Walking Home from College: Why Measure M is Critical to the Future of Los Angeles

My mom always told me she felt comfortable in her dented-but-charming 2011 black Toyota Camry. I’ve never bought into the notion that a car could be a sanctuary, but she thinks of her car as a second home. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley of the 1980s, a mall-centric autotopia, so it makes sense. But, at twenty years old, it’s not the sort of mentality that I’ve grown to share.

As a self-identified and certifiable marketable member of the Millennial generation, I’ve come of age during a time of political, social, economic, and environmental turmoil. Like many of my peers, I maintain a stubborn idealism many of us will fight to the last 5-10 characters to explain. And if there was ever a time and place for stubborn idealism, it certainly would be today's Los Angeles, which stands to become one of the most transit-accessible cities in the country through ballot Measure M this November. 

Stubborn idealism is why I still don’t have my driver's license. The thought of owning  a car does not excite me, nor does it seem to excite a good number of 18-34 year olds. Why should I strive to purchase a car, auto-insurance, and gas? To me, a louder, denser, more walkable city seems more appealing than the quieter, auto-dominated sprawl of yesteryear. Why sit on the couch in suburbia watching cable TV when you can be social in a vibrant, diverse neighborhood?

Gabe on a bike

Growing up in the Valley I lived my Mother’s dream: I went to a local public school, I attended block parties, and yes, I even went to the mall. But the dream that the previous generation had for their children isn’t necessarily the dream of their children. While many people once craved the individuality, privacy, and predictability of suburbia - regardless of its physical, socioeconomic, racial, and environmental consequences - the value system of the next generation has veered towards one of shared goods, shared experiences, and a greater awareness of the world around us.

I’ll have my concerns to grapple with when I move back to L.A. after graduating college. Studying gentrification and actually living in a neighborhood where residents are actively being displaced are two distinct activities. It will be important for me to carefully consider where I choose to live after college and how I interact with my new neighbors. We as Angelenos should all be focused on how these considerations can make for a more vibrant city and stronger, more connected communities.

What I do know is that when I return from college, I want to be able to get around. I want to get from Westwood to visit my family in the Valley without having to take the 720 bus to the Purple Line and then transferring to the Red Line. The new Expo Line extension takes us all the way to Santa Monica, and what an amazing improvement that has been in getting people to a city that offers free Thursday concerts on its pier and plentiful beach access. But major rail expansions shouldn’t stop in Santa Monica. We should be able to get from the Valley to the West Side by train. We should be able to get to LAX without having to worry about who will drive us there or whether the Flyaway bus will end up sitting in traffic for an hour.

With Measure M up for vote this November, I very clearly see a future with greater mobility for all Angelenos. Voting for better transit connectivity in Los Angeles, along with improving affordable housing options surrounding major transit arterials, are necessities not only for the future of Los Angeles, but also for the future of most cities in this country. Los Angeles public transit is getting better and will continue to improve. The shared sentiment of just about everyone I talk to about public transit in LA is that while it isn’t quite there -- we sure do want it to be and we’ll do what it takes to make it happen.

Very much like buying a watch or owning a smartphone for millennials, there seems to be a clear sense of security and comfort in owning a car for previous generations. But as the transit gap closes, why drive when you can just go Metro?

Why buy a car when, in situations of need, you can share or rent one?

Why not just walk?

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