The following interview was conducted by Damien Newton with Traci Park in her campaign office on Barrington Boulevad.
Damien Newton (Damien): I actually know the answer to our first question already because you and I talked about this when you were talking to me as a constituent. Could you describe your own personal transportation; what decisions go into making, ‘I’m going to use this versus this mode of transportation’ for you know whatever trip is?
Traci Park (Park): I use a blend of different transportation alternatives. It really depends on what my day involves.
Things obviously changed a bit with the pandemic. You know I live in Venice and I work downtown. Certainly on most days when I was going from Venice to downtown I would drive. I am very proud to have an electric vehicle (EV). That has been life changing for me. I really love having that really and AM excited about the opportunity to build out the infrastructure around our city so that more people have the ability to get emission free vehicles.
I don’t have a charger at home; so I am completely dependent on public charging stations. So oftentimes, I’ll drive into downtown. However, I bought an electric bike in 2017 and that has been my primary means of transportation locally. So when I get on the weekends around home in Venice I am more often than not I’m using my bike. However, I can’t get everywhere on my bike if there are places where I can ride comfortably. An example of that would be on Lincoln Boulevard. So I take different routes and primarily bike around Venice Boulevard and Playa del Rey.
Professionally, prior to the pandemic, I was traveling around California quite a bit. I have clients all over the state. To meet with clients in San Diego and Orange County, I would often use the train. Oftentimes for meetings within downtown, I would take the bus.
Damien: There’s nothing quite like that train ride down to San Diego.
Park: It’s just absolutely beautiful.
But another thing I liked was the amenities. There’s wi-fi, and I can work. There were many things about it that I preferred over the drive, so I would do that as often as possible.
Damien: But no I agree. I used to go to San Diego when we were starting Streetsblog California. I always took the train. There was bike share right outside the station down there.
Park: When I travel depending on where I am and what is on my menu for the day I do use Bike Share quite a bit. Something that we started doing when traveling some years back and I just find it to be oftentimes to find a way to get community and to see it.
Damien: It sounds like you already have many ideas about how we can increase options for people besides the car. You’re not anti-car. So how do we get more people to feel that way and get out of the single-passenger car trips?
Park: I think so there’s a lot of factors that are going to go into getting people to make that shift and I certainly think that providing as many opportunities to encourage people to get out of their cars is important. Efficiency, connectivity, speed, and safety immediately come to mind.
I think that some of these Investments that we are making in mass transit are really important. I am really excited about the Sepulveda. Personally, I think it’s really important that it get all the way to LAX and to UCLA. It’s ridiculous to do all of that without those connectivity points.
So making it available, making it interconnected, so that it is easy to get to some places that people are going, making it efficient so that you know you’re not losing time by taking mass transit…are some of the issues for rail or Metro.
For the buses, it’s really sort of the same thing in terms of you know reliability being as efficient as other modes.
I like to think for folks to make a switch to using bikes more: to provide routes in an interconnected system that’s actually safe for them is important.
Damien: I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but there’s a plan to take the existing protected bike lane on Venice and extend it another 5 miles more. The final plan’s not out yet, but they do have an outreach event in a couple weeks.
Park: The end of August.
Damien: I think it’s literally the last day, August 31. Do you have any thoughts on the plan, or is there anything they should be looking for in a final plan?
Park: So I haven’t had the opportunity to dive into the details. I’ve just generally seen a couple of things. My biggest concern is lack of community engagement and involvement. This is going to come as no surprise to you, when I point out how controversial the Mar Vista road diet was.
Damien: I read something about it once.
Park: (chuckles) You know, constituents were angry enough that it led to the initial recall effort against the council member. I have certainly heard frequently over the last year plus that I’ve been campaigning from folks in the area, that folks remain concerned about it.
Cut through traffic, idling that causes air quality issues, the impact on businesses…There have been concerns. At the heart of all of that was the lack of engagement and input from the community and a pervasive saying that this was something that was intended to be a pilot program and that it was done without much input.
Much of what I’m hearing currently about the plans to extend it and or make it permanent is similar. Yes there is a meeting coming up at the end of the month…
Damien: One meeting. I was at the MVCC transportation committee meeting where DOT presented it. I was there because I was presenting on Slow Streets Mar Vista afterwards.
Park: Well yes, but you pay attention to this. I would say the vast majority of the people in the community and around Venice Boulevard have no idea this is being planned.
Damien: The timeline is around the repaving (of Venice Blvd.) as I understand it. I’ve a timeline for it, it’s pretty aggressive.
Park: Seems like it. My guess is there’s going to be a lot of community pushback on it, and that’s not the best way to get the buy-in from the community thatI think would be important to help set it up to be successful.
And I also think that there are some things to be learned from the design. There are challenges that businesses have had that neighbors have had. There have been serious concerns raised by the fire department over accessibility.
Obviously when the pandemic started, it reduced traffic levels by a lot. It’s a little bit better now but at some point we’re all going to be back out in the world and things will resume to pre-pandemic levels. As there are discussions happening about extending, we should look back at lessons learned: are there design elements or approaches to this that could be made or considered that are mindful of all the interests at stake including folks riding their bikes, fire trucks needing to get through, etc. I’d like to see more of that before it becomes permanent.
Damien: That leads into our next question. Safe and Healthy Streets Initiative, the ballot measure that would require the city to repaint streets to implement the mobility plan as they resurface streets. For example, if a street is currently four lanes of mixed traffic and its repaved it could be repainted to be two lanes, have a center turn lane and a pair of bike lanes if that’s what’s in the mobility plan. That’s just an example, it doesn’t have to be a doad diet.
The measure got enough signatures to get on the ballot. It’s not going to be on the fall ballot, it’s going to be on some future ballot.
Park: March 2024 probably.
Damien: Unless there’s a state election between now and then, but probably marked 2024. Do you have any thoughts on the measure: pro or con or it’s so far in the future that is not something to worry about?
Park: I think that there is some pause for me because I would want to ensure that these approaches are appropriate for the locations where they may be going. Thinking about what is the flow of track in that area and how other communities are going to be impacted by it.
I am all in favor of creating protected bike lanes and safe and healthy streets.
But let me give you an example of why I have pause: The Lincoln Fast Forward project. The bikes sharing the bus line makes me nervous. As someone who rides my bike, I’m not totally sure I want to share it with the dedicated bus lane. Does that mean if I’m riding in front of the bus, the bus has to go my speed? The point is to get the buses traveling faster through that section of Lincoln. Are we achieving that with that particular design road bike sharing that same Lane? I don’t know.
Those lanes are going to be narrowed, and having a bus and a bike sharing that same lane…I’m just asking the question.
Damien: I think it’s a state law that allows bikes in the bus lanes. I should know whether it’s a state or city one because it was there was one of the early things I covered for Streetsblog, the signs that said “bus only” then underneath it “bike ok.” A lot of enforcement missed the ‘bike okay’ but it was better than nothing.
Park: So it’s just a question that I’m asking.
Every community may be a little bit different. I do think the consistency in the way that we approach this is important. I do think that building these types of plans as we do general work: repair and repaving makes sense to knock these out all at once rather than doing it piecemeal. That makes sense.
I’m not totally convinced that doing it as a matter of course on every street across the entire city without assessing the impact on a particular community; whether that’s traffic impacts on certain or neighborhoods, evaluating safety, the ability of emergency vehicles to get through, traffic times…I just wonder if some additional scrutiny and nuance may be important.
Here’s another example when the road diet went in on Vista Del Mar, I don’t think anyone anticipated the traffic concerns.
Damien: <grumbling> I think a lot of people were caught off guard by what happened down there.
Park: As a matter of course, this is what we are doing. Certainly trying to implement the mobility plan, we’re way way behind the curve on some of the goals many of which I agree. But I do think that there is some merit to trying to be a little bit more granular…and getting the community input too. In certain communities spaces bicyclists and pedestrians and people in their vehicles.
Damien: One thing that has been controversial in the greater CD 11 is the role of the neighborhood councils more around issues around homelessness and housing than transportation, except for the hot button road diets. What do you see that role as for NC’S? Some people see them as a rubber stamp, while others think they should have a veto over projects. Do you agree with either of those positions, or is it something in between?
Park: Under the city Charter the neighborhood councils are intended to serve in an advisory capacity to the council member. In my view and in my experience, our current council member has not really engaged much with his neighborhood councils and a lot of their recommendations appear to be going into a black hole.
I think that our neighborhood councils are a really important part of our local democracy. They are made up of people who are subject matter experts in their own neighborhoods and communities. They put in a lot of time and put a lot of work into serving in those roles.
I think I would be remiss in my obligation and my requirement under the city Charter if I didn’t consider their input. That doesn’t mean I am necessarily going to agree with them on every issue. I’ve had a lot of chats with members of neighborhood councils all over the district but I am sure to hear them out and to hear their input. I think that is their role, to have an opportunity to discuss issues like this that will impact our community.
Damien: Well, we are at about the 15 to 20 minutes that we budgeted for this interview.
Park: It went so quick Damien!
Damien: I think that’s because you’re talking about something different! I think you and Erin keep giving versions of the same interview on the same few subjects but we’re doing something different.
Park: I want to close by saying we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us here in Los Angeles to improve public transit, to make a shift to more sustainable approaches to mobility around our city. There are a lot of elements and aspects of it that I think are really important. Where we are focusing particularly with public safety in mind: the more robust crosswalks and speed calming measures and things like that as long as those speed calming measures don’t hamper emergency vehicles. I think there’s a lot we can really do to make this city more sustainable and really help people make that shift out of vehicles into other modes of transportation.
I really welcome the opportunity to lead on these issues, and I am going to work with communities to really understand those individual concerns and impacts. But there’s a lot to be done and I see it as opportunities to improve our city.
I travel to lots of places, and I’ve used a lot of public transportation. I know whether it’s on the East Coast or other parts of the world, I see things that are really well done. It’s a lifestyle approach in a lot of other places. In Los Angeles we have a lot of room to catch up on some of that and his great opportunity to make changes.
There’s great opportunities. We both live in communities on the Westside and you see what I see. Whether it’s the greening of our streets, the planting of trees, making them safer for pedestrians and encouraging people to walk…it’s just a lot to do and it’s going to be complex.
But we’re going to roll our sleeves up, and we’re going to make this city amazing.