Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gaining Traction for Safer Streets: Updates on City of Los Angeles Transportation Advocacy

The movement for safer and more accessible streets is continuing to gain traction in the City of Los Angeles.

With programs like Vision Zero and Measure M’s local return, we finally have the opportunity (and resources at our fingertips) to ensure investments in our streets are concentrated in places where traffic crashes and fatalities are happening most (as evidenced by City of LA’s Vision Zero map:

It’s unprecedented that, last year, we saw over 260 people die on LA’s streets due to traffic related crashes. This is one of the reasons why Investing in Place supports fully funding the Los Angeles Vision Zero program by leveraging Measure M’s local return.

What is Los Angeles’ Vision Zero program?

For background: in 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the Vision Zero program to better understand the root cause of traffic collisions — and how to develop a comprehensive, data-based effort to identify and prioritize corridors (streets) where deaths and injuries occur most frequently.

Within the past two years, the City has done research, adopted an action plan, and implemented outreach programs in partnerships with local community groups. Part of the reason why the City has contacted community groups directly is to tap into local knowledge — as the City Department of Transportation GM Seleta Reynolds recognizes, “We are hardly ever the experts in the neighborhoods where we work,” highlighting the need for the City to partner with local community members and leaders. This work has resulted in a program that, if funded, would focus on addressing the top 40 High Injury Network corridors — the streets where deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions happens most.  

The High Injury Network corridors have been identified by using the following criteria:

  • Streets with the highest concentration of collisions
  • Streets with over-representation of older adults and youth
  • Overlaying this data with the City’s Health Atlas

Keeping Measure M’s Promise

Vision Zero is a program rooted in the equitable distribution of resources to neighborhoods that need the most investment — these are usually neighborhoods of highest need, like in Panorama City and parts of South LA. It is exciting to see this program pick up steam — but it needs sufficient funding to make sure pedestrian deaths reach zero by 2025. Our most vulnerable communities can’t wait another generation for these safety improvements.

Measure M’s promise to voters was to create a 21st century transportation system that meet the needs of everyone. We take it a step further and argue that we supported Measure M because it could do a lot for our bus riders, older adults, individuals with disabilities, our students, and parents — many who don’t often rely on a private automobile to get around.   

But, just getting around is different from safely getting around — ask anyone who has ever had to wait for a bus at 2 in the morning right after work or older adults who dodge cars while crossing the street. Our streets  need safety measures embedded in their reconstruction — which is why Councilmember Bonin and Harris-Dawson’s proposal for using Measure M dollars to fully fund the Vision Zero Program makes so much economic and practical sense (What price would you place on a life?). To smartly double-down on street investments, the passage of State Bill 1 (SB 1), which directs close to $80 million a year to the City for infrastructure repair, can benefit all users of our streets — whether you’re driving to work solo by necessity, or a student biking to school for convenience and survival.

Where are we now?

While this proposal came before the Transportation Committee at the end of March 2015, it has been put on hold until the City adopts the 2017-2018 budget.  A portion of the the 2017-2018 budget does include Measure M local return funding.  When the local return conversation is revisited it will be setting policy for how funds in 2018-2019 will be spent.

Investing in Place and our partners at Advancement Project, American Heart Association, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Friends of King Elementary, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Trust for Public Land and Vision Zero Alliance, attended Monday’s hearing for the 2017-2018 Budget where we advocated for increased resources in the Vision Zero program.

During the hearing, several key report backs were requested by Councilmembers:

  • Report on projects in Vision Zero Priority Corridors that do not have street segments in poor condition, including what additional resources would be needed to complete Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 treatments. Include in the report elements of the Vision Zero Priority Corridors that can be funded with the resources currently provided in the Proposed Budget.
  • Report on the opportunities and challenges of delivering a combined program of street reconstruction and Vision Zero, including, but not limited to, the inherent challenges in addressing competing priorities, competing goals, and competing scopes of work and opportunities for public benefit.
  • DOT, with the assistance of Engineering and Street Services, will report on how a coordinated Vision Zero/street reconstruction program could be successfully implemented through the outreach, planning and project delivery process, using the Vision Zero Action Plan to drive project selection and prioritization.
  • Report on the anticipated annual resources required to achieve the benchmark goals of the Vision Zero Action Plan.
  • Report back from CAO/CLA on potential funding for an additional $10 million for Vision Zero Corridor projects independent of the road reconstruction program. Look at additional funding available through Gas Tax (SB1) and by correcting the apparent double-budgeting of traffic signal construction.

Report backs from LA DOT to the committee members will likely start coming back tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday.  Then the committee will recess, and the CLA’s office will come back to present the City’s full budget as amended by the committee, likely sometime in May.  

Next Steps:

Want to learn more? Be sure to sign up for our City of Los Angeles Completing Streets workgroup and sign up to join us at the Tripping Point summit on Saturday June 10th.

And for more information about City of LA’s budget hearings, read Streetsblog LA’s post.


What Role Will COGs Play in Measure M Implementation?

by Jessica Meaney

Measure M’s Policy Advisory Council (PAC) unpacks the Draft Measure M Guidelines

by Investing in Place