Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

Agenda for #JustGrowth: Healthy, Sustainable, and Equitable Mobility


If you live in Los Angeles County, you’ve probably heard about — or have experienced — some of the most challenging issues with mobility we need to solve in Los Angeles County.

Yes, traffic and congestion are important issues — but, for some of our most vulnerable neighbors and families, the issues with transportation are so intertwined with housing, jobs, school and household income that we can’t afford to ignore them any longer.

Some of these crucial issues preventing our region from growing stronger are:

  1. Our housing crisis is worsening (long-time families are being displaced and living further away from job centers),
  2. The costs that the average family is spending on housing and transportation is going up (many have to take on multiple jobs in order to survive),
  3. Youth who are poor in Los Angeles County (areas that are mostly low-income communities and communities of color) face the worst odds getting out of poverty, and
  4. The access to quality careers near major transit, especially for our most vulnerable residents, is looking bleak (but getting better with more awareness on connecting people experiencing homelessness and our veterans to entry-level jobs).

Leading With a Just Growth Agenda

To help build a stronger region and economy, we are developing a draft #JustGrowth advocacy agenda with six key policy outcomes. We’re using guidance from our Transportation Equity Technical Work Group, the policymakers who participated in our Just Growth Forum in November 2016, and the elected officials and policymakers who shared their thoughts at last week’s breakfastBut, we want feedback from anyone in Los Angeles County.

These six outcomes will guide our work on the 2017 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Measure M guidelines, Metro Strategic Plan, and other upcoming policy opportunities. In each of these opportunities, we seek to set measurable objectives and align public investment directly to achieving those goals:

  1. Metro promotes access to opportunity by concentrating and prioritizing investments in communities with the greatest need.
  2. Metro engages the community as a partner in developing the transportation system.
  3. Metro supports economically stable and culturally diverse neighborhoods by promoting integrated transportation and land use policy.
  4. Metro invests in a frequent network of bus and rail transit service.
  5. Metro leads on transportation safety throughout Los Angeles County.
  6. Metro builds an integrated, connected, and sustainable transportation system.

Next Steps

Throughout February, we’ll highlight each draft outcome in a blog post. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques. Please email us any thoughts, suggestions, and questions: jessica@investinginplace.org.

Also, we hope our Transportation Policy Advocacy Resource Manual can be of use to you, your advocacy, and your organization.

To dive deeper into how we plan to advocate for #JustGrowth, please feel free to register for our first work group meeting next week on Thursday, February 16 2:30-4PM.

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #6: Integrating Sustainability


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


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


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


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


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

Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #1: Prioritizing Communities with Greatest Need


Note: This is the first 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 promotes access to opportunity by concentrating and prioritizing investments in communities with the greatest need.

What success looks like:

  • Metro adopts a clear definition of high-need communities (“Equity Opportunity Zones”) that addresses historical factors of disinvestment — like race, income, and vehicle ownership — and measures both investments and outcomes in these communities.

Some communities have greater barriers to opportunity than others. Whether you look at life expectancy, educational achievement, employment, or any other socioeconomic metric, the fact is that children growing up in economically challenged neighborhoods like Wilmington don’t have access to the same opportunities as children in the Palos Verdes — even if they are a few miles adjacent.

Transportation Can Bridge Opportunity Gaps

Transportation isn’t the only factor in these disparities, but it can play a big role in both creating opportunities in underserved communities and connecting people in those communities to opportunities elsewhere. For example, we know one can access more jobs with a car versus the bus.* But, our poorest families and neighbors are more likely to depend on public transportation — which can often take hours — to get around. And, low-income families who do have a vehicle, spend significantly more of the share of their income on transportation costs compared to richer households.

The lack of public investment in transportation infrastructure in some communities has compounded social and economic disparities. In other cases, the wrong kind of investment has created or exacerbated environmental injustices by running freeways through communities of color or locating rail yards next to neighborhoods.

Public agencies have a moral and economic imperative to address these disparities through intentional investment strategies. We believe that Metro should define high-need communities based on the most significant historical factors of disinvestment — race, income, and vehicle ownership — and concentrate new investment in these areas. We call them Equity Opportunity Zones.

Advocating for Equity Opportunity Zones

To make sure these investments are effective, Metro should track both the amount of funding going to Equity Opportunity Zones and the outcomes that this investment achieves.

When investments are targeted towards communities with the fewest resources, the region will grow stronger overall. When individuals and entire neighborhoods aren’t connected to civic, social, and economic opportunities, the region can’t benefit from their talents. We all become worse off.**

Race Matters

We know that talking about disparities—particularly when it comes to race—will make some people uncomfortable. But, the data is clear that race matters and income matters for which children growing up in Los Angeles County today will have greater access to opportunities. With all that is going on right now, we owe it to our children to be honest about the role these factors have had in determining outcomes in communities and to do everything in our power to address them.

Further Reading:

Sources:

* The Leadership Conference Education Fund. 2011. Getting to Work: Transportation Policy and Access to Job Opportunities. http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/docs/transportation/getting-to-work-july20.pdf

** Benner, Chris and Pastor, Manuel. 2012. Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions. http://justgrowth.org/

Just Growth, Public Participation, Social Equity

Los Angeles street vendors move forward towards legalization


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Note: Rudy Espinoza, Executive Director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN) authored this blog. Rudy is also Chair of the Investing in Place Advisory Board. Header image taken by Rudy Espinoza.

This past week, the City Council voted to support immigrants and entrepreneurs in Los Angeles.

After years of advocacy, and over 3 years of a motion making its way through Council committees, the City Council heard a general framework and voted in favor of street vendors with two important motions.

The first motion instructs the City Attorney to work expeditiously to decriminalize street vending, especially in light of threats from the White House to deport undocumented immigrants who commit crimes.

The second motion instructs the City Attorney to begin drafting an ordinance that will establish a legal permit system for street vending in Los Angeles. You can follow the City Clerk file on this issue here.

We expect the decriminalization aspect of this work to happen quickly (hopefully in the next couple of weeks), while the development of the permit system will occur over the next few months. Our hope is that a new permit system will be in place by 2018.

This progress is a testament to the power of coalitions working together. I’m so appreciative of the support of our allies and we’re grateful for the partners that we’ve worked alongside with for years (shout out to the East LA Community Corporation, Public Counsel, the LA Food Policy Counsel and the entire LA Street Vendor Campaign!)

For us, a citywide permit system will not only support the immigrants in our city, but it will facilitate more entrepreneurism, create jobs, and make our streets safer.

Over the next few months, we’ll be continuing our advocacy to ensure that the policy developed takes into account the experiences of street vendors, brick-and-mortar businesses, and pedestrians on the street. We have some concerns which include an idea to require vendors to get permission from an adjacent brick-and-mortar business that could be exploitative, and an arbitrary cap on vendors per block that doesn’t take into account the diversity of our built environment.

We have an amazing opportunity to develop a street vendor program that is the best in the country. Los Angeles leads on many issues; it should also lead by developing a system that embraces its entrepreneurs, helps them get out of poverty, and invites them to not only contribute to our economy but also make our streets vibrant for the benefit of everyone.

Just Growth, Measure M, Public Participation

Recap of Yesterday’s Measure M Advisory Council Information Meeting


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Yesterday, Metro led an informational meeting on Measure M’s Advisory Council, a group responsible for reviewing the draft Measure M guidelines and providing policy recommendations and input directly to the Metro Board of Directors. The discussion was led by Therese McMillan, Chief Planning Officer at Metro, and Vivian Rescalvo, Director of Countywide Planning at Metro.

We were joined by many interested groups including: AARP California, First 5 LA, LA THRIVES, Move LA, Climate Resolve, SCOPE, Enterprise Community Partners, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, SAJE, LA County Bicycle Coalition, American Heart Association of Greater LA, and the Antelope Valley Business Chamber. A group similar to the one we convened back in November 2016 for our first #JustGrowth forum.

invest-2016-137

The details…

For those interested in joining the council, here’s some details:

  • The group will include 27 stakeholders including consumers, providers, and jurisdictions. See below.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-12-31-12-pm

  • Responsibilities: “high-level policy input”; advise the Measure M Guidelines; advise Metro Board on the next Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). Members will be asked to “broadly disseminate information to, and solicit input from, their represented constituencies,” if they represent a coalition of interests. For example, a member from the “Students” group would have to communicate with the broad constituency of students who would be impacted or benefit from Measure M.
  • Key point here: The council will not vote on policies or positions nor will they advocate for a single-issue agenda.
  • Timeline moving forward: Nominations will be due February 14, 2017 by submitting a nomination form (see page 11). The Advisory Council will be finalized by Metro in March.

Now, Metro, is laying the foundation for a forthright implementation of Measure M through the Measure M Policy Advisory Council.

The big question from us is: with so much interest from various community organizations for limited seats, how can we ensure that diverse community members (especially parents and residents who are not traditionally engaged in transportation decision-making) are integral in providing feedback and input through the entire Measure M and LRTP process?

We’ll be watching and keeping you all updated. To access the materials from this meeting, click here.

Heads up! To sign up for our #JustGrowth work group meeting on February 16, you can sign up here. Seating is limited, please RSVP today.

transportation equity

Making Headway with Bus Rapid Transit in Los Angeles County


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Note: This blog was guest written by Jordan Fraade, a second-year master’s student in UCLA’s Urban Planning program. Jordan is completing his Applied Planning Research Project in coordination with Investing in Place.

Riding the bus in Los Angeles can be a mixed experience — there are some benefits but also a lot of drawbacks. In a city where only about 10 percent of people take public transit to work, according to U.S. Census estimates from 2015,* a certain sense of camaraderie arises among those who do.

Being an L.A. bus rider can bring many benefits, especially the stress relief of not having to drive yourself, and the time savings of not having to look for parking. But it’s also true that buses come less often than they should, get less funding than they should, and still end up sitting in the same traffic as everyone else.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-3-00-50-pm
Percent of late trains from 2010-2015. Source: KPCC, 2016

 

 

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-3-00-57-pm
Percent of late buses from 2010-2015. Source: KPCC, 2016.

The charts above were created by Aaron Mendelson of KPCC,  http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/05/12/60250/data-metro-s-buses-and-trains-having-trouble-stick/

Our buses don’t work for everyone…

Every weekday across Los Angeles County, over 1 million bus rides are taken. As a bus rider myself, I ask: How can we make our daily hustle better?

I’m a master’s student in my final year of the Urban Planning program at UCLA, and this is the question that’s guiding my Applied Planning Research Project with Investing in Place. (The APRP is a full-year project required to graduate — think of a senior thesis, but doing work on a real planning project with a local client.) I moved across the country to Los Angeles for graduate school because I was so excited by the huge changes happening in L.A.’s urban-planning scene, and the city’s ongoing buildout of new public transit infrastructure.

But as I’ve been here, I’ve realized that many of the city’s communities and transit riders aren’t experiencing these improvements firsthand. For example:

 

  • Between 70-75% of all Metro passengers are bus riders, the highest bus mode share of any major U.S. transit system.
  • Bus and rail passengers both have median incomes below the L.A. County average, but Metro estimates that bus riders’ incomes are the lowest, at about $15,000 per year.
  • On-time performance for buses is improving, but it’s still below rail — and while real-time bus arrival information can help riders save hours, a 2015 ridership survey conducted by Metro estimates that less than half of bus riders own a smartphone.**

 

What’s a solution?

Many urban planners and experts point to Bus Rapid Transit — a kind of express bus service that runs in its own protected lane, has sheltered, comfortable stops, and runs every few minutes.

Los Angeles is a city where transit construction is very much a matter of social equity: Will we build transit in the hopes of bringing wealthier people out of their cars, or will we provide better transit service to communities that already rely on buses as a primary option?

BRT could be a way to tip the balance back toward communities that already depend on transit. Planners love it because it’s cost-effective, and it’s already been a proven success in cities around the world, especially those that are sprawling, relatively low-density, and have long, wide streets. (Sound familiar?)

In Mexico City, where I spent this past summer working for an NGO that promotes sustainable mobility, I became a frequent and devoted rider of Metrobús, the 6-line BRT system that the city has been expanding since 2005. The stations are clean, the buses are fast, and they come every 1-2 minutes — and as a result, the network carries about a million riders a day. By the end of the summer I found myself asking why L.A. didn’t have something similar.

Next Steps

Over the next few months, I will be working with Investing in Place to figure out how we can work together to push Los Angeles into a future when bus riders can count on the same high-quality, frequent service that rail riders receive on a regular basis. I’ll be talking to transit professionals about why BRT hasn’t made more headway in Los Angeles, and I’ll be reaching out to many of you who have partnered with and supported Investing in Place to get your thoughts as well.

I’m excited to connect with community leaders, neighborhood stakeholders, and transit riders to find out what you think better bus transit could do for the quality of your community. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at jordanfraade@g.ucla.edu. And I look forward to meeting many of you in the weeks ahead.

Sources

*Commute Data: American Community Survey 2015 5-yr estimates. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_15_5YR_S0801&prodType=table

**Metro 2015 ridership survey: http://thesource.metro.net/2015/08/05/results-of-metros-latest-customer-survey/