Last Monday, our foundation served as the primary financial sponsor of “Live Ride Share,” the first conference in Southern California dedicated to connecting the region’s growing public transit system to other forms of shared mobility like bike sharing, car sharing, ridesharing, vanpools, taxis and transportation network companies. Over 300 elected officials, agency staff, advocates and entrepreneurs attended to hear panel discussions and exchange ideas about the emerging trends in shared mobility.
As we wrote before the conference, Los Angeles is already undertaking significant transit service improvements, with five new high-capacity lines under construction. It already has the second highest bus ridership in the nation, with 1.1 million passengers per day, more than San Francisco and Washington D.C. combined.
We chose to fund this event to help the greater Los Angeles region build on this commitment to new transit and connect it to new forms of transportation. Shared-use mobility is a natural complement to – not a replacement for – frequent fixed-route public transit like trains and buses. We also thought this conference is timely because in some respects national market trends are way ahead of local government policies: for example, despite the growth of bicycling in other U.S. cities, or despite the success of car sharing companies elsewhere, Los Angeles has been a relatively slow adopter of services that are thriving elsewhere.
But Southern California is working to catch up with the times. LA Metro, other transit agencies, and other jurisdictions around the region will soon issue requests for proposals from providers of bike sharing and car sharing services, as well as re-examining their taxi regulations and other barriers to entry in the face of new technology-enabled ride-sharing platforms. LA Metro will also be working hard on designing their new stations to accommodate those other emerging forms of mobility that help their customers travel the first and last kilometer.
We sought to better inform several major decisions that are going to be made by Los Angeles officials and residents in the next two years. Making the right choices in these decisions is essential to equipping the second largest city in the U.S. with the transportation options it will need for the 21st century:
- In November 2016 it’s likely that the Move LA coalition – consisting of a range of interests from business to labor to environmentalists – will go to the ballot and ask voters to expand on the financial commitment to transit with their tax dollars. The investments the voters authorized in 2008 are starting to pay off, and they should have the confidence to pay that benefit forward to future generations. We hope that last week’s conference helped invigorate that coalition and will mobilize more Angelenos to get on the “yes” side of the question.
- The region’s metropolitan planning organization, known as the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), will be updating the regional transportation plan in the coming two years. While that task sounds wonky, it has important consequences because it governs where transportation tax dollars flow. Hasan Ikhrata, the Executive Director of SCAG, declared at the conference that the days of building enormous highways is in the past, and while we applaud that declaration we want to make sure the decisions about what to do instead are the optimal ones. While California state law is the most progressive in the nation in directing urban areas to plan their transportation systems to reduce carbon pollution rather than just accommodate cars, the region still faces difficult choices in putting a plan together. For example, will SCAG help to fund re-design of arterials to speed up the bus network that 1.1 million people depend upon, or emphasize new corridors? There are no easy answers when there are many valid competing uses for the funds.
- Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration is tackling several ambitious initiatives where public support is going to be important. The Mayor and his dynamic new General Manager of the L.A. Department of Transportation Seleta Reynolds have announced a “Great Streets initiative” to retrofit some of Los Angeles’ brutal arterials as safer, multi-purpose places. Los Angeles’ elected officials will need to hear their constituents’ support for these reforms, and have the courage to update their street designs and zoning and building codes despite what is sure to be a small but loud minority of nay-sayers.
- The Mayor and City Council will also be updating all the mobility-related elements of their general plan, which can include controversial issues like increasing the population density around transit stations and reducing the amount of automobile storage that real estate developers are required to provide even when the market doesn’t want it. To paraphrase Professor Madeline Brozen of UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies, “When you get off the train or bus, is there a ‘there’ there?” We hope that the information shared at the “Live Ride Share” conference last week inspires transit planners to ensure that there will be a “there” there as Los Angeles opens new stations along its multiple new lines, including easy connections to the other forms of transportation that link to off-route origins and destinations.
The “Live Ride Share” conference was an exciting step forward, building on Los Angeles’ pre-existing commitment to transit and looking toward a future with other forms of shared mobility to supplement it. It was a fascinating day of shared ideas about street design, information technology, bikes and buses – plenty of new ways to ride and share and above all – to emphasize the first word of the conference title – to make Los Angeles a better place to live.
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