Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Other Side of the President's Visit to Los Angeles - The Forgotten and Marginalized Transit Rider

Last night it took me two and one-half hours to get from Pico/Roxbury to West Hollywood by bus. You see, the President was in town at a million dollar fundraiser.


While the President was raising money from the rich and powerful, thousands of commuters were faced with no way to get home.

"What a spectacular evening," Obama said. "Let's just hang out."

Yeah. Great. I was “hanging out” at bus stops with nowhere to go. There was no northbound traffic on La Cienega and Fairfax. Buses on Pico were at a standstill. I had to take a crawling bus on Pico to WESTERN, then north on Western to Santa Monica Blvd. Whoops! The buses were not running east on Santa Monica Blvd. past Western either. So I had to catch another bus north on Western to catch a bus on Sunset Blvd., which thankfully was still running.

At each bus stop I waited at there were crowds of people not having any idea the President was in town, let alone how they were to get home.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Police Department said that the Secret Service had not shared street-closure information with the department. The Secret Service also didn't tell Metro. So in other words, there was no ability to plan for this nightmare and no warning people would have that there would be disruptions to their lives. What about the people that had to get home to their kids?

Now contrast this with the wealthy and powerful at the fundraiser who no doubt had the best in valet parking. Congratulating themselves at their concern for the plight of the hardworking American people, they were no doubt perfectly attended to while the working poor were invisible, irrelevant and inconvenienced.

Isn’t this just a living metaphor for America today? In the greatest recession since the great depression the wealthy and powerful got the attention and priority and congratulations while the working and middle classes were left to fend for themselves with no resources. And the President and local political leadership were, of course, at a FUNDRAISER.

So who is to blame for this?

Didn’t it occur to anyone on the President’s staff that the bad feeling and anger that this commuting nightmare would cause might outweigh all the benefit of “hanging out” at this fundraiser?

Didn’t it occur to the city/county leadership and to Metro to announce the following: “The President is in town during rush hour for a fundraiser, and the Secret Service won’t tell us the routing, so you may not be able to get home that evening.”

Now I lived in Manhattan for several years and when the President came to town there were underground alternatives to getting around while the surface streets were disrupted. My only hope is that the President and Congress approve Metro’s 30/10 Plan, which would pay for construction of the Purple Line extension in 10 years, and that money comes in from somewhere to pay for the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment and the extension of the proposed Crenshaw Line north to Hollywood and a Sepulveda line connecting the San Fernando Valley with the westside and LAX.

But that best case scenario is in the best case ten years from now. In the meantime, how we can ensure that this won’t happen again or that we will at least be informed that we won’t be able to get home the next time this or a future President has a mid-city rush hour fundraiser with the elites?

I have a feeling based on the bad PR coming from the traffic/transit nightmare that this fundraiser caused, that future Presidential fundraisers will be held in lest disruptive locations like someone's Malibu beach home.