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Three newly created public agencies built regional rail projects in Los Angeles County from 1978 through 2002. The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, as newly created public agencies, were nothing less than experiments in regional governance. Conventional understanding of these agencies only partially explains their successes and failures. A path to improved understanding is to combine research on the politics of designing new public agencies with research on cooperation in dealing with collective action problems.

What emerges is an untold story of American politics: the evolution of mechanisms that promote cooperation in regional governance structures. Four major findings emerge: (1) conflict is inevitable; (2) public agencies can succeed despite the problems of politics; (3) successful regional solutions are intensely local; and (4) cooperation emerges from supply-side mechanisms that create new resources rather than from allocation of existing resources. Overall, institutional analysis uncovered in each case a shared search for institutional responses to overcome political design problems. The limits of politics were found to be neither random nor predestined. Likewise, the emergence of governance solutions was neither random nor foreordained.


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