The Janitors’ Light Rail.


Nury Martinez, 2012. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

“If you’re a housekeeper, janitor or dish washer, you need to get to work every day on time,” she said. “Buses don’t move as many people and as quickly as the light rail. That’s why we’re excited about the project that would serve people who are transit dependent.”[1]

“As a mom, I can tell you it’s terrifying to sometimes think of having to get on the Red Line. I won’t for that very reason,” she said. “I don’t have to see the data collection to know that if I feel unsafe to ride the train with my kid, that I’m just simply not going to use it.”[2]

-Councilwoman Nury Martinez

Why are these two quotes important?

What does it matter what Councilwoman Nury Martinez of LA’s City Council District #6, representing Arleta, Panorama City, Lake Balboa, and Van Nuys thinks about public transportation, light rail, who rides it and who needs it?

It matters, I think, because it shows a way of describing non-car travel as something used by people who are the lesser people of the City of Angels: maids, janitors, dishwashers and perhaps even criminals.

Can agents at William Morris, that actor who stars on that sitcom, Hancock Park attorneys, the conductor of the LA Philharmonic, and Dodger Clayton Kershaw also ride trains? I wish they all did!

Strange that a political culture that panders to PC should grossly stereotype transit riders.

The prospect that Van Nuys, long languishing, is under her jittery guidance, and limited vision, is not especially comforting.  A public official who denigrates public transportation is not doing the people’s business very well.

For in her remarks she shows a remarkably retrogressive and depressing view of public transportation as something which is sometimes terrifying, unsuitable for mothers with children, and only made for unskilled workers commuting to low paying jobs in the NE Valley.

There has been, for a long time, an idea that if you had enough money in Los Angeles you would surely travel by car. And today, we have the spectacle of 24/7 traffic produced by a culture conditioned to expect that every journey must begin and end in a car.

Even as plans for expansion of light rail go on all over Los Angeles, there is an equally strong pushback against it.

  • Uber and Lyft are making it possible to take short distance trips by dialing up a ride on your phone.
  • Amazon is delivering everything from chewing gum to sofas with fleets of trucks that are also clogging our streets.
  • Parents who rightly shudder at their children attending a low rated local school chauffeur their kids 25 miles away to “better schools.”
  • Housing is now a luxury commodity but every law that seeks to expand it runs into the “where will they park?” crowd who wants to stop new apartments, new granny flats, new retail stores and multi-family dwellings near trains.

And instead of public officials offering imaginative, innovative and futuristic ideas, we have a throwback to the car culture that is unsustainable.

Los Angeles! This is 2018! This is not 1975, 1965 or 1945!

Light rail and subways are not dangerous. They are not only for criminals. They are not only for the woman who scrubs your floor. Properly policed, intelligently managed, excellently maintained, they can be pleasant, quick and enjoyable.

They are the way we ALL will get around Los Angeles when gridlock by private vehicle renders this city dysfunctional.










4 thoughts on “The Janitors’ Light Rail.

  1. I’ve spent entirely too much time over the years listening to the battle cries on both sides of the private vehicle/public transit fracas all over the country.

    Side A: transit is for the poor and unsavory (why would we want to encourage the wrong element in our community?) and/or urban elites who sponge off of hard working American tax paying families on their way to boutique sidewalk cafes. What we really need are more fully detached homes with yards and wider roads to relieve traffic congestion.

    Side B: If we built really high quality transit and dense, mixed use, mixed income, diverse developments near the stations we’d transform our dreary suburb into Paris and all our social and environmental ills would melt away.

    What we get is a half assed compromise of eight lane suburban arterials with a park-and-ride bus stop, a green stripe on the side of the road for bikes, and some fortified garden apartment complexes with five story parking decks across from an aging strip mall that’s been rebranded with a fresh paint job and an organic grocery. It ain’t Paris.

    I’ve made my peace with this reality. It’s time for us to all relax and adapt to the mediocrity. Life’s too short.


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