Outreach participants frequently mentioned the lack of information as a frustrating hurdle to fully utilizing our transportation system. Angelenos want information that will help them make efficient, reliable trips, including real-time transportation information, clear signage, and instructions. Many are discouraged from using public transportation because there is insufficient guidance and instruction, especially for first-time transit users. Participants suggested integrating more technology into our transportation system—mobile information, smart phone apps, GPS tracking, and social media—to communicate more effectively with Angelenos.
Some also commented that Los Angeles needs better transportation coordination—between the City and the public, across City departments and agencies, and with community groups and private businesses. A lack of coordination makes it harder for our transportation goals to be achieved and also more difficult for travelers to get the information they need.
What we’ve heard from Angelenos
“Smart phone apps to help find buses and bike routes would help the users, anonymous tracking data would help the planners”
“The local bus/streetcar service would be easy to negotiate and understand”
“Better instructions on how to traverse the public transportation system- at times the information is incomprehensible, web info is hard to follow…[my trip was] confusing to say the least—I give up, next time I am going by car”
“Coordination of service…coordination between LA Metro, Big Blue Bus, Culver City”
“Communicate vision to public”
To improve communication and information sharing, we are proposing a goal of “Informed Choices.” Information can be delivered on multiple levels to improve transportation within Los Angeles. At an individual level, the availability of information enables easier, more reliable journeys. This includes real-time transportation information and increasing use of technology and social media as user demand for digital resources increases. Metro already offers many mobile resources and uses its Twitter account to provide service alerts to riders. Similarly, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is using Google Maps to provide detailed, interactive maps of bicycle projects and parking. In addition, the Department of City Planning has used online platforms to engage with more Angelenos than in the past, launching the online town hall, ideas.la2b.org, and this blog to reach those who are not able to attend traditional workshops and events.
Disseminating information at a user level also includes improving awareness through means that do not require technical savvy, internet connection, or a smart phone. This includes posting maps, schedules, and arrival times at transit stops and stations. LADOT is currently compiling a database of destinations in the city to create user-friendly wayfinding signs. Metro recently swapped out the information on their Civic Center Station platforms to include images of buildings in the vicinity. Visitors to the Civic Center area can use these visual cues on the subway platform to find their destinations.
The availability of information will enable Angelenos to plan trips more easily and reliably. This includes making real-time transportation information available, whether online, mobile, or displayed at stops and stations. We can facilitate coordination among different transportation service providers to give Angelenos well-integrated and consistent information.
We can also improve communications between the City and Angelenos to receive better feedback and reporting on street improvements and transportation services. By facilitating two-way communications, the City can gain direct information and also share information back to increase transparency of the planning and decision-making processes. In addition, we can develop a shared database for the many City and regional agencies involved in transportation to allow for better coordination.
As pointed out by one of our LA/2B participants, local and regional entities in the Los Angeles region have not had the best track record of coordinating and communicating with one another in the past. However, coordination and communication are at the heart of public agencies making informed choices. Now more than ever, partnerships among agencies and across disciplines are being cultivated to effectuate more informed decisions about our transportation and street infrastructure.
The Streets for People initiative brought together many City and County agencies to repurpose underutilized streets as vibrant public spaces. Sunset Triangle Plaza, its first pilot project, opened in March 2012 and has become a popular community space, hosting events such as movie nights and farmers markets. The Plaza was made possible by coordinating work among: the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Los Angeles City Planning Commission; Departments of Transportation, Planning, and Public Works; Green LA Coalition; Office of Councilmember Eric Garcetti; Silver Lake Improvement Association; Silver Lake Neighborhood Council; and many more groups and local businesses.
At a regional level, there has been a renewed commitment by the City, its neighboring municipalities, and Metro to plan our land uses side-by-side with our transportation investments. The Metro Board began the Transit Oriented Development Grant Program in 2011 to encourage transit-supportive land use planning around station areas. The Grant Program distributes funds to applicants in “rounds” for projects within ¼ mile of designated transit corridors or within ½ mile of Metrolink Stations. Recently, the City received a $3.1 million grant to plan for transit-compatible land uses and streetscape improvements along the future Expo (Phase 2) and Crenshaw Lines, and the Department of City Planning (DCP) has submitted applications covering additional transit lines for future phases of the program.
Planning and development of these transit-adjacent areas have involved extensive coordination among DCP, Metro, LADOT, Department of Public Works, Building and Safety, LAWA (the City’s airport oversight and operations department), local property owners, and neighboring jurisdictions such as the Cities of Culver City, Santa Monica, Inglewood, Hawthorne, and El Segundo. Although Metro operates the stations at a county level, the City agencies are responsible for the operations and development in the surrounding streets and public right-of-way. Furthermore, these land use and transportation plans and decisions must consider the potential impacts—economic, health, visual, to name a few—on the local businesses and residents.
Interagency coordination and informed decision-making occur at even larger scales as well. As a state project, California’s High Speed Rail will connect 800 miles of regions, cities, and municipalities, and the number of government agencies and landowners involved multiplies accordingly. The High Speed Rail Authority must also coordinate with the county transportation agency (Metro), as it has jurisdiction over the rights of way of former rail lines where new tracks would be built. Furthermore, many former rail lines run along the Los Angeles River, and development of this land necessitates federal participation on the parts of the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, there are impacts to consider in conflict with recent efforts to restore and transform the River into space for public recreation, described in the vision and policies of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP). At the local level, the City must consider land use impacts on the areas that will be developed and/or affected by the rail project. Visual, noise, blight, pedestrian, congestion, economic, and pollution impacts are just some of the potential effects to be considered in locating and routing the rail lines. In 2009, the Department of City Planning prepared a report of potential land use impacts and conflicts of high speed rail development in Los Angeles, and found that the project would specifically impact the: Framework and Transportation Elements of the General Plan; Central City North, Boyle Heights, and Northeast Los Angeles Community Plans; Alameda District Specific Plan; Adelante Eastside, Central Industrial, and Little Toyko Redevelopment Plans of the now-dissolved Community Redevelopment Agency; Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay; LARRMP; and Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan. The City’s efforts to coordinate among all of the different agencies and stakeholders involved can be seen in the alternative analyses and proposals for routes into Los Angeles, such as a tunnel connection rather than at-grade or aerial rail tracks to reduce potential negative impacts.
Coordinating our information and operations can benefit everyone who travels to and within Los Angeles. By increasing the availability of wayfinding tools and real-time travel data, trips can become easier and more reliable. In addition, better communication will facilitate projects and improvements at all scales, ensuring that we are making the best Informed Choices possible for transportation in our city.