Friday, March 3, 2017

Investing in Vision Zero: Recap of our meeting with First 5 LA Panorama City parents

Last Tuesday, Investing in Place met with parents of the First 5 LA Best Start Panorama City community in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles to talk about their transportation issues. We were joined by over 75 parents and children — many who were primarily Spanish-speaking, Latino, and rode public transit.

The work we’ve done with First 5 LA is centered on creating safe and walkable communities for older adults and youth. Unfortunately, traffic crashes are the number one killer of children in Los Angeles County — this speaks to the need for better street design to accommodate people of all ages and abilities to get around…

After all, advocating for better transportation investments is not only about strengthening access to economic opportunities, but to also support the development and physical health of our youth.

What were some of the Transportation Issues Identified in Panorama City?

For background, the Panorama City neighborhood is mostly an immigrant and Latino community with one of the highest crime rates of any neighborhood in the city. There’s a palpable anxiety around immigration issues under the current federal administration (a group of attorneys followed our presentation to cover questions on immigration).

But, another serious issue is traffic violence and safety on streets. It’s widely cited that 65% of the most severe and fatal crashes happen on just 6% of Los Angeles’ streets. Panorama City is home to some of the most dangerous intersections in California, like Roscoe Blvd. and Van Nuys Blvd — streets that many of the parents that night travel through (see slides below).

Our discussion centered on the key question: what are your transportation issues in your neighborhood? Here’s the top 3 themes we heard that night:

  1. Safety: Hands down, safety was one of the biggest concerns. Buses, bus stops, and walking routes to get to school, work, and to run errands feels unsafe in Panorama City. One parent said, “When I take the bus, I don’t feel safe. There’s lots of bad people. It gets scary. I have to walk a lot.” Another parent, Miguel, concurred, saying “We don’t feel safe when riding the bus,” and that the crosswalks felt dangerous because drivers in cars don’t stop for pedestrians. Another participant commented, “We also recognize the need for safety of our kids when they walk to school” — his concern was with students being accosted by gang members near Monroe High School.
  2. Affordability: Several parents commented on the unaffordable fares for the Metro buses. There was also concerns for student transit affordability.
  3. Reliability: These included issues like the cleanliness of bus stops and buses, DASH services terminating service too early in the day and not operating on weekends (parents who worked late at night felt it was unfair for services to end too early), and the large gaps of time between buses.

Designing Access for Students

I’ve been at Investing in Place for a little over 2 months, but before that I was a teacher and a community organizer. These discussions with First 5 LA parents — really connecting heart-to-heart with parents and youth — helps me appreciate how issues of transportation and mobility is really a connector for all of us.

Our streets, if designed for people, can be bridges to opportunity and must guarantee that when we say goodbye to our loved ones when they go off to work or to school, that they return to us safe and sound.

Simply put: better transportation investments should have the end goal of strengthening our families.

Next Steps

We’re grateful to have had Nat Gale and his team from LA Department of Transportation (LA DOT) available to answer questions and connect heart-to-heart with some of the parents.

We look forward to representatives from Councilwoman Nury Martinez’ office working and coordinating with Nat’s team on Vision Zero efforts, and with parents of the First 5 LA Best Start Panorama City group. She has been an outspoken supporter of better and safer sidewalks and community safety, and we look forward to her team addressing some of the issues highlighted in this blog.

Next steps:

  • Align funding from Measure M’s local return with High-Injury Network corridors and intersections in the Panorama City neighborhood.
  • To follow our work on improving sidewalks, crosswalks, and safe routes to school in City of Los Angeles, follow the conversation on social media on #LASidewalks.
  • Stay tuned for our next Completing Streets work group meeting. To sign up to learn more or to join Completing Streets, please click here or email me at

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