Slate's Matthew Yglesias went from Claremont to Union Station and on to the Vermont/Santa Monica Red Line stop - and liked what he saw. Yglesias says that the region has quietly become the "next great mass-transit city." As with anyone parachuting into town, he doesn't get it quite right, especially describing Mayor Villaraigosa as "visionary." Matt, we need to talk... Still and all, he left thinking good thoughts about L.A., which is more than you can say about many East Coasters popping in for a few days.
As work continues, people will find that Los Angeles has some attributes that make it an ideal transit city. Consultant and planner Jarrett Walker notes that the city's long straight boulevards make it perfect for high-quality express bus service. And then, of course, there's the weather. Something like a nine-minute wait for a bus, a 15-minute walk to your destination, or an afternoon bike ride are all more pleasant in Southern California than in a Boston winter or a sweltering Washington August. As a quirk of fate, the East Coast of the United States was settled first, so cities with large pre-automobile urban cores are clustered there. But the fundamentals of climate and terrain are more favorable to walking and transit in Los Angeles than in New York. The city could have simply stuck with tradition and stayed as the first great metropolis of the automobile era. But it's chosen instead to embrace the goal of growing even greater, which will necessarily mean denser and less auto-focused.