Investing in Place presented its 2017 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) Advocacy Agenda at our #JustGrowth work group meeting two weeks ago. We were joined by over 50 partners, including representatives from NRDC, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office, Los Angeles Walks, American Heart Association, SCAG, TRUST South LA, LA THRIVES, and many more.
Investing in Place created the #JustGrowth work group to bring our partners together on a more frequent basis to integrate equity metrics in Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan update — which we believe has tremendous opportunity to address accessibility, social equity and public health with clear intention and strategy. The work group builds on the groundwork of our Transportation Equity Technical Work Group.
Below are the three takeaways from our meeting last week, but you can read all the feedback and input we got here.
Top three takeaways:
- Race Matters
- Students Exist
- Mobilizing and Organizing are Critical
1. Race Matters
Metro adopts a clear definition of high-need communities called Equity Opportunity Zones that addresses historical factors of disinvestment — like race, income, and vehicle ownership — and to begin mapping priority areas for investment at the census tract/urbanized zone area (UZA) level. Without policy consensus on high need areas in Los Angeles County it is impossible to strategically target public resources, strategies and measure impacts of investments for access, opportunity and safety.
Most of the time, transportation funding is allocated by population, irrespective of needs and existing resources. IiP and its Transportation Equity Technical Work Group recommend that these zones are identified by three criteria: race, income, and households with low car ownership. One key reason? Declining transit ridership. 92% of Metro bus riders are people of color,1 and the metropolitan average of housing burden for people of color is 49 percent.2 Regional inequities are apparent in our transportation network, with a Metro bus rider’s annual household income averaging $15,000.3
If our regional goals are to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and building out the transit network, we need to address race in our strategies and investments.
We know that the Los Angeles metro area has the state’s worst income inequality,4 5 and the significant gap between the region’s wealthy and low-income communities manifests itself spatially. In Los Angeles County, where you live can greatly affect educational attainment, job access, health outcomes, public safety, environmental quality, mobility, and more.6 7
Simply put, place matters. In Los Angeles County, carless households are overwhelmingly located in communities of color.8 9 A focus on transportation equity requires an understanding of how class, race, and ethnicity can have profound effects on social, socioeconomic, and health outcomes.
It also requires an acknowledgment that policy decisions regarding the allocation of funding can exacerbate or ameliorate existing inequities. During our research and through our partner convenings, we consistently find race and ethnicity matters to address social equity.
2. Students Exist
As a former teacher, I was so glad to see participants prioritize students and our youth when it comes to Just Growth.
Students and youth today are our future — especially when thinking of cultivating the next generation of transit riders. But, many of them currently have limited mobility options. Getting to school and back home, for many, means taking long rides on the bus or train, biking through traffic congestion, or walking. We’ve all seen this before.
Their needs, however, are not often reflected in our transportation decision making. Our transportation modeling data, the tools we use to project ridership and prioritize investments, do not include any data on how youth travel.
Who is actually losing their life on our streets requires us to look at the needs of youth. In LA City, traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for those between 2 and 14 years old and the number two cause of premature death among those between 15 and 25 years old.10
Our school districts have responded to decreasing district enrollment, losing out to their charter school partners, with increasing magnet school options. Also, Los Angeles Unified School District has created more than 15,000 early transitional kindergarten seats in the highest concentrated areas of poverty in the district.11
The transportation patterns of our students attending school outside of their “neighborhood school” has presented unforeseen issues in safety and public health. Some estimates predict 10%-14% of morning congestion is caused by private car drop off at school.12
By not incorporating the mobility needs of students — especially those in K-12 — we are ignoring a critical need and opportunity. Nationally, statistics cite less that 15% of K-12 students walk or ride their bike to school — in Los Angeles County that number doesn’t compare. In fact, about 36% of K-12 students walk or bicycle to school in Los Angeles County.13
But, we don’t invest in ensuring they have a safe, reliable, and accessible path of travel, and as a result we see their leading cause of death from motor vehicles. Engaging our school districts with our Metro partners is critical in developing our issues to not only safety and students, but also environmental impact for years to come.
3. Mobilizing and Organizing for our Communities is Critical
The Long Range Transportation Plan is an important opportunity for our most challenged communities. Infusing equity metrics into the long range plan can result in sustainable development and prosperity across Los Angeles County. Without defining or even measuring for equity can hold back the region’s growth — and worse, negatively impacting vulnerable communities.
The best part of all this is that it has been done before. The City of Los Angeles Safe Routes to School program is a robust program that follows an equity model targeting our highest need areas and providing resources accordingly.
We are encouraged by the strong leadership we have on these issues. Therese McMillan, Chief Planning Officer at Metro, integrated equity metrics into a long range transportation plan at transportation agency before too. Fifteen years ago, as the Deputy Executive Director of Policy at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission serving 7.5 million people in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, she worked on a similar program Communities of Concern to align high need areas with public dollars.
Phil Washington, Metro Chief Executive Officer, has also made it a priority to create and update the Quality of Life Report for Metro’s users to monitor and enhance quality of life for all users using models to evaluate impacts such a CalEnviroScreen and the Environmental Justice Screening Method developed by USC PERE.
We have proven models. We have the leadership. We need to mobilize.
We will map key decision makers and create a targeted advocacy strategy. We welcome partners and skeptics alike to be part of this process.
Did you miss the first #Just Growth meeting? Join us at our next #JustGrowth meeting on March 16th. We plan to hold these workgroup meetings monthly at least through July as we work to finalize the Investing in Place Long Range Transportation Plan advocacy platform.
Want to join the work group or have suggestions and recommendations? We want to hear from you — check out our Just Growth agenda blog series here and email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more and share your ideas with us.
1 Metro, Quality of Life Report (2016)
2 National Equity atlas; national equityatlas.org.
3 Metro 2015 Ridership Survey, http://thesource.metro.net/2015/08/05/results-of-metros-latest-customer-survey/
4 Quality of life scores run along racial lines in California, Los Angeles Times 1/22/15
5 A Portrait of California, Measure of America: A project of the Social Science Research Council 12/9/14
6 Why Place Matters, PolicyLink 2007
7 Addressing poverty and pollution: California’s SB 535 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Review, Vien Truong.
8 An Agenda for Equity: A Framework for Building a Just Transportation System in Los Angeles County, USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. November 2013.
9 Metro 2015 Ridership Survey, http://thesource.metro.net/2015/08/05/results-of-metros-latest-customer-survey/
10 Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology. 2012 California DPH Death Statistical Master File for Los Angeles City residents, compiled 7/31/15, L. Lieb.
11 KPCC’s LA school board candidate survey: Steve Zimmer, District 4.
12 McDonald, Noreen, Austin Brown, Lauren Marchetti, and Margo Pedroso. “U.S. School Travel 2009: An Assessment of Trends.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 41 (August 2011): 2, 146-151.
13 Investing in Place. https://investinginplace.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/travel-to-school-in-la-county.pdf