Zwartz Talk

Subways Have Nothing to Do with Transportation

Millennium #1Subways and Light Rail Systems

Have Nothing to do With Transportation

by Scott Zwartz

April 3, 2016

     In November  2016, Angelenos will be asked to give $120 Billion to billionaires.  Angelenos, however, will have to pay back over $200 BILLION so that is the real burden on us.  Still believing that more subways and trolleys will reduce surface traffic congestion, most Angelenos will oblige by voting for a sales tax increase.  By now one would think that Angelenos would realize that the more cash we shell out for rapid, mass transit, the worst the traffic congestion becomes.


      Angelenos do not seem to learn from experience. Despite the billions which we have already spent on subways and trolleys, traffic congestion continues to get worse.  Why do we continue to do the same dumb thing over and over and over again, confident that the results will be different?  Each time we tax ourselves for these transportation projects, traffic becomes worse.  Los Angeles now has the worse traffic congestion not only in America, but also in Europe!  Maybe if we raise our taxes high enough, our traffic can be worse than Asian cities like Beijing.

Beijing #1

     Why are all those cars trying to get to the same place at the same time?

      For the same reason that the 405 is crowded each morning.  Some fools constructed extremely high and dense offices centers in the middle of huge urban centers rather than spread around the density.

    Contrary to what Mayor Garcetti’s propganda, hundreds of thousands of Angelenos do not wake up each morning and voluntarily decide to try to go to Bunker Hill or Century City.  They go there because they have no choice.  Their dimwitted bosses think that it is smart to locate their offices in prestige places with no regard to how harmful it is to their employees and their firm’s productivity.

     Suppose someone told these bosses, “Listen, after your employees arrive each morning, they can do nothing for 45 minutes and at the end of the day, they cannot do any work for the last 45 minutes of the work day, but you have to pay them for that time.”  Would they think that would be a good idea.

    The only difference between the above proposal and reality is that the employers do not pay their employees for the first 45 minutes in the morning and last 45 minutes in the afternoon.  That unpaid time is due to the unnecessarily long commute times because the employers put their offices in DTLA, Westood, Century City and now Santa Monica. For employers, their employees’ lives count for nada, zilch, gar nichts.  The commute home could be two or four hours, but as long as it is not on the employers’ time clocks, the employers don’t care.  Until now.  The Millennials are starting families and moving away where they can have a decent home with decent schools and a 15 minute commute.

    Do subways solve the employees’ problem?  No, if you take the subway, your average commute time is 70% longer than if you drove.  That measurement also makes the subway-bus combination look good because it ignores the great inconvenience of not having one’s own car.  The subways does not allow side trips to the cleaners or the gym.  The subway tunnel is fixed; it is not moving for the next 100 years, and it doesn’t care where you need to go.

Subways and Light Rail Systems

Have One Purpose

   The sole purpose of a subway or light rail system is to tie the mass transit to a few specific pieces of property in order to make those land owners vastly wealthy.  This is why Garcetti and the City Council hates buses.  A bus is not tied to any building.  Bus routes are flexible.  They have no loyalty.  They go where the riders want to go, but subways go where the developers want people to do.  That is why Garcetti and his minions have taken so much money away from buses and put the money into fixed rail transit — to benefit one or two mega campaign donors.


     Of course the developers claim that they must build higher and higher in order to have more and more density in order for the city to make enough money off the subway to make it pay for itself.  They know that the subways will never, ever by any stretch of the imagination pay for themselves.  They are horribly expensive to maintain, requiring a unionized work force.  NYC has the most profitable subway system and its has an annual deficit of $ 8 Billion per year.  If you are 30 years old, do you want to root your family’s financial future in Los Angeles where the subway deficit will equal the rest of the City’s operating costs? deficit

    Buses on the other hand use the streets and freeways, thus they help lower the maintenance cost for others in society.  Cars cannot use the subways.  All the hundreds of millions we spend on subways are extra costs we have to bear.   When we repair a regular street, both the buses and the private cars benefit.

    When it comes time to raise your sales taxes another $200 BILLION this November remember:  Subways are not for transportation.  Their sole purpose is to make a few land owners vastly wealthy and make life much harder on everyone else.

The Insane Disaster that is Los Angeles

     Even if the taxpayers are wise enough to reject the $200 Billion Transportation bonds in November 2016, the City will not stop concentrating mega high-rises in DTLA, Bunker Hill, Century City, Hollywood and Westwood.  Los Angeles new middle class, i.e. the Millennials starting families, are already voting with their feet and leaving LA in droves.  The employers are following them and they will not be returning.  Why would they return?

      Soon  Los Angeles will not only have the worst infrastructure in the nation, it will have no middle class to pay the costs to rehabilitate Los Angeles.  We will still be the most park poor major city and we will still have one of theBad Schools Are immoral worse school districts in the entire industrialized world.  What middle class family will move to LA when they will have to spend an extra $11,000.00 to $32,000.00 per year per child for private school?

       “Power tends to corrupt and absolutely power corrupts absolutely” Lord Acton, 1887, but corruption destroys.  Los Angeles is doing worse that any other American city for one reason: Los Angeles is the most corrupt American city.


2 comments on “Subways Have Nothing to Do with Transportation

  1. Howard

    In the 1970s well paying employers would move out, to places like Orange County. Now that the urban frontier is Menifee, Victorville, and Lancaster, good jobs are not following there. This will establish a natural commuting limit for LA, and the single family or bust folks will go to Texas no matter what land use policy the governments follow, if this is the way employers are acting.
    Plus private school vouchers, tax credits, and charter schools are a matter of social justice, because they provide a way that people who want to stay near the city can have a more affordable education for their kids.


    • scottzwartz

      Good points. San Bernardino should have developed into a larger urban center. I am uncertain why it did not, but instead it went bankrupt

      Also LA has geographic problems with the mountains to the north and the ocean to the west.

      It would have been wiser to concentrate on improving the quality of life than on making a few land owner wealthy. While that would have raised the demand to live in LA, upward pressure due to better quality of life would have been a better problem than increased prices because the quality of life was decreasing.


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