Community Commentary

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Light rail revisited

After reading your article on the I-5 expansion, I decided to submit my long-held position on freeway expansions. Each time this issue comes up in Southern California, the results are predictable. Once the funds are approved and the program is implemented, and we suffer through the attendant traffic disruptions, the expected cost overruns, and of course the missed completion date, what do we have?
We have a wider freeway with an extra lane and instead of alleviating the traffic jams, we quickly fill the new lane and we return to square one. We have been conditioned to avoid the concept of establishing a light rail system. We are told that it is too expensive, obtaining property right-of-way is not feasible and of course it will not attract riders. The fact is that in Los Angeles and many sections of the Bay area, buses and light rail systems are proliferating and in fact providing more flexibility and convenience to intra-city travelers.
Anyone who travels internationally can’t help but notice how the use of public transportation is the accepted mode of travel. The current coastal commuter rail line seems to be well used during the prime commuter times. Perhaps this system could be more functional if more stations were added to the route along with the establishment of a bus grid to link the various business and entertainment centers to the stations.
I am not the first person to note that the center of the freeways could provide an ideal location for a light rail system. Here we avoid the issues of land procurement and the sometimes very contentious right-of-way approvals. Will this approach be expensive? No doubt. However, when one considers the accumulated costs of road widening and the continuing failure to provide a solution to the growing traffic logjams, maybe the time has come to take a serious look at an alternate approach.
We, in Southern California, cling to our autos with a dedicated ferocity. The automobile manufactures gear their advertisements and the introduction of new models to the Southern California driver. Further, we seem to forget that it takes a tank of costly gasoline to keep these cars on the road. By the way, for some reason the people in San Diego pay more for their gasoline than those who live in Los Angeles and Orange County. Recently, while I was returning from Visalia, Calif., which is located near Fresno, I noticed that the price of gasoline was cheaper than what I pay in Carlsbad. On occasion, the comparative price of gasoline is discussed in a “letter to the editor.” Never once have I read an acceptable justification for the higher price. It certainly can’t be based on the size of the user community or the number of vehicles on the road. While the time is at hand for more fuel-resistant vehicles such as hybrids and all-electric vehicles, the traffic density will not decrease and we will continue to wait on bumper-to-bumper rush hour rides to and from work.
When I look around at other drivers in line I notice how many autos have only one person in them. They don’t have an alternate way to get to work. Voters have taken aggressive stands on less important issues. Isn’t this the time to make better use of the dollars we pay each year into the highway funds?

Garry Goodman is a Carlsbad resident.