Five Things I Learned at This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee

Here are the top five things I learned listening in to this week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting. The public meeting took place Wednesday, August 27, at Los Angeles City Hall. If you’re nimble and/or having trouble sleeping, catch the full audio here.

1. Seleta Reynolds Hearts Car Share

In discussion of the city’s anemic car share program, new Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds described herself as a “long-time fan of car share and a frequent user of it.” Reynolds bemoaned the lack of a viable car share option in her new Silver Lake neighborhood.

Hertz car share didn't work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

Hertz car share didn’t work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

The GM announced an “immediate expansion” of the city’s provisions to enable basic car sharing planned for this September, with a more robust expansion, likely including point-to-point options, coming at some unspecified later date. Reynolds stated that she favors a system that would include multiple providers. This should prevent issues like those associated with the failures like the city’s selected vendor Hertz becoming unresponsive.

To be continued. I too dig car share, and am happy Reynolds is on it.

2. Protected Bike Lanes This Year – Or Probably Not

In public testimony (audio at 01:05 here) about Los Angeles some day maybe perhaps one day you know possibly getting around to implementing those newfangled protected bike lanes that are all the rage in other cities, LADOT Bikeways’ Michelle Mowery stated:

MyFig is certainly one of these [protected bike lanes]. We’re also looking at Los Angeles Street right now. We believe we will have that on the ground within this next fiscal year.

When SBLA tweeted the good news, LADOT Bike Program took to the Twittersphere to let folks know that no protected bike lanes are coming this year, but that My Figueroa construction will happen soon. SBLA will dig more into this story. Did Mowery mean “a Los Angeles street” or “Los Angeles Street?” Could it be part of longer-term plans for Union Station? In any case, I am looking forward to protected bike lanes arriving on these shores. Ones not inside tunnels, that is.

3. Streetsblog Hearts Great New Traffic Metrics

Spoiler alert: wonky acronyms ahead. I knew that changes in California’s traffic modeling was big news, with the state ditching its car-centric car-only car-always Level of Service (LOS) measures for evaluating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental impacts, and instead using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

It was great to hear it from LADOT Assistant General Manager Jay Kim.

Kim stated that cities like L.A. “can only chase LOS so long” and that the new VMT standard “screams Transportation Demand Management,” also called TDM. AKA a little less driving, a little more everything else. Kim stated that VMT will encourage “changing behavior” and more active transportation, bike share, car share, transit passes, telecommuting, and bike amenities facilities.

OMG! LJS that LOS CEQA is RATVC, and VMT CEQA and accompanying TDM features will be AGNDFLA! Wooot! Wooooot!

4. Councilmember Koretz Seems Unaware That Cars Emit Lots of Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Paul Koretz is showing leadership on how L.A.’s Department of Water and Power controls its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). He’s the one who said “I want Los Angeles to lead the way toward a safer, more resilient, low carbon future.”

So it is very unfortunate to hear City Councilmember Paul Koretz not making connections between GHGs and transportation. Not to mention resilience. Or safety.

After LADOT AGM Kim explained how VMT was adopted as a proxy for GHG, Koretz responded:

I’m still a little confused about this legislation. What’s the goal of the change? The purpose for doing this? What are we looking to accomplish in this change?

Well, Honorable Councilmember Koretz, I know you’re under a lot of pressure from Westside homeowners who seem to just want more cars and more parking, but could you at least say stuff that makes us think you know that cars actually do cause climate pollution?

Luckily, Department of City Planning’s Claire Bowin jumped in and defended the new standard that Kim had already explained and explained. Bowin emphasized that, instead of following LOS, which Bowen correctly characterized as a “suburban model,” L.A. will be able to set more appropriate standards for its urban communities.

5. LADOT Bikeways Has New Staff

When questioned by Committee Chair Mike Bonin about what LADOT Bikeways successes have been, Mowery responded that, among other things, LADOT bikeways doesn’t have enough staff. I don’t doubt that LADOT’s bike group is understaffed, and woefully, but we’re not sure it is appropriate to bring it up when asked about successes.

Mowery did announce that one new staff member, Rubina Ghazarian, started this week as LADOT’s bike coordinator. Welcome Ms. Ghazarian! You’ve got a lot of work to do. Let us know how SBLA can be helpful.