“30 in 10,” Street Repair, Parking Privatization: The State of the City
In recent years, there has been little attention paid to transportation in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's annual "State of the City" address given with the budget. In 2008, the speech focused mostly on gangs and safety issues. I reported at the time that there was "precious little" on transportation. Last year was worse. I found one paragraph on transportation.
This year, finding solutions to the city's never-ending transportation crisis was a major part of the Mayor's speech. As you might expect, Measure R and "30 in 10" were key components of the yearly status report; but it wasn't the only issue covered. Astute readers will even notice the mayor talking about the importance of supporting our street backbone. Hmmm.
But the largest transportation topic covered was split between Measure R and "30 in 10."
Again, in November of 2008, the voters showed their willingness to invest in the future of their city. They passed Measure R with 68% support in the County of Los Angeles over two-thirds countywide voted to raise the sales tax by half a penny.
In doing so they secured $40 billion in revenue for new bus and rail lines, better streets, and pedestrian and bicycle improvements.
Bicycle and pedestrian projects? To his credit, Villaraigosa has held on his promise to advocates in 2008. 5% of the local return funds from Measure R in next year's budget, $2.6 million per category, are set aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects. More on the mayor's budget tomorrow.
Now, Angelenos’ willingness to invest has caught the attention of our national leaders. We have been able to make the strong case that the federal government should partner with Los Angeles to accelerate our historic transportation investment. Instead of completing twelve major transit projects in thirty years, Washington should help us do it in ten.
We are calling this the “30/10 Initiative.” By combining our investment with federal support we could generate 166,000 construction jobs; 2,800 permanent jobs over the next decade; increase transit boardings by 77 million per year; save 10.3 million gallons of gas; and keep 570,000 lbs of pollution out of the air.
Doing this will make Los Angeles more sustainable and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Measure R will double our transit system here in Los Angeles and “30/10” would make us a national model showing how locally we can drive transformative investments in the future of cities and our great nation.
This is a good sign that the Mayor is ready to fight for a "transit only" "30 in 10." He takes the argument past Antonovich's one for eonomic development and focuses on the environmental and economic reasons for accelerating transit projects first.
Later in the speech, after discussing the need to make deep cuts, Villaraigosa then goes into area he won't cut. These include:
This budget funds the backbone of our transportation infrastructure: our street surfaces and street signals. By leveraging Federal Stimulus dollars we will budget 735 miles of street resurfacing. This keeps us on pace with the last two years.
Obviously, the Mayor isn't talking about the Backbone Bikeway Network, but if this signals a re-commitment to repaving large arterial road instead of less-traveled local roads, it's pretty much saying the same thing.
Of course, there's a third component to the transportation infrastructure in L.A. Transit, and streets and parking. But when a city official in the land of Shoup is talking parking, it's not about reform but about leases or privatization.
This September, we will aim to close leases on a set of our city-owned parking garages. And working with the City Council we've already begun exploring the possibilities of partnerships at the Los Angeles Zoo, the Convention Center our municipal golf courses and the City’s parking meters. All represent opportunities for the City of Los Angeles to capitalize on the strengths of the private sector while delivering a better quality of service for the people of Los Angeles.
This is a sort of "good news, bad news" part of the speech. The good news is that the city is holding to its word not to rush ahead with privatization of parking meters, which could cripple the city both fiscally and from a transportation reform perspective for years to come if it weren't done correctly. The bad news is that the city does seem to be rushing towards leasing out its garages in the next six months. The quicker the process, the less change its going to be handled in a public way and that the city will maximize its deal. Of course, there is no talk of the city using any of those revenues for anything besides closing the gap left in the general fund.
Considering that we'll have to wait to make a final judgment on the parking privatization plan until it's actually released; the "state of the city" for transportation reform is stronger than it was a year ago. Measure R, increased funding for bike-ped, "30 in 10," and investing in the backbone of our transportation system are all concepts and projects that have been lacking from recent "state of" addresses. Maybe yesterday was a sign that, finally, things are moving in the right direction for transportation in Los Angeles.