Wednesday, December 9, 2020

City of LA’s bus shelter and street furniture update

The Board of Public Works convened over Thanksgiving week to approve releasing the Request for Proposals (RFP) regarding the new bus shelter and street furniture contract. Later that day, there was also a motion introduced by Councilmembers Bonin and Blumenfield regarding the parameters of digital advertising and revenue. The RFP deadline for potential firms is February 19th, 2021 at 5:00PM PST. All proposals will be examined by Spring 2021, with a contract ready for approval by mid summer (to catch up on the events leading up to the RFP please check out our previous post). At the Board of  Public Works meeting, BSS/StreetsLA was instructed to do more outreach to Neighborhood Councils and the general public.  Those meetings have been scheduled for the following dates:

In October, alongside Los Angeles Walks, People for Mobility Justice and the Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA), and the Natural Resource Defense Council we sent our key ideas to policymakers regarding the bus shelter and street furniture program:

  • Prioritize the Angelenos who have to live with the outcomes of the City’s decisions. For two decades, transit riders in Los Angeles have suffered from a street furniture contract that overpromised and underdelivered. As the city prepares to enter into a new multi-year contract, it is imperative that the needs of people walking and riding the bus be considered paramount in the design, placement, and maintenance of street furniture assets.
  • Decouple provision of new bus shelters and public toilets from expectations of revenue generation. The last 20 years have shown that street furniture is not an effective revenue stream: Los Angeles received less than $4 million per year on average from this program over the life of the contract. But treating street furniture as a revenue generator can hinder or fully derail efforts to make the City’s public right-of-ways better, safer, and more inviting spaces.
  • Prioritize placing bus shelters and other street furniture along Metro’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 routes in the NextGen network. Bus shelters are an integral part of the transit network. The City should not be asking its street furniture to reinvent the wheel when they can instead focus on the plan which Metro is currently implementing to bring a frequent all-day bus network to the City’s busiest transit corridors. The City should direct its contractor to begin by installing new shelters along these routes in order to facilitate the development of a world-class transit network on city streets.
  • Return any revenue from commercialization of the public right-of-way to communities in need. The revenues from the previous street furniture contract were split between the General Fund – where they were a drop in the ocean – and independent accounts maintained by Council District Offices. The City should instead utilize existing definitions of High Need Communities in programs such as Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School to provide funding back into communities impacted by unsafe public spaces. These monies should benefit our communities and help to make them more accessible than they have been in the past.
  • Set minimums, not maximums, for bus shelter installation. Los Angeles needs bus shelters badly. As the City continues to warm due to climate change, the waiting environments on our streets have already become dangerous. In contrast to the last contract, this time the City should look to get as many new bus shelters installed as possible, even above the coverage of 75% of riders that StreetsLA has targeted. To accomplish this language should be tailored to set minimum benchmark progress with defined penalties for failing to meet the marks. Incentives should be provided using City dollars earmarked for transportation purposes for the contractor to exceed these minimums in every benchmark period.

Background: The Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program (STAP) is intending to follow the city’s business model where costs for bus shelters and amenities are funded by advertising revenue. However, it is critical to note, the last 20 years have shown that street furniture has not been an effective revenue stream: Los Angeles received less than $4 million per year on average from this program. However, BSS/StreetsLA seems to be betting on the Super Bowl, College Football Championship, World Cup, and Olympics events in the next 8 years to bring in a lot of revenue for the City but there is no evidence that this is guaranteed to work. Furthermore, waiting 6-8 years for the international events such as the World Cup and Olympics in order for significant revenue to be generated for bus shelter and street furniture deployment, is too long a wait for low-income communities of color to receive shade and a place to sit at bus stops.

At the Board of Public Works meeting on November 24th, there were also a lot of concerns brought up by neighborhood council members and West LA community members during public comment about how placing digital advertising kiosks on sidewalks were problematic, and that the kiosks would distract people driving, in direct contrast to the City’s vision zero efforts. While some of their reasons for opposing digital kiosks may differ from Investing in Place’s, it is a valid question why in order to receive bus shelters we must couple that with advertising. Not everything that is facilitated through the City has to be a revenue generator, especially since in the past bus shelters were deployed in neighborhoods with high revenue potential instead of the communities where they are needed most. It remains unclear why for a region that has 4 transportation sales taxes that funds freeways, buses, trains, bike lanes, sidewalks are not being leveraged for bus shelters. It is baffling that the only strategy the city has to provide shelter and a place to wait for the bus is through monetization. The average cost of a bus shelter is $25,000, and then with maintenance being the primary expense after it is installed. 


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