It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Los Angeles – the city of Angels, the Big Orange, the empire of the West. I particularly extend a very warm welcome to my colleague and friend, Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
Earl is not only a respected and effective leader in the House of Representatives, he is the force in Congress that keeps advancing the agenda of livable communities, and promoting federal policies to create better transportation options. Earl, welcome. We are truly honored to have you here today.
It is also inspiring to see so many of you here today, who are also dedicated to the proposition of livable communities, smart growth, and transit-oriented development.
It may seem a little strange to hold the Rail-Volution conference here in Los Angeles. When one talks about livable communities with efficient transportation systems, Los Angeles is the last place that comes to mind.
After all, Los Angeles is the place:
- Where America ’s most congested freeways are;
- Where the automobile is king; and where everyone drives to visit friends – even if they only live one block away.
The fact is however, Los Angeles is the perfect place to host this conference. With millions of cars and hundreds of congested freeway miles, we Angelinos are becoming more and more intolerant of living further from our jobs and spending countless personal precious hours in long congested commutes.
As a result, we are gaining a renewed appreciation of the benefits of a coordinated public transportation system and urban lifestyle.
If you have the opportunity to visit downtown Los Angeles, you will see beautiful historic buildings being restored to their former glory, and emerging pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with housing above shops and cafes where residents can easily get to work, go shopping or just enjoy an evening out with friends and family.
With this renewed energy in Downtown Los Angeles has come a growing awareness that an efficient, easily- accessible and well-planned transportation system is the magnate needed to connect Downtown LA to our outlying communities and to attract new residents and visitors.
In many ways, L.A.’s renewed interest in public transportation, specifically rail, is simply a return to our past. For example, some of you may remember the Red and Yellow trolley cars of the last century that criss-crossed much of Southern California with an extensive rail system that covered hundreds of miles.
Many say it was one of the best transportation systems in the world. As a native Angelino, I have very has fond memories of riding with friends on the Red Car to go downtown to the movies and shopping. Unfortunately, the trolley cars were eliminated in the name of modernization.
I believe the Red Car can once again be a fun and effective transportation mode that can create a sense of community by connecting the southern downtown areas of my district around the Staples Center to the northern areas of my district around the Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the historic sites of Olvera Street, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Union Station.
My belief in the viability of the Red Car is one of the reasons I’m partnering with city and community leaders to study the possibility of its return.
While working to improve our area’s roads and highways, local, state and federal transportation authorities are also increasingly looking to rail as a means to meet our transportation challenges.
Let me quickly elaborate on some of our successes.
The Metro Red Line subway brings workers from the San Fernando Valley nearly twenty miles away, to the LA Civic Center, and provides rapid access between downtown and the financial district of the mid-Wilshire corridor;
The Metro Green and Blue light rail lines provide service from downtown LA to downtown Long Beach , our county’s second largest city;
The new Metro Gold Line connects the historic downtown sites of Union Station and Chinatown to the city of Pasadena and the residential and commercial areas of the San Gabriel Valley .
In addition, intermodal centers are being planned at two of the Gold Line stations with mixed-use development.
And, I am pleased to report, we have begun construction on the long-awaited Eastside extension of the Metro Gold Line.
When completed, the Eastside Extension will connect Downtown LA, Little Tokyo, and the Arts District, with two of Los Angeles County ’s most densely populated and heavily transit-dependent areas, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles .
And finally, when completed, the Alameda Corridor East will join the Alameda Corridor in expediting freight rail trains from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to inland intermodal rail yards and out across the country.
These are just a few of the projects that are a part of our Los Angeles Rail-Volution.
Our Rail-Volution did not happen on its own, however. It took strong and determined leadership from those with a vision of transit-oriented development and a passion for creating livable communities.
It took leaders like former Congressman Edward R. Roybal and the late Congressman Julian Dixon, who led the early transportation battles in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s.
And more recently, it has taken leaders like Rusty Hammer and George Kieffer of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and Roger Snoble of the MTA.
These leaders helped our diverse group of stakeholders and business communities to understand the mutual benefits of a targeted, highly-unified lobbying effort in Washington , D.C.
Through their leadership the Mobility 21 coalition was created.
While many thought it could never happen in LA, the Mobility 21 Coalition worked together to assess our transportation needs and united behind a single plan, based on the principal transportation priorities of our communities. Due to the coordinated efforts of Mobility 21, Washington , D.C. is no longer confused about what Los Angeles needs or wants.
As a Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I can assure you that having our diverse Los Angeles communities speaking with one voice on our transportation priorities, has made my job and that of other Members of our Los Angeles delegation less difficult as we fight for scarce federal dollars to meet the transportation needs of Los Angeles County .
Our unity has particularly been effective during these tight budgetary times.
After years of struggle, for example, by speaking with a unified voice, we finally succeeded in getting the Department of Transportation to approve the Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Eastside extension of the Metro Gold Line, and the Appropriations Committee to approve the needed funds. So as you can readily see, Los Angeles is the perfect place to hold the Rail-Volution conference.
If Rail-Volution can happen in a community as large, complex and diversified as Los Angeles , it can occur anywhere. Unfortunately however, no matter how hard and how well we work together locally, the fact remains that we cannot meet our transportation needs without the help of Congress and the White House.
For that reason, I am concerned that the Transportation Appropriation bill and the Transportation reauthorization bill could be stalled in either the House or Senate.
In the days ahead, I look forward to working with all of you, in a bipartisan effort, to get these critical bills approved by Congress, so we can continue to improve our nation’s infrastructure and the quality of life of all Americans.
I thank you for your attention and for your work on behalf of America’s communities.