When I covered the Transportation Committee Hearing for Rita Robinson to take the helm at LADOT in 2008, there were 10 people in the room who were not City Council staff, Council members, or Robinson herself.
Margot Ocanas, LADOT Pedestrian Coordinator, and Seleta Reynolds chat before today’s hearing. Photo: Damien Newton
At today’s confirmation hearing for Seleta Reynolds, there was standing room only.
Reynolds, flanked in the audience seating by Nat Gale with the Mayor’s Office and transportation planning rock star Janette Sadik-Khan, was affable and open, while chatting with well-wishers, future staff, and advocates.
There was a feeling of optimism in the room that had been noticeably absent in previous LADOT general manager confirmation hearings.
“Streets are really the keys to so many issues that city’s face in the 21st century. They must be organized, they must be safe. But they can also be huge assets to the community,” Reynolds opened her testimony. “That’s really needed to be a great, world-class city.”
“One of the things that frustrates people here is that people feel that a lot of development projects don’t get evaluated properly when it comes to traffic,” challenged Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin before launching into a discussion of the current transportation evaluation metric: level of service (LOS) as compared to the proposed change to vehicle miles traveled (VMT). ”What are your thoughts about LOS vs VMT?”
While Reynolds is not a fan of measuring the impact of a project based on its impact on car traffic, as both LOS and VMT do, she didn’t take the bait.
“The fundamental issue with Level of Service is that the only thing it tells about a project is the negative impacts,” she responded. “It’s a disincentive to providing ways for people to have options on ways to get around.”
But the debate over measuring transportation impacts happening in Sacramento in the governor’s office, provides opportunities for Los Angeles.
“There is a chance for L.A. to develop its own metrics,” Reynolds continued. Then she gave a list of other metrics that should be considered, like public health, economy, and safety.
“Imagine how different things will be if we’re evaluating the benefits of projects,” she concluded.
The answer seemed to please Bonin. ”It would be improper for me to give you a standing ovation,” he joked before moving into the next series of questions.
Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge were not present at the hearing and Councilmember Paul Krekorian offered little more than a warm welcome to Reynolds. This left Councilmember Bernard Parks with the role of inquisitor.
“The last thing people want to hear in a car is about slowing traffic,” pushed Councilmember Bernard Parks. “How do you implement these (safety) changes without getting rid of the space for vehicles?”
Reynolds responded that there isn’t a magic bullet that will fix every problem, but noted that safety and access need to be the top issues for every road user.
“We need to make sure people can get where they go to get access to jobs, to school, to home,” she countered. “They need to have a way to get there, and that needs to be an important part of every redesign of a street.” Read more…