From car dependency to shared mobility redefining Los Angeles

Enlighten • Pulse #3 • 4 min
By Seleta Reynolds General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation

Los Angeles was designed around unfettered use of the car.  Streets are congested. Air quality is poor for one quarter of the year. Traffic deaths are the number one cause of death for kids in Los Angeles. And for every new resident that moves to Los Angeles, they bring one car with them, which now means we have a city with four times the rate of vehicles than in the 1990s. If these trends continue, how can we expect our city to thrive?  As the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, these challenges fall squarely on my shoulders.

I have spent the last four years developing a plan to overcome my city’s car dependency. New transportation innovations have opened up the possibilities for Los Angeles. And a better mobility future is within our reach, certainly sooner than most might expect.

My aim is that, by the time we host the 2028 Olympics, Los Angeles will be a model for the autonomous and shared mobility movement that is equitable and sustainable.

By 2028, driverless cars and air taxis will form part of a coordinated transportation network. The City will take a much more proactive role in managing the movement of goods and people. Communityled initiatives will redesign streets to eliminate traffic deaths and reallocate space to public parks and plazas. We will have aggressively converted our buses and city fleets to electric vehicles. We will have centered our work around social and racial equity so that everyone has access to dignified transportation choices. If we get all these things right, air quality will improve, our streets will be safer, and we will retire the tired cliché that traffic sucks.

REIMAGINE OUR ROLE

To achieve such a transformation, we need to redefine the role that a city transportation agency has played in the past.
In the past, we had a static and incomplete picture of how people were traveling, we had no digital data base of where you could or could not park in the city, and we begged for data from private transportation providers. Today, we are offering companies substantial input into the data specification we will use as part of our permit system for electric scooters and ride sharing. Businesses like Uber and Lyft are now taking a very different posture to when they first arrived on the scene. And we’re creating a dynamic digital database of all of our infrastructure in the city.

In the past, transportation agencies have taken an adversarial approach to private product companies and required partners to go through time­ consuming and cumbersome contracting processes to share basic data.  In the past, we’ve allowed enticing new technology (like freeways) to completely reshape our urban form with little thinking about long term social impacts of unfettered expansion. Tomorrow, we expect autonomous systems to be a feature of our streets and air space, integrated with mass transit, and aligned with the city’s sustainability and equity goals. Autonomous vehicles have the greatest potential to solve many of our mobility challenges. However, if left to purely commercial forces, autonomy will add to congestion, increase safety challenges, and exacerbate inequality.  This is why today, we are working in close coordination with autonomous vehicle providers to ensure the technology is supported by our infrastructure and aligned with our goals.

Encourage citizen co-construction

And finally, in the past, we’ve approached community engagement as a chore.  We created portals to request services that eliminated human interaction. Today, we’re asking better questions of our community partners. Do women feel safe on public transit ? How can we improve walking and biking access that helps make people feel more comfortable ? Are our buses going where people want them to go ?  How could micro transit, protected cycle lanes and electric scooters work alongside the bus to provide flexible options that encourage people to drive less ?

In just the last 12 months, we have been able to deliver groundbreaking work to build a Transportation Department that functions more like a platform for services to be built on top of. This digital platform will allow us to guide all users around Los Angeles in the most sustainable way.

I cannot be sure how mobility will develop in our city.  I can be sure that our goal is to express our policies through technology, so that the city remains the guardian of the public realm to ensure that the future serves our goals.

Seleta Reynolds

is General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). As such, its mission is to make Los Angeles a model city by the time of the 2028 Olympics. In particular, she has implemented “Great Streets” for Los Angeles, a plan to reduce traffic fatalities, double the number of people riding bikes, and expand access to integrated transportation choices.

READ ALSO

“In Lyon, we are speeding up innovation in all its forms.”

As the authority in charge of France’s second-largest public transport network, SYTRAL has a particularly complex brief. It spans the whole Rhône department, which includes the dynamic city of Lyon, of course, as well as vast suburban areas, which also pose significant mobility challenges.

Pulse #4 7 min
Rennes, l’innovation sur toutes les lignes

Rennes, innovation across all lines

Rennes tops the league of the best French cities to live and work in. For sure, being close to the sea, the air quality and the cultural choices on offer, are some of the reasons. But the economic strength and the share of population that use public transport are also part of the ranking criteria. Having said that, if you think about it, isn’t there a link between these two points ?

Pulse #2 7 min