IN LATE OCTOBER, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) approved a $5.2 billion subway extension that will almost certainly decrease the number of Angelenos using mass transit. Overall ridership--counting both buses and trains--goes down for every mile of rail service MTA adds, because rail grows at the expense of the bus lines people actually use.
Bus fares have been hiked three times in the last three years, and these increases are usually coupled with cuts to bus service, as more of the authority's budget gets sucked into the rail project. In September, for example, the MTA eliminated 4 percent of its bus lines. Meanwhile, subway ridership has been dropping.
By some estimates, the MTA has lost more than 3 billion boardings since construction of the rail network began in 1985. During that time, the population of Los Angeles County has grown about 35 percent...