Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Meeting Recap: Los Angeles County Council of Governments and Subregion Forum

Thank you to all our partners who attended and participated in our first Los Angeles Council of Governments/Subregion forum on November 16th.  We were excited to bring together transportation policy thinkers from across agencies, organizations and throughout the County to discuss a community-focused vision for mobility in Los Angeles County.  As Metro begins it update to its Long Range Transportation Plan and concurrent consideration of a new ballot measure, now is a critical time for partners to come together to discuss shared visions and outcomes.  In Los Angeles County, half of all trips are less than three miles. These everyday trips—to school, shopping, services, recreational opportunities, and work—are an overlooked facet of transportation planning, yet absolutely critical for residents’ daily needs.

While Investing in Place appreciates Metro’s openness in crafting a ballot measure that responds to the region’s diverse needs, we are concerned that Metro’s framework lacks a comprehensive strategy for addressing these short trips and investments in low income and communities of color. To date, much of the investment planning for the potential 2016 ballot measure has been focused on the Mobility Matrices from the COGs and Subregions. Our forum was intended to bring together leadership from the Councils of Governments and Subregions to talk about active transportation and developing a shared definition of social equity in Los Angeles County transportation policies and investments.

Looking for the abbreviated notes of this meeting? Check out the tweets that were shared during our discussion here.

And need a primer on Los Angeles County Council of Governments and Subregions? Check out our memo.

Metro CEO Phil Washington kicked off our meeting with the sentiment, “How will  LA County look in 20 years in terms of transportation mobility? I think it can look beautiful, it can connect all modes.”

Panel 1: Discussion with Los Angeles County Council of Governments and Subregion Staff

  • Jacki Bacharach, South Bay CoG
  • John Bwarie, San Fernando Valley CoG
  • Jennifer Cohen, Central LA Subregion
  • Terry Dipple, Las Virgenes/Malibu
  • Karen Heit, Gateways CoG
  • Paul Hubler, San Gabriel Valley CoG
  • Brian Ludicke, North LA Subregion
  • Katherine Perez-Estolano, Westside Cities CoG
  • Ann Wilson, Arroyo Verdugo Subregion

We moderated several key questions regarding active transportation, local return and defining social equity in Los Angeles County transportation policies and investments – below are some of the answers from this panel.

Question: It’s not a one size fits all for a COG/subregions – can you talk a little bit about how your COG/subregion is different and how that impacts the role you play?

John Bwarie, San Fernando Valley COG: We are the newest COG, we represent 5 cities and 3 subregions, cities can choose to be a part of different subregions, but when it comes to submitting priorities the subregions went with other COGs. (John then explained the how the the SFV COG has LA City Council members, but they are also represented in Central LA subregion and other COGs. The City of Los Angeles makes up 40% of the County’s population and is a member of multiple subregions and COGs)

Jacki Bacharach, South Bay COG:  We have ten years of research, the trips are short, 3 miles or less. And we recognize that between the port and airport, we have very little rail, and we have several cities who have battled against density. At the COG we have been doing a lot of work and research on neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) and the idea of slow streets. Where we have lanes for slow speed vehicles and bicycles. We are looking at uber/lfyt technologies and more shuttles. We believe  we have a lot solutions and are concerned they are not necessarily being reflected in the ballot proposal. Our approach is different and we think it speaks into the future. We are aging in the south bay and our trips are not all going to be taken by biking and walking so we are looking into electric vehicles.

Paul Hubler, San Gabriel Valley COG: Short trips also characterize the San Gabriel Valley, most trips begin and end in San Gabriel Valley.  We have started to define a strategy in terms of how to prioritize. We have prioritized local transit and active transportation. More frequent light rail service can have a transformative effect in terms of how people get around. We are at a crossroads for commuters and people. The San Gabriel Valley has 4 freeways, 2 Metrolinks and 2 cargo rails. We are not building new highways, that era has ended but we need to address some of the congestion.

Question: In Los Angeles County, close to 70% of our transportation investments are  funded by existing County sales taxes (Prop A,C and Measure R), yet less than 1% of all the transportation investments in Los Angeles County current support active transportation (safe routes to school, first/last mile to transit, sidewalks, bicycle lanes) – where is the regional strategy to ensure our communities work for everyone and all trips?

Brian Ludicke, from North Los Angeles County Subregion: In North LA, these cities are the most isolated, in an entire different geographical area, have some problems that are not well recognized. We have huge commuter numbers,  and are number 1 with many health issues (disparities), and traffic collision rates are very high.  More and more the focus in North LA County is how to create funding for maintaining our existing infrastructure, we can’t afford to expand capacity where we can afford to maintain and operate it.  If we are going to invest in transportation it should build for value not just for mobility, and are you going to build revenue from that development? We are failing in area.

We like this tweet from Benton Heimsath: Agree w/Brian: Transportation should be a platform for value… Can the infrastructure generate value to pay for ops? #cogforum

Katherine Aguilar Perez-Estolano, Westside Cities COG:  We have a combination  of some of the most robust areas, they are pioneering some of the most interesting ideas, we are working with Metro regarding active transportation,  grappling with how do we think about earmarking these things to get more money for active transportation. The Westside Cities are jobs rich, we need money to support those commuters. How can we pivot the region, not only for investing in safer places to walk and bicycle but also to begin looking at reducing green house gas emissions?

Karen Heit, Gateways Cities COG:  The Gateway Cities COG is 28 cities, we are probably the most diverse COG.  It’s hard to pin down needs, many freeways, freeways serve both ports, we are a gateway to the country, we have a lot of truck routes, we are struggling with how do we reconcile a bike lane with a a truck lane, we try to deal with issues based on consensus among the cities, right now we are working on projects to see how they all work together with other cities, the cities are in the lead, we can only affect first mile last mile other than by funding it since local roads,sidewalks and bus stops are owned by local city.

Jennifer Cohen, Central Los Angeles subregion:  Safety for all must be foundational in this process.  The City of Los Angeles recently adopted a Vision Zero directive, to eliminate all traffic deaths in the City of Los Angeles by 2025. For the City of Los Angeles, we see safety as a key element of mode shift.

Terry Dipple, Las Virgenes/Malibu COG: COG’s are all different, I love the diversity, and I have to be responsive to my cities.  Our COG has tried to work with all cities to come up with projects that make sense for our subregion, bicycle master plan for example, we always try to find ways to connect all cities and collectively try to find funding and projects that work, we all have to give and take a little bit.

Question: What is your COGs/Subregion’s perspective on the local return portion of the potential 2016 Ballot Measure?

Jacki Bacharach, South Bay COG:  Local return is an opportunity for cities to improve their transportation, should have many eligibility options, but no earmarks and no mandatory set asides because that is where cities can meet their needs.

Ann Wilson, Arroyo Verdugo Subregion: It is important to note that we should let each city do its job in that local return should be maximized and with their discretion.

Katherine Aguilar Perez-Estolano, Westside Cities COG: We recognize the importance of being flexible with local return, Santa Monica has been able to do the County’s first bike share program. But we need to remember it takes voters to pass measures, we need buy in from entire regional community.

Paul Hubler, San Gabriel Valley COG: We are definitely interested in a healthy local return, that provides funds that go back to local cities out of the potential 2016 ballot measure.  SGV COG wants to increase local return to be able to determine from 15% to 25%.

We like this tweet from Executive Director Tamika Butler from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition: All about letting cities decide what they do with the funds, but what about when they continue to neglect certain communities/groups?#COGforum

Question: Any recommendations for how community groups can effectively engage with the work your COG/subregion is doing?

John Bwarie, San Fernando Valley COG: If you are trying to get involved with your local COG understand why your local COG was formed, our purpose is evolving quickly, they formed initially to 1) coordinate regional priorities and activities 2) more access to resources.  Right now,  each COG/subregion looks at each other wonders many times,  if you get money that’s money that I am not getting.

Question from the audience: How are you defining what are disadvantage communities in your COG?

Jacki Bacharach, South Bay COG: We have an emergence of tech opportunities, a new potential sales tax should say that we can subsidize Uber for low-income people. Also – this is process is forecasting transportation investments 25 years into the future,  I think there should be something in the sales tax where it says you have to evaluate if what you want to build still makes sense.

Question from the audience: Can you address the capacity of disadvantaged communities applying to some of those projects, when some cities don’t have staff to do safe routes to school, first/last mile planning? Should there be technical assistance funding to support less resourced cities for multi-modal planning?

We like this tweet from Day One: How can COGs support disadvantaged communities lacking capacity to compete for competitive state funding? #COGforum @InvestinPlace @bikeSGV

Karen Heit, Gateways Cities COG: In a word Metro does not provide that kind of support, and they should, some cities rely on the COG in terms of improvement measures, maybe that kind of exercise needs to be applied everywhere.

Currently in many transportation funding conversations at Metro, COGs and subregions equity is defined as dividing the pie of funding equally based on a population formula that includes a jobs/housing mix. When Investing in Place refers to social equity in transportation we are referring to concentrating resources in underserved communities, not spreading it all evenly. Identifying the gap in this definition was a critical moment for this forum, and demonstrates the variety of perspectives of investing based on data, need, and other priorities.  Investing in Place recently formed a Technical Working Group to develop recommendations for the Metro Board on defining social equity in its transportation policies and investments. We hope to have our first policy brief on this ready by late January 2016.  Many of the COGs and Subregion weren’t sure how to address this question – as it has not been posed to them in the regional transportation planning process.  We see it happening with State transportation funds, but so far not regionally in Los Angeles County with existing sales tax transportation dollars. We are working to change this.

Panel 2: Hearing from Council of Governments Elected Officials

  • John Fasana, Councilmember, Duarte, San Gabriel Valley COG, Metro Board of Directors
  • Kevin McKeown, Mayor, Santa Monica, Westside Cities COG
  • Jess Talamantes, Vice Mayor, Burbank, San Fernando Valley COG

Kevin McKeown, Mayor, Santa Monica, Westside Cities COG: Last week  we opened up new bike share program, we have done much with local return, but let’s put 10 – 15% towards active transportation investments, some safety, complete streets. How about we stay committed to the 15% of unrestricted local return but if we boost it to 25%, let’s dedicate that additional 10% to active transportation.  In my city, Santa Monica is a very walkable city, we are in the process of adopting a pedestrian master plan, we know that if we make the cities more walkable more people will walk, and those who already are will be safe. We have also adopted Vision Zero. Local projects are very important we also need to connect to regional network and needs.

John Fasana, Councilmember, Duarte, San Gabriel Valley COG, Metro Board of Directors: The SGVCOG is working with community based organizations to support local trips. SGVCOG has done a lot of research.  At Metro I helped ensure the successful adoption of the First/Last Mile plan. We are working to balance many needs locally and throughout the region. We need to ensure the measure resonates with voter needs and interests.

Jess Talamantes, Vice Mayor, Burbank, San Fernando Valley COG: We are a young COG, 5 years old, we have 13 members, 4 cities, and a lot of perspectives. We are looking forward to the future. We just celebrated 10 years of the Orange Line. We have to come together as a unit and team and put the common ground and move forward. If we come with open minds we can move forward successfully.

This is our summary of our first Los Angeles County COG/subregion forum and we hope it is just the beginning of bringing diverse perspective together to address investing our public funds in our transportation networks for all trips.  Investing in Place is grateful to all our speakers, panelists, advisory board, tweeters and partners who joined us.  And big thanks to Caro Jauregui from California Walks for helping out with the note taking at our meeting, and Scott Frazier for running the check in station and Benton Heimsath for helping with the meeting materials, invitations and check in table, and Rafael Cardenas for the photos. We recognize that so many people go into helping us pull off these regional conversations and we welcome agreeing to disagree in order to find common ground across the County as we look to future investments.

Links to meeting handout and pictures:


2 responses to “Meeting Recap: Los Angeles County Council of Governments and Subregion Forum

  1. Pingback: EnviroMetro

Comments are closed.

Next meeting 12/8: City of LA - Sidewalks Working Group Meeting

by Jessica Meaney

Join our team !

by Jessica Meaney