ABC News photo
My Friday-morning post on this blog concerned the higher down payments — 15% instead of 10% — that many mortgage lenders began requiring last week. I wrote that first-time homebuyers would have a difficult time coming up with that much cash unless they lived far, far away — in the High Desert or the Inland Empire, where homes are more reasonably priced. The tradeoff for many, I wrote, would be a nightmarish daily commute.
A reader weighed in, saying people who didn’t want to commute could simply opt for a condo. I responded that people with kids and pets often wanted a place with a yard.
“Then move to Inland Empire and take the train into L.A.,” the commenter replied. “Just how it works in New York and Chicago. What’s the problem?”
I didn’t get a chance to respond to that comment, but if I had, I would have said that L.A. is nothing like New York or Chicago. Metrolink and Amtrak trains are overpriced (a Metrolink monthly pass for the San Bernardino-Union Station line costs around $300); don’t go where most people need to go; don’t run often enough; and are unreliable.
A few hours later, after a Metrolink train crashed head-on into a freight train in Chatsworth and killed more than two dozen people, I was reminded that “dangerous” should be added to the list.
Unlike rail systems in other cities, Metrolink and Amtrak trains share tracks with freight trains. Apparently, the only thing standing between SoCal passenger trains and tragedy is a red light.
Furthermore, as evidenced by the incident in Glendale three years ago, where a man parked in the path of an oncoming train, killing 11 people, the tracks are completely unprotected in many places, making them easy targets for the suicidal and homicidal.
Yet the choice for many who work in Los Angeles but can afford only to live in places like Riverside or Moorpark is to sit in freeway traffic for hours, or take the train. Because of our state’s failure to install a reliable public transportation system years ago, commuters are forced to decide between two undesirable alternatives.
The Subway to the Sea would help immensely. As with all public transportation, it would allow people to live closer to their jobs without burdening the roads with extra vehicles. It’s how so many people can live in Manhattan without owning a car.
In the meantime, Amtrak and Metrolink should reassure passengers by investing in the 30-year-old warning-system technology that might have stopped this terrible accident from occurring.