Guest blog from NRDC's Fernando Cazares: Growing up in South Central LA, I flashback to memories of taking the school bus at 6 a.m. for my 35-mile cross town ride and later walking to take the bus to my first post-college job. I was lucky that the 51 bus took me from my house to my job, all within a 5 minute walk. But I also remember my parents juggling to make a 2 hour cross town, 3 bus trip to and from their job. When we had the money, my father bought a used family van that gave us the chance to spend a Saturday or Sunday in Santa Monica or Venice beach or Griffith park. This greater access to recreation and job opportunities was also paired with hefty repair expenses and gas tabs given the gas guzzler van.
It is personally gratifying then that I get to work on a project to figure out how to expand transportation options, beyond car ownership, for residents of South LA and the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy and Huntington Park. Coined the proposal currently competing for a piece of the LA2050 Challenge $1 million to make LA the best place to connect is a partnership with , , and the (SUMC).
will allow us to engage residents and organizations of these communities to identify the range of transportation needs that are currently not adequately met through transit and the types of solutions from the emerging shared mobility industry - bikeshare, carshare, and ridesharing - that could meet those needs.
While many of my friends and neighbors in the 1990s opted to buy a car, it was also common practice to borrow a car or hitch a ride if your car broke down and the bus just couldn't get you to work, school, or the doctor's appointment on time. During the , Angelenos organized carpools along the fixed bus routes and pitched in for gas. Back then, it was done the old school way with land phone lines, paper and pen, and organized around schools, churches, and jobs.
Fast forward to the mid-2010s: we don't have a bus/rail driver strike and the LA Metro is currently undertaking the largest public works campaign in the U.S. building 12 rail and bus rapid transit lines connecting more regions of the county. Additionally, over the past 5 years, we've witnessed what can only be described as around the world and the U.S., coupled with a boom in the smart cellphone utilization. It is now possible to rent a bike, a 1-way or 2-way car, or hail a taxi or private Uber or Lyft driver with a 10 minute or less response time with a smart phone or membership card. These two phenomena - construction of a regional mass transit system and growth of the shared mobility industry - give us an unparalleled opportunity to tackle a perennial challenge of public transportation at a time when our climate demands an integrated, targeted, and paradigm shifting solution. That challenge is creating a far reaching fixed transit system that is connected to a vast network of 1st/last mile solutions such as bikes, shared cars, and ridesharing services that enable a majority of county residents to access employment, education, health care, housing, and recreation regardless of their socioeconomic, geographic or racial background. Meeting this challenge will have not only social benefits but it will also decrease the greenhouse gas emissions from Angelenos' transportation behavior.