Yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting featured a number of livability issues that deserve more in-depth attention: Safe Routes to School, bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts, parking privatization, and more. SBLA will do a brief re-cap, and will track and report on these issues more in the future.
The Top 50 List You Don’t Really Want Your School On: Department of Transportation (LADOT) staff reported on progress made in the city’s Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program. In the past, for a number of reasons, the city of L.A. has been unsuccessful at receiving its fair share of SRTS grant funding. LADOT’s two new pedestrian coordinators have done a lot of work to begin to remedy this: building relationships with LAUSD and using actual data to determine which schools make sense to prioritize. This Transportation Committee meeting was the first broad public vetting of the city’s new data-driven list of 50 schools with “greatest need.” The 50-school list will be used to target some city applications for the upcoming state Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant cycle.
Advocates from about a half-dozen non-profits commented on this item, urging two main requests: more LADOT resources be directed toward SRTS, and SRTS efforts be more open and collaborative.
Committee members expressed some concerns (see below) over the criteria behind the 50 school ranking, but accepted it, pending full council approval. They requested that LADOT return to the committee in 60 days (after this ATP cycle submission) to further examine the criteria.
Most Likely to be Undercounted and Undervalued: City councilmembers requested that LADOT review their traffic count methodology to include bicycle and pedestrian data. LADOT staff responded with a draft policy, including an annual count, which moves forward to a vote of the full city council. It’s unclear whether city counts will augment or replace those currently conducted by L.A. County Bicycle Coalition volunteers, though the Bike Coalition’s Eric Bruins voiced support for city counts, stating that the Coalition “wants to get out of this business.”
Most Likely Use of Public Parking Resources to Turn Private Profits: During a recent fiscal crunch, the city of L.A. looked to emulate Chicago’s disastrous short-sighted parking privatization scheme. Luckily, L.A. didn’t go quite so deeply as Chicago, but did begin the process of private contracting for 24 city-owned and -operated parking lots. This may result in some increased efficiency, some increased city revenue, and even some appropriate parking pricing strategies. On the flip side, it also means fewer living-wage city jobs and less city control over parking policy. Even though the city appears to have been fairly prudent in just dipping a toe into this privatization scheme, parking privatization is so lucrative that there were plenty of suits (apparently lobbyists and lawyers) in attendance to make sure this cash cow proceeds to a full council vote soon.
Most Ironic Moment: This is a tough one. There two great ironic moments to choose from:
Irony 1: During the parking discussion, Councilmember Paul Koretz expounded at length about Westwood’s parking woes. Koretz explained that whenever Westwood begins to experience a revival, “parking becomes the primary problem.” Maybe Koretz wants the city to manage metered parking effectively, like, say, Pasadena or Santa Monica or San Francisco? Naw. Koretz continued that the quantity of “free parking” was the issue. Hmmm. If only there was some way to make it safer to bike and walk to Westwood… oh yeah, Koretz opposed that.
Irony 2: During the SRTS discussion, Councilmember Paul Krekorian questioned why the San Fernando Valley was “excluded” from the top 50 list, where only two Valley schools appear. Clearly Krekorian is looking for more public dollars to be invested in the Valley, but his request could be mis-interpreted as wanting more cars to collide with Valley cyclists and pedestrians, which is what it takes to make the top of this list. Krekorian also appears lukewarm on Valley bike safety improvements that would cause minor delays to drivers.
(Kudos to Transportation Committee Chair Councilmember Mike Bonin who appeared to spot both of these ironies, and responded to them subtly and constructively.)
Best New Transportation Shot-Caller: SBLA congratulates Mayor Garcetti’s latest appointee to the city’s Transportation Commission: Tafarai Bayne. Bayne is a cyclist, bus rider, and pedestrian. He has been a stalwart in efforts to make South L.A. streets safer and more livable, and one of the people who makes CicLAvia great. The Transportation Committee approved Bayne, sending his appointment along to the full council.