Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Equity, Engagement, and Empowerment: A Gameplan for the Road Ahead

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times convened transportation leaders and interested stakeholders to talk about the future of Los Angeles’ transportation system. A few challenges were clear: the region is in the middle of an affordable housing crisis, our population is continuing to grow, and the number of automobile-caused fatalities is still at an unacceptable level.

With those challenges, an important theme throughout the session was: how do we, as a region with limited resources, serve the mobility needs of everyone.

Some highlights from the event:

  • US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx grounded the conversation with the big picture. He recalled how, in the early days, Southern California highways were built from a top-down perspective without much stakeholder engagement and divided communities by race and income – with the building out of new rail lines, he mentioned, we have a unique opportunity to help bridge communities by encouraging public participation in the planning process. From integrating all travel options into a seamless and more equitable system, addressing the challenge of low-income suburbs and wealthy city centers, and working on multi-modal funding with President Obama (not just money for roads), US Transportation Secretary Foxx hinted at a vision for Los Angeles that is more inclusive and equitable.
  • City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke highly of more neighborhood-based planning – a comprehensive set of planning tools including community planning and strengthening Great Streets – to connect people with where they want to go in the shortest distance possible. A nod to improving the user experience, Mayor Garcetti said a potential transportation ballot measure will help “to make things better, not just [build] new projects.”
  • With over 30,000 traffic related fatalities a year – equivalent to 1 Boeing 747 every week – Google’s self-driving technology is aimed at reducing human error in vehicles and creating safer roadways for all. While new technology may be scary to some, it may come sooner than one may think, and the important thing we have to face is how to integrate and raise standards for self-driving and autonomous vehicles so that they do not pose an unnecessary level of risk.
  • Seleta Reynolds, General Manager of LA Department of Transportation, stressed the importance of measuring our transportation investments by data and their outcomes and reaching out to diverse communities in a meaningful and sustained way. Similarly, LA Metro CEO Phil Washington’s vision for a good transportation system in the LA region was balance and partnering with the private sector and other key partners to share data.


Chris Urmson, head of Google’s Self-Driving Project, explaining how lasers help navigate space and anticipate risks.

While diverse in scope, capacity and policy priorities, these transportation leaders were all bound by their commitment to creating safer roads and sidewalks, and strengthening a transportation system that worked for all – most importantly, they all saw an unprecedented opportunity in a potential 2016 transportation ballot measure.

However, will this new ballot measure rethink how stakeholders are engaged in the investment decisions? Will it address the need to make our transportation networks safe and accessible for all?

Investing in Place is working to support that vision – one where data, need, and authentic stakeholder engagement support transportation options that work for all and are engaged to address the new trends and opportunities we see shifting the landscape of transportation – certainly a vision we saw reflected at the Los Angeles Times Conversations event this week.

Bonus: Check out Steve Hymon’s highlights from the #TalkCA conversation here!

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