Thursday, May 19, 2016

3 lessons learned on how to lead for change in LA region’s transportation system

Last week, TransitCenter hosted “Leading for Change: Los Angeles County’s Plan to Transform Transportation” at Union Station’s beautiful ticket room. Shin-pei Tsay, Deputy Executive Director of TransitCenter, led the event along with speakers and panelists: Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Metro CEO Phil Washington, Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow, Metro Chief Planning Officer Therese McMillan, and Investing in Place’s Managing Director Jessica Meaney.

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Shin-pei Tsay, Deputy Executive Director of TransitCenter; Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker; Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow; Investing in Place Managing Director Jessica Meaney; Metro Chief Planning Officer Therese McMillan.

Shin-pei grounded the discussion with TransitCenter’s timely report, “A People’s History of Recent Urban Transportation Innovation,” a case study of how the transportation systems of cities and regions undergo progressive transformation. The elements of the”Cycle of Change,” as many in the audience and panelists commented, are all coming to a tipping point in the Los Angeles region (see figure below from TransitCenter’s report).

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For all our partners, advocates, and allies working towards transportation change, here’s 3 lessons learned from last week’s TransitCenter event:

    1. It takes a village to move a thoughtful policy forward. In Houston, Utah, and in many of the big cities referenced by Shin-pei in her presentation, having a diverse and engaged group of small business owners, parents, faith based leaders, and other stakeholders can help create more meaningful and lasting projects, like public plazas, bicycle lanes, streetscapes and complete sidewalks and streets. For example, Shin-pei covered the transformation of New York City’s streets and public spaces and the civic engagement and city and public agency leadership involved to make it happen. Robert Grow, Envision Utah’s CEO, commented on how having a diverse group of business and faith based community leaders helped to create momentum for a transformative transportation sales tax measure.
    2. Sometimes you might have to start from scratch to make real change. When former Mayor Annise Parker of Houston was in office, she found redundancies and inefficiencies in Houston’s bus and rail network. When she met with the public, she asked: “What would your bus network look like if you started from scratch?” She found out, started from scratch, and practically led an overnight transformation of the city’s transportation system.
    3. At the end of the day, it’s about the future generations of people whose lives you may change for the better. Metro CEO Phil Washington commented that the next potential transportation ballot measure in LA County is about transforming the way we live. Metro Chief Planning Officer Therese McMillan echoed these sentiments, referring to our transportation improvements as a quality of life issue. Investing in Place’s Jessica Meaney reminded us that, with any transportation improvement, we have to ensure people who are being impacted by these changes should be democratically engaged in the decision-making process. She commented, “Equity is a shared interest, not a common interest.”

We would like to thank TransitCenter, Metro, and MoveLA for co-hosting an informative and impactful discussion. We appreciate our partners from all over the LA region for participating and making it a fun event.

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Pictured above (left to right starting with back row): Malcolm Harris, TRUST South LA; Emilia Crotty, Los Angeles Walks; Tamika Butler, LA County Bicycle Coalition; Naomi Iwasaki, Investing in Place Advisory Board Member; Judy Harper, Community Partners; KeAndra Dodds; Ryan Wiggins, TransForm; Manal Aboelata, Prevention Institute;  Stephanie Ramirez, AARP California; Jessica Meaney, Investing in Place; John Guevarra, Investing in Place; Andres Ramirez, SCOPE-LA; Juana Rosa Cavero, Advancement Project California. Photo credit: Andres Ramirez of SCOPE-LA via Instagram.


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