CityWatch, Oct 17, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 84
By Stephen Box
The City of Los Angeles lost approximately a $1 million in Safe Routes to School funding, simply by failing to execute the funded projects.
During the 2000 and 2001 cycles of the SRTS program, approximately $3 million was awarded to LA but the LADOT left one/third "on the table" meaning that it wasn't spent and that it's lost, not just to LA but to all applicants throughout the state. Money that could be spent somewhere, making it safer for children to walk and ride a bicycle to school.
All totaled the LADOT has qualified 31 projects in the last seven cycles of the SRTS funding program for a total value of approximately $11 million. Of those 31 projects, 11 have been completed. Of the remaining 20 projects, 10 projects are "underway" while five have simply been "initiated" and the remaining five show "no activity."
Through it all, the LADOT has taken an interesting tack, claiming that the City of Los Angeles should be getting awarded more money, simply because it's their "fair share" of the State SRTS pool. All this while failing to demonstrate a commitment to completing the projects and putting the awarded money to work in our communities, where it belongs.
In July, LADOT reported to the City's Transportation Committee and indicated that it works closely with the City Council offices on the selection of the projects but gave no indication that they had spoken to Neighborhood Councils or involved the public in the process. The Department report was heavy on a "Fair Share" complaint, arguing that the money should be allocated based on population rather than on project merit or on performance.
Imagine that, funding based on performance! The LADOT prefers the "Fair Share" approach.
In spite of the LADOT's commitment to keeping the dialogue limited to the funding aspect of the SRTS program, the public appeared and argued that the Neighborhood Councils had not been involved in the process and that there was no opportunity for the community to get involved in promoting projects.
Councilmembers Alarcon, Greuel and Rosendahl all gave the LADOT directions to include more projects that promote cycling as an option for kids to get to school and to involve the community in the process of selecting projects and working together to promote those projects. Committee Chair Greuel pointed out that something as simple as bicycle parking at schools would go a long way to promoting cycling as a viable option for kids.
LADOT's General Manager has continued with the "Fair Share" battle cry, appearing before the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition a couple of weeks ago and referring to the huge size of LA and the small size of the SRTS funds, all the time failing to note the large number of projects that have not been completed or the absolute absence of community involvement in selecting those projects.
Through it all, it's important that we keep in mind that this isn't about the LADOT, this isn't about the Transportation Committee, this isn't about SRTS funding, it's about creating a community where kids are safe walking and riding a bike to school.
Councilwoman Greuel reminds us, in her most recent newsletter, that it's simply not safe out there for kids. "In 2006 alone, 192 children Citywide were injured while arriving at or departing from school."
Dr. Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogatá, claims "Cars are to children today what wolves were to them in the Middle Ages. Is that the best we can do after 5000 years of urban history?" Penalosa is credited with transforming Bogata into a model city by raising the standard for greatness saying "the measure of a great city is not its buildings or freeways but whether a child is safe walking or riding a bicycle."
It's up to us as community leaders to "Partner in Greatness" by fighting to ensure that our children are safe and free of fear.
It starts with us working together to promote innovative SRTS projects that improve our communities and it continues with us judging the LADOT based on performance. Often harsh but always fair!
(Stephen Box is a cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net.)