Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Metro/LADOT prefer the imports over the locals


Los Angeles is the largest city in the most populated state in the most powerful country in the world, and yet when it comes to transportation planning, apparently the experts are nowhere to be found.

Consider the Metro's upcoming Bicycle Design Workshop taught by John Ciccarelli, a well-regarded professional from Santa Clara County. Are there no professionals in Los Angeles who can address Bicycle Planning? Ryan Snyder lives mid-city, has served on the local neighborhood council, is a nationally recognized planner with experience in active modes, knows the streets and the people and yet he gets passed over. Ron Durgin is a League of American Cyclists certified instructor and his Sustainable Streets organization has planning and education street cred and yet he gets passed over.

How about the Metro's recent Bike to Work Week which was coordinated by the Inland Transportation Services company, a transportation demand consulting organization that claims "extensive experience in the management, implementation and administration of regional rideshare programs." They hail from Riverside County. Based on the Metro's miserable mode-share performance, perhaps it's time to give another consultant a shot at coordinating the Metro's TDM projects. Of the Metro's 9200 employees, 155 ride the Metro to work, 39 bicycle to work, and 36 walk to work. Surely there is a company in Los Angeles County that can beat those numbers.

The Metro isn't alone. The City of LA authorized the LADOT to enter into a contract with Bellevue, WA's Ilium Consulting and to produce a Bike Map with a cost "not to exceed $400,000." Ilum Associates was selected because of its "extensive experience in the production of maps for use by the public." The City Council approval took place in December of 1996 and since then, Ilium and the LADOT have apparently wandered off the trail as the funded Bike Map of Los Angeles has not appeared. Ilium, it should be noted does other marketing work for the LADOT. Apparently nobody knows the street of LA like the folks in Seattle. Are there no cartographers in Los Angeles? Are there no marketing companies in Los Angeles?

The City of LA is currently in the process of developing an updated Bike Plan, supported by Alta Planning with principals hailing from Portland and Marin County. Again, the City Council approved an LADOT initiated contract with the contractor, this time for $450,000, and one that relied on folks from far, far away to join us here on the streets of Los Angeles so they can help us locals find our way. Granted, Alta ended up hiring local folks to execute some of the work, the same thing a local company would have done if it had been awarded the contract, but the City of LA/Alta contract is executed between the Portland/Berkely principals and the City of LA. Isn't there an LA based transportation and planning company capable of handling this kind of work? Further complicating matters is the LA Bike Plan website, complete with an admin address in Portland. Does the City of LA not even own its websites? This is especially unfortunate since Alta Planning has moved on, claiming its work is done, and leaving an "Infeasible" Bike Plan in its wake.


The US Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate in Washington State is 9.9% and the unemployment rate in Oregon State is 11.7%. Meanwhile, here in California, the unemployment rate is 13%. Why is it so tough for the Metro and the LADOT to hire local? Los Angeles is the center of the universe with people from around the world working hard to get here, to the capital of creativity and innovation. It's time for our transportation authorities to respect the people they purportedly serve by putting them to work.

LA's Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa claims that building a smart transportation system means "Jobs, jobs, jobs!" but the real question is "Who gets LA's transportation jobs?" The people of Los Angeles know the streets of LA, we know the traffic patterns of LA, we know the needs of LA and we know LA. We know the destinations, we know the communities and we know the people. Why do we have to watch from the sidelines while the "imports" bring transportation planning to the natives of Los Angeles?

We deserve better! We deserve accountability! We deserve a commitment from the Metro and from the LADOT that the work done in our communities will be done by locals and for the locals, not to the locals.

6 comments:

John said...

Apparently, there is on one able to do the work in LA, because they are unemployed. :-D

But seriously, that is sad.

Bob said...

This is another area where we should be "going local."

As you pointed out earlier it would be more effective to have the staff members of our elected officials live in the districts that they serve.

This also illustrates the important question of the quality and necessity of so many outside consulting contracts.

adrian L said...

Stephen,
You may have plenty of things to be upset about with the bike plan, but this yarn you're spinning about how the professionals on the Bike Plan weren't "local" is, at most, little more than semantics.

During and since the plan, Alta has had a Los Angeles office that is staffed with people (e.g. Matt Benjamin, David Pulsipher, and me Adrian Leung) who are regular commuting bicyclists, active within our bicycling community.

Matt Benjamin was the project manager on the plan, and he's been bicycling in Los Angeles since he came here for his planning degree. Before Alta, he was at LACBC and Metro.

David Pulsipher has also been bicycling since he went to planning school in Los Angeles.

For me, in addition to going to school here and working for a bunch of LA Bicycling organizations, I grew up in Southern California.

You've talked to each of us, and you know we're from here. Let's quit bringing up this "import over locals" thing. It's tired, and no one is biting. Your argument is comparable to saying that the Japanese Shimano parts on your bike make you less patriotic. What's worse is that it comes off as saying we're not really Angelinos, and that's almost insulting.

So what if Alta has headquarters in other places? You can't deny that the people working on the plan were locals who know (and bike) LA.

SoapBoxLA said...

Adrian,

I appreciate your hometown pride and the work you did on LA's Bike Plan.

But...your comment is somewhat nonresponsive. Alta is not from Los Angeles and they had no LA employees when they were awarded the LA Bike Plan Contract. They, just like any other "production company" crewed up for the gig, the Culver City gig, the LA County gig.

This is the same thing a local company would have done, hired locals to execute, but the local companies didn't get the contract, Alta Planning did.

Alta's principals and supervisors are from Portland, Marin, Berkeley. The people for signing the contract, executing the contract, collecting on the contract and supervising the execution of the work are all from out-of-town.

In addition, the more experienced contract labor was also from out-of-town. John Ciccarelli was just at the Metro, talking about his work on the LA Bike Plan.

Your "strawman" argument falls short. The facts are simple, Alta is not from LA. You are, but you are not Alta. It matters, maybe not to you, but it still matters.

adrian L said...

Stephen/Soap,
You bring up the metrics of California unemployment and LA jobs. You admit that Alta has a principals in Marin and Berkeley. Doesn't that mean that hiring them helps the CA job market. Before, during and since, Alta was working on the plan, they've maintained regular staff and created jobs in Los Angeles.

I hope you don't try and use this argument when you run for office.

SoapBoxLA said...

Adrian,

Here is what I said:

"Again, the City Council approved an LADOT initiated contract with the contractor, this time for $450,000, and one that relied on folks from far, far away to join us here on the streets of Los Angeles so they can help us locals find our way. Granted, Alta ended up hiring local folks to execute some of the work, the same thing a local company would have done if it had been awarded the contract, but the City of LA/Alta contract is executed between the Portland/Berkeley principals and the City of LA."

Alta Planning is not a local company. You may be local, but you are not Alta Planning. Alta Planning, along with the LA Bike Plan website, are based far, far away. The checks to Alta were mailed to an address far, far away.

Stay on topic. Alta Planning is not local. I think Los Angeles should hire local companies.