AFTER declaring war on potholes yet again, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took 200 other local leaders to Washington, D.C., to beg for money. Ostensibly, they’re seeking more funding for projects in Los Angeles, including transportation. Let’s hope their efforts prove worthwhile. Lobbying California’s congressional delegation to pay attention to the needs back home is valuable only if the money is put to good use. And if recent actions of local transportation officials are an indication, it’s unclear whether these leaders have cost-effective priorities. On the positive side, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is launching a $6 million study into the possibility of extending the Orange Line northward to the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Chatsworth. Given the Orange Line’s popularity and remarkable cost-effectiveness, expansion seems to make sense. It would reduce the Valley’s traffic congestion without breaking the bank or taking eons to complete. But at the same time, these same MTA officials are looking into the possibility of doubling bus and subway fares by 2009 – a very, very bad idea. While soaring gas prices have put the agency into financial distress, the last thing L.A. needs is another reason not to use mass transit. There are enough of those already. The MTA ought to be trying to save money by being more efficient – not less effective – and by using the money it does have to produce the greatest benefits to the public right now. And that brings us back to Villaraigosa’s road show. Are the mayor and his entourage shaking down federal officials for cost-effective measures that would bring quick relief to the region – like improvements on the 405 or the Orange Line? Or are they lobbying on behalf of their fanciful dream of a “subway to the sea”? That project that would cost 15 to 20 times what the Orange Line cost to cover less than half the distance. Worse, it wouldn’t produce any benefits for another generation, and the region is choking with congestion today. All the money in the world won’t make life in L.A. any better if local leaders aren’t committed to practical solutions that yield benefits in the here and now. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!