Bill could help commuters, traffic

Most politicians will tell you that their primary focus is to listen to constituents’ concerns and try and improve the things that affect them most. However, whether they actually mean that is up for debate.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, however, seems to be more about getting things done, than merely talking about what he’d like to do.

He introduced a bill Monday, to electrify California’s commuter rail system, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut Southern California commute times in half by 2028. That seems like a long time to wait, but as the saying goes, “time flies.”

“Assembly Bill 1848, if it becomes law, would redirect $44 billion from the California High-Speed Rail project to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority to fund improvements to the Metrolink commuter rail system along the following corridors:

• Palmdale to Los Angeles Union Station, via Santa Clarita and New­hall;

• Riverside to Los Angeles Union State, via Corona, Fullerton and Buena Park and

• Oceanside to the Los Angeles Union Station, via Irvine,” according to a report in the Friday edition of the Antelope Valley Press.

Lackey was quoted as saying that California deserves immediate solutions, not baby steps.

He’s right. Commuting in just about any direction during rush hour is a nightmare. You can practically guarantee that you will double the time it would normally take to get to a destination, which means frustrated drivers and lots of time spent behind the wheel. If there’s a traffic collision somewhere along the route, add more time to that already lengthy commute. Changes need to be made sooner rather than later.

Lackey spent the break before the start of the Legislature’s 2020 session, listening to his constituents’ concerns.

“Everyone was universally furious about the long commute times and congestion taking away from being with family,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.

He introduced AB 1848 in response to his constituents’ concerns.

According to the text of the Bill, nearly 12 million passengers rode Metrolink’s commuter rail system during the 2018-19 Fiscal Year. Metrolink annually eliminates an average of 130,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and more than 335 million vehicle miles traveled from area roadways.

Lackey wants to drastically reduce and improve the current commute times and transition to zero-emission travel along the Metrolink commuter rail line.

He said if the current rail system was modified, it would dramatically reduce ride time. In addition he said High Speed Rail funds would be better spent on existing rail infrastructure such as Metrolink, rather than squandered on sparsely populated areas, as it is now.

It’s no secret that many have dubbed the High Speed Rail idea, “the train to nowhere” and it has proven to be an unpopular concept for residents and politicians, alike.

George Andrews, Lackey’s chief of staff, said in an email, the proposed Bill is not exclusive to electrification.

“We want to explore all new options of propulsion to get trains faster to LA Basin,” he wrote.

He did say the timeline for AB 1848 is ambitious because the window to act is closing.

AB 1848 is expected to be heard in Committee on Feb. 6. It’s great that someone is finally moving toward taking action to reduce commute times and congestion on our freeways — and being conscious about how to accomplish that in an environmentally friendly way.