Thursday, January 25, 2018

Who’s Coming to Dinner? – January PAC conversations

Have you ever had dinner in an all-new setting? Maybe the first time you saw multiple forks next to your plate. Or the first time you ate a plated meal without any utensils at all. It can be humbling and even awkward. But afterwards, you probably left with a better understanding of a slice of the world you didn’t know before. And there is value in that.

On a gray and rainy day in early January about 20 affordable housing advocates attended the Metro Policy Advisory Council (PAC) monthly meeting. Members from organizations including East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH), and Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA) provided public comment. Speakers offered support to the PAC in developing strong, equitable Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) policies and encouraged protection for residents and local businesses at risk of displacement. It was the most significant showing at a PAC meeting by members of the public since the Council was formed in spring 2017. These were new dinner guests at the monthly PAC supper club.

As we discussed in our PAC year-end recap, the PAC was formed last year to “ensure an equal, representative voice for the following constituencies: transportation consumers, transportation providers, and accountable jurisdictions.” Metro is tasked with developing a number of policies and plans that will direct billions of dollars in public investments (Measure M and Multi-Year Subregional Programs, Long Range Transportation Plan, and of course TOC). Increasing the access and transparency of these critical decisions will only support the creation of richer and more relevant policies.

So…what’s for dinner?

Metro staff is also developing 16 policy papers in the next year to frame key issues for which Metro will be developing policies and programs. One of these policy papers will be framing TOCs and attempting to answer important questions, such as “How will TOC activities address gentrification, displacement, and affordable housing?” Metro is embracing the concept of Transit-Oriented Communities and identifying ways that Metro transportation and development investments might work with local jurisdictions to incentivize community development with transit use  as a core foundation. At this January PAC meeting, tenant organizers and affordable housing advocates joined the usual attendance of PAC members in the TOC breakout session. They pushed Metro staff to define the term “equitable” and consider how TOC policies would interact with Metro’s current transit security and enforcement policies. Just as being a new guest at an unfamiliar dinner is an enlightening experience, hosting new guests can be a way to broaden perspective and appreciate new ones.

Other policy papers topics discussed at the January PAC meeting included Transportation Demand Management (TDM), Public/Private Partnerships (P3) and Goods Movement. Metro’s notes on the breakout sessions can be viewed here.

Who is at the table?

Policy development is not always sexy. The first half of the meeting was filled with detailed and dense conversation finalizing administrative guidelines for the $10 billion Multi-Year Subregional Program (MSP). It is clear that the experience level across PAC members is extremely varied, with some of the more seasoned transportation policy and finance minds able to navigate these administrative procedures quicker than others. As current chair of the PAC, Investing in Place has requested to work with Metro staff to create more digestable (bite-size, if you will) presentations that serve participants of all experience levels.

The PAC is given front row access to Metro policies in very early stages. And these policies will guide investment of billions of public dollars that will shape how people in Greater Los Angeles get to their jobs, schools, doctors, grocery stores, and back home. We can all agree that a dining experience is made better by rich, thoughtful conversation. This is why we welcome new voices at the PAC. It is important that we all stay at the table, even if we are learning which fork to use along the way.

PAC meetings are regularly held every first Tuesday starting at 1:30p. The February 6 meeting will be held in the Metro headquarters boardroom but the March meeting will be the second Tuesday, March 13th, at Metro headquarters at the same time of 1:30pm. 

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