10% Set Aside Passes, LADOT Makes the Case That It Needs Reform

After a lengthy debate over what would be the best way to insure that an appropriate amount of Measure R Local Return funds are spent on bicycle and pedestrian projects; the City Council ultimately voted, by an 11-3 vote, to support a 10% set-aside for "people powered transportation" from the city’s Measure R funds for the 2011 fiscal year.  After that, they’ll evaluate whether the city was able to spend those funds on good projects.  I can’t say enough about all the people that worked hard to secure these funds, so let’s hope that future Council’s don’t tread over the work that’s been done the nearly two years since LA Walks and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition petitioned the Metro Board for a set-aside in Measure R.

But at the same time the Council debated, a sideshow developed in the witness chairs as LADOT and the Chief Legislative Analyst’s office were unable to give a clear answer as to whether or not the city could spend $3.2 million on bicycle and pedestrian projects.  Doubly confusing because the Mayor’s FY2011 Budget puts that number at $5.35 million because some of the funds for the 2011 Budget were collected in the current fiscal year, the tax started in August, but wasn’t spent  If you don’t want to scroll through the proposed budget, here’s what’s being proposed:

4_28_10_measure_R.jpg

 Regardless of whether the number is the $3.2 million that will be collected in FY 2011 or the $5.3 million that will be collected in 2010 and 2011; the LADOT seemed determined to help their critics who claimed the Department wouldn’t be able to spend the funds in the next fifteen months.  Streetsblog gave a hard time to those advocating for language that would allow the LADOT to spend "up to 10%" of Measure R Local Return Funds on bicycle and pedestrian projects, which was the opposite of the intent for the set-aside; but when you have a Department that is basically arguing against giving them these funds, what else are the Council Members supposed to think?

Speaking for the LADOT was Mike Uyeno, who was joined by Maria Souza-Rountree from the Chief Legislative Analyst Office.  Time and again, Council Members asked if the LADOT would be able to spend Measure R Local Return funds that were set-aside.  Time and again, Uyeno gave an answer somewhere between "no" and "I don’t know."  For example:

Councilman Paul Koretz asked:

Is there any chance at all that we’ll be unable to spend the 10% on bike
and pedestrian needs.

Uyeno answered

I’m not sure. It depends what staffing becomes available. Not sure what ped. Projects are out there in the
department. There’s just a lot of
open ends in this anymore.

Image removed

This is the perfect example of the difference between a Department with vision, passion, and leadership and the LADOT.  While Rita Robinson wishes for magic, perhaps a spinal transfusion would be better to fix what ails this hapless department.  Without doing any research, but with a dedication to change, you could give this as an answer:

There are a lot of great projects in the upcoming Bike Plan that will be passed in 2011.  On the off chance that we can’t come up with enough big projects to fill those funds, the city will use any remaining funds to make certain that the curb cuts along major corridors are ADA compliant.  We have a backlog of intersections that are unpassable to our most dangerous to our most vulnerable for pedestrians, and just because they are "grandfathered" in doesn’t mean they are a major safety problem.

Or you could mention matching funds for "Safe Routes to Schools" grants.  Or you could discuss better signage for bike paths.  Or you could say "we’ll fund the bike corral and put 10,000 new bike racks on the streets."  There are literally thousands of ways to spend a couple of million dollars in this city, and to not be able to give a firm yes just show how far removed from the streets the LADOT really is. 

So congratulations and thanks to the City Council for finally dedicating some city funds for bicycling and transit, and jeers to the LADOT for, inentionally or not, undermining that effort.

40 thoughts on 10% Set Aside Passes, LADOT Makes the Case That It Needs Reform

  1. It’s quite dismaying to hear an agency seem so ambivalent about doing its job. Maybe more to the point, it’s sad to hear that LADOT doesn’t have a backlog of $100M worth of bike/ped projects just waiting to get done.

    I mean, did they really think they would just never get any money for bike/ped, so why bother making any plans for it?

  2. Woo hoo!

    Here’s a shopping list:
    Sharrow / bike lane / more-visible crosswalk paint (or some of those crosswalks with lights embedded in the street!)
    Bike racks
    New street signs for lower speed limits
    Sidewalk concrete
    Asphalt for those neglected right lanes
    Street trees
    etc.

    Now maybe the city’ll get serious about density and mixing land uses so there’s actually something in walking/biking distance!!!

  3. I’m sure that bike plan from the 70’s has a few unfinished projects.

    Damien- thx for staying on the ladot and pointing out their seperation from the actual streets. It’d be funny if it wasn’t tragic. Literally.

  4. John Fisher, Michael Uyeno (stepping in for Haripal Vir, now retired) – whomever the LADOT chooses to send, they have the same message, “Uhh, no.”

    The bike plan they submitted (secret draft plans notwithstanding) didn’t even have a phased capital improvement plan. That is, there was no schedule for the planned bike amenities to be funded and built.

    In case you’re wondering how much money the city gets for bicycle and pedestrian projects, here is my rough approximation of what the city starts with each fiscal year that can legally go to bike and ped. projects:

    Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Fund – $6.7 million
    Traffic Safety Fund – $17 million (traffic safety improvements and maintenance only)
    Proposition C Anti-Gridlock Transit Improvement Fund – unallocated balance of $265,000 (spent $730,000 on bikes in 09-10; fund is $69 million total)
    Local Transportation Fund – $7.75 million (for bike and ped projects only)

    Not counting Measure R, and we’re looking at a budget well over $10 million. Granted, a lot of this money is going straight to various city departments for staff and other expenses. However, there is a few million we can grab and add to this Measure R money – and that funding can do a lot, a whole heck of a lot.

    We don’t need more bikeways staff. We already have rooms full of dedicated, intelligent, engineers to set to the task. We simply need design parameters and a system to measure the performance of our roads that matches with what we want – safe, bike friendly, pedestrian friendly, business friendly, good for our health and well-being livable streets. The “streets as car-only shit pipe” metrics the LADOT management uses needs to change.

    The money is there. The 11 vote majority on the council is there. The mayor is there. We need the LADOT to get with the program, yesterday already!

  5. Thanks for reporting the story, as well as the real story, Damien. It absolutely amazes me that in the weeks leading up to this meeting, LADOT had not bothered prioritize projects so they could walk in with a list of shovel-ready projects.

    I really, really, really want to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I know they’ve taken some major staffing hits with the recent budget cutbacks. But seriously, if this is the best they can do, it’s time for new leadership, or possibly eliminating the department and letting some other department that isn’t so severely screwed up — that counts you out, DWP — take over.

  6. What’s even sadder, is I’m sure there are some junior, junior, junior planners in the bowels of that building who read streetsblog and would have had that answer in a heart beat if they would have been given the chance. Unless there aren’t in which case, that is even sadder-er. Because that means they got chased away. Maybe they should have sent that intern who started the blog!

  7. So… if people do grow tired of LADOT’s “leadership” and management “skills,” just exactly who is it that should be replaced… and with whom… and how? If LADOT can’t take action and get things done (even when they have the funds), maybe it’s time we did.

  8. I am extremely disappointed my City council representative voted no for this. The empty talk and no action is status quo for these fake politicians. I am glad it passed.

  9. Damien

    Actually Zine voted yes. Councilmembers Parks, Perry and Smith voted NO on the full 10%

  10. It the ladot doesn’t have projects for this money, give the cash to the Department of DIY. They will get things done!

  11. Why did my name become associated with this issue as Umberto Brayj suggests? To what did I respond “no”? I do not supervise the Bikeway Section. But I certainly support a bikeway network and well-developed bikeway amenities. I was the one who sponsored San Francisco’s experiment with sharrows and pushed to have it adopted by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee. I also supported Long Beach’s experiment with the green lane. Further, I was also personally involved in developing State guidelines to ensure that bicycles can be detected at intersections and that there is sufficient signal timing to accommodate them.–John Fisher

  12. Your blog’s photograph is of David Hirano of the Office of City Administrative Officer (CAO) not LADOT’s Michael Uyeno.

  13. John E. Fisher,

    Your operations division is responsible for preventing Topanga Canyon Blvd. from getting bike lanes installed in favor of peak hour parking restrictions and off-peak car parking (of course lane removal is always out of the question).

    The tools your teams use to judge what is best for the public are ridiculous. ADT, VMT, “Mobility” – but no crash data mapping, no surveys of non-motorized modes. In your VMT calculations you guys treat a bus loaded with 60 people as being the equal of a single occupant car.

    When it comes time to install bike lanes by narrowing lanes, removing travel lanes, traffic calming, you guys jump around with “CEQA lawsuits” and “crosswalks are dangerous” talk. Menacing council staff with “policies” that don’t even exist.

    Operations has as much blood on its hands as Bikeways and Grants Management, if not more so.

    How long did it take for Alarcon’s office to finally win speed bump installation at Valley school? How much of a shit storm did the residents of Lincoln Heights have to raise to keep their lousy crosswalks? The fight to keep the mid-20th century status quo of road design is one your office goes at with relish – despite the body count, despite the money set aside to improve things, despite community meetings and political pressure.

    The “Department of No”, the “Department of Yes, We Can’t” – these are nicknames you guys have earned through your actions. Why fight with the citizens you serve? Does the Institute for Transportation Engineers swear you guys into some sort of brotherhood from which there is no escape?

  14. Damien – you might verify what IP that Fisher comment came from . . .

    If that’s really John Fisher, then here’s a simple request – name names. Mowery & Uyeno regularly refer to nameless powers who oppose change, and others have said Operations is a problem. Ubrayj makes a salient point – Operations has been a problem. Who’s responsible for the lack of progress? Who’s responsible for the continued allocation of funds toward bike paths when cyclists have expressed a preference for on street facilities.

    If DOT would communicate honestly with us about obstacles, that would further the issue, and it would show a basic willingness to be transparent. As it is, DOT is a model of opaque bureaucracy for the rest of the city.

  15. To add what to Ubrayj said, as a mathematician, I consider the measures DOT uses for traffic ridiculous, as in worthy of ridicule. If one is going to use measures to reduce engineering decisions to simple comparisons of figures, then the measures ought to actually capture a decent picture of reality.

  16. Metro is providing cities within Los Angeles county with money to go towards building off street class 1 bicycle paths.

    The Orange line bike/ped path which was built during the Orange Line construction runs about eight miles and cost $10.6 million. That’s $1.3 million a mile and Los Angeles paid for part of that with funds provided by Metro. Los Angeles maintains that pathway and not Metro.

    San Fernando Road had a 1.8 mile phase I bicycle path completion at a cost of $4.2 million dollars. That money paid for paving, lighting, landscaping and synchronizing the lights according to what I’ve read. Metro paid for about 30% and L.A. paid for 70%. The cost to build was $2.3 million a mile. This is a long way from the bicycle plan estimates of half a million a mile for a bicycle path.

    LADOT’s bike ways department are spending a lot of resources and manpower for bicycle pathways that serve a small out of the way area. The upcoming Crenshaw rail and Exposition line are also to have bike/ped paths. With only four LADOT bike planners compared to eight when the first draft of the bicycle plan was being shown to the community is it any wonder why the reaction of the LADOT engineer to questioning about the ability of staff to do more work in a year and a half was one of I am not sure because of staffing shortage? I was at the last public comment meeting for the first bicycle plan draft and I believe Michelle Mowery said to me that they were down to eight bike planners from twelve. Now they are down to four due to city staffing custs.

    At the Los Angeles city councel meeting about the 10% set aside for bicycle and pedestrian allocation, Maria Souza-Roundtree from the City Councils chief legislative analyst office stated to a question that resources can be realocated to LADOT to meet the needs of bicycle/pedestrian projects that would be approved by City Council

  17. Dennis,

    Your are talking about OFF STREET BIKE PATHS.

    To build bike lanes (i.e. paint + traffic calming stuff + accessories like plastic bollards) is actually a lot cheaper than off-street bike paths.

    Bikeways does this line all the time. “Oh it’s the cost, it’s just too much! Look, we’ve spent $23 million on the blah blah blah expensive grading off-road, isolated, recreational bike path that connects to nowhere”.

    The Back Bone Bike Network is a series at-grade, on existing roads, and could be done cheaply with paint and lane narrowing/removal, or it could become more expensive with a low curb and a cycletrack style on bigger streets.

    Further, the city of LA regularly fails to get Safe Routes to School money, and other sources of funding that cities like Long Beach have tapped into often go un-applied for by the City of LA.

    The issue is NOT money. The issue removing car capacity and reducing car speeds. That is the issue with the LADOT. Sure, there are little technical quibbles, but that is what it boils down to: taking away space and speed from cars and giving room for walking, bike riding, and faster bus service.

    The LADOT has run out of excuses. The money is there. The political will is there and is growing by the day.

    Their legal excuses about CEQA law suits and their selective use of science (to support the removal of “unsafe” crosswalks instead of re-engineering the street, to support increased speeds in the name of air quality) and alleged safety) are not going to hack it anymore.

    I’ve been lied to by multiple members of the LADOT, to my face. They have just straight up lied to me. Once I learned enough about these issues, and realized I’d been had, I decided I was never backing down from this department again – and I think the legislators in City Hall are feeling more and more like I do by the day.

  18. ubrayj02,

    Here’s a scenerio that just may happen due to the City Councils approval of 10% local Measure R funds for bicycle and pedestrians that is only through fiscal year 2011 which ends in June of next year:

    At the City council meeting yesterday Mike Uyeno of LADOT was in many ways indicating that it takes a lot of time for his department to plan for bike paths and bicycle friendly streets. He mentioned that the DOT could put up signs designating bicycle friendly streets by the end of the 2011 fiscal year, but that street calming for bicycle friendly streets would take time and there is staffing constraints.

    You could infer from this that due to time limits imposed by the City Council for spending these funds that planning and constructing a bicycle path would be out of the question and many bicycle friendly streets may be difficult to accomplish in this time frame. In a indirect way that may push the department to the much easier to do bicycle lanes, signs, bicycle racks etc..

    Stripping for new bicycle lanes are usually put in after a street has been repaved and the mayor’s budget mentions increased funding for paving streets. This may put added pressure on LADOT to put bicycle lanes on streets that they may not have done under other scenerios. The pressure is on and if LADOT does not use these funds by June of 2011 then the Los Angeles City Council may not continue with the 10% for pedestrians and bicycle funding and that is probably not something the Department of Transportation would like to see happen.

  19. He mentioned that the DOT could put up signs designating bicycle friendly streets by the end of the 2011 fiscal year, but that street calming for bicycle friendly streets would take time and there is staffing constraints.

    Those signs will cost upwards of a million dollars each.

    Seriously, this is how DOT works. Every penny dedicated to human-powered whatever will be accounted properly and there will be nothing overtly wrong. DOT will shift ***enormous*** overhead from paving streets to bicycle-friendly whatever and make their Autopia management metrics shine.

    When bike advocates wonder why nothing is done, DOT will have an answer. Every penny will be accounted for while the elected officials that keep DOT funded give the wierdo cyclists the middle finger.

    It’s nice to see more people riding, but I’ve seen this dog-and-pony show already. Don’t stop working for change. But you have to understand the forces at play here mean it will take *many* efforts before we get some meaningful reform going.

  20. @John E. Fisher – I find your comment very disingenuous. As the Assistant General Manager and as an engineer who has worked for the LADOT since 1973, you have been and conitnue to be in a singularly prominent position to shape Los Angeles’ streets. It’s no secret that your priority is moving cars – you should own this and take pride in it. Your long record as a car-centric engineer is well established. It’s ludicrous and insulting that you would now try to pass yourself off as a supporter of bicycling.

    It’s laughable that you’re suggesting that you’ve shown bike leadership by stating your role in projects located in San Francisco and Long Beach. If you’re into these sorts of projects, then implement them in the city where you work – Los Angeles.

    It’s also telling that you call bikeways “amenities.” Amenities are things that are nice to have, but not really necessary. Bike and pedestrian facilities need to be treated as an integral part of a safe transportation system… not as amenities.

    Most deceptive of all is your implication that you’re not responsible for bikeway projects because you “do not supervise the Bikeway [sic] Section.” Do you really think that Streetsblog readers are so unsophisticated that we don’t know that to implement on-street bike lanes, the Bikeways Section must get approvals from the operations folks that you supervise? It’s your operations engineers who say “no” to implementing on-street bike projects. This includes your staffer Ken Firoozmand who last year lied about LADOT’s plans to kill the Reseda Boulevard bike lanes. You have ultimate say over bikeways on L.A.’s roads, and for your tenure at LADOT, you’ve failed to create streets that are safe and convenient for bicycling and walking.

  21. I can’t wait till all these old minded people at the LADOT retire or die off. Hopefully that happens before I die from smog inhalation and/or getting run over by some idiot driver.

  22. The proud tradition of the LADOT:

    “When the pedestrian regulations went into effect no other city in the United States had accomplished the taming of the ped as had Los Angeles.”

    Great to see how our Assistant G.M. enjoys taming pedestrians. We can all see how much more improved downtown has been since it’s been turned over entirely to automobiles.

  23. “Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, transportation systems and modes have been in a continuous state of evolution to meet new public needs and to overcome their limitations that become apparent over time.”

    It’s good to see that we’ve stopped all that evolutin’, and have decided that the most sanitary, healthy, proper way for every man to get around is via automobile.

  24. According to L.A. DOT’s John Fisher current studies show that 30% to 50% of motorists do not yield to the pedestrian when given the opportunity.

    I’m sure the problem lies with a lack of “control” over pedestrians.

  25. Heh, sorry. If you take the quoted portions of text and enter them into google, all will be made clear (just ignore the Streetsblog links).

    Along with being a scholar, historian, and a scion in his field, John Fisher is also a believer in getting bikes and pedestrians out of the way, off the road, and in doing so he feels he makes everyone safer and happier with their city government.

    Along with a nasty habit of shutting out public appeals for a less car-oriented transportation system, the LADOT under stweards like Fisher has created a weird vortex of 1930’s style racist suppression of black engineers and managers.

    I figured I’d post some of his own words and post them here to give them a new life outside of transportation engineering circles.

  26. @JoeLinton
    Way to call out John E. Fisher and the LADOT. Bam! Love it. We need to name names and put pressure on these folks. The regular commenters here are doing so. Huray.

  27. @Matt – Thanks! There’s much more to the picture – much more to be said about John E. Fisher. For now, he’s the name that I will name as a leader in the anti-bike anti-safety culture of the LADOT. From his comment, it seems pretty clear to me that John Fisher wants L.A. bicyclists to go to Long Beach and San Francisco!

    @Gary K – I’m not going to censor you or tell you what to say, but I would caution you not to dump on John Fisher for coloring his hair – or for being old. There’s plenty to critique on the substance of Fisher’s cars-first safety-last record (for example the quotes that Josef/@Umberto posted), without resorting to attacking Fisher’s personal non-transportation-related traits.

  28. ubrayj,

    While I agree with your overall point, we’ve got to be careful not to take things out of context. For example, it’s not clear your first quote is actually attributable to Fisher, and he certainly wasn’t around in 1924 when the regulation this refers to was passed. Also, LA might’ve been first, but it wasn’t alone in trying this approach for downtown traffic. The sentence immediately following gives our bike-mecca Portland the same distinction as LA:

    “When the pedestrian regulations went into effect no other city in the United States had
    accomplished the taming of the ped as had Los Angeles. By 1930, only three other
    cities – Portland Oregon, Seattle Washington, and Cleveland Ohio had successfully
    accomplished this feat.”

    Also, while we might disagree with both the motives and the method, by the numbers, pedestrian fatalities fell 37% once the pedestrians were “tamed” (same source). Maybe an absolute fall in fatalities reflects a similar or greater decrease in pedestrian travel, but they set a policy goal and achieved it.

    For the second one, this is the synopsis of an ITE paper. Did you read the paper? It’s behind the paywall, so I couldn’t judge the actual content. I won’t presume to know what the paper says from the one byline.

    And for the third quote, the context is a discussion of what crosswalk markings provide the greatest pedestrian safety. His numbers are used as evidence that what we do now doesn’t work. (If as you said his solution is to remove crosswalks, then let’s criticize that.)

    We’re on the same side here, but let’s make sure that we’re putting our best arguments forward at all times. Ad Hominem can be fun, but we need to also be productive in our criticism and deal with the issues (e.g. Joe’s comments, which were spot on).

  29. Eric B, the first quote is from Fisher’s history of transportation in LA.

    I brought it up for several reasons:

    (1) “Taming the ped” is an insulting, non-neutral, euphamism.
    (2) The LADOT does not study pedestrian injuries and crashes currently, so there is no standard with which to measure the performance (since 1928) of how successful our taming has been.
    (3) What was killing pedestrians? Were they trampling each other? No, they were (and are) being hit and killed by private automobiles – the same automobiles LA transportation agencies have flooded our streets with
    (4) Pedestrian counts from the 1920’s put 90,000 peds/day at the intersections Fisher writes about in his history of the LADOT. Today, he says, we’re at 28,000 peds a day. Is that success?! That is a failure! This agency has dismantled downtown’s business prospects with its policies, and guys like this are proud of it.

    Finally, ad hominem does have its uses and I think it’s time the management at the LADOT had some intense pressure from the public that they could not hide from. If anything, the spirit of transportation planning is one of subterfuge and “father knows best” – just read the section on automated pedestrian crossing and crosswalk signal buttons.

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