USC Price School of Public Policy

Boarnet Speaks at Assembly Hearing on Rail Transportation

Knowledge in Action:

Boarnet Speaks at Assembly Hearing on Rail Transportation

By Ben Dimapindan

Marlon Boarnet Marlon Boarnet, left, speaks at an informational hearing of the California State Assembly Select Committee on Rail Transportation.
Photo by John Roberson

USC Price School of Public Policy Professor Marlon Boarnet spoke at a recent informational hearing of the California State Assembly Select Committee on Rail Transportation, sharing his expertise on rail transit in Los Angeles.

The purpose of the hearing — which took place on Sept. 27 at the Expo Center, near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — was to discuss the Los Angeles Metro Rail transit plans, as well as to provide the committee an opportunity to hear and address local concerns about these plans. Boarnet’s role was to talk about the broader picture of rail transit in LA, examining the context for rail planning and how to best evaluate new rail efforts going forward.

During his presentation, Boarnet, who directs the USC Price graduate programs in urban planning and development, noted that the city’s rail program is likely the most ambitious in North America.

“Counting the newly opened Expo Line, LA Metro will open six new rail transit lines in this decade,” he said, “a construction program that, when completed, will make the Los Angeles rail transit system larger in miles than the Washington, D.C., Metro.”

Boarnet went on to explain how the rail expansion is part of Los Angeles’ broader transformation into a “more multimodal city. He cited data from the National Household Travel Survey indicating that more people in LA are choosing to walk as opposed to drive — a trend reflected in other metro areas across the country.

This current increase in walking and transit use, according to Boarnet, stems from three key factors: rising congestion makes car travel more time-consuming; fuel tax methods of funding highways generate less revenue per mile driven; and transportation has become more local- and neighborhood-oriented.

In addition, Boarnet stressed the importance of strengthening ties to neighborhoods and promoting the community’s quality of life, as Los Angeles moves further into its rail development.

Among his considerations for the committee, Boarnet encouraged officials to use the rail investment to improve livability and revitalize neighborhoods.

“Transportation, by itself, cannot revive a neighborhood, but it can be one of several catalytic factors,” he said.

“This is an opportunity to work with communities, to help them build their own vision,” Boarnet added. “Rail transit can help enhance walking, physical activity, social capital, sense of place, safety from crime and economic development.”