Updated: Oct 28, 2022
Ahead of the 2022 primary election in June, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition asked eight candidates for mayor where they stood on transportation issues facing Los Angeles County. Ahead of November 8's general election, we're reposting Rep. Karen Bass and real estate developer Rick Caruso's responses.
1. GETTING AROUND IN LA
How often do you walk, bike, ride transit, or otherwise get to your destinations without driving in LA? How would you judge the condition and importance of each of those transportation modes? How important is it for the next LA Mayor to experience all available transportation modes?
As a bicyclist, I admittedly prefer biking along the beach rather than city streets because we have not created the infrastructure to make biking convenient and safe. Crippling traffic, broken or non-existent sidewalks, and an increasingly unreliable public transportation system undermine our ability to get around safely, comfortably and conveniently. We have a once in a generation opportunity to invest in transportation infrastructure. With historic funding available from our state and federal partners, I am uniquely qualified to bring that investment home to L.A. so we can rebuild our streets and sidewalks, expand our transit system to knit communities together, and leave an infrastructure legacy. As Mayor, I will continue to use all of these transportation modes – and make it easier for all Angelenos to do the same. That means working to make transit free, delivering transit projects more quickly, increasing reliability through dedicated bus lanes and advanced signal priority, and increasing accessibility – particularly for the most vulnerable members of our community – by prioritizing first and last mile access to transit and investing in basic infrastructure like street lighting and shaded bus stops. I will transform our city streets to become public places and spaces, where all the city’s major corridors are walkable, bikeable, green and safe. I will work with communities to expand L.A.’s network of protected bike lanes, and expand the city’s open streets frequency and locations – like CicLAvia – to provide community connectivity and encourage shifts in modes of mobility beyond the use of cars.
I walk my neighborhood on a regular basis, always have and always will. I’ve built all my developments with a sense of community and walkability in mind. I learned this from studying European, primarily Italian, community squares and community centers where cars were the last thing you would see. I believe the potential for Los Angeles to create the same type of walkability and community is untapped and limitless and with the right planning and determination, we can make the city known for sprawl and the automobile, a truly community driven city where owning a car will no longer be a prerequisite for getting around. I also believe that we must elevate biking and transit options to the same level and truly ensure that all forms of transportation are viable, safe, efficient, and accessible. We also have to find a way to get the costs under control. The Eno Center for Transportation pointed out that in Los Angeles the Purple Line cost $800 million per mile. In contrast, Copenhagen built a project at just $323 million per mile, and Paris and Madrid did their projects for $160 million and $320 million per mile, respectively. If we are truly going to get Angelenos out of their cars and onto mass transit and active transportation we have to build a better, more reliable system that touches every inch of this city.
2. LA METRO SAFETY
As Mayor, how would you incorporate community-based support and safety strategies prioritizing the needs of vulnerable Angelenos?
No one should worry about their safety when getting from Point A to Point B. Creating a safe transportation system is critical to connecting and unifying LosAngeles. As Mayor, I will create a Safety Corps of people who have eyes on the Metro system and who have the rider’s back on safety issues – a concept that has roots in community-based advocacy. The Safety Corps will include ambassadors, healthcare workers, mental health specialists, and housing and homeless providers. By addressing issues and connecting people with services, the Safety Corps will help achieve the right balance with law enforcement by working towards a more effective deployment of police to reduce response times to crime. I am also committed to making our streets safer, cleaner and more accessible. Neighborhoods – particularly underserved areas – need and deserve lighting, shade and clean streets – especially where people gather like bus stops. I will expand street lighting to every urban neighborhood, install shade and shelter at every bus stop, and hire more sanitation crews to clean our streets and bus stops. Survey after survey shows that most Angelenos want to be able to get around their neighborhood on foot and by bike but do not feel safe or comfortable. Those voices sometimes aren’t heard during traditional community engagement processes. Angelenos deserve safe routes to schools, parks and community centers along streets that are safe for everyone. I will stand up for safe, healthy and accessible streets and prioritize accessibility for the most vulnerable members of our community.
Restoring public safety will be a focus of my administration and that includes our mass transit system. A recent study by LADOT’s the “Changing Lanes: A Gender Equity Transportation Study” and LA Metro’s report “Understanding How Women Travel” both reported women feel significantly less safe than men on mass transit with 40% of women in LADOT’s survey stating they have feared for their safety. As Mayor, I will put 1,500 new officers on our streets, return to community-based policing, build 30,000 shelter beds in 300 days to help get our unhoused off our streets with full wrap-around services, and I will hire 500 mental health and addiction caseworkers. If we want to increase ridership we need people to feel safe and we need reliable service.
3. VISION ZERO
How would you assess LA City’s Vision Zero policy, and what concrete steps would you take to implement its Vision Zero program by 2025? What role does the Mayor have in encouraging City Council members to take political risks in supporting Vision Zero projects and commitments like the City’s Mobility Plan 2035, that may remove parking or travel lanes?
The Vision Zero program set the right goal but it has been chronically underfunded. Los Angeles boasts the tragic distinction of having one of the highest rates of fatal traffic crashes – and sadly, more people died or were injured in traffic collisions in 2021 than the year prior. I will fully invest in Vision Zero to create safer streets and make zero traffic fatalities a reality. The City also routinely misses opportunities to make streets safer through our regular maintenance programs, like street resurfacing and sidewalk repair. Vision Zero is treated like a siloed program in LADOT instead of as a guiding philosophy for all investment in our streets, particularly by StreetsLA and the Bureau of Engineering. It is easier to ask communities to support comprehensive projects that also include trees, lighting, shade, and other local priorities, but the way we currently deliver Vision Zero projects leaves out these critical elements. Similar to Vision Zero, the city’s Mobility Plan 2035 sets a bold vision but requires leadership, coordination, and resources to implement. We need more dedicated spaces for buses, bicyclists and pedestrians and at the same time, we need to get there in a way that considers the impacts on neighbors and businesses. I have built coalitions my entire life – as Mayor, I would partner closely with the City Council and communities, bringing stakeholders together to find common ground and advance our ambitious goals of getting people out of their cars and creating safer streets.
I think we can all agree that Vision Zero has not accomplished its mission and that deaths have increased. There are myriad reasons for this and some far out of the control of the City of Los Angeles. However, where the City’s role has played a part is in not having a cohesive strategy that all councilmembers and communities have bought into and supported. Instead we have recalls being done due to bike lanes, protests because of parking lane removal, and so on and so on. The conversations around Vision Zero are important and needed and we must do better building alliances and not creating divisions.
4. BETTER BUSES
LA Metro’s current shortage of bus operators significantly impacts bus frequency and reliability. How would you address this problem and also further increase bus frequency and ensure service reliability as ridership rebounds? Do you support Metro’s advocacy of a fare-free transit system?
When you take transit, you solve traffic – and you shouldn’t be stuck in it. That’s my foundational belief, which is why I will be committed to making our transit system safe, reliable and free. I support the move towards fareless transit, which will give people the freedom of mobility with no barriers to entry. Free transit can boost safety by getting more eyes on buses and trains, and for those who rely most on transit, it can save families thousands of dollars per year. Increased safety and affordability will bring riders back but the third leg of that stool is reliability. We are experiencing worker shortages across key industries across the nation and that includes bus operators. As a leader on the Metro board, I would explore higher pay, better COVID-19 protections, and other measures to recruit and retain more bus operators, who are essential to the effective operation of our system. I will work to restore and increase bus service, ensure that bus routes take people where they need to go, improve bus stops, and promote strategies like dedicated bus lanes, all-door boarding and advanced signal priority. Our basic goal should be to take people where they want to go and get them there on time.
Bus operators have one of the toughest jobs in LA. Not only do they have to operate a massive machine safely and efficiently, they must also play police officer, mental health expert, and oftentimes a punching bag. We must do better than this and ensure that operating our transit fleets is a safe and rewarding experience with a bright future. Once we have more operators we can realistically discuss more routes and more reliable service, but until then, it’s unlikely. As for a fare-free system, that is a question that needs more conversation and input from more Angelenos and as Mayor I will commit to doing more to have that conversation and ultimately an end result.
5. BUDGET & COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
How would you create more participation, accountability, and transparency in the budgeting process for LADOT or LA Metro projects, especially among limited English proficient and low-income communities? How would you ensure that project funds are equitably distributed?
As a former community organizer, I believe that those impacted by decisions need to have a seat at the table and an active role in policy making. I also believe deeply that we need to approach all decision making through an equity lens to ensure that those communities with the least access and fewest resources get the attention from City Hall that they need and deserve. The City of Los Angeles is the only major city in the U.S. that does not have a Capital Improvement Program. That makes it nearly impossible for communities and advocates to understand what resources we have available for infrastructure and how the city decides to spend them. Creating a transparent and equitable multi-year infrastructure plan that includes transportation and public works projects in one place would be a priority. I would look forward to engaging Angelenos in participatory budgeting in terms of transportation but also across the board to ensure that resource decisions are made equitably – and I would ensure that these processes are conducted in ways that are linguistically and culturally accessible for all communities. I would also actively seek input from the community and relevant stakeholders including transit users to determine the types of leaders they would like to see appointed to the Metro Board, and other key transportation appointments, as well as specific recommendations for who those individuals should be.
We need to provide clearer links between these projects and the impacts on the daily lives of all Angelenos, English speaking or not. Fundamentally, people engage when they feel like their input will be heard and that the projects are actually worthwhile. We must do more with translation services, outreach, and direct communication with people to ensure they understand the impact of these budget conversations.
6. MORE CONNECTED, LESS CONGESTED
What amenities and programs do you support to reduce traffic congestion, increase active transportation, and increase transit (bus and rail) ridership? As Mayor, how would you coordinate dozens of neighboring cities and public agencies to improve local and regional access to transportation modes aside from driving?
As Mayor, my vision is to reconnect and unify Los Angeles as a safe, sustainable, and equitable city. Transportation is an opportunity to physically connect people and communities together with safe and sustainable infrastructure. As outlined earlier, I would advocate for free transit, increase transit service and reliability, and establish a Safety Corps, all of which will help reduce traffic congestion and increase ridership. Additionally, I will focus on the implementation of first and last mile plans for major transit lines, including the Purple Line Extension and East San Fernando Valley transit projects, as well as Measure M active transportation projects, such as the Los Angeles River Path in the San Fernando Valley and through Downtown Los Angeles. As we head into a new normal post-pandemic, I will also convene the city’s private sector leaders to explore staggered work schedules to reduce traffic congestion. We should leverage the advent of Zoom and new technologies – and the desire of many to continue working from home – to keep more cars off the road. Governance in Los Angeles is diffuse, particularly when it comes to transportation, but I would work closely with adjacent cities through the Councils of Government and the Metro board to plan and implement active transportation networks and other transportation initiatives. As a community leader, former Speaker of the Assembly and current Member of Congress, I will leverage my experience and relationships to advance our shared transportation priorities.
These are all questions that need more than 250 words to answer, but in short we need to get people out of their cars by doing more to make living in Los Angeles less car-reliant. What that means is better planning decisions and thinking, especially with an eye towards community centers and walkability. We need more and better communication options in transit systems, like wifi and cell coverage to ensure that people can utilize their phones and laptops and we need reliable and frequent service, we can not get people out of their cars if they can not trust the bus to arrive on time. Lastly, we need more coordination and communication between agencies large and small. As Mayor and as a MTA board member, I will work on all these aspects and more.