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Metro Fact of the Day: It's America's Most 'Cutting-Edge' System

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By Sam Brodey

We Angelenos aren't necessarily used to taking pride in our public transportation system. We're used to scoffs from boastful New Yorkers and visitors who discover that, underneath our miles and miles of snarled freeways, L.A. actually has a subway network. And the headlines lately haven't been so kind to the Metro, between safety concerns and angry Beverly Hills residents.

It appears that this notion's ship (or high-speed bus, rather) might be sailing. Over the weekend, the L.A. Times published an op-ed that frames the Metro as something else: a model of innovative public transportation. Urban transportation scholar Taras Grescoe argues:

When people ask me which major U.S. city as at the cutting edge of forward-thinking transportation planning, they're always surprised when I reply that it is Los Angeles... ...that is working hardest to improve transit.
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Grescoe cites plentiful examples of the city's attempts to create transit options, praising the clean, efficient Red Line subway, the useful Orange Line busway, our expansive light rail network and, yes, the controversial bullet train plan. He also explains that L.A. has huge potential: the high population density, working-class population and, of course, terrible car traffic all provide incentives and reason for mass public transit to thrive here.

The online comments have (shockingly) offered somewhat intelligent insight and debate over Grescoe's bold claim. Readers offered suggestions to improve Metro (like connecting the Red Line to Burbank Airport) and calls to privatize the system. But by and large, most comments expressed skepticism over the author's bold claim. As one commenter wrote, "To Mr. Grescoe: Whatever the positivity juice you're drinking... please order me one."

Is this op-ed just cheerleading for Metro's lackluster improvements? Or is it a well-argued testament to L.A.'s progress? Let us know in the comments section below.