Should Mayor Eric Garcetti have hired someone with more Los Angeles experience to run Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation? With San Francisco’s Seleta Reynolds chosen as the incoming department head, there’s been a small buzz that only someone with direct experience with our region can handle making L.A. a better place to live. It has to be someone with local experience, they say.
As someone who is not from the area originally, and was only an Angeleno for six months when I became the first editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles, allow me to say that idea is complete hogwash.
For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon. They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”
It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.
Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.
Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.