Long Beach’s stance as “the most bicycle-friendly city in America” is the result of “political will,” Charlie Gandy told his audience Wednesday at the final May Bike Month event organized by Glendale’s Safe and Healthy Streets program.
Gandy, Mobility Coordinator for Long Beach, presented traffic planning and road design changes that encourage bicycling and walking, and urged his audience as “stewards of the community” to advocate them.
Stewardship of the community became much narrower, and another side of “political will” was evident, at Thursday’s MTA Board meeting, when a large contingent of politicians from San Gabriel valley communities appeared to argue for the 710 Tunnel and succeeded in persuading a majority of the board to proceed with an EIR. Among them: Assemblyman Mike Eng, who called it “A win-win situation,” and said “We need to hang tough, we need jobs;” and Monterey Park council member David Lau, who urged moving forward, saying “The impact is strongest in our city.”
While a set number of communities might benefit from an extension of the 710, the tunnel would accomplish nothing in terms of reducing overall numbers of vehicles on Southern California roads. The extension has been debated for more than 40 years, making it a distinctly outdated solution to what is a 21st-century global problem: reducing fossil fuel consumption and pollution. The “political will” San Gabriel communities brought to the meeting doesn’t demonstrate the kind of stewardship needed in this region.
Chairman Ara Najarian, who has taken a strong stand against the tunnel, put forward a motion to have Metro study a range of transit solutions before proceeding with an EIR of the tunnel. A large group came to the meeting in support of Najarian’s motion, and urged the board to adopt 21st century transit solutions such as light rail and “multi-modal” transport, and to consider the evident environmental risks. Trisha Gossett, of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, opened with “Due to what we have witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico, it is hard to believe anything can ‘go wrong’ digging the world’s largest diameter tunnel, through three fault lines, under the second-most heavily populated city in the United States…We know that drill baby drill, led to spill baby spill!”
Your Editor chimed in with another reference to the Gulf Coast tragedy: “Day after day, for 30-some odd days and continuing, we are seeing how badly things can go wrong with complicated projects built under the surface.” The proposed 710 Tunnel, justified on the grounds that it will move more freight trucks through the region, represents the same fossil fuel addiction that makes oil spills possible. As lamented in an earlier post, the United States hasn’t mobilized to find a cure for this disease. We needed persistent political will back in the 1970s; we need it more desperately today.
Despite Chairman Ara Najarian’s political will and his motion to have a range of transit solutions considered before approving an official EIR, he and Jose Huizar were the only two to vote against proceeding with the tunnel study.
Sidenote, although it took center stage at the board meeting literally as well as figuratively: The large center seating area of the MTA Board Room was completely taken up by members and supporters of the Bus Riders Union, whose numbers were greater than all of those who had arrived to discuss the 710 on both sides. Tunnel supporters, mostly elected officials, occupied one side seating area. On the other side of the room were tunnel opponents, mainly residents. The Bus Riders Union disrupted the meeting repeatedly with demands for a public hearing on the upcoming July MTA fare hikes, and at one point chanted, “One less tunnel, a thousand more buses!”