LA Streetsblog Draft CD2 Questionnaire: Mary Benson

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Last week we featured a video of Mary Benson talking about bicycle safety and the nobility of people who "stand up to the car."  I remember watching the video and thinking, "that’s all well and good, but how about some details."

Today, Benson gives us details by answering our CD2 Questionnaire and honestly, her answers are pretty impressive and show a deep understanding of transportation issues.  Her answers incorporate sharrows, parking reform, and a lot of the issues that we talk about here at Streetsblog.

But as a quick aside, Stephen Box is sure getting a lot of attention from CD 2 Candidates this election.  Maybe we should work on having an activist with a video camera follow this model for every council race as they come up.

Benson is the fifth candidate to answer our questionnaire joining David "Zuma Dogg" Saltzburg, Frank Sheftel, Tamar Galatzan and Paul Krekorian.

1) When you commute to work, how do you do it?  What percentage of the trips that you take don’t involve an automobile?

Most of the business these days is done thru telecommute.   I log more
milage to City Hall than any other activity.  Something I’ve noticed,
there’s no shortage of parking and a derth of bikes in the underground
parking complex that is City Hall.

As I navigate up from the bowels under city hall, I notice that the
bullitin boards are plastered with advertisements for van poolers to
areas like Long Beach and Santa Clarita.  I wonder how many of our own
City Employees don’t live in LA?

2) Over the past year, a number of surface streets in the valley have
had their speed limits raised.  Are these increases a result of the
natural order, or an interest that needs to be addressed?  What, if
anything can be done to reverse these changes?

Why does the City has pay millions in consulting fees to promote a more
"walkable" LA- then turn around and raise speed limits, making streets
even more dangerous? 
It’s ironic that another State law has been interpreted in a manner that hurts.

I’d start by getting parked cars off the streets where we have
"sharrows".  That means reversing  new development projects that have
inadaquate parking. 

3) The city is currently studying leasing the rights to its parking
meters and certain parking garages for a large cash payment up front. 
Do you support this kind of financing ideas, and if so what kind of
conditions should be part of any agreement with a private firm?

No, I see it as a short term solution, with long term disaster
results.  P3s (Public Private Partnerships) should be about companies
and volunteers CREATING public assets.  LA is following the Chicago
model of taking public assets and discounting their long term revenues
for up front cash.  I like the Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Burbank
model.  They provide low cost  or free parking at multiple story
complexes that get cars off the streets. People can park. Then
they live,work and recreate without their car.  The City must require 
Private Operators deal with a ticket system to prevent "skimming" from
an all cash operation and keep some control.

4) What can the City Council do to reduce and prevent fatal crashes involving pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable users?

My vision is to create an actual separation. Integrate a stormwater
infiltration "gutter"  between the car lane and the bike lane in areas
of CD#2 like Glenoaks Blvd.  The City has passed up Millions of
dollars because of its top heavy system for grants. Here’s where P3s
could partner and help pay for projects that provide multiple
benefit improvements.    Open up more County flood control  right of
ways.  These aren’t new ideas, theyv’e been proposed since the ’70s. 
There’s just never any ACTION.  The City spends millions of dollars
hiring consultants, planning and promoting, but little gets implemented.

5) The former Council Woman for CD2, Wendy Greuel, chaired the
Transportation Committee.  Do you want to be part of the Transportation
Committee?

I sat in on Transportation Committee meetings last year. I went there
trying to convince Wendy Greuel to incorporate trails and greenways
into the Transportation element, because the Federal Money comes from
the Federal Highway
 Administration.  This would help solve the City’s park/people ratio as
well.  In a 20 ft wide greenway, an acre of parkland is created for
every 264 linear feet.

I got nowhere.  I did learn that our bicycle plan had been farmed out
to a company in Oregon who had been paid over $400,000 and the City had
nothing to show for it.

6) One of the ways that a City Council Member can effect change for
non-motorized users is by appointing informed activists to the city’s
Bicycle Advisory Committee and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

It seems activists are forced into an almost adversarial role with the
City and their hired consultants.  Why aren’t these departments saving
millions by cutting out the "middle man" consultant and taking their
work direct to to constituents.  I pushed  to add the Equine Advisory
Committee to that mix because we also need trails for joggers, dgo
walkers and hikers. 

Are you familiar with community activists who could best serve an appointed position on these committees?

Stephen Box is an activist who supports me.   The City could learn a
lot by working with activists instead of against them.  The City could
implement projects  

7) If you could change one thing about transportation in Los Angeles with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

Create enough off street parking so we could turn the "parking lanes" into concrete bikeways.

  • LAofAnaheim

    ” They provide low cost or free parking at multiple story complexes that get cars off the streets. People can park. Then they live,work and recreate without their car.” – she sounds delusional. Free parking gets cars off the streets? And she doesn’t mention any use of transit to City Hall which is in the center of the City and has easy access from multiple commuter buses and/or rail lines. She notes the excessive parking available at City Hall? New developments with inadequate parking?

    Geez….this lady doesn’t know much about urban development. She sounds very surburban in nature, with her need for more parking and more free parking.

  • Derek

    “Create enough off street parking so we could turn the “parking lanes” into concrete bikeways.”

    There’s no such thing as insufficient off-street parking. There’s only mismanaged parking.

  • Wad

    Free parking gets cars off the streets?

    To put it in context, free or low-cost parking will still bring cars to the destination, but drivers will hold their space for a longer time and walk around while they are in the city. They won’t have to get in their cars when they leave a location to go to another one.

    Santa Monica has several low-cost parking garages that are run by the city. Santa Monica is also fortunate to have a relatively compact retail district situated near the water, so once people get out of their cars, they are bound to leave them there.

    The other side benefit of this arrangement is that it takes the burden off the private businesses to provide their own lots, so less space is given over to babysit cars.

    Santa Monica, Pasadena and San Luis Obispo use this model successfully.

  • There’s a kernel of a good idea here: off-street parking can contribute to walkable, bikeable neighborhoods… but I see no reason for that off-street parking to be free (it’s not free in Santa Monica, nor, I suspect in Burbank or Beverly Hills.)

    Benson, to her credit does say “free or low-cost” parking… but I’d say, in the spirit of Don Shoup, it would make much more sense to charge what the market will bear for that parking.

  • Spokker

    Street parking can create a barrier between traffic and the sidewalk, reducing the perceived threat of cars to people who are walking. Of course, this can be accomplished with other methods.

    But if it comes to a decision between on-street parking or not, with no other alternatives, I would embrace on street parking.

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