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Preaching to the Choir: Metro and 30/10 Revisited

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With a tip of my Metro cap to Bob Dylan for his special telling of the sacrifice of Isaac, over the weekend I took a virtual drive out on Highway 61. If you know the song or at least the story behind it, the tune begins like this:

Oh God said to Abraham, 'Kill me a son'

Abe says, 'Man, you must be puttin' me on'
God say, 'No.' Abe say, 'What?'
God say, 'You can do what you want Abe, but
the next time you see me comin' you better run'
Well Abe says, 'Where do you want this killin' done?'
God says, 'Out on Highway 61.'

Thanks Bob. As you know fair use says I can use just about that much of your intellectual property before I need to pay for it. Like Abe, it's time we all made a small sacrifice and wrote Congress and the President, and spoke with our friends, co-workers and neighbors in support of 30/10, an inspired mass transit plan for Los Angeles that stands a good chance of happening. A good chance, but realistically, the plan needs all the help it can get, which is where you and some important community leaders come in.

30/10, for those who don't know, is LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's important push to get built in a decade 30 years' worth of painfully overdue mass transit projects. 30/10 is inspired, but it needs Congressional leaders and the US Department of Transportation to back the massive public works project by offering Los Angeles County a bridge loan.

Bridge loans aren't rocket science. These generally short-terms loans, used everyday in construction to get developers from wherever they are in a project to completion, would let Los Angeles start today what no one can afford waiting three decades for.

The loan, which would be guaranteed by the tax revenues voters approved when they voted by a 68 percent majority for Measure R, would permit Los Angeles County to accelerate work on a dozen mass transit projects including the Purple Line Wilshire Blvd subway to the sea, a subway (preferred) or bus rapid transit (BRT) line connecting the traffic-clogged San Fernando Valley with the traffic-clogged West Side, an extension of the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley, and new stops on the Green Line at LAX and in Torrance.

Am I preaching to the choir in asking everyone to write Congress and advocate for this plan? Unfortunately, I don't think I am. I'd like to be, but since they're not likely to let me get too close to the pulpit I'm calling on the clergy -- LA's priests, imams, ministers, rabbis and shamans -- to lead their flock into the promised land of subways, light rail, and rapid buses for all. Next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday how about preaching a fiery sermon about 30/10 and the urgent need for all of us, regardless of religion, creed or politics, to back LA's aggressive mass transit building campaign? Hell, I mean "Heck," for starters, the massive Los Angeles Archdiocese with 288 parishes in the region might seize this opportunity to put the mass [transit] back in the Mass.

And for those of you concerned that "advocacy" of this sort doesn't belong in church, not to worry. Trust me, it's kosher and goes with the gospel like preaching about earthquake relief in Haiti and Chile and imploring congregants to volunteer at the Los Angeles Mission, or Sova, plant trees with Treepeople, or clean up Compton Creek and the beach with Heal the Bay.

Without clergy on board this plan isn't likely to overwhelm mass transit-related Causes on Facebook as users log on to donate and volunteer. I wish it did, but don't pretend it has that sort of clout. Alas, I checked and Move LA, the smart coalition of civic, business, environmental and labor groups behind Measure R and still working tirelessly to advance public transit in Los Angeles, doesn't even have a Facebook page, let alone a Causes page, yet.

While not even my children listen to me, Angelenos listen to their clergy. And together, LA's clergy have just the clout 30/10 needs to give Washington a piece of our mind. As such I call on the City's religious leaders to get on the train and lead their congregations and city forward in the direction it needs to go.

Though prayer alone won't bring the light rail to Compton or the subway to Santa Monica, I dream of the city's chapels, mosques, Buddhist temples, ashrams and synagogues filled with the sweet sound of train bells peeling as the clergy calls the congregation to action for mass transit in Los Angeles.

And it's not just the clergy in the pulpit that needs to be talking about and working for this. 30/10 and mass transit should be an activity for every youth group, religious and otherwise, in this town. What a teachable moment, and what do the New and Old Testaments, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita and other religious texts teach us about traveling together on common forms of conveyance. What would Jesus, Muhammad, Dr. King and Abraham Joshua Heschel have to say about the lack of fast, efficient mass transit options in too many of our communities? The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts should offer badges for best mass transit designs and LAUSD after-school clubs should organize bake sales to raise bus fare to Metro Board meetings and to support Move LA.

For some, Dylan may be a prophet, but he never could sing like Gladys Knight & The Pips.

So that LA doesn't prove too much for this man and all of us who know that we deserve better than bumper-to-bumper on the freeway, let's sing as one in harmony to Congress, the President and the Transportation Secretary about how much 30/10 means to us as both a transit fix and the public works employment project the region needs.

Like Rosa Parks, all Angelenos deserve to sit at the front of fast and efficient buses, subways, and light rail trains as they ride home from work. Sí se puede, President Obama, Congress and Transportation Secretary LaHood, but we also need that bridge loan as soon as possible.

Today, if you walk to the west end of the Metro Purple Line station platform at Wilshire and Western and look west into the tunnel, all you can see is darkness. On the train itself the Red Line/Purple Line map looks sort of like a wishbone, with Purple and the residents of the West Side drawing the short side of the bone. It's time we all got our wish. A bridge loan will bring mass transit to the masses and that's just what Angelenos deserve. The campaign to make 30/10 happen has made a believer out of me.

Amen for that.

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