A Countywide Complete Streets Policy for the Los Angeles Region: It’s all about implementation

The Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative kicked off 2014 with our biggest meeting yet: over 100 partners from community-based organizations, school districts, councils of government, business groups, public agency staff, elected officials, Metro directors and individual supporters packed the room at The California Endowment. For those who couldn’t make it or were stuck on the waitlist, we’ve posted all the presentations and meeting materials, including attendee list. These diverse perspectives created a robust discussion of Complete Streets, and what role a countywide policy can play in improving conditions on the ground. A consensus emerged that to be effective the policy must focus on implementation with measurable outcomes and lead to greater collaboration with local jurisdictions. Thanks to all who attended and lent your voice to the growing conversation. You can see pictures from the meeting here.

This meeting built upon a year of outreach through the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative and a strong policy foundation. In December 2012, Metro adopted a Countywide Sustainability Planning Policy and Implementation Plan that outlined steps to expand and improve Metro’s role as a leader in sustainability. As a first implementation step, Metro is moving forward with a Complete Streets Policy and multimodal performance metrics for transportation projects in 2014. Our outreach confirmed that a strong Complete Streets Policy that articulates a regional vision for multimodal transportation is critically needed. This meeting engaged policy makers and partners on best practices for such a policy.

After introductions, Eric Bruins from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) opened with a presentation of our Los Angeles County transportation finance research and recommendations as well as a recap of the four listening sessions we hosted in 2013. Participants shared their vision for Complete Streets in Los Angeles County and their experiences trying to make improvements in their own communities.

Next, a panel of practitioners from jurisdictions with existing Complete Streets policies gave insights into implementation for both countywide with Stephan Vance from San Diego Association of Governments and city level with William Galvez from Santa Ana. Rye Baerg from the National Partnership then presented on best practices and policy recommendations for consideration in Los Angeles County. Following these presentations, Madeline Brozen from UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs moderated a Q & A with our expert panelists.

At lunch, each table was hosted by partners from:

After lunch we reconvened as a full group to carry the morning’s vision into a discussion of implementation, starting with the debut of our video:

Manal J. Aboelata, MPH, Managing Director at Prevention Institute and key partner in the Collaborative, provided an inspiring keynote address on the important links between public health, active transportation and the built environment. Manal reminded the collaborative of the incredible momentum we’ve seen throughout the state to advance Complete Streets policies to create environmental, health and transportation win-win solutions and indicated that Los Angeles County would serve as a model for other cities and counties in the region by adopting a strong Complete Streets Policy:

“A Complete Streets Policy shouldn’t just be a piece of a paper; We need resources for cities and our local communities across the region, such as technical support, training and norms change in our transportation policies and investments. This policy first and foremost needs to consider the health and safety needs of young children and our seniors, but then let’s reach even further to design fun, creative, inviting streets and leave a legacy for our children and our children’s children.”

Manal spoke about how the Metro Expo light rail has impacted her travel behavior:

“Expo line has personally changed my life. Since the Expo Line has been running, my husband, our two sons and I walk to school every day via the Expo Line.  We walk to the train from our house, ride to the USC expo stop and then walk the last leg to their school. My sons love it. Now we get to hold hands the whole way to school. And my husband and I love that we can spend this time walking and talking as a family.”

The Expo Line is just one example of how transit is changing lives in the LA region. Manal described how important the emerging regional transportation network is to support not just her family’s mobility, but the needs of people all over the county who would like flexible, safe and affordable options. Over the last decade, Manal mentioned, the evidence base has grown substantially: showing that access to transit influences health and safety, making it ever clearer that working together, public health and transportation can achieve shared goals and amass the political will we need to make investments that are good for health and good for the environment.

We caught up with Manal after the coalition meeting and asked her what she thought about a Complete Streets Policy.  In reflecting upon the potential for a countywide Complete Streets Policy, Manal recalled important public health successes in tobacco prevention and car seat safety legislation, where small changes eventually led to bigger shifts and lots of lives and money saved. As a transportation policy leader, Metro has an incredibly important role to play in signaling new ways of doing business, and integrating that new way into every facet of transportation planning. By using its proposal process to demonstrate preference for cities that have Complete Streets policies, Metro can accelerate new norms around transportation planning in key places where bicyclists and pedestrians are at greatest risk.  State law (AB 1358) already requires all cities to eventually adopt a Complete Streets policy, so Metro’s leadership will support local efforts to align with State policy.

The day concluded with an open discussion of “What implementation of a Metro Complete Streets Policy means for Los Angeles County,” moderated by Ryan Wiggins from Transform and Transportation for America.  The discussion was guided by the following questions:

Application of Policy: Should a Complete Streets Policy apply to all projects funded through Metro?

Metro Leadership: Should Metro increase its capacity to assist local jurisdictions in preparing competitive funding applications for walk/bike and transit access projects? What type of assistance is needed and who should provide the assistance?

Metro Leadership: Should local jurisdictions have Complete Streets policies in order to be eligible for funding from Metro?

Performance Measures/Data Collection: Should a Complete Streets Policy set mode share and safety targets for Los Angeles County’s transportation system?

Implementation Steps: Should Metro develop an Active Transportation Project List?

What we heard in the discussion:

Complete Streets are worth aspiring to, but should be guided by community context and operational needs:

  • Every community is unique, basic needs to be met first, e.g. sidewalks in Pacoima
  • Need for maintenance funding
  • Coordination with bus operations

Engagement of key stakeholders is important:

  • Involvement of business community
  • Councils of Government (COGs) are a resource to convene subregions and determine priorities
  • The community and businesses need to be engaged during the development of a Complete Streets Policy to gain ownership and real investment in the policy

Local jurisdictions need technical assistance, support and funding to implement their vision:

  • Many ways for Metro to assist communities with planning and funding
  • Incentivize Complete Streets for local jurisdictions and funding allocations
  • Local returns are mostly invested in local transit services, cities interested in growing the pie so they don’t have to cut one to fund the other
  • Metro can provide technical assistance to help cities prepare plans (e.g. expand the TOD planning program) so cities compete better with projects and proposals for funding
  • Partnership between SCAG and Metro important to help with planning funding
  • Relationship of Metro projects and key corridors to city general plans
  • Need resources to plan for changes to the built environment to be ready for the new transit system Metro is building
  • Efforts happening at LA in Sync – articulation of visions for state and federal funds, then we can do so with one voice. 89 local jurisdictions are not always on the same page. Metro is the main funder and planner and should set the vision for what we are trying to do in the county. A model ordinance could help cities articulate this shared vision.

Complete Streets should be integrated into all Metro programs, funding streams and performance metrics:

  • Metro should set regional goals and align funding with policy implementation
  • Regional finance plan targeted toward measurable goals for Complete Streets
  • Metro is delivering highway projects in conjunction with Caltrans but also funding small city road projects. Caltrans does have a Complete Streets policy that is implemented on a project-by-project basis, not yet systematically. When there is no local consensus on Complete Streets, COGs would be a good place to partner.
  • Reforming Metro Call for Projects – perhaps eliminate modal categories but compare outcomes across all projects
  • AB 743 and forthcoming changes to Level of Service metrics and CEQA provide opportunity to update Congestion Management Program
  • Role of data – and data collection – how do we move to performance-based investments and ensure adequate baseline data is established
  • We need better data collection than existing surveys (ACS, NHTS, etc.) – need to oversample for bicycle and pedestrian. What type of performance measures are we going to be working with? Does Complete Streets Policy set us up to measure and provide evidence of impact to apply for funding?
  • Projects designed according to Complete Streets principles are more competitive for state and federal money, which will better leverage local sales tax dollars, including a new Measure X.

See more comments from our partners at the meeting by clicking here to see their tweets .

Next Steps: One of the key next steps in this policy is participating in Metro’s policy workshops, the first one has been scheduled for Wednesday February 12th at 8:30am at Metro headquarters, click here for more information.

Hosted by Metro, the workshop will:

  • Gather input to inform the development of Metro’s Complete Streets Policy
  • Explore how Metro can help facilitate improved coordination and network integration across agencies, jurisdictions, and modes
  • Inform participants about federal policies and state laws related to Complete Streets
  • Discuss ways in which Complete Streets policies are being implemented in LA County, including accommodation of transit operations in a Complete Streets context

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
8:30am – Noon (Sign-in starts at 8:00am)
Metro Headquarters
One Gateway Plaza (Union Station)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Metro Board Room, 3rd Floor

Space is limited, so register now! Just email mardrussians@metro.net and include your name, organization, job title, phone number, and email/mailing address. Or contact Silva Mardrussian at 213.922.4425.

2 Responses to A Countywide Complete Streets Policy for the Los Angeles Region: It’s all about implementation

  1. Pingback: How CicLAvia is changing the way we talk about transportation | Safe Routes to School in California

  2. Pingback: Metro Complete Streets Workshop: 8/19 | Safe Routes to School in California

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