On October 23rd we hosted our fourth task force meeting and shared a working draft of the Mobility Element goals, objectives, policies, and programs. We presented members with the same six goals we have been sharing on our blog for the past few weeks: Safety First, World Class Infrastructure, Access for All Angelenos, Informed Choices, Clean Environment and Healthy Communities, and Smart Investments. You may notice that the order of the goals has changed slightly, reflecting the iterative process of our work and acknowledgement of feedback from the public and task force members.
At the meeting, we presented the progress on our outreach and the development of the draft document. More importantly, the meeting progressed into a group discussion and critique of the goals, objectives, policies, and programs in order to refine and improve them for the nearing presentation to the public. Although the task force reacted positively to the draft transportation vision for the future of our city, there was one recurring question: how do we ensure that the City follows through on all these policies and implement real change? We will discuss this how question in the context of our goals: safety, access and health, and investments.
How do we enforce safety?
In both our outreach and task force meetings, no one has denied the importance of safety. However, concern has been expressed regarding enforcement of programs and policies to ensure public safety. Improvements to our transportation system and roads are ineffective if there is no compliance with the regulations that govern them.
To meet the goal of safety, task force members suggested increasing education and awareness. For example, LAPD could play a role in educating the public on laws regarding all modes of travel and also provide stricter enforcement of these laws. Safety can also be increased with more thorough community engagement. Developing a process for the City and its law enforcement functions to inform the public about safety concerns in their neighborhood would help bring about real change and improvements.
How do we measure access and health?
Access and health encompass so many different qualitative aspects regarding transportation that it is no simple task to establish metrics and standards that quantify their success. For example, a neighborhood may have many nearby bus stops that might seem to signify sufficient transportation access. However, there is no guarantee that these bus lines go to desired destinations, or run efficiently, or have comfortable stops and waiting areas. Similarly, existing metrics center around delays to vehicle movement. However, this metric loses utility when comparing multiple modes; for example, slower traffic may actually be beneficial if it creates a safer environment people who walk or bike.
In addition, there are many ways to measure health within a community. Air quality can be measured and compared against numbers for clean fleets and green building. However, health expands beyond just air quality; it can include exercise, social activity, vitality, and proximity to resources, just to name a few. Measuring improvements in health often require long-term observation and vary widely, which makes pinpointing a metric for success more difficult.
How can we fund all of these policies and programs so they are actually successful?
Another concern that we have heard from both our outreach and the task force is how we can propose new changes when our existing programs and infrastructure are already struggling from underfunding. To address the pressing need for maintenance of existing and new components of our transportation system, we need to establish sustainable funding sources. This is one reason that Smart Investments is an independent goal. We will also be holding a separate Task Force meeting in the near future to discuss the critical issue of funding.
Our last task force meeting also helped us work out the language and communication of our draft goals, objectives, policies, and programs. In order to comply with state Complete Streets requirements, we have also drafted a preliminary complete streets network (preview in our meeting presentation), broken down by mode for organizational purposes. For a lack of better terminology, these networks had been identified by “priority:” vehicle priority, transit priority, and bicycle priority. During the meeting, task force members questioned the necessity of defining a vehicle priority network because so many of our streets are already designed for automobile traffic and vehicle lanes would still be present on the other networks. Instead, it was suggested that we use “enhanced” instead of “priority.” Enhanced modal networks better convey the intent of Complete Streets—not that one mode should be prioritized over another and take its place in the road, but that we need to find the right balance to give all modes a safe and effective place in our streets. An enhanced network also better represents the different levels of treatments that could be made, depending on the context. Several streets may be considered part of the transit-enhanced or bicycle-enhanced network. However, they do not all warrant the same level of treatment to play an effective role in the transportation network at large, especially when considering fiscal and physical constraints.
What are your thoughts on our goal language? We are eager to hear your feedback. Please check our online town hall site, ideas.la2b.org, next week to restart the conversation!