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Measure J

Passengers waiting for the bus in Los Angeles. Photo by David from LA blog.

Passengers waiting for the bus in Los Angeles. Photo via Experiencing Los Angeles.

In 2008, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, giving our Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) $40 billlion over the next 30 years for transportation upgrades (everything from new light rail to expanded bus service to pothole repair) within the 88 cities that make up Los Angeles County. The $40 billion is funded through a half-cent transportation sales tax increase which will cost each resident around $25 per year for the next 30 years. In 2008, not only did I vote for Measure R (along with 75% of voters) but I did so enthusiastically. 

Four years later, the MTA proposed a new measure on our ballots (Measure J) which would extend the tax for an additional 30 years at the cost of $90 billion. Initially, I thought that voting for Measure J would be an obvious choice, that is until I started reading the opposition to the Measure and began to assess the cumulative impacts of Measure J – thinking regionally and locally.

In my research about the opposition, I learned that one of the unforeseen consequences of Measure R was that there were bus fare increases and service cuts which particularly effect those who depend on the bus system. Cuts that effect how they get to work, go to the store, transport children, etc. These cuts happened because the MTA has the ability to take current funds (not Measure R monies) and redirect them to other projects, taking money out of the bus system. 

20% of Measure J money will go to highway construction and expansion (including the extension of the 710 freeway which would tunnel through South Pasadena) which is something I do not support. Highway construction and expansion plus bus service cuts/fare increases means increased traffic and pollution and in my view, exacerbates our existing issues. Additionally, I looked at the development companies partnering with the MTA and how those potential projects could affect communities along the rail lines an determined that these projects could lead to a great deal of displacement in these communities.

I am a public transportation advocate and a passionate one at that. Some of the improvements proposed in Measure J seem like they would have a positive impact but many seem negative.The problem is that we can’t be guaranteed which projects MTA will choose (or who could suffer in unforeseen ways in the process ) to put our money towards and I’m not sure I’m willing to give Metro $90 billion to carry out initiatives of their choosing.

Kansas City Residents Build Their Own Bike Sharing Network

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City, Missouri has the highest ration of highway miles to city population in the country and also ranks last in bicycle and public transportation ridership in the nation. BikeWalkKC, a local bicycle advocacy group takes the approach, that if you don’t have the bicycle infrastructure you want, you build it yourself and they are asked local volunteers to help build a new bike sharing system for their city.

Volunteer labor not only reduces operational costs for the organization, but more important, BikeWalkKC is hoping that volunteers will become invested in the system they build and in turn, become advocates themselves.

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Over a two-day period and with the support of local business and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, 75 dedicated volunteers assembled NINETY bikes for the new bike share system. The bikes will be ready for Kansas city on July 3rd and spread from the Market District to the north and the downtown areas of Union Station and Crown Center to the south.

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Kansas City residents build their own bike sharing network. Photo via This Big City

Advocate’s Video Helps Prioritize New Crosswalk

Last March, Adam Choit decided to make a video showing pedestrians trying to run across Sunset Boulevard in a particularly dangerous stretch where crosswalks loom far in the distance from one another. The video received a lot of attention from people who were alarmed by pedestrians taking such risks to cross the street – people like Los Angeles Walks founder and the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair Deborah Murphy who sent the video to colleagues at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

In response, the Department of Transportation has added the intersection featured in this video to a list of new city crosswalks to be painted in the next fiscal year. Choit said that he thought this was a win for a more pedestrian-friendly Sunset Boulevard and says that he plans to make additional films that affect change in the city. Choit says: It’s definitely rewarding to know that hard work and having a vision can pay off, and one person really can make a difference.”

Designing Cities and Transit for Seniors

Active Living For All Ages: Creating Neighborhoods Around Transit from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

The AARP Public Policy Institute (AARPPPI) is studying how seniors get from one destination to another. Do they walk, do they ride public transportation, can they travel independently, how far away do they live from their destinations and how long does it take them to get there?

AARPPPI partnered with Streetfilms to highlight work that is being done in Arlington, Virginia to create a more walkable, accessible community where you can spend the entirety of your life. AARPPPI says that when you are “planning for older adults, you’re planning for an entire community.”

Planners and policy makers in Arlington have tried to create residential and commercial development that is oriented around access to public transportation (also knows as Transit Oriented Development) and to incorporate urban design improvements that address issues important to seniors including smooth and connected sidewalks, perceptions of safety at public transit stations and bus stops, and the connectivity of and distances between the residential and commercial neighborhoods.

AARPPPI found that Arlington seniors (75 in older) make 22% of their trips on foot and that their number of trips taken on public transportation was four times higher than seniors living in other suburban communities. They also found that when public transportation wasn’t accessible, seniors didn’t use it. This conclusion may seem obvious, but it is still important to acknowledge and is always helpful to think about when making policy, planning and design decisions that impact our communities.

Who Manages Our City Streets?

Graphic depicting governance of our city streets. Graphy by Huma Husain via LA Curbed

Graphic depicting governance of our city streets. Graphic by Huma Husain via LA Curbed

At some point, you may have found yourself wondering why it can take so long to get a seemingly simple repair, amenity (bicycle racks, benches, bus shelters, etc) or design change made to our city streets. Huma Husain, a graduate planning student at the University of California Los Angeles created this wonderful diagram which could provide a very helpful answer to that exact question.

As you can see, Ms. Husain has labeled the Los Angeles city managing agency which oversees different portions of our streets, sidewalks and amenities. While each city has differing managing bodies and management roles, here in Los Angeles, as this diagram illustrates, any change could be a difficult process and large-scale changes (like design modifications that can help our streets become more friendly to bicycles and pedestrians) could be very challenging.

In addition to working with the number of managing agencies involved in street projects, our underground infrastructure (pipes, tubes, wiring, etc, which provides us with our utilities and services) as well as the time and labor needed for these projects can create further delays.

But understanding how our streets are managed is important because it also let’s you know which agency should be held accountable when change needs to take place.