We had a fantastic opportunity to engage with California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin on the Future of Transportation in California. Our event was hosted by Lendistry and the nonprofit the Center by Lendistry, and we were joined by Senator Josh Newman, CATC Commissioner Michele C. Martinez, Costa Mesa Councilmembers Jeffrey Harlan and Arlis Reynolds, Huntington Beach Councilman Dan Kalmick, Irvine Mayor's Chief of Staff Mariam Tariq and the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California President and LA/OC Building & Construction Trades Executive Secretary Ernesto Medrano. We appreciate the support and partnership of advocates from Streets for All and Costa Mesa Alliance for Better Streets. We talked about saving lives with safer streets, creating good paying jobs, building clean infrastructure, more equitable and multi-modal transportation, and our vision to "Move SoCal" including major funding for Metrolink and our transit systems. Secretary Omishakin is a true ally and leader, and we were honored to have him share the afternoon with us!
This Friday at Noon, Metro will have a new map, open 3 new Downtown LA stations, and boast the longest light rail line in the entire world at 49.5 miles running from Azusa to Long Beach. The most important milestone on Friday will be the fulfillment of a major campaign promise from the 2008 “Yes on Measure R” Campaign—connecting the enormous region of LA County with one seamless transit system.
How do we know? It was Denny Zane, Move LA’s founder, who successfully pulled together a coalition of environmental, labor, and business leaders and partnered with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to build support for Measure R. In early 2008, Metro published a draft of its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), which included a list of rail, bus, highway, and other transportation improvements and expansions, including the Regional Connector, which had been envisioned as early as 1984. However, none of these projects had funding.
Mayor (ret.) Antonio Villaraigosa and Denny Zane at Move LA's Conference
Zane, a former Mayor of Santa Monica and an environmental and affordable housing advocate was stuck in impossible traffic on Olympic Blvd in 2007. He lamented what looked to be a worsening future for the region, but then reminded himself that the City of Los Angeles had recently elected Antonio Villaraigosa as its Mayor. Zane had worked with Villaraigosa when he was Speaker of the California State Assembly on the Carl Moyer Program, a clean air program to facilitate the development of clean alternatives to diesel-powered trucks. Zane knew the new mayor was a devoted yet pragmatic environmentalist with an aspirational agenda for the region’s transit system. What Antonio would need to realize this vision would be very significant new funding, the scale and reliability of funding that only a ballot measure could provide. Making a successful ballot measure campaign possible would require a smartly organized and broad-based coalition. At that moment, organizing such a coalition became Zane’s mission.
A report issued by the Kitty & Michael Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy at Northeastern University identified the Imagine Campaign—a public informational campaign run by Metro—as the origin of a mass campaign to fund the proposed fixes in the LRTP. However, it wasn’t until Denny Zane convened 35 organizations representing the diverse leadership of Los Angeles, did the idea of a ballot measure campaign became a reality:
“it is fair to say that without Zane there would not have been a Measure R campaign. Zane’s ability to bring people together and his willingness to take a risk kick started this effort and likely carried it through. Zane’s success in bringing together representatives from the environmental, labor, and business communities, who had never worked together before and literally had never visited each others’ offices, and getting them to agree to collaborate, sent a powerful signal to decision-makers. As a result, elected officials, including the Mayor and Metro board members, realized that tackling the transportation revenue problem in 2008 had legs, which brought to the table not only their support but also their leadership.”
Denny Zane, Assemblymember (ret.) Richard Katz (then a Metro Board member), Senator Maria Elana Durazo (then the LA County Fed President), and Gary Toebben (then President & CEO of the Greater LA Chamber of Commerce)
Move LA was born out of the need to get a two-thirds majority—an incredibly high threshold—which necessitated a broad coalition to appeal to voters throughout the entire county. As Denny recounted for this story written by David Dayen in the American Prospect, he had to “scrounge a $15,000 grant for meeting space and $25,000 for a poll” to show decision makers what was possible, and the rest was history:
“Move LA's plan proved compelling enough to persuade the Metro board to devise Measure R (for “relief”), which would go before voters on the November 2008 ballot. Metro's board settled on a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase, raising $30 billion to $40 billion for 12 specific rail, subway, and road projects. Zane initially balked at the regressive tax choice, but studies showed that businesses and tourists paid more than half of all sales taxes because of California's many exemptions for necessities.”
It was the promise of a bold vision—one that would reduce traffic by connecting Los Angeles in one seamless system with a Long Beach to Pasadena, or East L.A. to Santa Monica trip without a transfer, a direct connection to the airport, a subway to Westwood—that won over community leaders, elected officials, and voters. Measure R, which provided the major funding for the Regional Connector, passed with 67.9% of the vote in November 2008. And on Friday, June 16, 2023, Angelenos will get a chance to experience the vision of Denny and so many others who worked to make Measure R, and our transit system, a reality.
From @Metrolosangeles - https://twitter.com/metrolosangeles/status/1668492686649880577?s=20
Too many students in California have to choose whether to spend their money on the bus or breakfast because they can’t afford both. That’s a loss for students, schools and transit, but a fare-free student transit pass program would fix it and more!
We believe fare-free transit is key to creating transit riders for life, which we must do if we are serious in California about 1) reducing climate change, 2) cleaning the air, 3) getting ourselves out of our cars and onto trains and buses, 4) achieving our educational goals, and 5) reducing poverty (by helping make well-educated students eligible for good jobs)!
Moreover, many transit agencies in California are facing a fiscal cliff because riders haven't returned to transit post-COVID, and they're asking the legislature for money to keep their trains and buses moving until riders do return.
But consider this: What if the legislature provided transit agencies with funding expressly to make transit free for K-12 students as well as college, university and graduate students? We believe this would attract many students to ride transit and could help create transit riders for life, which would help us achieve many of the goals we laid out above.
That’s why students, Move LA and other advocates are asking the state to invest $180 million for a two-year statewide fare-free student transit pass program. Click HERE for a larger, easier-to-read version of this infographic that explains what we can achieve.
Join us in the Capitol in Sacramento on March 15 to lobby for money to fund Asm. Holden's new fare-free student transit pass bill, AB 610. Students and elected officials from around the state will be joining us to make the case, and you can join us by registering HERE.
If you can't join us in person in Sacramento consider signing on to our letter to legislators and the governor HERE.
Today we are proud to release research conducted by Move LA and the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies on the impact of extreme heat on LA's bus riders: this interactive Storymap provides the first publicly available map of all bus shelters throughout LA County.
Using data provided by LA Metro, our research found that only 26% of the more than 10,500 LA Metro bus stops currently have shelter. Furthermore, the inequitable distribution of shelter between different districts, cities, and regions highlights the need to make shade and shelter—with more incidents of extreme heat predicted—a priority for climate resiliency for the region and the state.
The bus shelter map below links to the UCLA study which shows LA County bus stops served by LA Metro, land surface temperature ranges across Los Angeles County, the distribution of bus stops and shelters by heat bands, the distribution of bus stops and shelters by priority population tract status, bus shelter distribution by city, bus shelter distribution by city council district in the City of Los Angeles, the distribution of bus stops and shelters by LA County supervisorial district, and bus shelter distribution by California state assembly and senate district.
This is an issue Move LA began addressing back in 2016 when Neal Richman—then on our staff—began working on transportation issues through the establishment of the Aging and Disability Transportation Network. The ADTN and LA Metro held a forum at Union Station in January 2020 and found that only 5% of older adults were using Metro’s discounted transit pass program, and their major complaint was the lack of shelter and/or shade.
Over the past year, I worked with Neal, UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies Deputy Director Madeline Brozen, UCLA researcher Chase Engelhardt, and Metro's Chief Sustainability Officer Dr. Cris Liban, to take a deep dive into the lack of shelter and how we might fix this persistent issue.
The facts aren’t pretty: the majority of bus stops are located in hotter areas of Los Angeles County, where most of those stops have no shelter, a major concern given that extreme heat is already responsible for killing more Americans than other natural disasters. During last year's heat wave, LA Times reporter Rachel Uranga wrote about the challenge facing transit riders in LA.
The lack of shade is an equity and climate justice issue in disadvantaged communities. Communities of color and low-income riders are disproportionately exposed to rain, sun, and the excessive heat caused by rising temperatures.
These conditions are exacerbated by the heat-island effect of pavement and borne out by the scarcity of shade in cities and counties throughout California. A study published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine found that the rate of emergency department visits for heat-related causes increased 67 percent for African Americans, 63 percent for Hispanics, 53 percent for Asian Americans, and 27 percent for White people from 2005 to 2015.
More than 80% of the estimated 12,000 people in the United States who die of heat-related causes annually are over the age of 60, according to Climate Central. By 2030, a quarter of the state’s population will be over the age of 60, according to the state’s own Master Plan for Aging. With many older Californians relying on public transportation to navigate their communities, or simply needing a cool place to rest, addressing the effects of extreme heat at bus stops becomes a critical matter of public health.
For low-income workers, seniors, and people with disabilities who rely on bus transit as their primary mode of transportation, not having shade is potentially fatal. Shade structures can lower the temperature of surfaces by 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A study conducted by the Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative found that 1 in 4 lives lost during heat waves could be saved with better shade and climate-resilient infrastructure such as street furniture, and most of the lives saved would be in low-income communities and communities of color.
Bus shelters can also provide for the safety, convenience, accessibility, and comfort of bus riders. Emergency call buttons, lighting, water refill stations, tree wells, accessibility features, and real-time bus schedules are some examples of these features. The lack of shelter deters people from using buses, which makes it harder for California to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals.
So why don't we have more shelters at our bus stops? Bus shelters are managed not by Metro but by local jurisdictions where the bus stops are located—they own the public right-of-way and are responsible for determining where to place the bus shelters. A few cities have made bus shelters a priority, including the City of Bell, where 89% of bus stops include a shelter. But others, including Beverly Hills, only provide shade at 10% of their bus stops.
A report conducted by the TransitCenter found that shelters in the City of LA—where 88% of all Metro bus lines are concentrated—require approval from the City Council, Public Works, and eight other city agencies along with nearby property owners. With a new Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program (STAP) contract in the City of LA, we are hopeful to see more bus shelters with more amenities being placed soon.
Move LA also wrote and sponsored a state bill for this year's legislative session that will help create more street furniture. Assembly Bill 364, authored by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (AD-55), will require local transit agencies to submit data on their street furniture—including bus shelters, public toilets, and benches—so that transit users can make an informed decision on their transit trip based on available infrastructure.
As Asm. Bryan explained, “Aging and extreme heat are two fast-growing trends in California that, together, pose a significant public health crisis, now and in the future.” By prioritizing shade as an essential need for low-income transit riders, seniors, and people of color who are on the frontlines of climate change, we can make our transit system more climate resilient.
Check out Move LA's website as we continue to post more resources on our mapping project and AB 364.
A new year demands a new attempt to make transit free for all California students. We need a Universal Fare-Free Student Transit Pass program with benefits consistent with California priorities such as curbing climate change and air pollution by taking cars off the road, reducing VMT and traffic congestion, and enhancing transit ridership, student enrollment, attendance, academic performance, and better lifetime outcomes.
This program would be a clear win-win-win for students, schools and colleges, as well as transit operators—especially those operators who must now recover both the funding and the ridership that was lost during the pandemic.
Support Asm. Chris Holden's AB 610 by signing this letter to Gov. Newsom and your senator and assemblymember urging a YES vote to funding this groundbreaking statewide student transit pass program so every student from kindergarten to graduate school can ride the transit for free!
The post-pandemic period and its attendant ridership and revenue losses has caused significant worries that some transit agencies are facing a "fiscal cliff," though how severe it will be for each operator and how each operator got to this "cliff" may vary.
We agree that this is a very grave challenge to the near and long-term health of transit service in California and could place some transit agencies at serious risk. We urge the legislature and governor to take this very seriously and prepare to invest in solutions.
Looking at the bigger picture, our educational institutions have faced similar risks in the post-pandemic period. For example, our community college system statewide is experiencing a decline in student enrollment of more than 18 percent. For some colleges it is worse than others, and according to EdSource "that uncertainty has put the financial viability of some colleges at risk."
Transit agencies and community colleges (and some schools and universities) have separate but common challenges of similar origins:
- They each have a fiscal challenge that must be addressed to maintain their staffing, levels of operations, unionized labor, and institutional integrity, and
- They each have a challenge of declining participation levels—for transit agencies the challenge is ridership, for community colleges it is enrollment and attendance.
For each a substantial portion of their fiscal crisis is attributable to declines in ridership or enrollment. But assistance in meeting the fiscal challenge does not necessarily on its own remedy their ridership or enrollment challenge.
More money for seats that remain empty is a possible outcome; however it may be the worst outcome because ongoing declines in ridership or enrollment create a risk of declining public support for the mission of each institution. Any solution to the fiscal challenge of either must be shaped to ensure significant progress on the ridership and enrollment challenge as well.
There are collaborative strategies the legislature can approve that will not only support the fiscal recovery of both transit agencies and community colleges (and other educational institutions), but that will also enhance ridership, enrollment and attendance rates.
A Universal Student Transit Pass program in California is one such collaborative strategy that will support both fiscal recovery and recovery of participation in each institution. Investment in a program like this would directly fund transit operators and assist in their fiscal recovery, and also enhance their ridership base by bringing aboard thousands of students who otherwise would not ride.
The goal is to ensure levels of operations will be comparable to pre-pandemic operations—why would we pay transit agencies for a bus seat that is empty when we could easily fill it with a student?
And since student riders also enhance enrollment and attendance at community colleges, making additional fiscal resources available to these institutions, a dollar spent in a Universal Student Transit Pass Program is a "twofer"—benefitting both transit operators and educational institutions.
We urge the legislature to provide direct fiscal support to our transit operators using a need-based formula that asks each operator, as a condition of funding, to submit an auditable plan for ridership recovery. We also ask that the legislature provide transit operators with funding targeted to support a Universal Student Transit Pass program—a program guaranteed to enhance their ridership as well as college enrollment.
The recovery and restoration of both our transit systems and our educational institutions should be top priorities for the State of California.
Devoting a share of any "price gouging penalty on big oil"—as Gov. Newsom has called for—to these purposes in addition to some refund for drivers, makes sense. Drivers will be thankful for the efforts of the State of California to reduce the "soul-crushing" traffic they must muddle through.
Devoting a share of the cap and trade revenues, especially the revenues derived from refineries, makes good sense as well.
Support Asm. Chris Holden's AB 610 by signing this letter to Gov. Newsom and your senator and assemblymember urging them to say YES to funding this groundbreaking statewide fare-free student transit pass program!
Transit and Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus and started a movement toward equity
Transit Equity Day is Saturday, Feb. 4, in honor of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus and started a movement toward equity that we honor to this day. At the time she was working for the NAACP in Montgomery, Alabama, and she quickly became a symbol for so many others who are treated unfairly and she is still remembered for her bravery.
Rosa Parks died on Oct. 24, 2005. In a 2021 opinion piece The New York Times quoted her as saying, "Over the years, I have been rebelling against second-class citizenship. It didn’t begin when I was arrested."Read more
Streets Are For Everyone's Executive Director, Damian Kevitt, has written an excellent piece on how the last several years have proven the streets of Los Angeles are both fast and deadly, with the 2022 fatality rate breaking the 300 mark with 309 deaths over 20 years—a staggering 28% increase over 2020 and an increase of 5% over 2021.
Do you think it's time to do something to stop the carnage? The tragedy is made worse by the fact that "vulnerable road users—pedestrians (primarily youth 29 and younger and seniors 50 and older)—are impacted the most by traffic violence," Damian writes. Pedestrian fatalities were up 19% (157 lives lost, the highest in 20 years), bicycle fatalities increased by 24% (21 lives lost, up 40% since 2020), and while motor vehicle fatalities were also at higher levels ironically they dropped 10% in 2022.Read more
Last year, Governor Newsom vetoed the Free Student Transit Pass Program (AB 1919) despite near unanimous support from all members of the legislature and a historic budget surplus. Join us Jan. 10 in Sacramento as K-12 students, parents, community college and university students, transit advocates, and climate justice leaders tell our elected leaders: "Get off your budget and on the bus!"
Move LA has had another very productive year of doing really “Big Stuff”—from AB 1919 to Measure ULA to Proposition 30, this year we fought for better transit, more affordable housing, and to curb climate change. We had some major victories, but we did not accomplish all our goals. You can read about most of this work here!
We want to thank you for supporting our work and making it possible!
Our small and effective staff appreciate a donation or recurring contribution in any amount today because it means we can start off the New Year with a renewed sense of purpose and the ability to continue our work toward a more affordable, accessible, and sustainable region for everyone.
And a very Happy New Year from (left to right) Denny Zane, Gloria Ohland, Marisa Garcia, and Eli Lipmen!
Move LA is proud to have enjoyed 15 years of remarkable success in Los Angeles County and in California, and we have played a notable role in at least 15 successful ventures described below.
We've been advocating for equitable, affordable, better-connected public transit and housing, addressing the existential crisis of climate change, and cleaning our air. We’ve only been able to accomplish the victories we cite below—from Measure R in 2008 to Measure ULA in November of this year—thanks to partners and supporters like you, who show up for our annual policy conferences and virtual programs, and engage in dialogue with us about critical issues on social media and via email, and who show up at our events to donate your time and to volunteer.Read more