Measure M

Completing Streets, Measure M

Action Alert: Help Us Advocate for More Accessible, Greener, and Walkable Streets in Los Angeles!


3.29 completing streets action alert.png

As many know, LA County’s game-changing transportation plan — Measure M — passed in November 2016. A portion of the estimated $860 million per year for transportation improvements across the county will go back to the cities — something called local returnto be used on local infrastructure, like sidewalks, crosswalks, or traffic signals.

Sales tax revenue for Measure M will start to flow on July 1st, 2017 — less than 4 months from now. The big question remains: How will cities across the county set policies for how to spend their local return money?

Help Us Advocate for Accessible, Greener, and Walkable Streets!

For the City of Los Angeles, that process will kick off next week at the City Council’s Transportation Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mike Bonin, on Wednesday, March 29 at 1:00 PM in Room 1010. We encourage all our partners that care about funding for safe streets and vision zero, transportation equity, sidewalks, bike paths, and safe routes to school to come weigh in with testimony at next Wednesday’s hearing.

Join us by signing up here!

This is a key moment for Los Angeles. With the passage of Measure M, HHH, and JJJ last fall, and the rejection of Measure S earlier this month, Los Angeles voters have clearly given city leaders a mandate to build a more equitable and transit-oriented city. Mobility Plan 2035—recently adopted by the City Council—is the roadmap for how investments in the city’s streets and public spaces can support a more multimodal future.

How we spend Local Return is one of the most important decisions the City Council will make to actually fund and implement this vision. Indeed, it is the first major implementation action for Mobility Plan 2035. We need to ensure that Local Return policies put safety first and invest in a network of complete streets and sidewalks for all people who travel in our city.

We Need a Comprehensive Approach to Rebuilding Our Streets

At the heart of Mobility Plan 2035 is the idea that the City needs to look holistically at how its streets function. The quality of a street is about more than just potholes. These questions come to mind:

  • Is it safe for people to walk and bike?
  • Does it promote economic activity?
  • Does it capture and clean stormwater?
  • Is it accessible to children, older adults, and people with disabilities?
  • Does it address the needs of low-income communities and communities of color?

These are all direct, measurable outcomes of the way streets are designed and maintained. There is a lot of support on the City Council for paving streets, but Investing in Place urges the City to take a comprehensive approach to rebuilding streets to meet current and future needs, rather than just replacing outdated infrastructure. This integrated approach is exactly what is called for in Mobility Plan 2035, but it is up to the City Council to now implement it with the resources made available by the potential ballot measure.

What We’re Advocating For…

Here are some policy ideas for Local Return we’re hoping to see discussed next week:

1. Comprehensive Performance Metrics for Street Projects

As called for in Mobility Plan 2035, complete streets and green streets upgrades should be integrated into regular street repaving. That doesn’t necessarily mean every residential street needs a bike lane or a bioswale, but it does mean that LADOT, City Planning, and Street Services need to work together to identify where the opportunities are for more comprehensive improvements and make sure that these elements are integrated cost-effectively. City departments should look at a range of measures of street condition in addition to pavement quality, such as:

  • Safety (Vision Zero)
  • Sidewalk condition
  • Vehicle speeds
  • Bike/ped counts
  • Transit ridership
  • Economic activity
  • Stormwater quality and capture
  • Tree canopy

2. Dedicated Funding for Vision Zero and Active Transportation

Mobility Plan 2035 calls for a minimum of 20% of Local Return for walking, biking, and safe routes to school. This is a good starting point, but the reality is that less than $12 million per year is not enough money to achieve zero traffic deaths by 2025. Vision Zero is a comprehensive safety program that benefits people who walk, bike, take transit, and drive. It is also the City’s top transportation priority. City Council should allocate a minimum of $20 million per year for Vision Zero.

3. Accelerate Sidewalk Improvements with a 30-10 Plan for Safe Sidewalks

The City recently settled a $1.37 billion lawsuit to fix its sidewalks so that people with disabilities can move around Los Angeles safely, requiring the City to spend over $30 million per year for 30 years. Fixing our sidewalks is a critical issue for children, older adults, and people in wheelchairs, and for many of our most vulnerable residents, waiting 30 years for safe sidewalks means they’ll never see improvements in their lifetimes. While the City is obligated to spend a minimum amount from other funding sources, how can Measure M augment the Willits settlement and accelerate these improvements so that our communities can benefit from safe sidewalks sooner?

4. Regular Reporting and Accountability

The public deserves regular reporting on the status and effectiveness of Local Return investments. The City should produce an annual report documenting program expenditures and the status of projects in planning, design, and construction. The report should highlight the way in which the City has incorporated complete and green streets into routine projects. The Mobility Plan 2035 Technical Advisory Committee should be convened quarterly to review program updates and provide input into upcoming projects. The report should include a five-year capital improvement program of street projects.

These are the ideas we’re most passionate about, but we want to hear yours too! Email us at jessica@investinginplace.org with your priorities for Local Return in the City of Los Angeles.

Sign up here if you can join us at Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting!

Don’t forget to sign up for our #CompletingStreets work group for more updates.

More background:

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

Recap of #JustGrowth March Meeting


Last week, we were joined by over 20 partners to discuss Investing in Place’s Equity Opportunity Zones strategy. We discussed indicators for equity, census tracts, and visualizing the data. Big thanks to Madeline Wander, Senior Data Analyst at USC PERE, who presented maps and led the discussion on Equity Opportunity Zones.

For the last two and half years, Investing in Place has vetted with partners and discussed which indicators would adequately address the issue of transportation inequity in Los Angeles County. The three variables we narrowed down to were based on research, best practices and our discussion with partners: race, income, and low vehicle ownership.

A key discussion last week was the idea of adding collision data as a factor in the Equity Opportunity Zones. Collision data is a poignant indicator that not only speaks to where disproportionate number of crashes are happening, but it’s also a real need that affects everyone.

This Spring, we are working to incorporate the feedback we heard from the first two #JustGrowth meetings of this year. If you haven’t already, please review the great feedback and comments we received at our January meeting.

Many of our participants at the last meeting, like Reuben De Leon from First 5 LA, also expressed the need to elevate diverse stories and experiences from community members and decision makers. We agree — and our experiences talking with mothers, fathers, and youth from First 5 LA’s Best Start Communities across Los Angeles County shows us that having more reliable and frequent buses, safe sidewalks and crosswalks, and having a bus stop can be a lifeline for many, but there’s still work to be done.

In regards to feedback: the invitation still stands for our partners to write a guest blog and highlight the different indicators discussed in our meeting. Please send to Jessica Meaney at jessica@investinginplace.org.

Again, thank you to all who attended! We appreciate it.

Next Steps:

  • Save the Date for next month’s Just Growth Work Group for April 20th from 2:30-4:00pm at Teach for America’s office by Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles. We will be providing our thoughts on the recently released Measure M Guidelines and continue to develop the EOZ maps and ideas.
  • For those who haven’t kept up on our Equity Opportunity Zones policy campaign, please click here for the Executive Summary and report.
Just Growth Champions, Measure M, Public Participation, transportation equity, Viewpoints from the Movement

Advocating for Health Equity: A #JustGrowth Interview with Councilmember Jeannine Pearce of Long Beach


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Note: Header photo was taken by Joe Linton. The Just Growth Champions interview series is a collection of conversations with elected officials, public agency staff, advocates, and community members who embody the values of the “Just Growth” concept — a concept developed by Dr. Chris Benner and Dr. Manuel Pastor, focused on equity, inclusion, and investing in the most economically-challenged neighborhoods first to develop a sustainable regional economy. Just Growth is a central concept for our Equity Opportunity Zones vision in Los Angeles County.

In our second interview, we talked with Councilmember Jeannine Pearce, who is serving her first term in the City of Long Beach. We covered Measure M, views of transparency in city government, and advancing health equity through transportation. See a snippet of our interview here:

Thank you Councilmember for sitting with us today. Can you tell us what motivated you to serve in the Long Beach City Council?

I have always been somebody who has been really active in my community. Whether it was recycling when I was in the 5th grade, and trying to get my mom to take bags of recycling down. Or being involved with where our money was being spent around the war in the 90’s.

I went to college at Cal State Long Beach, and had the opportunity to get involved with the community here. One of the things we were really engaged in was responsible development, ensuring there was transparency with tax dollars and that the community had a process to get involved in that.

As I moved on, I worked at LAANE as a community organizer and a policy director. Then I had my daughter. And then we had an election. It was an opportunity that I did not see myself taking many years before. Raising a family and investing in my neighborhood was something I really wanted the opportunity to do.

Long Beach has a long history of growth and trying to reinvent itself. It was important to me to have a seat at the table where we could invent ourselves with everybody at the table, making sure that every community member from 10th Street to Downtown had a voice in the process, which is something I hadn’t always seen before. That is what drove me to decide to run to be City Councilmember and it’s been a very rewarding 7 months.

What are the top issues in your community?

Most of the time, the top issues are mobility and transparency. My district is one of the most parking-impacted areas, it also is an area that has a downtown, a tourism zone. What I find people are most concerned about is spending time with their families. Transparency and access to transit are things that really impact them.Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 12.06.44 PM

When they’re saying, “I’m upset there’s not enough parking,” they’re upset about parking because they’re spending time trying to find parking instead of spending time with their families.

Another issue is with small businesses trying to open up and have access to local government. And a clean environment to raise our families.

When we talk about how we govern, it’s about government being simplified and transparency. As a community organizer, I always try to have community at the table. It’s been exciting to be a community organizer in office, because what it’s meant is that, when we have a community meeting it’s not 10 people that show up, it’s 100 people because we go door-to-door and say, “We’re having this meeting about the budget, we want you to be a part of it.” Or “we’re having a meeting about parking,” which I had this morning. It’s exciting to see people get involved who have not historically been involved to talk about transportation, mobility, clean air, and business investments in our areas.

What is your vision for better transportation in Long Beach?

My husband and I have always had one car. We’ve always tried to live near a bus or train line. In Long Beach, we’re not only trying to invest to make sure our Long Beach transit is more robust, but we’re also doing things like the bike share program. Looking at instead of building new parking structures, we’re doing something where people can rent out their driveways to people.

We try to think outside the box with mobility and transportation. One of the biggest things that came to my attention — when I was walking the neighborhoods — is that we have two main corridors in my district. We have Ocean Boulevard that connects to a tourism zone, and we have a free bus line in that tourism zone. And, we have 10th Street which goes through the artery of Central Long Beach which has some of the highest poverty in the entire city. We don’t have bus lines on 10th Street on Saturday and Sunday. So you’ll drive, walk, or ride your bike on 10th Street and you’ll see grandmothers with their carts walking blocks from the grocery store because they don’t have public transit on the main thoroughfare.

One of my first meetings with the Director of Long Beach Transit was asking, “What do we have to do to fix this inequality?” We need to make sure that transportation is equitable, that it’s accessible to everybody, and that even though we might not have 500 people on that bus on a Saturday, the people that are on that bus really depend on it.Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 12.06.52 PM.png

It’s a really important issue for me to make sure that equity is there. For my area, we’re making sure we look at all of the bus lines — we had a lot [of buses] that were taken away and we’re trying to get those back. We also have more people that are trying to get on the Blue Line and I think it’s educating our residents and our neighbors about how safe our public transit is.

I’m from Houston and I’ve spent a lot of time in Chicago, we have those other cities where everybody in the neighborhood is on public transit and part of that is educating folks about it. My team has taken the bus and we ride our bikes into the office — we make sure we practice what we preach.

How did you feel about Measure M passing?

Measure M was something we did a lot of research on in the beginning. We had a conversation on Measure R and where resources were going. When it came to City Council, we had a lot of discussion about it, and we decided to support it as a city.

Another step that happened in addition to Measure M passing — and Measure M passed overwhelmingly — was we got a seat at the table on the Metro board. Having our Mayor [Robert Garcia] have a seat at the table is really important to be able to have transparency and a real discussion about the needs in our neighborhood. Everything from the I-710 to main corridors that haven’t been invested in in a long time are things that are on the table that have already been talked about with Measure M.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 12.07.03 PM.pngI’m excited [Measure M] passed. With any policy, measure, or tax, the big question is process. We can pass everything, but it’s about the process and having a seat at the table. I feel really good about it. And I feel hopeful about the dollars that will come in and how the city also has Measure A money which was another tax around infrastructure investment. How are we partnering these together?

Recently, we passed our mobility plan. In Long Beach, we have a unique opportunity with dollars coming in with some of the greatest minds working on how we transform our streets from just being cars to all the other modes of transportation. It’s a really exciting time. And in the next 10 years, we’re going to see a real change in not only transportation, but health equity and the way that people live in our city.

Great. Can you tell me more about your vision for health equity?  

Sure. We have several hotels in downtown [Long Beach] and about 90% of the hotel workers live in Long Beach. And Long Beach is half a million people, it’s a large city. How do we ensure that our bike lanes, our bus, and our trains are going to the neighborhoods where people work and where they play? And that they feel comfortable taking those routes and can depend on them?

One of the challenges with transportation is just depending on them. “Is that bus line going to show up when I need it to? Because if I get to work late I’m going to get written up.” Making sure our transportation is really connected with those that would benefit the most from it is really important. For 10th street, we have a lot of density there, and trying to make sure those folks have access to bus lines and trains for that same reason.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 12.07.11 PM.pngWhen we talk about equity, having a bus line that is free for a tourist that comes into our city versus someone who works two or three jobs that doesn’t even have a bus line is really important. When you look at a map in Long Beach, you see a gap in the middle.

We really have to make sure that we are now taking a holistic approach instead of a patchwork approach towards transportation. That sometimes is the biggest challenge for cities to take a step back and say, “This might not come forward for 10 or 15 years, but we need to have that plan and we need to have the dollars in place to do that.” When those people have access to that, we’re going to see a decrease in particulate matters in the air and we’re going to see a decrease in asthma rates.

You talk about planning for future events. Sometimes sudden and tragic events do happen. Not too long ago there was a hit-and-run of an elderly woman on the 600 block of Redondo Ave. Can you tell me about how you felt about the incident and what actions you will take?

I’ve been in office for 7 months, and we’ve had 2 instances where someone has been hit and killed unfortunately by a car. It didn’t happen at the busiest thoroughfares or during traffic hours. But it brings up the issue of safety in our communities and how people get around — how people in cars see people. And what we can do to lower fatality rates.

In Los Angeles, they’re working hard on Vision Zero. In Long Beach, we started the conversation on Vision Zero — and it’s a big conversation we need to have and we’re trying to incorporate that into all aspects of the work. Getting to zero fatalities. Getting to zero accidents that impact people’s lives.

On 10th street, we had an elderly gentleman that was hit at 10 o’clock at night. On Redondo, we had an elderly woman across the street. She lived in a senior facility. Grocery store is across the street. 6 o’clock in the morning, she wanted to go to the store. She didn’t make it there.

One of the challenges is trying to look at land-use and think intentionally about that community and neighborhood. Asking “what are the needs here?” If we have a senior facility that has hundreds of people living there, we need to make sure we are creating a safe space outside for them. Everything from crosswalks that are lit up, to education, to slowing down streets in the neighborhood are really important things that not only the city needs to think about — but we need also be working with business owners and neighbors about how we can do that.

It’s jarring. I went to the press conference for that moment. You’re in a space with the family members and her granddaughters. It’s heartbreaking whenever you think about people losing their family because our streets aren’t designed in the safest way.

It’s really important to think outside the box and think long-term and having urgency in a city bureaucracy. Sometimes it’s challenging. When I first got into office, I asked the city to look at 10 different crosswalks in the city. We had these checklists to decide if there’s going to be a crosswalk. It’s frustrating for people whenever they see a need every day. They’re on the streets every day. That’s one of the reasons why I try to walk, I try to ride my bike as much as I can so I also have that experience that I can take back and say, “this is urgent and important for us to prioritize a crosswalk here, because it’s needed.”

Thank you for sharing your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I really am excited about the work you all are doing at Investing in Place. With organizations like yours, engaging in communities and with local leaders like myself, the outcome is going to be substantial.

When we talk about transportation, air quality, and investing in place, it’s about transparency and participation. It’s been a key value of mine to engage everybody. We’ve engaged in a participatory budgeting process and we’ve engaged in governing for racial equity — our whole staff is trained on equity.Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 12.07.33 PM.png

We’re taking those core values of transparency, equity, and participation into all aspects of our city government. Doing that with police, with Long Beach Board of Transit, is something that’s never been done in Long Beach before. It’s large part because we’ve had organizations on the outside really pushing and engaging us in a meaningful way. I’m excited about the next 10 years are going to look like in Long Beach with that process. Thank you for all your work.

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

Mobilizing for #JustGrowth: Recap of our 2/16 Work Group Meeting


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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:

  1. Race Matters
  2. Students Exist
  3. 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,and the metropolitan average of housing burden for people of color is 49 percent.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,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.

Simply put, place matters. In Los Angeles County, carless households are overwhelmingly located in communities of color.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.

Next steps

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 amanda@investinginplace.org to find out more and share your ideas with us.

Sources
Metro, Quality of Life Report (2016)
National Equity atlas; national equityatlas.org.
Metro 2015 Ridership Survey, http://thesource.metro.net/2015/08/05/results-of-metros-latest-customer-survey/
Quality of life scores run along racial lines in California, Los Angeles Times 1/22/15
A Portrait of California, Measure of America: A project of the Social Science Research Council 12/9/14
Why Place Matters, PolicyLink 2007
Addressing poverty and pollution: California’s SB 535 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Review, Vien Truong.
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.
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

Completing Streets, Measure M, Transportation Finance

Don’t miss: Next week’s Complete Streets training with Metro


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This week, Investing in Place attended Metro’s 2-day Complete Streets training workshop in Huntington Park. The training included engineers and planning staff from LA Department of Transportation and the cities of Rancho Palos Verdes, Baldwin Park, and Norwalk.

We highly recommend the training for walking and biking advocates, engineers and planners implementing Vision Zero, Complete Streets, and other transportation infrastructure improvements, advocates for  individuals with disabilities, and older adult advocates. If you missed it, there’s still time to sign up for next week’s training on Tuesday February 28 and Wednesday March 1 in the South Bay.

What is a Complete Street?

Many cities and jurisdictions define it differently. But you know an incomplete street when you see one — when your life is in danger while crossing the street to get to the local park or to school, when there’s too many injuries and deaths at a single intersection in your neighborhood, or when individuals with disabilities and older adults are having a tough time walking on a sidewalk to get to the grocery store.

Metro defines a Complete Street as a comprehensive and integrated transportation network with infrastructure that allows safe and convenient travel along and across streets for all users.

Here’s another breakdown from when advocates helped to pass Metro’s Complete Streets policy:

Why Attend the Training?

If you work for or are an advocate in a city without a Complete Streets policy, you may be missing out on future funding opportunities. Moving forward, Metro requires that all cities competing in Call for Projects for capital grant funding have a Complete Streets policy adopted. We’ve been told that a majority of the 87 cities in Los Angeles County do not have a Complete Streets policy on the books. Is your city one of them?

If you need a refresher on how to move forward a Complete Streets policy or a review of modern engineering concepts for Complete Streets, this free training provides great resources and a professional team of trainers from Fehr & Peers and Here Design to guide you.

Don’t miss out on a free resource. Consider signing up for next week’s training here.

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #6: Integrating Sustainability


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This is the final post in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org.

Outcome: Metro builds an integrated, connected, and sustainable transportation system.

What success looks like:

  • Metro supports a walkable and bikeable county by implementing the Active Transportation Strategic Plan, integrating complete streets into all projects, and investing in first/last mile connectivity as part of all transit capital projects.
  • Metro integrates urban greening into all projects to capture and treat stormwater, increase tree canopy, and reduce ambient temperatures in urban areas.
  • Metro measures and reports progress toward regional sustainability goals, including SCAG’s RTP/SCS greenhouse gas reduction targets, SCAQMD’s ozone and criteria pollutant targets, and LA Sustainable City pLAn’s mode shift targets.

The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California and a primary contributor to smog in the L.A. basin. Transportation infrastructure and the movement of goods and people has a measurable impact on our environment and public health:

All of these environmental impacts have traditionally been an afterthought in transportation planning, or have been considered just the cost of doing business by decision makers. Those costs end up on the balance sheets of other agencies charged with mitigating these impacts —  whether it is the County hospital system for respiratory ailments, cities and the County for reducing water pollution, or the AQMD attempting to control ozone and particulate emissions.

Either way, taxpayers end up paying. Addressing all of these environmental issues upstream during transportation planning is more cost-effective and simply the right thing to do.

What’s Metro’s Role in Advancing Public Health and Sustainability?

Recently, Metro has increasingly embraced its role as an environmental leader by adopting many industry-leading sustainability policies, such as:

These policies show a clear evolution from Metro looking inward at its own resource use to recognizing its role as a major player in regional transportation and land use planning. Integrating these policies into the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is the logical next step. Metro should collaborate directly with other regional planning agencies to set shared sustainability goals for the transportation sector. Two suggestions:

  1. Metro should seek an arrangement with AQMD to jointly address mobile air pollution sources (a.k.a. cars and trucks), similar to the Joint Work Program with SCAG.
  2. Metro should rely on these agencies’ modeling expertise to evaluate different transportation investment scenarios to ensure that shared goals are achievable and consider any necessary changes to Metro’s plans to meet them.

The City of Los Angeles has also set ambitious goals in its Sustainable City pLAn, including reducing VMT per capita 5% by 2025 and doubling walk/bike/transit mode share to 50% by 2035. The pLAn has equally ambitious goals to promote livable neighborhoods through traffic safety and urban greening. Metro should adopt similar goals countywide and ensure the investments proposed in the LRTP will get us there through aggressive implementation of First/Last Mile, Complete Streets, and the Active Transportation Strategic Plan.

Last thoughts…

The transportation sector may be responsible for so many of Southern California’s environmental issues, but that also means it can be part of the solution. As the primary transportation planning agency for Los Angeles County, Metro has a critical role in ensuring that all of its functions from planning and construction to operations put the region on the path toward a healthy environment for the people who live here.

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #5: Putting Safety First


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This is the fifth in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org

Outcome: Metro leads on transportation safety throughout Los Angeles County.

What success looks like:

  • Metro adopts Vision Zero to reduce fatal and serious injury collisions 20% by 2020 and to zero by 2030.
  • Metro prioritizes and accelerates funding and provides technical support to local jurisdictions for Vision Zero projects and reports annual progress.

Traffic safety is a public health crisis in Los Angeles County. Traffic collisions are the third leading cause of premature death, responsible for over 500 deaths every year. Put another way, a person is killed on Los Angeles County streets and highways every 15 hours. That’s someone’s parent, someone’s child, every single day. Crashes are the #1 killer for children ages 5 to 14 and the #2 cause of death for people ages 15 to 44, behind only homicide.

Like other transportation burdens, these crashes are heavily concentrated in low-income communities of color, but the issue impacts communities all across the county. These crashes are entirely preventable through smart policy and good street design.

Towards Vision Zero

With its Vision Zero initiative, the City of Los Angeles has taken the lead on traffic safety efforts in the region — spurred in no small part due to the fact that a person walking or biking is killed on Los Angeles streets every three days. Based on successful traffic safety campaigns in Europe, Vision Zero is the simple idea that in a well-designed transportation system, no one should die just going from Point A to Point B.

Vision Zero is a collaborative approach that “brings together transportation engineers, police officers, advocates, and policymakers to work together towards creating safer streets.” Unlike prior traffic safety campaigns, Vision Zero is laser-focused on street design as the most effective way to modify behavior and improve safety. Vision Zero doesn’t mean zero crashes — it means addressing factors that make crashes deadly like vehicle speed and enhancing protections for people walking and biking.

Los Angeles County has also joined the campaign with its own Vision Zero policy and smaller cities are following their lead.

Launched in 2015, Los Angeles’ Vision Zero early work included mapping a High Injury Network (HIN) consisting of the 6% of city streets where over 65% of fatal and severe injury collisions occur. The Vision Zero Action Plan, released just last month, maps out the City’s strategy for achieving an immediate 20% reduction in traffic deaths in the next year on its way to reaching zero by 2025. The data-driven plan will focus on implementation of proven countermeasures, such as protected left turns, leading pedestrian intervals, and better bike infrastructure, in the locations where they can have the greatest impact.

What is Metro’s Role with Vision Zero?

As the primary transportation planning agency for Los Angeles County, Metro can and must play a leadership role in the region’s Vision Zero efforts. Creating a safe transportation system should be the agency’s top priority through all of its planning, funding, design, and programming decisions.

Unfortunately, some of Metro’s programs like the Congestion Management Program promote objectives that directly conflict with safety goals. Metro should conduct a top-to-bottom review of its policies and programs to incorporate traffic safety.

Metro should also support local jurisdictions with data collection and analysis, technical assistance, and targeted funding for safety improvements. In the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Metro should set clear safety goals for the county’s transportation system, prioritize the resources necessary to meet them, and report annual progress.

It is hard to overstate how ambitious this goal is, but our communities deserve it. No child should be killed on their way to school and no parent should be killed on their way home from work.

How many deaths are acceptable on our streets? Zero.

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #4: Frequent Transit is Useful Transit


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This is the fourth in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org

Outcome: Metro invests in a frequent network of bus and rail transit service.

What success looks like:

  • Metro defines a frequent network of rail, rapid bus, and high-ridership local bus service with all-day 15-minute headways, or better, that serves at least 70% of the county’s population, and at least 85% of people living in Equity Opportunity Zones.
  • Metro regularly reports on-time performance and state of good repair for the frequent network.

Despite significant investment in new transit and overwhelming public support for even more, Metro is in a decade-long ridership slump — down nearly 6% in just the last year — driven by declining bus ridership.

It’s tough to point to one singular reason for declining ridership. Some factors fluctuate month-to-month and some are decade-long trends: relatively low gas prices, bus service cuts, buses stuck in traffic without dedicated lanes, ease and affordability of transportation network companies (i.e. Lyft, Juno, Uber), drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, the growth of job centers not served by high-quality transit, displacement of low-income transit riders from transit-accessible neighborhoods, and more.

The common thread is that alternatives to transit are becoming more accessible and sometimes more affordable. But, to be frank, transit service has not kept pace with customer demands for reliability and usefulness. The Expo Line is an exception to this trend. For instance, Metro has consistently invested in frequent, all-day service that has made the line useful and reliable for many first-time transit riders. The new clean rail cars also helped make a good first impression. But, not all buses and train lines have received the same attention.

How can Metro increase ridership?

Many aspects of our urban environment are out of Metro’s control. While Metro doesn’t directly control land use or parking policy, it can influence local jurisdictions who do. Metro’s transportation investments have significant effects on the region’s land use policy — intentional or not. Metro may not be able to convince a resident who can now legally drive to go back to spending 2-3 hours per day on the bus, but it can focus on making its service — particularly its bus service — more useful and reliable, so that it is more competitive for more trips.

Years of bus ridership declines means that Metro can no longer afford to take so-called “transit-dependent” riders for granted. Instead, Metro should view low-income riders as its core customer base — one that is increasingly choosing other options — and focus attention on improvements that will retain and grow its customer base.

A more useful and reliable bus network will help stem ridership declines among people who are abandoning the system as soon as they can afford to while likely attracting and keeping new riders more effectively than frills like free wifi.

What does a reliable Metro system look like? More frequent buses.

What do we mean by useful and reliable? In an era where customers expect on-demand mobility, this means all-day frequent service, seven days a week, on a network with strong connections.

Frequent service is useful service. It is the difference between scheduling your life around transit and having transit available when you need it. In a grid network like L.A.’s, frequent transit is the difference between smooth connections that open up access to more destinations and a frustrating, uncomfortable, or even dangerous wait on a street corner that is neither your origin nor your destination. Frequent service is also a hedge on reliability — if a bus doesn’t come on time, there will be another one not too far behind it. Frequent service that runs into the evening means that workers with nontraditional commutes, or students coming home from night classes, or people running errands, can still rely on transit being there when they need it.

This is not a new idea for Metro. In fact, Metro’s Rapid network was an innovative combination of new technology and marketing built on the foundation of a frequent grid of high-quality service. But the last recession caused a shortfall in Metro’s operations budget and painful service cuts that have yet to be restored. Many Rapids are now scheduled at 20+ minute headways outside of peak hours, which when compounded with variable traffic conditions and bus reliability problems can result in gaps of 30-40 minutes or longer along the route. That leaves bus riders stranded and drives them to look for other ways to get around.

Last thoughts…

Successes like the Expo Line demonstrate that there is still plenty of demand for transit, but only for transit that is useful and reliable. Metro should double down on the Metro Rapid model by investing in all-day, frequent service on corridors with high ridership potential. Those routes with particular reliability problems due to traffic congestion should be prioritized for bus lanes and other infrastructure improvements to improve on-time performance.

In addition to the Rapid network, Metro should look at upgrades to high-ridership local lines. Metro already started identifying these high-potential corridors in a 2015 study. In the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) update, Metro should identify a high-quality, frequent bus network with minimum performance criteria and commit to the level of funding necessary to operate it all day and into the evening. This should be the highest priority for new operations funding from Measure M.

Networks and frequency are the fundamentals for a successful transit system. Why does this matter for a more accessible and equitable region? Because, in the words of former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa, buses represent democracy in action: “An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.” A useful and reliable transit system is one that recognizes that all people deserve mobility.

Just Growth, Measure M, Resources

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #3: Supporting Affordable and Diverse Neighborhoods


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This is the third in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org

Outcome: Metro supports economically stable and culturally diverse neighborhoods by promoting integrated transportation and land-use policy.

What success looks like:

  • Metro tracks housing affordability near transit projects and works with local jurisdictions to adopt policies ensuring that the median family can afford the median cost of housing.
  • Metro supports value-capture near transit to invest in affordable housing and related infrastructure.
  • Metro adopts anti-displacement policies to protect long-term residents and business-owners from involuntary relocation.

Transportation policy has a direct effect on land-use — with targeted and effective transportation investments, we can strengthen our neighborhoods with better housing, better access to jobs, and safe and walkable communities for all. Look at any major city… a city’s growth largely depends on having effective and reliable transportation hubs, be they rail depots, highway systems, bikeway networks, or in some cases, ports.

Some context: in the past, real estate developers built privately funded trolley networks to increase the connection to suburban housing tracts (along some of the same rights-of-way where Metro is now building its new lines). Federally-subsidized freeway construction further accelerated suburban sprawl while bulldozing urban neighborhoods and displacing many of their inhabitants. In the current era, transit access is one of several factors driving up urban land values.

The Los Angeles Housing Crisis

The Los Angeles region has not built enough housing in the past several decades to accommodate its growing population, leading to higher home prices and rents throughout Southern California.* At the same time, demand for urban living has concentrated development activity in locations with good transit access and less organized anti-growth constituencies.**

The combination of all these factors — plus a dose of real estate speculation and a sophisticated gentrification machine*** — have led to dramatic rent increases in previously affordable neighborhoods that are predominantly displacing low-income residents of color.

Metro’s Role Supporting Our Neighborhoods

While improving transit is just one factor in the housing crisis affecting low-income communities of color, Metro is uniquely situated to mitigate these issues.

At the regional level, Metro can:

  • Promote housing affordability by supporting policies that will increase new housing, particularly near transit.
  • Support efforts to link transportation and other funding to local jurisdictions’ willingness to accommodate their share of population growth.
  • Integrate local land use policies into its own prioritization of transportation improvements.

Metro can also act locally to promote housing affordability near its projects and work with local jurisdictions to protect longtime residents against displacement. As a landowner, Metro has already increased its commitment to affordable housing through its joint development program. Metro can build on its efforts to support small businesses during construction and grow its revolving loan fund for affordable housing projects. Metro can also support new Enhanced Infrastructure Finance Districts in order to capture the value created by its projects and direct this new revenue into community needs like affordable housing.

The other role that Metro can play is to help understand the issue through better data collection and reporting. Not too many stakeholders are systematically tracking housing affordability and displacement near transit, so in many respects, policymakers are not as well-informed to the nature and scale of the housing-transportation problem. We encourage Metro to set clear objectives for housing affordability near transit in the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) update and, more importantly, actually measure what is happening in communities.

Last Thoughts

Housing policy is extraordinarily complex with a constantly changing toolbox, and we don’t want to pretend that there are easy answers.

Many of our partners have worked on different facets of this issue for decades. We look forward to working with them to build on what’s working and to innovate where policies have fallen short. Metro has extraordinary reach and resources that — in partnership with local jurisdictions — can be leveraged toward solving the housing crisis.

Sources

*Curbed Los Angeles. March 18, 2015. How Much Does Los Angeles Have to Build to Get Out of its Housing Crisis? http://la.curbed.com/2015/3/18/9979526/housing-crisis-los-angeles-construction

** Curbed Los Angeles. May 3, 2016. Millennials Push LA Population Over 4 Million For the First Time Ever. http://la.curbed.com/2016/5/3/11584732/los-angeles-population-millennials

*** York and Fig. http://yorkandfig.com/#post-228

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #2: Engaging the Community as a Partner


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This is the second in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org

Outcome: Metro engages the community as a partner in developing the transportation system.

What success looks like:

  • Metro incorporates early and continuous stakeholder engagement in all major decisions, with demonstrated responsiveness to input.
  • Metro establishes a bench of qualified community-based organizations to expand the agency’s capacity for authentic engagement.

Metro’s decisions have far-reaching consequences for communities and these decisions aren’t always made on a level playing field. Transportation policy is technical and complex, so how decisions get made is often not transparent to the people affected by those decisions. With such a complicated subject matter, both language and education levels can pose barriers to participation for some stakeholders, not to mention the time commitment to attend meetings and engage decision makers.

How can Metro Better Engage our Communities?

Given the challenges inherent in community engagement, several of Metro’s recent efforts should be commended as great examples of proactive engagement yielding better decisions. Joint Development in Boyle Heights: After a community outcry, Metro scrapped their plan and went back to the drawing board to redo development standards for Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights. These discussions delved into complicated land use issues in an accessible way, allowing community priorities for the sites to emerge and be incorporated into new development standards.

Measure M: Developing the expenditure plan was an extensive process that took into account stakeholder feedback from all across the county. The combination of polling, public workshops, and targeted outreach meant that the input gathered was both broad and deep — getting a general sense of public sentiment while hearing directly from key constituencies. We particularly appreciated the public workshops held in each subregion to gather input from community members.

Policy Advisory Council: Measure M implementation will require carefully balancing competing priorities among different stakeholder groups. While the Policy Advisory Council hasn’t been formed yet, its structure is promising for its breadth and depth to allow different stakeholder groups to provide direct input on upcoming decisions.

Key Thoughts

These examples have a few common themes: identifying different constituencies with a stake in a decision; bringing those stakeholders into the decision-making process early; engaging them throughout; and clearly documenting how their input was incorporated into the final decision. We seek to make this approach the norm for major decisions at Metro. We also want to build capacity among community-based organizations to engage in transportation decisions by building more formal partnerships with Metro. Community-based organizations know their communities and are invested in their success.

However, these organizations are generally under-resourced and may not have either the capacity or technical knowledge to engage on transportation decisions without greater support. We believe Metro should identify organizations with strong community ties and compensate them for their involvement in helping Metro to engage community members.

Further Reading