Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #5: Putting Safety First


This is the fifth in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org

Outcome: Metro leads on transportation safety throughout Los Angeles County.

What success looks like:

  • Metro adopts Vision Zero to reduce fatal and serious injury collisions 20% by 2020 and to zero by 2030.
  • Metro prioritizes and accelerates funding and provides technical support to local jurisdictions for Vision Zero projects and reports annual progress.

Traffic safety is a public health crisis in Los Angeles County. Traffic collisions are the third leading cause of premature death, responsible for over 500 deaths every year. Put another way, a person is killed on Los Angeles County streets and highways every 15 hours. That’s someone’s parent, someone’s child, every single day. Crashes are the #1 killer for children ages 5 to 14 and the #2 cause of death for people ages 15 to 44, behind only homicide.

Like other transportation burdens, these crashes are heavily concentrated in low-income communities of color, but the issue impacts communities all across the county. These crashes are entirely preventable through smart policy and good street design.

Towards Vision Zero

With its Vision Zero initiative, the City of Los Angeles has taken the lead on traffic safety efforts in the region — spurred in no small part due to the fact that a person walking or biking is killed on Los Angeles streets every three days. Based on successful traffic safety campaigns in Europe, Vision Zero is the simple idea that in a well-designed transportation system, no one should die just going from Point A to Point B.

Vision Zero is a collaborative approach that “brings together transportation engineers, police officers, advocates, and policymakers to work together towards creating safer streets.” Unlike prior traffic safety campaigns, Vision Zero is laser-focused on street design as the most effective way to modify behavior and improve safety. Vision Zero doesn’t mean zero crashes — it means addressing factors that make crashes deadly like vehicle speed and enhancing protections for people walking and biking.

Los Angeles County has also joined the campaign with its own Vision Zero policy and smaller cities are following their lead.

Launched in 2015, Los Angeles’ Vision Zero early work included mapping a High Injury Network (HIN) consisting of the 6% of city streets where over 65% of fatal and severe injury collisions occur. The Vision Zero Action Plan, released just last month, maps out the City’s strategy for achieving an immediate 20% reduction in traffic deaths in the next year on its way to reaching zero by 2025. The data-driven plan will focus on implementation of proven countermeasures, such as protected left turns, leading pedestrian intervals, and better bike infrastructure, in the locations where they can have the greatest impact.

What is Metro’s Role with Vision Zero?

As the primary transportation planning agency for Los Angeles County, Metro can and must play a leadership role in the region’s Vision Zero efforts. Creating a safe transportation system should be the agency’s top priority through all of its planning, funding, design, and programming decisions.

Unfortunately, some of Metro’s programs like the Congestion Management Program promote objectives that directly conflict with safety goals. Metro should conduct a top-to-bottom review of its policies and programs to incorporate traffic safety.

Metro should also support local jurisdictions with data collection and analysis, technical assistance, and targeted funding for safety improvements. In the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Metro should set clear safety goals for the county’s transportation system, prioritize the resources necessary to meet them, and report annual progress.

It is hard to overstate how ambitious this goal is, but our communities deserve it. No child should be killed on their way to school and no parent should be killed on their way home from work.

How many deaths are acceptable on our streets? Zero.