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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Let’s Get On Board

If you’re like me, you probably hate mass transit. Sure, I know, we’re all supposed to love waiting around for some bus or train to scoop us up and send us on our way while reading our newspapers or smart phones, and not worry about all that driving. But I grew up in suburban New York City and had my fill of that for a lifetime – buses, subways, you name it. In fact, one of the attractions of Los Angeles for me and many others, is the freedom to get in my car and go anywhere I want, anytime I want, while not having to jostle some stranger next to me. That being said, we can’t possibly pave over every square mile of Los Angeles with new or widened freeways to handle the city’s growth, though lord knows we’ve tried. So more trains and buses are most certainly in our future. Now, let me tell you a story of why, if you’re a dedicated driver like I am, you may still want to get behind the Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s effort to build three light rail lines in the San Fernando Valley, an initiative documented by reporter Mark Madler in his page one story. We all theoretically understand mass transit will reduce traffic congestion, but sometimes it’s hard to believe that it will directly help us. Well, for many years last decade, I drove from my home in Burbank to Mid-Wilshire, where I was a reporter and later an editor of our sister paper, the Los Angeles Business Journal. That commute usually took me over Barham Boulevard – and it was the same nightmare every day. I would inch up a jammed Barham, before everyone spilled out into a usually congested Hollywood Freeway or Cahuenga Bouelvard – the cause of the Barham back-up. Well, over the course of a few weeks in 2005, I noticed something strange. Barham had become fairly free flowing. Sure, there had been days in the past where it was a clear commute, but those were the exceptions. Now, the situation had flipped: achingly slow drives were more the exception than the rule. For quite a while I couldn’t understand what was going on, until I realized months later that the Orange Line busway had opened. In case you’re not familiar with it, the line scoots passengers across the Valley allowing them to board the Red Line in North Hollywood to go downtown. It had become clear to me: There were fewer commuters on the Hollywood Freeway or Cahuenga Boulevard – just few enough to stop backing up Barham. And since the only real change had been the opening of the Orange Line, it implied that West Valley commuters who had been driving over the Cahuenga Pass were now using the Orange Line and Red Line to get downtown. OK, so there you have it. A simple busway across the Valley had drastically improved my commute from Burbank to Mid-Wilshire. Now just imagine what would happen if the Valley is successful in getting one, two or even all three desired light rail lines built. Maybe it’s time we all got behind the effort. • • • I’m usually not one to toot my own horn. But sometimes we all have to make exceptions in life, right? And this one I owe to my staff. I am talking about the recent awards bestowed upon the Business Journal by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers at its annual conference in Baltimore this month. I know that name is a bit off putting, but let me distill it for you: It’s a trade group of local and regional business journals and magazines just like this one. The group awarded our paper the Gold prize – yes, the top prize!!! – for general excellence in the category of small-circulation tabloids. This exceeded last year when we won the silver, or the year before when we won bronze. Our sister paper, the Los Angeles Business Journal, won the top prize this year too, among larger papers. In case you were wondering if this is a bunch of publishers and editors slapping themselves on the back, think again. The papers were judged by the University of Missouri’s journalism school, which is one of the best in the nation. That faculty also awarded reporter Elliot Golan a Gold award for best scoop, for a story he did last year about a planned mixed-used project in Glendale. Let me tell you, these prizes are a direct result of my staff’s dedication to bringing you the best in local business reporting. It means early mornings, late nights, hard work and sweat. And, let me assure you, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Laurence Darmiento is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at editor@sfvbj.com.

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