Deborah Murphy featured on a panel at Zócolo Public Square: Cars and freeways didn’t just shape the landscape of contemporary America; they shaped the national culture as well. Southern California in particular has reveled in the pleasures of the automobile, from Sunday drives and drive-in theaters to the car race in Rebel Without a Cause. But between the pressures of climate change and a younger generation’s preference for denser living and public transportation, there is a serious backlash against the car, especially in L.A., where drivers spend more than 60 hours a year stuck in traffic. Are our cruising days over forever? Petersen Automotive Museum executive director Terry Karges, DUB Magazine founder Myles Kovacs, Los Angeles Walks founder Deborah Murphy, and Drexel University Center for Mobilities Research and Policy director Mimi Sheller visit Zócalo to discuss the future of car culture, in Southern California and beyond.
Walking is the active solution to a safe, accessible, fun, and equitable city. Everyday freeways are set in gridlock emitting noxious fumes and make the need for immediate change more apparent. The February 2015 report prepared by UC Berkeley and UCLA, found that transportation causes nearly 40% of the carbon emissions. However, 90% of California's state budget is currently invested into highway development. As of now, CA's spending is in direct conflict with its environmental goals.
Increasing the budget for active transportation will provide the critical resources that will actually improve air quality, health, and happiness in our communities. 1 in 5 trips in CA are already on foot or by bike; if you design for pedestrians, then you get more pedestrians. There is no more time to invest in highways, we must take the steps to mitigate these problems.
The Dry River walk, led by walk ambassador Jack Moreau, will exhibit the Arroyo Seco Bikeway and Eugene Debs Park as community assets for Los Angeles and discuss the issues behind connecting the areas with bicycle and pedestrian transportation.
The Arroyo Seco is a natural creek running from the Angeles National Forest into Downtown LA where it meets the Los Angeles River. It now serves as the only piece of bicycle and pedestrian exclusive roadway in the North East LA. While this path offers an incredible asset to the community, chain link fencing encloses it and greatly decreases usage. Parks border the majority of the path, but there are only four access points each about a mile apart. The Arroyo Seco can become a major alternative transportation corridor for all of NELA and beyond. The path could be extended north into Pasadena as well as south into DTLA. Eugene Debs Park can be connected to the City of LA through the bike path and become a leading green space advocacy center for everyone. However, rising rates of homelessness in the area bring very difficult questions as to the equitable course of redevelopment.
As we walk, we will view hidden treasures of NELA and learn from community leaders about access to the Arroyo Seco.
The walk is a little over 2 miles. There is one pretty significant hill in Debs Park, but it is very fun and pretty!
Developer Yuval Bar-Zemer discusses ﬁve ways he’s seeing pedestrian improvements contribute to a more ﬁnancially viable L.A. As told to Los Angeles Walks steering committee member Daveed Kapoor.
We know walking is good for our communities and good for our health. But how does designing for walking help businesses—and the city—improve their bottom lines? As founder of Linear City Development, Yuval Bar-Zemer has led the transformation of several neighborhoods by paying special attention to pedestrian life. Over lunch at Urban Radish, a new Arts District grocery store developed by Linear City, Bar-Zemer described ﬁve ways he’s seen walking boost L.A.’s economy.
Density is changing the way Angelenos spend money. From an urban planning perspective, we have to think of what level of density will create an environment in which we don't have to rely on the car for basic life functions. Can we get your job close enough to your home? Can we get your kid’s school close enough? Can we get your three favorite restaurants? Can we get your grocery store? If you manage to do that, then the option of walking is no longer a “pioneering, visionary” type thing, but rather becomes the decision that actually makes the most sense. You get your exercise and you get where you need to go by foot. We built the Urban Radish grocery store around this idea. If you live nearby and you want to come and do your shopping here, it sounds reasonable that you will walk a couple of blocks, and you can do it three times a week and leave your car in your garage.
Good walkability provides an economic boost to the neighborhood. Once you manage to change people’s priorities, and the preferred mode of transportation becomes cycling and walking, that means that the available radius for amenities shrinks dramatically. This dynamic enforces the local businesses that can rely on the support of the immediate neighbors to patronize their business, as opposed to a large mall development, requiring everyone to drive far away on a freeway and park in a big parking lot. You are localizing commerce. You beneﬁt from tax revenues, localized sales tax, and then all the services. You can show the community that you are supporting local business by making walking a priority.
Car-sharing helps alleviate ﬁnancial burden for residents. Linear City installed the largest public electric vehicle-charging facility in the city, and placed two electric vehicles that operate as a community car-share program. Literally you can live in this neighborhood without the need to own a car. If you need one, you just go online and make a reservation and you have a car for the day.
I think this is going to be part of the future: The ﬂexibility of not owning a car but still using it to address your needs—doing some errands or visiting a friend—makes a lot of economic sense and will enhance the choice of walking. I believe that many people would be happy to get rid of their car or the $400 to $500 cost per month associated with owning a car as long as they have most of what they need in a walking distance and the availability of a car when they need it.
Cutting back on parking can save everyone money. When developing a property, a developer has to ﬁgure out how much parking is needed as part of marketability: Does one need one space per unit or two? How does one allocate spaces between commercial and residential uses? Then there is the ﬁnancial aspect, it can cost $25,000 just to build a parking spot. If you create a project in an environment where the emphasis is on walking rather than driving, and you can solve the need for each person to have his own car, that would result in a lower parking count which make the project more cost-effective. If a developer decides to break the trend and design a project where only one parking space is available to every three units by assuming that most residents will use walking or cycling and car-sharing, the developer will change the current planning paradigm. If successful, many will follow this model.
If L.A. prioritized walking, we’d all be richer for it. The City is not making money off the car industry. Nobody pays the City to drive on its streets. It would be interesting to see what the Public Works street division is spending on maintenance on a regular basis. How many bonds were raised over the last 50 years to build streets, freeways, highways, and so on, and really, who takes on the burden of this tax? Like the way most individual drivers don’t understand the cost of owning a car, the City of Los Angeles does not understand the cost of prioritizing the car as the primary mode of transportation. The cost of infrastructure for pedestrians is one-tenth the cost of car infrastructure. The economic beneﬁt is obvious. Policymakers should adopt a radical shift and bring cycling and walking to the top priority.
Andy Janicki is an ADA Compliance Analyst with Los Angeles Metro’s Civil Rights Department.
Like many of you, I prefer getting places without driving whenever possible. There’s a convenience store, a family taco stand, and a coffee shop a few blocks from my house. I live across the street from a park where I take my dog, and if I need a bus, there are two stops close by. All I need to do to get there is head down the middle of the street.
Why, you may ask, would a guy in a wheelchair brave busy Blake Street, going head-to-head with semis who seem to be on their way to Fast and Furious 18? The tacos are good, but c’mon, I’m risking my life for that al pastor! My nice convenient neighborhood is, in many ways, a microcosm of the problems associated with pedestrian travel for people with disabilities in L.A. There’s a good chance that you’ve actually seen people in wheelchairs or scooters on the road before. Trust me, these are not people trying to start some kind of impromptu disability rally or Critical Mass: Wheelchair Edition. They are simply pedestrians who do not have the physical ability to maneuver through the labyrinth of cracks, holes, and other obstacles that litter city sidewalks. Although incredible progress has been made in the realm of public access since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, there is no regulatory body roaming around ensuring that standards are being upheld. That being said, sidewalks that were completely accessible via wheelchair when the concrete was poured in the 90s may today look like a demolition crew just took a lunch break.
Mark Vallianatos is a Los Angeles Walks steering committee member and policy director at Occidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute. You can read more about the updates to L.A.’s zoning code, and ﬁnd out how you can get involved at recode.la
Do you ever wonder why different neighborhoods and streets in Los Angeles look the way they do—and why some places seem to be more walkable than others? The history of how our land was developed includes economic demand, neighborhood preferences, and transportation infrastructure. But the most direct way that we collectively influence what our communities look like—and how walkable they can be—is through government regulation of land use, especially by planning and zoning.
Los Angeles Walks steering committee member Alissa Walker talks to the Los Angeles Times architecture critic.
Alissa Walker: First, thank you for such a great conversation with Mayor Garcetti at Occidental College in February. With Villaraigosa we saw this empire-building when it came to transit, bike lanes and CicLAvia but we didn’t get to hear him talk much about walking. Now we’ve got a mayor who walked ﬁve miles to City Hall on Walk to Work Day! How else is Garcetti’s approach different, in your opinion?
Christopher Hawthorne: Villaraigosa, near the end of his time in ofﬁce, really began paying attention to pedestrian safety and the crucial connections between walking and transit. But it took almost eight years for his administration to get to that point. Garcetti is unusually knowledgeable about and genuinely interested in these issues, as was clear in the Occidental conversation we had; and we’re still very early in his term. The question with him will be execution—or maybe a combination of execution and nerve. How willing will he be to fund improvements to pedestrian access, and sidewalks when they conﬂict with some voters’ (and media outlets’) desires to keep car trafﬁc moving as swiftly and efﬁciently as possible? And how willing is he to defend controversial or even unpopular changes to street design?
What would you like to see happen with Garcetti’s new Great Streets Initiative?
I’d like to see it ultimately produce a set of ambitious and thoughtful blueprints that can be applied—with adjustments, of course, for different neighborhoods, and topography—across the city as a whole, and not just along certain corridors. There have been some tremendously encouraging changes in L.A. in terms of how we use and think about the streets, but many have been either temporary (CicLAvia) or limited in scale (Sunset Triangle Plaza). We need a way of making these improvements both permanent and much more common, so they shape the experience of moving through L.A. in a more meaningful way.
Randal Henry and Manal Aboelata-Henry are the founders of Crenshaw WALKS. You can ﬁnd them on their Facebook Page.
It’s 7:20 on a brisk, sunny Monday morning in Crenshaw Manor. Brothers Taj and Sadiq check the velcro on their Hush Puppies and take one last look to make sure lunch pails and homework folders are tucked into their backpacks. Check. Off they go to the nearest Metro station, about a 12-minute walk. Many people walk in the neighborhood, so most days, Taj and Sadiq say hello to other walkers along the way.
If the car trafﬁc on Coliseum Street isn’t too heavy and the lights at Crenshaw and Rodeo are just right, they’ll stroll up the platform just in time for the 7:40 train. They might even have an extra moment to ﬁnd a penny someone’s left behind at the TAP machine. Some days they get stuck waiting for a lull in the steady stream of cars at an unmarked crosswalk at Coliseum or the light at Crenshaw won’t turn until they’ve seen the eastbound train bolt through the intersection. In that case, they wait for the 7:52 train. But, either way, the seven-minute train ride will get them to school well in time for their 8:05 bell.
Taj and Sadiq have always loved all methods of transportation, and the train ride to school is a dream come true. When they were babies, their parents used to push their double stroller down the abandoned railway that would eventually become the route of the Expo Line train. Two years ago, they watched the tracks as they were being laid. From their car seats, they watched the daily train tests, wondering when it would be open for them. The sign advertised: “Metro Expo Line coming in 2012.” They rode the train the very ﬁrst day it was open. Today the train is part of their daily commute, and they have taken it, rain or shine, for the last two years. The ride is an opportunity to read, watch all the cars pile up at the stoplights, or chat with an acquaintance. That’s right: They’re familiar faces on the 7:40 train, recognized by train operators, passengers, and Metro personnel.
We are very excited to announce that Los Angeles Walks has received an anonymous end of year donation of $25,000! This donation is a HUGE step towards our goal of hiring a staff person in 2015. We are humbled by the generosity of this donor—THANK YOU!
As a volunteer run organization, we have been able to accomplishment a lot to date. However, we have some very big efforts in 2015 — like Vision Zero and addressing the hit and run epidemic — that need a lot of attention and time. We need to hire a staff person to move forward with this work.
Join us in honoring this anonymous donor by helping to match this donation. We challenge the rest of our friends, partners, and followers to donate $25, $250, or $2500. If we can raise another $25,000, we will be able to hire our first staff person to focus daily on our ongoing work. Until now, Los Angeles Walks has been entirely volunteer driven, and we need someone who can represent us at active transportation meetings and public hearings, organize walks and other fun events, communicate regularly with supporters like you. Your support will make the difference for our organization to build energy, constituency, and success.
We have seen many changes as the result of our efforts. Just last month, DOT installed a crosswalk at the unsafe intersection on Humboldt St. and Ave. 26! We identified and reported that problem on our Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park walk, then DOT conducted a survey and fixed the problem. These actions matter and we need to make more of them to achieve our goals.