Air Gear wrote:The one thing that people have to remember is that a lot of these systems were designed for a city of population x. When the population gets to 2x, 4x, whatever...things aren't going to work as well. In fact, they'll suck outright. Los Angeles...since it's a modern urban area, it's safe to assume that the roads weren't designed for half as many vehicles as there are in the area. If it takes 90 minutes to commute via train every morning and evening, it's safe to assume that its transit system wasn't designed for that population, either. As for the solution...don't know since it varies by city. It's very simple to make a city for an arbitrary population on paper and even to build it, but then there's rebuilding the infrastructure of a preexisting city...ahahaha. Good luck.
That's more true of roads than it is of other things. When the roads are crowded that means traffic is bumper-to-bumper, they literally have to build more roads. Trains, for example, are considerably more space-efficient. If existing train lines are insufficient you just have to run more trains, or put more cars on each train. It's not a matter of lack of physical track capacity (I don't think I've ever seen trains running bumper-to-bumper), it's more a matter of weighing costs (buying more trains, higher operating costs) against benefits (passenger comfort, promptness, higher revenues).
When a city grows outward, or a particular area increases in importance, then you might have to lay new track around there. Train track is no more invasive than a major road, however, and hopefully the city can identify the trend of a growing area and plan to get infrastructure out there early so that it's not so disruptive. That's what they're there for, isn't it? Now, in reality, a lot of times city government doesn't identify those things. Not because it shouldn't, but because it's not looking. Then you have projects like Boston's Big Dig that are very challenging and expensive because of how late the city acted.
You can't just plan out a city and build it. The only people that have done that, AFAIK, are the wacky "new-urbanists" that create pre-gentrified mid-sized towns for nostalgaic rich people.* The impetus for a city's early formation and growth is typically organic: often big cities grow as port cities, for example. But once a city begins to grow it sure helps if it's managed well.
In the case of Fluff's 90-minute LA commute... first of all, she's probably traveling quite a long distance (as I understand it long-distance commutes are pretty common in SoCal). Second, public transit (and planning in general) was for a very long time an afterthought in LA. I'd guess that 20 years ago making Fluff's commute on train in LA was worse than it is now, if it was possible at all. LA has had some serious growing pains for years, but because it's finally hitting physical boundaries for outward growth, and from what I understand trying to improve its transportation system with at least some very positive results (I read about an express bus line that they built that's been successful almost to the point of disaster... in that it was overloaded with riders almost immediately after its construction... it's a positive result in the sense that they built a mass transit line that people clearly want to use, and those riders are probably relieving lots of traffic from the streets). If LA can finish retrofitting efficient transportation onto itself I would consider that an incredible success, even if there still are some very long commutes due to the sheer physical size of the city. LA in some ways is tackling a much more ambitious problem than, say, Chicago, because of LA's tendency to annex its nearby suburbs (sometimes against their will).
*I don't think that mid-sized towns with some of the characteristics of new-urbanist towns are a bad idea. I've never been to a new-urbanist town, but from a lot of the descriptions they sound somewhat similar to Champaign, IL, the city to the west of the University of Illinois. Champaign has a lot going for it.