Los Angeles is getting a new bike map, three bike maps actually, and they'll be here in late June or early July according to Carolyn Perez Andersen, the President of Seattle based Ilium Strategic Marketing & Design. Ilium also provides the LADOT with brochures, maps, wayfinding, marketing and other materials to support the DASH line and other transit services provided by the City of Los Angeles.
These bike maps are not to be confused with the three Draft Bike Maps that were released this past Thursday by the City of Los Angeles as part of the City's Bicycle Plan Update Draft Map. The Ilium Bike Map contract was approved a little over two years ago by the City Council which authorized the Department of Transportation to commission Ilium Strategic Marketing & Design for the "development, marketing and distribution of the Los Angeles and Surrounding Communities Bicycle Map." The contract was to cover two years with two one-year extensions and authorized a cost "not to exceed $400,000."
This might be a good time to ask why the City of LA authorized a $400,000 contract with Ilium for a Bike Map and then entered into a $450,000 contract with Alta for a Bike Plan which also includes a Bike Map.
Actually the good time to ask these hard questions would have been long ago and we did ask them then but to no avail.
I was at the City Council on December 19, 2006 when the Ilium contract came up for approval. I was joined by two other cyclists and we all testified to the efficacy of the Metro's Bike Map and to the unnecessary expense of producing another map, especially if it only covered LA and left holes and gaps indicating other municipalities. Anyone who travels for more than a few miles in any direction in LA knows you can visit several cities in a simple journey. Would we collect separate maps for each City? How would I carry these 88 maps?
I'm no Eagle Scout but I can certainly navigate my way across town without requiring two LA Bike Maps, one developed by a company based in Seattle and the other developed by a company based in Portland. In fact, if I wanted a Bike Map, I'd much rather rely on the comprehensive Metro Bike Map which includes all the municipalities within LA County and which already exists, as opposed to the Ilium mystery map and the Alta promise of a map.
In spite of our protest, the motion was approved unanimously at 13 to 0. Councilwoman Jan Perry was absent and CD7's seat was empty.
We left Council Chambers disappointed that $400,000 was going to be spent duplicating something that already existed but we were assured by LADOT staff that their version was going to have "special" features.
As the City of Los Angeles grapples with the budget crisis, I think it's not only fair but essential that we challenge our city departments to account for their performance and that we start with a very simple "Show me the money!"
Watching the LADOT's funding schemes is like watching three card monte and we know how that exercise in "Trust me!" ends.
Ilium Strategic marketing & Design is no stranger to Los Angeles. They have been engaged in a lucrative relationship with the City since 1991. One of the more recent (2006) contracts was for $5 million and included "marketing services for other transit related programs within the City such as the LAPD's Bicycle Program which educates users on bicycle safety and the need to register their bicycles."
Well, that was money well spent. This contract expires at the end of this month and there are two one-year options available.
Would it be too much to involve the community in the development of resources such as the maps that the LADOT has commissioned from Ilium? After all, we're the ones who will purportedly be using them, if they are of any use and if they are accessible.
I still have the Metro Bike Map that I took to City Council when I protested the Ilium contract. It still works! I also have a post-it note with the biking infrastructure of Los Angeles detailed on it, after all, there's not much to speak of and so it doesn't require much paper.
The City of LA is sitting on revenue that is more than 30% higher than the day Mayor Villaraigosa took office. Our budget crisis is one of accountability and the effective management of our money. This little contract with Ilium is just one of many contracts with many companies. Where's the oversight? Why does the City of Los Angeles allow departments to contract with so many different companies to provide duplicate marketing and website services, all with great redundancy and insulation and at great expense and waste.
This is Los Angeles. I believe that we deserve better!