Zocalo Public Square: Is Los Angeles mobile enough to be a global city?

Our friends at Zocalo held a forum last night on an oft-discussed subject in the Southland: is traffic here to stay or can something be done to take edge off and make L.A. more a world class place?

The forum one in a series of forums that Zocalo and Metro have teamed up to produce. The panelists were Aaron Paley, co-founder of CicLAvia, LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and architect and UCLA cityLAB co-director Roger Sherman. The moderator was Jessica Keating of the Los Angeles News Group’s opinion section.

A podcast of the event is above and Zocalo has a full write-up on their website. Here’s a nice excerpt:

Reynolds concurred, adding that transportation should be fun, and that designing the city’s future should be about more than getting people from point A to point B.

But, said Keating, as great as an “experience” sounds, the idea of riding a bike to a bus and then switching to a train doesn’t seem all that appealing to most people. How do you change the perspectives of people who just want to get in their cars and drive to their destination?

Paley said it’s about starting small: Give people an enjoyable pedestrian experience on the walk from their house to the grocery store.

Good conversation. I agree that Los Angeles isn’t that crazy different from many other American cities and even some foreign ones. The notable difference is that we got a later start on a modern rail system and that certainly impacts those who want to travel longer distances by transit.

Categories: Policy & Funding

9 replies

  1. Also, the extremely high costs of construction in LA vs. most foreign cities. Means that can’t catch up overnight.

  2. “How do you change the perspectives of people who just want to get in their cars and drive to their destination”

    Care to guess what people are doing when they go shopping for groceries at Ralphs or Vons? Guess what, they don’t use Metro.

    Care to wonder why? Because no one is going to pay $1.75 each way to go to the supermarket.

  3. A mobile city means you can get around town without a car. So by that definition, no LA is not. The vast majority of the people in LA still travel around by cars. And they will not switch to mass transit. And no, you cannot force everyone to take mass transit either.

    Besides, this entire city was built with the car in mind. Everything is spread out so everyone is forced to travel “longer distances” whether they like it or not. Of course, “longer distances” and “destination” is dependent on everyone’s own needs and definition.

    One can’t really put going from an apartment complex to their minimum wage job few miles away in the same ballpark as traveling from a suburban home to an six-figure white collar job at an office building in Downtown LA either.

    • You are correct that LA is not currently mobile to the same extent as many east coast cities, but part of the change is cultural. While entrenched Angelos may never use public transportation, younger people should be the focus. The average person never considers using the trains or busses even though they may be close by and relatively convenient to go to certain places, specifically downtown. I think as the train network expands and the inevitable increase in gas prices, people that are 35 and younger are much more likely to use busses and trains rather than driving. I also think that one car families will continue to grow in areas served by new train lines as these areas become denser, more transit friendly, and as a result more walkable.

  4. The problem is that transport and urban land use policies go hand-in-hand. Los Angeles however, separates the two entities as different aspects of government bureaucracy.

    You can’t expect people to switch from cars to transit while the other part of government bureaucracy keeps building cities and suburbs with ugly sprawl. If you want transit friendly and walkable cities, then the same urban planning has to go along with it. That includes updating outdated zoning laws, increased construction projects involving mixed use structures, promotion of higher density urban city lifestyle and changing the political climate where more emphasis are put onto smart transit projects over roads, parking lots and freeway projects.

    To be mass transit and pedestrian friendly, you need higher density development. You can’t have both “I want a big home with a large front yard out in the suburbs” and “I want mass transit to come to my front door to get me anywhere for the same cheap price.” Something has to give.

  5. When the majority of the decision-makers still think that transit needs to be operated to get other people off the road (so that the decision-maker then will have an easier car trip) and is not something that they themselves or their friends would ever stoop so low as to actually use, then you see how the pathetic situation in Los Angeles came to be and how it shall remain for some time. Not that this city is hopeless, but as long as so many people are taking in so much cash due to the car operation industry, then very little will change.