Monday, August 1, 2016

What do Palmdale parents want? What we all need: safe, walkable communities

Last Tuesday, Investing in Place met with parents of the First 5 LA Best Start community in the City of Palmdale (in the Antelope Valley) to talk about transportation concerns and issues. We were joined by a diverse crowd of over 100 parents and children — many who were African-American, or Latino, or spoke Spanish as their primary language at home.

We were truly humbled by their feedback. In regards to transportation, Palmdale parents wanted what many of us, regardless of age, where we live, and background, wants: a safe and walkable community. Transportation is a key connector (a lifeline really) for parents, and especially for parents with children younger than five. Better transportation options — like reliable buses, safe crosswalks, and better sidewalks and bike lanes to get to school, hospitals, and local services — can help prepare children so they are ready for life.

What is First 5 LA Best Start?

Best Start is an investment of First 5 LA, a leading early childhood advocate working in partnership with others to strengthen families, communities, and systems of services and supports so that all children in L.A. County enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life. Best Start brings together parents and caregivers, residents, organizations, businesses and government institutions to envision and decide how to create the best possible community for children prenatal to 5 and their families. Best Start then provides the skills-building and leadership training to help them achieve their goals.

Palmdale: A Place of Hope and Opportunity

At the ground-level, Palmdale is a place of hope and opportunity — the aerospace industry is booming, warehousing and logistics is an emerging industry, and Palmdale is consistently the fastest growing city in Los Angeles County and California… but at least 1 in 5 live below the poverty line, many are renters, and from what we heard from parents that night, transportation costs are a growing piece of the household budget.

We kicked off the discussion with a big question: “What do you feel are your transportation issues or concerns in your neighborhood?”

Here’s a snapshot of what Palmdale parents wanted:

  • More frequent, easy to understand, and affordable bus service. An older community leader, Carmen, said her primary way of getting around is by bus, and sometimes the bus service can be so confusing. For parents with young children, more direct and organized bus service can help many mothers and fathers connect to services and amenities — like schools, health care, the grocery store — in their community.
  • Safe and shady areas to sit, to walk, and to wait for the bus. This was echoed by most of the participants, especially mothers and older adults. Some of the parents get out of work at 10pm, and the bus stops, they commented, were neither safe or decent places to wait at. In the desert heat, having shaded sidewalks and bus stops should also be a priority, especially for mothers with young children in strollers.
  • More bike lanes and affordable transportation options for all. Most students don’t have a car, one parent remarked to me, so they rely on the bus and bicycle to get around.
  • Ways to slow traffic, including traffic roundabouts, clearly marked crosswalks, and speed humps. Slowing traffic is crucial especially for mothers with young children in strollers who walk around and cross busy intersections often.

Building a Better Palmdale: One Dialogue at a Time

We look forward to continuing the conversation with our First 5 LA Best Start partners in Palmdale and with all the community members we met with. With Measure M hitting the November ballot and updates to Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan, much more work needs to be done one community at a time to create safe and walkable streets — a crucial component to creating stronger families. The first step is acknowledging the problems and opportunities with the transportation system, then working towards a practical and politically-effective solution.

Thank you to all the Palmdale parents and children who were brave and shared their personal stories. Special thanks to our First 5 LA Best Start partners especially Miguel Perlas, Araceli Simeon-Luna, Joaquin Macias, and Alejandra Marroquin who helped to organize the forum.

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by Investing in Place