy:

This article originally appeared in POLITICO,

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week told POLITICO that the House transportation bill is “the worst” measure he’s ever seen “during 35 years of public service.”

His problem? The legislation would eliminate the deficit-plagued Highway Trust Fund as a funding source for transit, walking and biking projects. Money for those projects would instead have to come out of the general fund.

Transit and sustainability advocates are outraged. Don’t the bill’s supporters know how crucial these non-automobile means of travel are to cities?

Finish the 710 Freeway

JAMES E. MOORE II, professor of industrial and systems engineering “In the best case, the political impasse over raising the nation’s debt ceiling would lead to a new political reality for evaluating transportation projects: new rules that favor projects with…

For Sale: U.S. Infrastructure?

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor, USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development “Greece is having a fire sale of its publicly-owned transportation system, with planes, trains and roads all being sold off as the country attempts to dig out of its…