Environmental Defense, Economic Development Corp. Releases Their “Vision Los Angeles”
Earlier today, a broad coalition of groups led by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released a new vision for Los Angeles, designed to reduce congestion, increase transportation options and reduce air pollution by building on existing transportation plans.
“Vision Los Angeles: Accessing Los Angeles” outlines 15 strategies ranging from adopting a Complete Streets strategy to
advancing the America Fast Forward initiative. Instead of focusing on wasteful highway expansion projects, it focuses on filling in the gaps of the plans passed by Metro, Southern California Association of Governments and other groups. It proposed new Bus Rapid Transit Routes, better telephone applications that allow people to upload tickets to their phones and compare the cost of riding transit to the cost of driving in their particular car, and provides employers with ideas on how to reduce the transportation burden on their employees.
While Vision L.A. brought in a wide group of stakeholders, everyone from labor unions to Wendy Greuel to the Eastside to Eastside Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, much of the technical work was done by Fehr & Peers, an internationally recognized transportation consulting firm, and Point C, a local land-use and transportation planning firm. Their work showed that t improving transit would lead to greater access to tens of thousands of jobs throughout the County.
Or, put more basically, the more options that are given to people, the more likely they are to choose one of those options over the single-passenger automobile. Also, the areas that have the most transportation options are the ones that will attract the best and most jobs.
“With an unemployment rate of more than 12 percent, our region will see a tremendous benefit from thousands of potential jobs created by the implementation of Vision Los Angeles’ strategies,” said Bill Allen, CEO of the LAEDC. “The plan not only addresses our job creation needs, it will also help create a climate that attracts the best and brightest people to our communities by cleaning the air and improving mobility.”
The Vision Los Angeles proposals fall into three groups: Access Operating Systems, Access Hardware, Access Land Use Most of the strategies could be implemented in the next 10 years if it were a priority. For each series of proposals, Streetsblog will focus on one strategy that is new, or something that we don’t regularly discuss on Streetsblog.
Access Operating Systems
While some of these proposals have been discussed as pilot projects (congestion pricing) or has been partially implemented (congestion parking), I find the idea of LA Access to be the one that could be quickest implemented region-wide. A quick explanation of LA Access from the report:
This database is envisioned to power the LAccess App that a person could conveniently download, set up with personal preferences, and even embed with a credit card to pay for their trip. Choices of service range from solo drive routes to regularly scheduled transit service to demand-based transit service to bicycle access. All of these options provide the customer with price and time comparison based on their preferences
For example, if I’m sitting at home and suddenly need to get to Downtown Los Angeles for a meeting, I would be able to bring up LA Access which would give me the transit and driving options and based on the mileage and cost of the family car could tell me the cost in both times and finances. While the application in the report doesn’t mention bicycling, it ought to be able to be part of the program pretty easily.
Access Hardware solutions include expanding Metro Rapid service up to 15 percent and increasing Bus Rapid Transit region-wide. Not all of the onus is placed on Metro, as they also wish to see a series of public and private shuttles to and from business, educational and activity centers. In a meeting earlier this week, David Grannis, the President and CEO of Point C, used the example of how Google used a private shuttle service to retain employees because running the service was significantly cheaper than replacing the employee.
But, in the aftermath of the recent battle over the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes, I find the proposal to rapidly grow the rapid, and BRT systems to be the most intriguing.
In addition to the already proposed transit corridors, Vision L.A. also proposes another eight rapid or BRT lines.
• New Harbor Subdivision Light Rail
• New North Hollywood to Metrolink Bus Rapid Transit Connector
• New I-405 Link (Westside to LAX)
• New Harbor Subdivision LRT Connector (South Bay to Long Beach Center/Long Beach Airport)
• New LA Union Station to Bob Hope Airport LRT Connector
• New Katella Avenue Bus Rapid Transit
• New Rosemead Boulevard (SR 19) Bus Rapid Transit
• New SR-134 Transit Corridor: Red Line to Gold Line Transit Connector
Vision Los Angeles notes the popularity of the Rapid Bus and BRT service where it exists in Los Angeles. Providing additional connections along with a shuttle program where employers help fix the “last mile” problem by picking up employees at transit stations could have a dramatic impact on commuting patterns in Los Angeles.
The Access Hardware strategies also include a discussion to complete the streets to make them better for all users and rapid expansion of the bike network.
Accessible Land Use Solutions
Accessible Land Use solutions include developing Access Efficient Mortgage (AEM) pilot programs in which employees of certain industries have access to an employer-funded revolving loan fund to subsidize housing costs in areas proximate to employment, enabling a closer live-work relationship and significantly reduced transportation congestion and costs.
The idea of an Access Efficient Mortgage is a pretty visionary idea, but one that won’t work everywhere and can be confusing. From Vision Los Angeles:
An AEM program could use privately endowed seed capital to start a revolving fund focused on housing for purchase or rent within a certain close distance of key economic centers within Los Angeles County (e.g., five miles). The AEM program would merely pay the difference between the employee’s current monthly housing cost and the cost of housing within the eligible area. Employees/contractors of an eligible business within the economic center volunteer to locate within the AEM area in exchange for an agreement to remain with that employer/industry for a set period of time. Upon the end of that term, if the housing were for purchase, the unit could be sold and the percent amount of assistance provided by the AEM program for the debt would be recouped as part of the sale and deposited into the revolving fund for reuse in the AEM program area.
Put basically, employers create a fund to help employees afford to purchase housing near where they work so that they don’t move farther away. When its time to sell the house, a portion of the profits, if there are profits, go back into the fund. Similar programs have been done for years at universities and have been a big part of some colleges in better areas being able to attract high quality professors.
An analysis done for the report shows that in many areas, mixing an AEM with reliable, efficient bus service can lead to greater reductions in VMT than bringing in light rail. Again, the authors stress that this solution wouldn’t work everywhere, and would require an upfront payment by employers.
The Vision Los Angeles report includes input and consensus from a broad coalition of regional leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors. The Bank of America Foundation, the William and Flora Hewett Foundation and the Dipaola Foundation provided financial support to produce the report. The strategies and supporting documents are available on the Vision Los Angeles website: www.visionlosangeles.org.