The Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative kicked off 2014 with the 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, they 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.
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.
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.