A Countywide Complete Streets Policy for the Los Angeles Region

LA ATC

Co-Authors:

Eric Bruins, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
Jessica Meaney, Southern California Policy Director, Safe Routes to School National Partnership 

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

LAATC

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.  See our video on what complete streets in LA County looks like:

Supporting Complete Streets in Los Angeles County from Safe Routes to School in CA on Vimeo.

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. 

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.

Read the full recap here. 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 in Los Angeles, click here for more information.  The Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative looks forward to working with Metro in the coming months as the Regional Complete Streets Policy is drafted and ultimately adopted by Metro in 2014.

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