LADOT’s Bold New Strategic Vision: Eliminate L.A. Traffic Deaths By 2025

Cover of LADOT's bold new strategic plan. View full document here.
Cover of LADOT’s bold new strategic plan. View full document here.

Today, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) released its new strategic plan, entitled Great Streets for Los Angeles.

First, we’ll editorialize enthusiastically: this plan is excellent.

And very much needed in Los Angeles.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds characterizes it as a “plan [that] requires us to do our jobs in a fundamentally different way.”

There have long been holistic thinkers at LADOT, but they’ve been in the minority, squeezing in opportunistic improvements in the midst of a departmental culture that prioritized car convenience. In the past half-dozen years, under the leadership of previous General Manager Jaime de la Vega and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LADOT has warmed up to a broader mission that balances the needs of all road users.

But today’s plan is a quantum leap forward.

Front and center in the new plan is Vision Zero.

For the uninitiated, Vision Zero is a transportation planning, law enforcement, and planning project started in Sweden in 1997. The goal is simple: eradicate traffic fatalities. Any traffic fatality is one too many. Every decision involving transportation, from how wide a road should be to how to target traffic enforcement efforts, must meet the goal of making the streets safer for all road users.

From LADOT's plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025
From LADOT’s plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025

LADOT is thinking big — the departmental plan is to “eliminate traffic fatalities in Los Angeles by 2025.”

Under Vision Zero, L.A. joins San Francisco, New York City, and many other great cities around the world in the push to eliminate traffic fatalities. By embracing Vision Zero as its first and most prominent goal, LADOT is finally saying “enough is enough.” Safety will now be the first priority in transportation decisions going forward.

“There’s a reason it’s the first thing you see when you get into the meat of the plan,” says Reynolds of Vision Zero. “Changing the way we talk about [safety in transportation], and changing the way we think about it, and changing the way that we approach our everyday work to refocus around this — that’s the thing that really is most inspiring and exciting to me.”

“To see LADOT commit to ending traffic deaths in our lifetime is a dream come true,” writes Deborah Murphy, the founder and president of Los Angeles Walks. “L.A. Walks is determined that the Vision Zero campaign will engage more city departments, including LAPD, public works, city planning and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to ensure the successful implementation of the campaign and assure the improved safety of our streets.”

While it is great to see LADOT take a lead on Vision Zero, it is doubly encouraging to see the department heeding Murphy’s advice — the plan identifies city agencies as partners. Reynolds further states that “external partners are also implicit in our success.” That means you, Streetsblog readers.

There’s plenty more in the plan that Streetsblog readers will love. We can’t get to all of it in this short article, but the plan includes: neighborhood traffic calming, bike share, car share, dedicated bus lanes, an improved bikeway network, transportation demand management, reducing disabled parking placard abuse, and plenty more.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Eric Bruins calls it “an ambitious yet achievable framework for the department over the next three years of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s term” and commends “LADOT’s new mission [which] prioritizes safe and accessible options for Angelenos of all ages and abilities, no matter their chosen mode of transportation.”

What about folks who get around mostly by car? What is in it for them?

Reynolds cites improvements to traffic flow, upgrades to the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) system, and parking improvements that help reduce car congestion. But, ultimately, Reynolds steers the conversation back to improving safety:

The other thing that’s in here for people who drive is Vision Zero. The incidents we have on our freeways and on our roads are some of the major cause for congestion. The way to really save that time for people is to design the streets so that those things don’t happen to begin with.

Reynolds, a self-professed “management geek,” also expressed excitement for documenting the department’s mission and values, streamlining communications, and for implementing basic technological upgrades, including planned new internal systems for managing departmental assets and for tracking work orders electronically.

But not everyone is won over by a bold statement and progressive plan.

Bart Reed, the executive director of the Transit Coalition, argues, “…There is still a level of disconnect in projects, goals, and implementation…Take a look at the damage LADOT and Metro are planning to do to pedestrian linkage at the North Hollywood Orange/Red Line Station. Then read this report that indicates values that would never allow this backwards activity.”

Seleta Reynolds acknowledged the need to continue to build trust, stressing that LADOT is dedicated to “getting small things right.” She stressed improving customer service, re-thinking communications, and even making parking signs more readable.

It is still early in Reynolds’ tenure at LADOT, but this new strategic plan gives us cause for optimism. The future of L.A.’s streets looks great. And safe.

(Audio of our interview with Reynolds today is available here.)

  • stvr

    Zzz… This is piecemeal crap. Eric Garcetti has been a tremendous letdown as mayor.

    So far, his most notable achievement is drinking a beer and dropping an f-bomb.

  • stvr

    Another thing that gets me angry… Why is there nothing in this report about ticketing pedestrians in DTLA? The lowest hanging fruit of all!!!

  • Fakey McFakename

    Absolutely fantastic, but talk’s cheap. No talk about funding anywhere in the document.

  • davistrain

    “Vision Zero” makes for a good slogan, but even if we eliminated all private vehicles from downtown, what about the wino who staggers and falls in front of a bus? Regarding Mayor Garcetti–I don’t live in the City of Los Angeles, but as I recall the city charter was written in such a way that the mayor does not have the same powers as the mayors in New York or San Francisco.

  • Zero Vision

    I think whoever wrote this document is dyslexic. It should read Zero Vision. It’s all PR hype. These guys can even get bike lanes or road diets on their so called “great streets”. More action and less BS?

  • JLM

    Ambitious, but how the Fig road diet and Hyperion Bridge design play out will reflect the real-world success of this initiative. LADOT and Mayor’s heart might be in the right place but do they have the will and power to make it happen?

  • Fakey McFakename

    I think it does at least signal that if councilmembers want to block projects, it will cost them political capital.

  • Jake Bloo

    (I hate Scribd now)

  • Joe Linton

    Average number of winos killed by buses annually in downtown L.A.: zero! Problem solved already. Now let’s move on and use data to solve problems like speeding that do cause lots of traffic fatalities.

  • Jeff Jacobberger

    The 2010 Bike Plan called for 1450 miles of new or upgraded bikeways. This Strategic Plan and the Mobility Element reduce that commitment to only to 330-mile Bicycle Enhanced Network. If that were accompanied by concrete proposals about how to overcome the primary hurdles to implementation–(1) that any single councilmember can kill any project in his district (I say “his” because the only “her” has been supportive of bike projects) and (2) lack of staffing and funding to bring projects to completion–that might be an acceptable tradeoff.

  • ubrayj02

    If we can’t focus on the upcoming elections in March of 2015 all the chest beating and wailing in the world won’t matter.

    LA’s city council will be partially re-made if things swing for or against livable streets issues in CD4, CD8, and CD14. LAUSD could become a huge partner in helping make streets safer in LA, or continue being a retrograde defacto bully – pummeling us with unending school pick-up traffic.

    There is a lot on the line this March in LA – LaBonge’s CD4 seat is open with only one candidate looking like a champion for safe streets (Tomas O’Grady); Huizar the livable streets champ is being challenged by Gloria Molina.

    We could change the face of the LAUSD school board – 4 out of 7 votes on that board are up for election in 2015. Whatever your views are on education, please understand that school sites in LA are sources for immense amounts of car traffic and poor street design in surrounding communities keeps kids trapped in a cycle of being driven to school and leading unhealthy lives with respect to physical activity. LAUSD is also exempt from state pollution laws, and so they have made it hostile to employees who choose to bike to work – no showers, no space to properly and safely store bikes, on-campus policies that keep kids from riding or walking to school.

    Here is the list of seats from the City Clerk’s office:
    Open offices for the 2015 City of Los Angeles Municipal Elections
    include:

    Council Districts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14;

    CD2 – Krekorian will win his seat unless something crazy happens.
    CD4 – LaBonge’s seat opening up; Tomas O’Grady only livable streets candidate; This is a critical seat on the council re: LA River, Lankershim bike lanes, Hyperion Bridge retrofit. It all depends on CD4.
    CD6 – Nury Martinez needs support to keep Pacoima Beautiful!
    CD8 – Bernard Parks seat opening up; Anyone have any idea what is happening in this race livable streets-wise? Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Bobbie Jean Anderson and who else? What is their stance on livable streets issues? Is that even a factor politically in CD8?
    CD10 – Herb Wesson is allowed to run for another term, right? If so, he’s got it stitched up.
    CD12 – Mitch Englander not going anywhere.
    CD14 – Jose Huizar is being challenged by Gloria Molina. If we lose Huizar for Molina, we have no idea what that will mean for livable streets issues. Huizar has been the most steadfast supporter of sane street design policy on the council.

    LAUSD Districts
    1, 3, 5, and 7;
    LAUSD1 – George McKenna vs. who knows – HUGE mid-city & South LA
    LAUSD3 – Tamar Galatzan vs. ??? – Gigantic chunk of West Valley and backside of Hollywood Hills
    LAUSD5 – Bennett Kayser vs. ??? – Kayser is suffering from a long term illness right now :( – NELA! NELA! NELA!
    LAUSD7 – Richard Vladovic vs. ??? – 110 Freeway Special, down to the ports.

    Questions for LAUSD Board Members:
    Who in your board office and who at the LAUSD is set up to work hand in hand with LA to ensure Safe Routes to School? We want traffic calming and car drop-off reductions around every school in your district. Every. School.
    We want bike and walk buses at every elementary school!
    Where is on-campus training for kids riding bikes to school?
    How are you reducing single occupant car trips to school sites from staff and faculty? How are you supporting transit, walking, and biking to work?
    Where is the protected, covered, bike parking on your campuses?
    The list of demands is nearly endless.

    LACCD Seats 1, 3, 5, and 7.

    ???

  • Sirinya Matute

    I read the plan from the perspective of someone who works in transit. I’m looking forward to hearing how the City plans to come up with funding to improve high volume bus stops (they promised sidewalks, lighting, real time signs, seating). I’m curious about the locations. Also I want to point to the discussion about the mobile ticketing demonstration for LADOT buses. Very exciting. I hope the Streetsblog crowd participates and provides constructive feedback.

  • ubrayj02

    The city gets a nice chunk of change for just such improvements from JC Decaux – but that money is shoveled into a slush fund and used by council offices to hold music festivals, fill potholes of well-connected whiners, buy electronic trash cans, do more trash pickups, etc.

    The money is there, it is just being squandered on non-transit uses.

    Heck, the same could be said for meter money. We pay Xerox enough cash every year to analyze meter money to completely re-do the way the city of LA does bus benches. But bus benches riders don’t have lobbyists.

  • davistrain

    Point taken; I was thinking of San Francisco, where there are more buses and winos per square mile.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    From my observations, some of the busiest bus stops in the city are in the worst condition. I was amazed to see one bus stop bench on Vermont Ave near Wilshire Blvd with completely blackened sidewalks from the filth and trash everywhere. On Van Nuys Blvd where it meets Metrolink there were about 8 pedestrian level lights around a bus stop and all but about 2 of them were not working. The level of trash at this location was also appalling.

    The reason the Orange Line is the second busiest bus line in the Metro system is its level of service. Its not the speed (buses run faster along Ventura Blvd), and it runs through some of the lowest population density areas in the city which are not transit dependent–a large section in the middle of the route is a wilderness area and park. Transit use is all about the service and not the technology or infrastructure.

  • Jake Bloo

    This is a great overview. Please keep this up.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The city of Los Angeles could have bike lanes on most arterial streets and not affect the flow of motor vehicles if the storage of motor vehicles was not allowed on these streets. From what I’ve been told, its uncommon to have motor vehicles parked on arterial streets in the Netherlands. Put the motor vehicle parking on side streets and in parking facilities. Arterial streets should be for the movement of people and not the storage of motor vehicles.

    Its accepted practice in U.S. cities to having motor vehicle parking on arterial streets. Businesses complain that there has to be parking there. Yet the most successful stores in Los Angeles tend to be in large shopping malls like the Grove where parking is not allowed in front of each store. You have to park in a garage, or parking lot and walk to the where the stores are. They create a pedestrian only mall where the stores or departments are in close proximity to each other, thereby enhancing the shopping experience.

    At 3:05 in this Streetsblog video Professor Ashworth from the Department of Planning at the University of Groningen explains that store owners in that city complained that they had to have motor vehicles park directly in front of their stores or they would have to leave immediately because they would lose all of their business. People adapted to this change and businesses did not leave in droves.

    http://www.streetfilms.org/category/bicycles/

  • sdebeaubien

    Sounds suspiciously like Agenda21 and “Central planning” to me. Can you imagine the administrative overhead to scrutinize each and every street project for “Absolute Zero Fatalities”. Total overkill, total Baloney Sauce, total government overreach and typical reaction to problems they are already supposed to be responsible for.

  • Joe Linton

    Its sounds like you’re in favor of traffic fatalities, no? Me, I’d prefer much safer streets. There’s a whole lot of governmental scrutiny on street projects today, but I don’t see enough emphasis on safety for everyone.

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