Our “Louisiana Purchase”?

Commentary by Paul Dyson, President

Not quite, but a big step forward.

I am of course writing about the acquisition of Los Angeles Union Station by Los Angeles County MTA, with the participation of the California High Speed Rail Authority. While there are still some details to be worked out and contracts finalized it seems safe to say that public announcements would not have been made without this deal being a near certainty. Assuming the transaction goes through this is very good news indeed for passenger rail in southern California.

Over the years it has been hard to imagine just how local transportation planning agencies coped with the fact that the hub of the passenger rail system was owned by a property development company. It’s hard too to imagine oneself in the shoes of the property company wondering what the heck to do with a railroad station in their portfolio. So clearly this is a transaction whose time has long since come and is an obvious and logical outcome.

What will happen to the station under public ownership? First I hope that the ticket hall and the Fred Harvey restaurant will once again become public spaces to enhance the experience of using this great building. I don’t know if it makes sense to use the ticket hall for selling tickets. Nowadays, with electronic ticketing, and with the majority of users of the station no longer passing through the front entrance, that may not be the best use of that area. Why don’t you readers send us suggestions as to how you would like the ticket hall to be used?

This announcement has come just in time to be celebrated at Steel Wheels in California, on March 19th at the Metro Board Room alongside the station. This is our fourth meeting at this location and your Board has worked hard to put together a great panel of expert speakers, an equipment display, and I promise, more time for member participation. While we can celebrate the Union Station purchase this will be tempered by the knowledge that our gains in passenger rail service of the last three decades are in jeopardy from budget cuts, this in spite of record revenues and growing demand. IF you care about these issues, as I know you do, please make every effort to attend and show your support for passenger rail. And if you cannot make it, send us a tax deductible donation in lieu, so that we can gear up for a tough year of campaigning ahead of us.

See you there!

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