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Is LADOT’s New SF-Imported Chief the Antidote to LA’s Defeatist Attitude?

Seleta Reynolds (left) goes for a walk in DTLA with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo: ##http://www.gjel.com/blog/los-angeles-hires-seleta-reynolds-what-it-means-for-walking-and-biking-in-socal.html##GJEL Accident Attorneys##

Incoming LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds (right) goes for a walk in downtown L.A. with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo:GJEL Accident Attorneys

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.

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Sup. Kim Gives Warm Send-Off to SFMTA’s Seleta Reynolds, Headed to LA

Soon-to-be LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaks before the Board of Supervisors on July 8. Watch full video here, Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

For a quick preview of what Seleta Reynolds has to offer Los Angeles as the new chief of its Department of Transportation, watch this video of her commendation appearance before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this week. Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

Supervisor Jane Kim, in a glowing speech, praised the departing San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency manager. Kim states, in part:

We will really miss your leadership, but mostly your passion advocating for residents here in San Francisco. And, we want to honor you today for the incredible groundwork that you have done that we will continue to push on to effect a culture change at the city level. Thank you for putting us on the map for pedestrian and bike safety.

Reynolds’ response includes:

I’ve been working on safety for pedestrians for 16 years. It’s really hard to compete with some of the cool, glamorous things that we have in transportation, things like bike share and cycle tracks and SFPark and smart signals, but I am so so thankful that pedestrian safety is finally getting its day.

Watch and listen to the full exchange starting at 00:43 here.

Seleta Reynolds was nominated by Mayor Garcetti to become General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. She was recently confirmed by the City Council’s Transportation Committee and by the full Los Angeles City Council. She is expected to begin her tenure at LADOT on August 11.

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Speaking With SFMTA’s Seleta Reynolds, Nominated to Head LADOT

Seleta Reynolds (center, blue scarf) speaking about pedestrian safety improvements planned for San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, during a 2014 Walk to Work Day event. Photo courtesy of Walk San Francisco

Earlier today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Seleta Reynolds to be the new general manager for LADOT. Streetsblog announced the nomination earlier today via this brief article, which includes the mayor’s press release.

Reynolds currently works for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), where she leads three teams in the Livable Streets subdivision responsible for innovation, policy, and coordination for complete streets projects citywide. Reynolds also serves on the Transportation Research Board’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Committees, and the WalkScore Advisory Board. She is a past president of Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. Prior to joining the SFMTA, Seleta managed the San Francisco and Seattle offices of Fehr & Peers, and worked for the City of Oakland Public Works Agency.

Streetsblog caught up with Reynolds on the phone this afternoon. Reynolds described herself as a “long time reader of Streetsblog L.A. and the Streetsblog family” and “really excited” to be coming to Los Angeles.

We asked her to name some of the accomplishments she’s most proud of from her work at SFMTA:

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Seleta Reynolds of SFMTA Livable Streets Named Head of LADOT

Seleta Reynolds (right) then serving as President of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) giving a 2010 award to Leslie Meehan of Nashville. Photo: APBP

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has nominated Seleta Reynolds to be the new general manager for the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT.) From preliminary research on Reynolds’s background, this looks like great news. Reynolds currently works for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) where her focus had been livable streets, with a focus on building more equitable streets.

Reynolds’ Twitter feed @seletajewel celebrates great bike and walk facilities.  Reynolds is featured in Streetsblog San Francisco articles explaining Bay Area Bike Sharepushing Caltrans on standards for protected bicycle lanes, and arguing for better motorist education for bicyclist safety.

Streetsblog will update this post with some additional detail on Reynolds in the near future.

Mayor Garcetti’s full press release follows after the jump.

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“Browndoggle”? Efforts to Use HSR as Cudgel Against CA Dems Fizzle

The Browndoggle.”

This image was supposed to signify that California High Speed Rail was going off the tracks. Instead, it's a symbol of how efforts to use High Speed Rail as a cudgel have led to ruin. Image:John and Ken Show

Opponents of Governor Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party have been slamming the California High Speed Rail Authority for years. The political strategy seemed to be working. Four years after voters approved a tax increase to fund a segment of what was promised to be a high speed train connecting Sacramento to San Diego, the project had morphed and grown more expensive. Voters were angry. Or so the polls said.

Earlier this year, the legislature approved a plan to build 130 miles of high speed rail in the central valley despite near-unanimous Republican opposition. One of the questions this election was whether Republicans could capitalize on the opposition to make gains at the ballot box.

Backed by funding from the oil and coal industries, and the non-stop nattering on the popular John and Ken Show, Republicans thought High Speed Rail was a winning issue.

They were wrong.

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The National Women’s Bicycling Summit: This Is Not a Bike

The issues surrounding women and bicycles remain some of the most discussed around the country. Last week, a packed house attended the Women's Bicycling Summit in Long Beach. Photo: Brian Addison

Leah Missbach Day, co-founder of World Bicycle Relief and keynote speaker at last week’s National Women’s Bicycling Summit, in Long Beach, California, was very succinct with her main point about a bike:

“This is not a bike.”

The bike is a tool, she intoned; a tool that helps generate economic stability, community cohesiveness, and gender equality, particularly in poor and marginalized parts of the world.

Leah Missbach Day takes the podium, after being introduced by Carolyn Szczepanski

“The bicycle movement is just getting started,” stated Carolyn Szczepanski, communications director of the League of American Bicyclists, in her introductory remarks. She said many in marginalized communities, particularly ethnic minorities, are feeling left out of the bicycle movement. “Instead of feeling left out, [Anthony Taylor, co-founder of the National Brotherhood of Cycling] tells them something really empowering: ‘You’re not too late — you’re just in time.’ I would submit to you we are just in time. In 2009, women accounted for just 24 percent of bike trips in the United States and, obviously, it is time for that to change. Without engaging, empowering, and elevating 50 percent of the population — women — we simply cannot succeed as a movement.”

Day is part of that movement. She emphasized that her work is geared at more than just environmental policies — it’s about gender, economics, and equality. Day has a ethical and economic model that follows that of the World Bank: If impoverished countries promote the social and economic status of women, poverty rates will decrease and economic prosperity will increase.

Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, Day and her husband felt that sending money was not enough. Wanting to do something more tangible, they distributed thousands of bikes to those who had lost their homes and families, providing them with transportation and the ability to carry household cargo. It was here that the World Bicycle Relief (WBR) organization was born. Read more…

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How Handicap Placard Abuse Threatens SF’s Parking Reforms

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If cities needed any more reason to curb handicap placard abuse, here it is. The authors of a new study out of Los Angeles point out that rampant placard abuse threatens to undermine performance parking programs like SFPark by skewing the data and the price of parking, the Atlantic Cities explains:

If a city has a pricing program for parking, like Los Angeles or San Francisco, the costs are even greater. Such programs raise the price of parking until a certain level of vacancy (often 15 percent) is present at any given moment. But disabled placards usually allow drivers to park for free for an unlimited amount of time. Many do just that: a 2009 meter survey in Los Angeles found that the 5 percent of cars with disabled placards used 17 percent of all available time. When placard abuse meets priced parking, the results are flawed space counts and artificially high rates for everyone.

The authors of the study, Michael Manville of Cornell and Jonathan Williams of Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants in Seattle, call for abolishing free parking perks for handicap placard holders because they work against the interests of the most seriously disabled and poorest members of society, who are not travelling by car. Additionally, they write, “the externalities of this clumsy subsidy threaten to undermine a transportation reform that could deliver large benefits to all citizens.”

As we reported recently, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency is in the early stages of developing a campaign to curb placard abuse, which could involve eliminating the free parking perks enshrined in state law.

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Sunnyvale Latest City to Consider Anti-Harassment Law for Bike Riders

A groundbreaking law adopted in Los Angeles almost one year ago that allows bicycle riders to take civil action against drivers who harass them continues to generate local and national interest, with Sunnyvale becoming the latest city to consider enacting protections.

“So many (drivers) seem to think it’s like basketball rules: no hit, no foul. If they don’t hit you, they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” said Kevin Jackson, a longtime member of the Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC). “In their minds, it’s not something they feel they have to ever explain to a cop or anything.”

But under a proposed ordinance expected to be adopted by the Sunnyvale City Council on July 17, drivers who threaten or distract bike riders could be taken to court and would have to explain themselves to a judge. Fashioned after the Los Angeles law, it would make drivers liable for damages starting at $1,000.

“Sunnyvale wants to encourage people to ride bicycles rather than drive motor vehicles in order to lessen traffic congestion and improve air quality,” the ordinance states. “Riding a bicycle on City streets poses hazards to bicyclists, and these hazards are amplified by the actions of persons who deliberately harass and endanger bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists.”

Jackson said city staffers, including the police department, were initially opposed to studying the idea based on some misunderstandings. But they eventually agreed to look into it, produced a report that won praise from advocates, and recommended that an anti-harassment law be adopted. The ordinance’s initial reading passed the Sunnyvale City Council June 19 by a vote of 6-1, with Councilmember Jim Davis, an ex-police officer, opposed.

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Lance Armstrong, L.A.’s Mayor Push Brown on S.B. 910

Lance Armstrong and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at "Hope Rides Again" Cancer Awareness Event in March, 2009. Photo:So Ca. Cycling.com

Bicycling superstar Lance Armstrong and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have joined forces again.  Their target: Governor Jerry Brown.  Their message: sign S.B. 910, the state’s three foot passing law that would protect cyclists from drivers who pass too close and too fast.

“Gov. Brown can help make our roads safer for everyone by making Senate Bill 910 the law in California,” said Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, and the most famous bicyclist in the world.

“I’m thrilled that we have Lance Armstrong’s support on this issue,” added Villaraigosa. “His success is a big reason so many more Californians are interested in bicycling. It’s so important to have experts like him advocating for making California a more bike-friendly place.”

The Senate and Assembly both passed S.B. 910, authored by Long Beach Senator Alan Lowenthal, which would require motorists passing bicyclists to give at least a three foot cushion if the car’s speed is 15 miles per hour. Many Republicans opposed the measure, in large part due to the opposition of speeding traffic advocates, AAA and the California Highway Patrol. Last week, Streetsblog San Francisco reported that those same two groups are lobbying the Governor to veto this traffic safety measure.

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Interview With Donald Shoup: Los Angeles Making Strides With ExpressPark

Last week Streetsblog LA talked with UCLA Professor and parking guru Donald Shoup about ExpressPark, the new parking pricing system coming to downtown Los Angeles.

Damien Newton: Los Angeles is changing the way it does parking in its downtown. They’re calling it the ExpressPark system. Let’s start with the basics — what is the program and what are your thoughts?

Donald Shoup: For the first time they’re stating how they’re going to set parking prices. Instead of basing it on council decisions or emotions or people’s feelings, they stated a principal. Parking at a meter will be at the lowest price they can charge and still have one or two open spaces on every block.

If they get that price right, then those spaces will be well used because almost all the spaces will be full. Yet there will be spaces readily available because one or two spaces will be open.

Can it get any better than that as a goal for the parking system?

The key is, can you set the right price without looking at the results even though the results are what’s going to count when setting the price.

DN: This marks a shift in policy for the city that seemed to base parking decisions based on what brings in the most revenue.

DS: It hadn’t been about that even, until quite recently.

You may remember a few years ago they doubled the price of parking everywhere in the city with a minimum price of a dollar an hour. Since most meters were at a quarter an hour, that meant quadrupling the price at most meters. That was the first time meter prices had been changed in eighteen years.

There’s been a lot of neglect of parking meters. Inertia seemed to be the main factor in determining parking prices.

They’re changing that by saying, “Here’s the rule. If half the spaces on a block are empty, we’re going to lower prices. If all the spaces are full we’re going to raise prices.” Since the price change two years ago, I’ve seen entire blocks where there isn’t one car parked. The price is too high.

I think a lot of prices would go down if they extend express park to the whole city. They’re starting in downtown, but I suspect that some prices will go down.

DN: One of the tenets of “The High Cost of Free Parking” is that money collected from meters should be returned to the communities where it was collected. L.A.’s plan returns all metered funds to the general fund. Is that a mistake by the city? Does it give you any misgivings about the plan altogether?

DS: That’s what they’re planning in L.A., they’re not planning on funneling any of the money back to the neighborhood?

That’s a mistake. When you funnel back to the neighborhood you get local buy-in and you get wonderful results.

Pasadena returns all of the metered money back into the neighborhood for decades and they turned the local neighborhood that used to be a commercial skid row into one of the most popular shopping destinations in Southern California. The meters brought in an extra million dollars a year in public services in just that little shopping district. They replaced all the sidewalks, streetlights and street furniture. They cleaned up the allays. They put electric wires underground. This was all paid for by meters.

But that’s a political issue. I think that getting the price right is also very important.

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