New Transportation Group Coming to L.A. Help Us Pick a Name and Win Membership for Life

As a lot of you know, back east I worked for a group called
the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a transportation reform organization
that fought highway and other car traffic inducing projects and promoted Smart
Growth and alternative transportation. The
Campaign didn’t advocate for a favored mode of transportation, embrace a
certain environmental ideology or confine itself to a narrow geographic area; the
Campaign argued regionally in the Greater New York area for better
transportation based on the argument that our current transportation zeitgeist
was driving dangerously close to the cliff without brakes.

In other words, we argued for transportation alternatives
because they are the most efficient way to move people now and in the future.  In that argument we ended up arguing for things such as better bike facilities, better street crossings for pedestrians and more funding for transit; but those things were all parts of a mean to an end.  The goal wasn’t just safer bike facilities, but a transportation system that is open, multi-modal and sustainable.

A group of
transportation reformers have been meeting over the last couple of months to
lay the ground work to get such a group here in Los Angeles. I don’t want to reveal names until we are
ready to publicly launch our campaigns, but there are a lot of familiar names
and some new ones in the mix. You’ll be
impressed. I promise.

What, you won’t be impressed with is our ability to name a
group. I came into town with the group name SMART or SMARTrans, standing for Socal/Metro Advocates for Responsible
Transportation, in my back pocket.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find anyone who likes that name. At our last meeting someone suggested CASH, Coalition of Advocates for
Safe and Healthy Streets; but we were enmeshed in the fundraising portion of the
meeting when the suggestion came up and I think we were a little punchy.

This is where we need your help. Help us come up with a name, and if we pick
your suggestion you win: a lifetime membership in the group, a Streetfilms
T-shirt, a “Best of Streetfilms” DVD and membership in the unnamed group for life. Please leave your suggestions in the comments
section and we’ll get back to you.

That’s right, I’m celebrating “Back to School” week by
giving you weekend homework.

  • streets for people, los angeles

  • DJB

    LA STUF: Sustainable Transportation & Urban Form, Los Angeles

  • MoveFreely

  • walker o

    I hope you guys will come up with a plan that can actually get people from their home to their destination efficiently. How will you define efficiently?

    If it includes travel time its going to get tough because home and destinations are spread out across hundreds of square miles in greater LA. Smart Growth as practiced in California has only severed to spread more people out, at the larger scale. Developers and enviros have allied to leave California with a legacy of high density sprawl.

    Analyzes must become more quantitative.

    Rural areas that are now zoned low density have not lost their value yet (relatively). If we see 1) those outskirts loose value, and 2) single family home neighbors being abandoned for HD urban streets, then we might suspect that “smart” growth is “working” to stop “sprawl”. So I hope your grouop advocates for trade offs in zoning along transportation corridors. Upzone along a bus line (and make the developers filthy rich) only when the developers offset with downzoning on the outskirts. Not a good idea? Isn’t that the promise of smart growth?

  • Get LA Moving = GLAM!

  • Erik G.

    Vested in

    Extravagence and

    Realitities in the

  • walker o

    How will your organization define and CALCULATE sustainability? Will that term be slapped onto any policy that feels good, or will it have real meaning?

  • Chon

    SO CAL C.I.T.I.E.S (Committee on Innovative Transportation & Environment Solutions)

  • DJB

    Sustainability is a tricky concept and definitions abound. It has also been misused by some corporate greenwashing campaigns. However, these are not adequate excuses to dismiss the concept out of hand, as critics are often eager to do.

    Sustainability consists of pursuing three goals at once: protecting the environment, protecting the economy, and promoting social equity (both inter-generational and intra-generational).

    What we do should not degrade nature, of which we are a part, to the point that economic activity now or in the future becomes impossible on the scale necessary to sustain human society and other parts of the bioshpere, which have some degree of intrinsic value.

    On the other hand, we need ways to make a living, and to ensure that a hard day’s work is met with an adequate day’s pay for everyone on this planet.

    It is by no means easy to pursue all of these goals at once, but it’s worth the effort. That’s the core of sustainability. It is best, therefore, to think of sustainability less as something to be “calculated” and quantified, and more as a goal to be approached and reinterpreted by successive generations.

    A fossil-fuel-based economy based on low density automobile-dependant development does a wretched job of protecting the environment, the economy and social equity, especially over time. Therefore, it is unsustainable. Sustainability has meaning.

  • Chon

    Oops! the previous post is C.I.T.E.S
    C.I.T.I.E.S is similar Committee on Innovative Transportation Inspired Environment

    Sorry slow day at the office

  • Derek

    Voices for Inclusive Streets and Transportation Alternatives (VISTA).

  • DJB

    Sustainability integrates our thinking about fields which we usually regard as abstract and disconnected (i.e. the environment, the economy, social equity). The reality is that these three things are not separate at all, but instead intimately linked. We cannot afford to think about them separately, because in so doing we advance one goal while undermining others.

    Furthermore, considering the environment, economy and equity in the here and now alone is not enough. We also have to PLAN (think about and prepare for the future). Our society is not worth much in the end if it cannot endure.

    Sustainability is a linking principle, connecting our thought and action about the environment, economy, and equity now to the environment, economy and equity of the future.

  • angle

    If a member of your group plays the banjo, you could be the “New Transit Ramblers”.

    If not, “Alliance for Progressive Mobility” is my suggestion.

  • walker o

    Thanks for clarifying that sustainable no longer actually means sustainable. I’ve been noticing for years that the word was being used wildly.

    One definition given above = protecting the environment, protecting the economy, and promoting social equity.

    A more useful and original definition relates to society’s ability to maintain its processes, functions, and levels of resource utilization indefinitely. A point where we can sustain the economy and environment in perpetuity. Sustainable forestry would be cutting down trees in a way and at a rate that could be continued forever.

    Not that justice is bad, but the DEFINITION of sustainability shouldn’t be stretched over social equity. It promotes sloppy dialogue and thinking. I’m sure that has mostly gone unnoticed because there has been a lot of group think.

    The most fundamental civil right is the right to honest government.

  • walker o

    It is best, therefore, to think of sustainability less as something to be “calculated” and quantified, and more as a goal to be approached and reinterpreted by successive generations.

    We are doomed if people agree with the above statement. Sustainability is concrete. Water resources ARE quantitative. Co2 levels ARE quantitative. Food production is quantitative.

    Here is a terribly sad example (see ). These people will be suffering from a lack of resources regardless of level of “awareness” or social equity. That’s going to be a lot of suffering, which is likely to end in war or oppression. That will be an entire population who won’t give a hoot about being “green” or not).

    Their sustainability is quantitative.

  • A more useful and original definition relates to society’s ability to maintain its processes, functions, and levels of resource utilization indefinitely. A point where we can sustain the economy and environment in perpetuity. Sustainable forestry would be cutting down trees in a way and at a rate that could be continued forever.
    Phew – spend a day without reading the blog and look what happens.

    We can be talking about a transportation system that is sustainable and still be using the definition you list above. A system that uses a variety of modes and embraces a “Fix-It-First” philosophy of transportation investment, especially when it comes to highways, can be a sustainable transportation system with the definition that you’re using. When I talk about sustainable transportation, that’s what I’m talking about.

    The way to calculate it is by taking a look at surveys of roads, highways, bridges and transit systems and see what percent of them are in good repair versus what percent are functionally obsolete. But, we’ll talk about all that more in a little bit.

  • walker o

    … especially when it comes to highways, can be a sustainable transportation system with the definition that you’re using.

    I hope you’ll be able to show me the data that the system your group will be promoting is sustainable for 200 years. But be aware that most people in the environmental movement won’t be very interesting is seeing “what percent of them are in good repair” and I am sure many people on this blog have been motivated by environmental issues. The obvious one to start with is Co2. You don’t mention C02. Why not address environmental sustainability? Isn’t this why most people want people to peddle instead of drive?

  • DJB

    I think it’s a mistake to leave equity considerations out of sustainability. For example, one of the biggest sources of GHG emissions is deforestation in countries like Brazil. Poor farmers resort to slash and burn agriculture on former Amazon rainforest because it is the only way they can afford to farm. The soil gives out in a few years and they move on to destroy more of the forest. Hence, the distribution of wealth in Brazil, an intra-generational social equity issue, is intimately linked to an environmental issue: climate change and the loss of Amazon biodiversity. Plus, equity includes inter-generational equity, i.e. equity across generations, i.e. making sure that future generations have natural resources to base a society on. Equity is at the core of sustainability.

    Also, we shouldn’t make a fetish out of numbers. Yes, some things can and must be quantified, but an obsession with quantification can obscure the assumptions and values which go into a definition of sustainability (just like traffic engineer’s obsession with quantification obscures the car-centric values that too often underlie their analysis). The point about there being a multiplicity of definitions is proved perfectly by the debate.

    Anyway, the larger point, I think, is that, IMHO, the group’s name should include the concept of sustainability, despite the fact that we’re still trying to figure out what it means :)

  • walker o

    This quote is concerning: We shouldn’t make a fetish out of numbers.

    Then what are the goals and mission of any of these groups?

    Mother nature has a fetish. The atmosphere does not care how aware we are, or how much we care, or what the size of our INDIVIDUAL carbon foot print is. It only cares about the total CO2 concentration in the atm.

    Whether or not we are without ample water supplies to water my half acre urban farm only matters if we have enough supply (numbers) to meet the demand (numbers). Demand being equal to average usage X population size.

    You better base all your efforts on numbers or we are unlikely to live sustainably and we will leave our ecological debt on our children. That is the larger point, no?

  • walker o

    DJB, We’re no longer trying to figure out what sustainability means, we have defined our usage. You’ve taken a new meaning for sustainability, and that leaves us with many meanings and some room for serious miscommunication unless we keep telling people how we define the word.

    Your example of forest clearing is perfect. From a resource stand point, that practice can not be continued in perpetuity at the rate at which it is a happening. You seem to acknowledge this.

    You failed to mention that many forests are cleared by very rich corporations and individuals. Does that change the impact of the practice?

    The economics promoting that action ARE IRRELEVANT to whether or not it is a sustainable use of resources. It is or it is not.

    Is it important to know why its happening and what policies could be put into place to stop it, yes! But don’t confuse that with sustainability, in the original sense of the term sustainable.

  • Rachel

    STARS: SoCal Transportation Alternatives and Responsible Solutions
    START: SoCal Transportation Alternatives (er, not sure about the RT)
    TRACES: TRAnsportation Choices for Everyone in SoCal
    REACT!: REsponsible and Alternative Choices for Transportation

    yeah, maybe not so helpful?

  • Phillipe

    California Advocates for Transit Sustainability – CATS

    Americans for Transit Freedom – ATF

    Californians for Transit Freedom – CTF

    Im outta ideas.

  • Kate Slevin

    Keep up the great work, Damien.

  • Joel Kopitz


  • Ryan

    How about Vibrant Cities?

    Streets and transportation are such an important element of the public realm, and when I think of complete streets and mobility options I think of vibrant places.

    Also, there are so many hundreds of groups with acronym based names, or names that string together various concepts, that they all blend together in the collective mind.

  • Sam


  • I like Vibrant Cities – I’m with Ryan re: transportation key link to the public realm and our communities – To me the end goal is improving our lives and communities (making safer, independence for kids and elderly and all, strengthen communities, protect/preserve natural resources, and more and more) – addressing transportation challenges is a critical angle to achieving those goals.

    I see this org with a mission like: improving our communities through better transportation choices…

    btw – here’s a sustainable definition I like, “Economic and social development that meets the needs of the current generation without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” from
    Our Common Future/Brundtland Report
    World Commission on Environment and Development

  • walker o

    “Economic and social development that meets the needs of the current generation without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

    Okay definition that is not a cheap corruption of the original meaning. Still, an adapted derivation and how do resources play in?

    Can that definition be operationalized. Do have polices that if followed would be sustainable? (and does the associated analysis ignore population growth?)

  • The new group met and chose a name tonight: Livable Los Angeles!

    Thanks to everyone who made suggestions… there were a lot of good ones… and it took us a while to decide on the name that we felt worked best for us.

  • Hey Joe,

    How does one participate with the new group?

  • “How does one participate with the new group?”


  • I like the sound of crickets! We’re just getting going – took us a bit of time to come up with a name, but look for some of our initial campaign work (and a website) starting this month.

    We’re planning a few relatively easy campaigns first: filling/activating the city of L.A.’s pedestrian advisory committee, pushing for better safe routes to school project/processes, pushing for counting/tracking modal shares, and perhaps some additional campaigns. If any folks out there are especially interested in volunteering to advance any of those campaigns, please drop me an email at linton dot joe at g mail dot com.


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