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US Budget Deficit May Limit LA Mass Transit Funding

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(credit: Getty Images)

(credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CBS) —Transit leaders from Los Angeles, Orange County and across the nation visited Capitol Hill on Monday to ask Congressional panel for a long-term financial commitment to mass transit.

The visit comes as the Southland’s first rush-hour express rail system to downtown Los Angeles is set to debut in May, which could reduce commuter travel times by up to 30 minutes each way.

As gas prices soar past the $4-a-gallon mark, transit officials expect the pilot program from Metrolink to become a more attractive alternative to driving to work, particularly for residents of far-flung suburbs such as Palmdale and Lancaster.

However, Los Angeles County MTA CEO Arthur Leahy tells KNX 1070 that the local transit systems will have a hard time luring commuters out of their cars an into buses and trains until on-time performances drastically improve.

Leahy says operators must focus on punctuality in order to better position themselves for funding in this economically-challenged climate.

After a six-month evaluation period, the express service may be expanded beyond the Antelope Valley and San Bernardino County to other outlying areas, officials said.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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