June 30, 2011 - From the June, 2011 issue

AIA|LA-Dwell Hosts Symposium: The Architecture of Transportation

Excerpts from the AIA/LA-Dwell Panel: Creating Perspective: the History of the Future of Transportation. The moderator: David Abel, publisher, The Planning Report. Panelists were: Geoffrey Wardle, professor, Art Center College of Design; Jim Thomas, CEO, Thomas Properties Group; Bart Reed, executive director, Transit Coalition; Jeremiah Axelrod, professor, Occidental College; Barbara Lott-Holland, co-chair, Los Angeles Bus Rider's Union.

Jim Thomas

David Abel: Today, the average American reportedly spends about a week a year stuck in traffic. Today the average driver in Beijing has a five-hour commute. In the decades to come, 75 percent of the world's population will live in cities, and 50 of those cities will be of 10 million people or more.

We can see the size of the issue that we are facing when we discuss "Creating Perspective-the History of the Future of Transportation."

When we factor in population growth, it becomes clear that the mobility model that we have today simply will not work tomorrow. If we make no more changes today, then what does tomorrow look like?

Traffic jams are just a symptom of this challenge and they are really very inconvenient. Surely, our quality of life is going to be severely compromised. So what's going to solve this?

Bill Ford posits that the answer isn't going to be more of the same. The answer to more cars is not simply to have more roads. When America began moving west we didn't add more wagon trains. We built railroads. To connect our country after World War Two, we didn't build more two-lane highways. We built the Interstate Highway System. Today we need that same leap in thinking for us to create a viable future. Building from Bill Ford's challenge, I want to give our panelists a chance to say a few words about the perspective they bring to this AIA|LA-Dwell Magazine panel this morning.

Geoffrey Wardle: My name is Geoff Wardle and I'm from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I'm a transportation designer by background. I've worked in the automotive industry, and I'm now repenting for my sins. I have been an advocate for a long time for the future of transportation. It's very much wrapped up in bringing together all of the different disciplines and stakeholders in transportation. That's the only way we're going to make any real progress.

We have an enormous problem with transportation.We've heard a lot about the problem that the automobile has brought to us. Actually, the way we live all together, and the total amount of transportation that it requires, is a huge problem. Talking about our personal mobility is one thing, but the way we live and requiring lots of goods and produce and food to be transported huge distances is equally unsustainable. We have to look at the whole issue of how we live.

Of course, the fact that this is a room full of architects makes this the perfect place to have this conversation. We need to enable more and more people to live so that they do not need so much transportation, either for themselves or for the things that need to be delivered to them.

Jim Thomas: I am CEO of Thomas Properties Group and also founding Chairman of FAST (Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic). As a developer, we have concentrated on transit-oriented projects. We have four projects underway at the present time that total almost $5 billion for the construction costs and many, many jobs. These projects are built over or by subway stops. In terms of development, this is one of the many things that could be done to put people by public transportation and get them out of their cars.

With respect to my other role as chairman of FAST, we are focusing on many things that could be done to alleviate, if not eliminate, the gridlock that is encompassing our city. The only way that this is going to happen is if the public gets involved and puts pressure on public officials. There is no low-hanging fruit. There are no easy solutions. But, fortunately, there are many, many things that could be done. If you go to our website, which is fastla.org, you can see that we commissioned a land study to determine what things can be done in the short-term-in the next three to five years-that would not require a lot of capital and would have a significant impact on traffic. While there is a lot of the attention now to large capital transportation projects, like light rail, the subway to the sea etc., the question is how are we going to get from here to there because under the best of circumstances, it will take three to five years before those projects would open. So what we need to focus on-what FAST is focused on-is what can we do in the next three to five years. You would be amazed at the things that we could do to eliminate this traffic.

Bart Reed: I'm the executive director of a small nonprofit called the Transit Coalition. We deal with land use, planning, and transportation advocacy. The Transit Coalition deals with transportation on a number of levels. It could be something as grassroots as fixing a local bus route. It can be the big picture as well. One of the Measure R projects is the 405 undefined corridor. What could that corridor be? We've got a lot of visionaries in this room who could think about the corridor. The whole idea is, what would the vision be if we could put, for example, a rail tunnel in between UCLA, UCLA Medical Center, Westwood and the San Fernando Valley? In addition to the vision of a rail tunnel in the Valley, we also looked at an idea that captured some imagination, which essentially is a rail route that hasn't been touched at all that would go from Pasadena to Glendale to Hollywood. It's a whole connectivity piece that hasn't been challenged.

On another level, I work with Metrolink, the regional system. A year ago, I took the CEO of Metrolink out on a field study. We spent a whole Sunday on Memorial Day weekend talking to the passengers. We found that we never offered holiday train service. One woman on the train was going on Sunday to Olive View for a Tuesday appointment and was going to stay at a local hotel because there was no train service Monday.

In terms of social change in this community, on Sunday I left the CEO. On Thursday morning I got a phone call. "We've got special funding. We're going to be able to run the trains on the Antelope Valley Line on holidays." The first holiday, which was the 4th of July of last year, was very successful. We just completed the first year of train service in a corridor that didn't have public transportation. There are lots of changes that are possible dealing with the Metrolink system. For example, as recently as last Friday and Saturday, 11,000 people took the train to see U2. How many people can tell me when the train service ever took anybody to a rock concert? We took 11,000. We actually called Metrolink on Monday. This was for Friday. So there are a lot of changes coming in our town. There are a lot of visions out there, and a lot of work to get where we need to go.

Jeremiah Axelrod: I'm the author of Inventing Autopia and a professor at Occidental College in Eagle Rock. I've been interested in the history of Los Angeles in the 20th century, primarily, and the development of how we got where we are today. The historical perspective, which is the whole point of today's discussion, is very helpful. I hope we can spin out some of the historical parallels. I don't, though, want to get involved in a retrospective utopianism where we start looking at the Pacific Electric or the L.A. Railway as this ideal lost system. It would be nice to have elements of it back, but there were reasons why Angelenos turned away from the Pacific Electric. It wasn't just GM and Goodyear and a Roger Rabbit kind of conspiracy. It's worth saying that there were good reasons why Angelenos liked the automobile.

To move away from cars as our dominant mode of transit here in Los Angeles we have a little bit of a challenge. That challenge is to meet some of those needs that the car so beautifully met for many decades. Fortunately for that challenge, the automobile is becoming much less adequate, as we all know. The automobile has been a problem in Los Angeles for many years. Los Angeles' traffic was unbearable in the 1920s. Much of the transit infrastructure built in the 20th century was a response to problems with traffic.

Obviously, adding more streets is not going to be a long-term solution any longer. It took us 80 years to learn that. But we do need to find ways that provide-the historical perspective is clearly here-multi-modal transit that takes into account the automobile and the freeways, which were themselves the most futuristic solution to the traffic problem that could be envisioned. But it also takes into account fixed rail, both light and heavy, subways, but also the way that the bus system can work as a crucial connector piece that people rely on so often.

I would hope that we can look back on some of the historical examples. I'll end my first little foray by suggesting that Los Angeles is a place that has always, as its first formal city planner put it, dreamed dreams and seen visions. He thought that it was the planner's job to do this kind of lofty task to envision what's possible. In Los Angeles we don't suffer from lack of vision. We've suffered in some ways from an overdetermined multitude of visions that maybe have moved us in incorrect directions. But looking back over the last 100 years, Los Angeles's problem, for all its traffic paralysis, is not a paralysis of vision. The problem is probably that we've chosen the wrong visions. Los Angeles can transform itself. It has. I'd like to suggest that Los Angeles continuously transforms itself, and that there is every opportunity to transform it in ways that are productive to the future if we do dream dreams and see visions today that are appropriate for our future.

Barbara Lott-Holland: I am Co-Chair of the Bus Rider's Union. The Bus Rider's Union is a grassroots organization here in Los Angeles whose members are, in the majority, transit dependant and who take public transportation and the bus in particular as their mode of transportation. We are focusing on and trying to create a first class bus system here in Los Angeles. There are changes that need to be made locally as well as nationally because we have, in the past, prioritized the automobile. It's time to now flip that switch and start concentrating and giving more attention to mass transportation.

That has to be done not only on the local level but also on the national level. In particular, the Surface Transportation Bill has been an 80-20 split, meaning 80 percent going to highways and roads and 20 percent going to mass transportation. Even with that 20 percent, none of it has been for operations. One of the things that we are working on and seeing a vision for Los Angeles is to have a first class bus system. You need that to get people out of the cars. Nobody wants to give up a car if you're going to have to wait 15 to 20 to 30 minutes for a bus to get you where you want to go, or if that bus is going to take you an hour to get there. That's what we're talking about when we are saying first class bus system. We mean a system that has arteries that connect all of the 4,000 square miles of Los Angeles County. A multi-mode of transportation is a good thought, and it is coming.

Our focus is not to disadvantage one mode to create another mode. So that's what we mean when we're talking about a first-class bus system. I like Geoff's thought of changing the consciousness of society in wanting to live and do more things so that you use your body more. I mean living and working, having education and recreation in an area where it is that you don't need an automobile or anything that pollutes the air. That is a very good concept. We are far away from that right now. But while we are moving toward that, we want to make sure that the transportation is quality and that it serves all of the people. Not everyone lives in the same area, nor does everyone have the same status. We need to make a transportation system that is viable for all of the people. I would end by saying that if you have a first-class bus system that works for the people who are transit-dependant, then it will work for everybody.

Abel: It seems to me form follows function. What do we do today? We built the city of Los Angeles not like San Francisco. Not like Boston. Not like New York. Not like Philadelphia. How do we design our way out of a system that was built for the dispersion and low-density development that was the Los Angeles for much of our history? Jim Thomas, you've been building and thinking about land use for a long time.

Thomas: It's certainly not an easy thing to do. As I indicated before, the first thing that, as a developer, we're concentrating on in new development is transit oriented development. If you locate office buildings and residential over or near rapid transit stations that's a small step in that direction. The other is that there are many things that you could say. One of my favorite things is that we were blessed with the grid system that was laid out by our forefathers. We are woefully underutilizing the capacity of the grid system that we have.

For example, when the grid system was originally laid out, it was not envisioned that on any of the main thoroughfares that you would have parking. For example there are a number of opportunities in addition to eliminating parking on main thoroughfares to do paired streets. One example that we had of that which unfortunately has gotten hung up in the courts and in the council was the Olympic-Pico thing, which has been misnamed as one-way streets. Actually, the plan was on Pico you would have two lanes going west and four streets going east, and on Olympic you would have the reverse. There are these opportunities throughout the city and what you do with these paired streets is coordinate the lights and turn these streets into freeways. You can tremendously increase the amount of traffic that can be moved. Those are a couple of examples of things that are within our grasp that would make a big impact on the gridlock that we have.

Abel: Do we have a grid problem in Metro Los Angeles? Planners laid this metropolis out differently than those of the East Coast cities and Europe. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage to get to goal? Does our history affect our future options?

Wardle: There are some advantages and disadvantages to a grid system. But we're by and large stuck with it so there's no point in lamenting that we have it or that we don't. It's a question of what we do with it. If we wanted to built lots of new infrastructure, there isn't the political or necessarily the economic will to do so. Therefore, we have to get much smarter at how we use the infrastructure we've already got.

A grid system allows certain east-west corridors or north-south corridors to connect when we're talking particularly about surface transportation. Bus systems and bus rapid transit can benefit from that. On the other hand, it means sometimes that we can't always take the shortest route between point A and point B. We have to make use of the grid system we've got. As we look further ahead, we have to make sure that the movement along that grid system is an efficient as it can be.

I am a great believer in the future of the autonomous vehicle, which will allow us to string many more vehicles down the roads that we have. That's sort of a contentious issue, but that's what I believe. The ideal is to reduce the amount of traffic on the grid system we've got in the first place.

Abel: Jeremiah, You're the historian here. Is multi-centered Los Angeles, like Houston, just so much different from the European-modeled East Coast cities that we face a different challenge than others have?

Axelrod: There's a distinction to be made here between the grid and the linear strip. Because we do have, for the most part, a grid system of streets doesn't mean that Los Angeles has been or has to be a collection of strips. That topography rose after World War Two, for the most part, with a few famous examples dating back to the ‘20s. For the most part, Los Angeles has been and can continue to be multi-centered, clumped, and clustered, if we think of Los Angeles as a collection of small nodes that could be connected instead of just in terms of the vast expanse of sprawl. Los Angeles isn't exactly like that. There are a lot of clusters. Once you find those nodes, then the question of designing a topology that makes sense to connect them actually becomes quite a bit easier.

Historically, planners have looked to this notion of quasi-autonomous communities that are nevertheless connected together as an ideal solution for the Southern California style of distributed population. Although some of the utopianism of some of those early planners may be a little misplaced, its basic point was gridlock. We have a lot of discrete places, for instance, where I work in Eagle Rock. There are both linear strips, like Colorado Blvd and Eagle Rock Blvd, but also nodal points. Those nodal points are crying out for higher density and more efficient and more high-volume transit that can connect them to other nearby nodal points. For instance, the nodal point in Highland Park at the Gold Line Station.

There are ways to make these nodes into villages. Los Angeles can be a landscape of villages. It really was like that for many, many decades. The Pacific Electric supported that kind of system. There is no reason why we can't move toward that. But it doesn't mean we're going to create farmland between these nodes. As a matter of fact there are ways to connect people to those nodes, particularly through bus feeder lines, local bus lines that loop back.

Los Angeles doesn't have to be thought of as this sprawling undifferentiated topography. It can be thought of as a collection of quite a few perhaps but a finite number of local centers that can then be linked together.


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Abel: I have to reveal a bias. For 20 years, I was involved in the founding of point-to-point transportation systems, Super Shuttle and Yellow Cab. We looked at the bus systems as really not our competitors. Nobody wanted to take them. They wanted to go in this multi-village multimodal centered point-to-point. So are we designing against an image today of an East Coast centered metropolis? Or are we designing our solutions along a multimodal, multi-village response to where the public lives and works in the 21st century? Bart?

Reed: I'm going to start with some of the economics. I think that some of the eastern cities like Boston or New York- if you live in New Jersey for example and you want to go to the beach, you have to go from somewhere in central New Jersey to downtown New York City and then take the train back out again because they don't have any bus service that goes to the water. If you go to Boston and you go out into the suburbs there's no bus service, there's no train service. It's kind of like that freeze from decades ago that never grew up with the suburbs. In Los Angeles because of our initial rail systems that went out to Canoga Park, out to San Fernando, we actually have a fairly vibrant bus system that replaced the rails when they pulled the rails out. Through the 60s and 70s we had that whole bus network that replaced the trains. But there was always this differentiation. Until 1974 I believe our bus system actually broke even. It had a surplus. It had to have a surplus because it needed to have a recovery rate to buy new equipment. Then we changed our social policy. When we changed the social policy we didn't keep raising the fares a penny or two pennies and keep the zones in place. Instead of having a fairly vibrant bus system that broke even or paid for itself we started with this subsidy idea. The problem with the subsidies is that we don't balance it by charging more. We balance it by cutting the service. That's the conundrum that goes on now. The other point was that when we took the rails out we had these express buses that went point to point. The same problem is that it might charge $5 a ride to break even but the agencies were charging like $1.35 a ride or something like that and you even had some switching services to ARCO for a while. Now when we get back to the current that's still one of the problems. Because how we destroyed rail transit in the 20s and 30s in Los Angeles is, we have a room full of people here in the architecture business. Just imagine it cost you $100 an hour to run your office and a client tells you the best I can pay is $50. You're hourly rate is $150. That's what we did with the transit system in the 20s and 30s. They wanted to increase the....

Abel: There are a lot of architects in this room who understand that proposition by the way.

Reed: That was the reality. Our social policy in Los Angeles in the 20s and 30s was that we wanted to go up a half penny or a penny. I remember a headline in the Metro library that they wanted to go up a half penny and it was like the whole city fell apart. They went on strike for three months and that was the way we did it in the 20s and 30s. The problem was we didn't let the bondholders get paid back. We had these bonds in the red. They were junk bonds at the time. It wasn't in the 90s and the 2000s yet, it was the 1920s and 30s when we were continually destroying the railway companies. They had to pay for paving the streets. Everything was auto-centric. It was never about a private industry being able to charge the right price. You can't do this with the airlines. With one airline you have 50 people on a plane who paid 50 different prices because nobody pays the same. So it was the same thing as in the car world here. We recognized that we've got to be realistic about what we charge for transit. If we have the idea of the flat four between Long Beach and Los Angeles for $1.50 versus the fact that it costs $3.00 for the ride. If we're going to get more of something we have to be realistic about paying for it including your idea with the van service. With the van service I could pay $25 or $50 and they tell me to get to the airport four hours early. I pay them a lot of money. If I take a taxi or I get a local car coming from the same $50 at least if I tell them my flight's at noon they can get me at 10:30 and I'll get to the airport at 11 and get through security. The problem is that people don't always like to pay because of the vast distances and that's the transportation paradigm in terms of what you're willing to pay. When you drive your car you think it's the $56 refilling your tank. It's not that its 50 cents a mile to move your car forward. We don't really look at the cost of the insurance, the $12 to $20 to park and all of the other costs. So we have this paradigm that people don't understand one price and we want them to use something else that's more efficient but we don't want to pay the right price. So those are some of the economic problems with this.

Abel: Bart, with your reference to the vans, that was our competitors not Super Shuttle. Barbara, the Bus Rider's Union was so effective 20 years ago and 10 years ago in advocating for the buses. Then you really used the argument of bus vs. rail as if it was an either-or. Is that still the view of the Bus Rider's Union, that it's either or?

Lott-Holland: It was never bus vs. rail or either-or. The problem was at the time when the transit authorities decided to move towards rail they started avoiding the buses. In this particular case, all of a sudden you decide that you need a second mode of transportation here in Los Angeles and we're looking at rail, which costs a lot more. The way you create this is by starving your bus system in order to create the rail system. That's the problem. It is still a problem today. For example, now, the buses are looking at over 300,000 service hours being cut because now we are getting a new light rail system, the Expo line, which is going through South Central Los Angeles. The problem with that is both someone who is transit dependant, they don't go from point A to point B. They go A, B, C, and then may want to jump all the way to F. So they need a system that allows them to get on and off because this is their mode of transportation. They are using public transportation as if it was a car, where you decide where it is you want to go. That has been the problem in Los Angeles that again the bus system is being starved for a rail system.

Abel: So it sounds like it is bus vs. rail.

Lott-Holland: No. We don't want it to be bus vs. rail. It is that we should choose the transportation system that you can afford not only to build but also to operate. That is one of the problems that has been happening nationwide, even from the beginning. As I've said, we have always prioritized cars and not the mass transit system.

Abel: I want to get the audience involved in this. That's the purpose of the conference today. Are there any thoughts or questions please?

Audience Question: When are we going to address to help this social change? When are we going to address the politicians in Los Angeles? Jim you just came out with an EIR through Universal 39,000 pages long. How many years have you been working on that project Jim? How close are you now with the EIR just being issued? So here's a developer, self-funded, tenant in tow, building on top of heavy rail, next to a freeway, next to a 100 acre mixed-use property that employs 15,000 people in the city, and he can't put a shovel in the ground. Meanwhile the council in that area is arguing with homeowners in Studio City that they should limit the footprint of their home, and these homes are within walking distance of mass transit, they should limit the footprint of their home to 35 percent FAR. When are the politicians going to wake up so we don't get CVS Pharmacies on top of heavy rail stations at Wilshire and Western and we get some reasonable density and really put this social change into force?

Abel: Well I'm going to put that on the record as if it was part of the panel. But let me just read a statistic that was shared with me by the former city planning director of Los Angeles. Of the million new people who are added to our population at the current at the current rate of car ownership, that would bring about 650,000 new cars to our roads and highways. If we provide parking at the rates we currently provide, five spaces per car, it would result in the need of 37 square miles of new parking. There are more than 5.8 million automobiles registered in Los Angeles County. Only five states have more registered cars than does Los Angeles County. So that's the reality that we're living with. Talk about the history and the future of transportation. Any questions? Any opinions? Please.

Audience Question: I'm an architect. You mentioned the autonomous vehicle in terms of the future. I'm not sure so I wanted to get clarity on what you meant by the autonomous vehicle. But what I see in the future is that the driver will be taken out of the equation in terms of public transportation which will open up a whole new world of efficiency and safety. That's an entire paradigm shift from where we are. I relate it to when we used to ride horses. By mid century, driving a car will be like going out somewhere to ride a horse. Can you talk about the future of the autonomous vehicle?

Wardle: My feelings about the autonomous vehicle are aligned with yours. Basically they are vehicles that will require no human intervention to get them from A to B. That process is starting right now. Eventually, I believe that we have the opportunity for all road vehicles or all vehicles to be autonomous. As you say it allows the idea that vehicles can stream far more efficiently down a thoroughfare because you've taken out the unstable human condition. Also there are a lot of safety benefits as well. The more interesting aspect of that though is that as we look more into car-sharing schemes where you have multi-ownership or multi-access to vehicles, that means when a vehicle as delivered you to your address it can go back into the system and service somebody else's needs. So you don't need to park all these cars in the first place. Now of course we at the idea of turning people from the concept of owning their own vehicle to actually sharing vehicles, that's another challenge that we have to change people's perceptions. But I think there is an inevitability about the future of the autonomous vehicle.

Audience Question: I'd love to hear the panel, maybe particularly Bart and Barbara, address the opportunities in L.A. for more bus rapid transit. The city council just approved a 7.7 mile bus-only lane on Wilshire Blvd. If you're a driver on Wilshire Blvd and you don't currently take the bus you will be when that project is done and you should be, frankly. I'd like to hear you address that as well. The last point of the question is we have a lot of opportunities given these broad Boulevards that used to carry light rail lines. Again I would love to hear you address that. Thanks.

Lott-Holland: Well thank you. We are excited about the bus-only lane coming to Wilshire Blvd. The Bus Rider's Union has been working on this project for six years. The project has been in city council with the city for about ten years. The original project was a 14-mile project coming from downtown all the way to the sea. Early on in the project the city of Beverly Hills and the city of Santa Monica opted out and said they did not want the bus-only lanes coming through their cities. So now it is down to a seven mile-project. The purpose of this is to expedite the travel times of mass transit users. The objective is to get people out of their cars. Los Angeles is the car capital of the world, and the auto is the mode of transportation that produces the largest amount of emissions. So we do want to see people traveling, seeing these buses speeding down Wilshire and saying "that's where I should be. Why am I stuck in this lane instead of on the bus?" We must accept the fact that we have a limited amount of fossil fuel left. We must accept the fact that we are eating up our ozone layer and that it is time that we do something about it. We do have to take small steps to do it. Why couldn't Los Angeles be the pioneer that says: "Enough is enough. We have to reduce the number of cars in our city and move forward to more mass transportation."

Abel: Barbara before you said that I wanted to make a point of context here because of the title of this panel. Martha Welborne is here who is doing the strategic planning for Metro. Some 20 plus years ago she took a bunch of politicians to Curitiba, Brazil and they came back- this was Riordan, Zev, Hertzberg. They came back and this bus rapid transit that you see rolling out today was an idea we stole from the third world. We taught L.A. how do it, and it has been a product of 30 years of advocacy as it rolls out. So there is a history to the future of Los Angeles. It comes out of an architect and thinking and brainstorming and traveling and advocacy. So what we're doing today might be an impact on 30 years from now. Bart?

Reed: Well first I don't think the idea about Curitiba was stolen. We've had the same ideas here for 100 years first of all. In our city planning Wilshire Blvd was one of the streets that was banned from having rail lines. That was * unintelligible *, you couldn't have rail line on Wilshire Blvd. We do support the bus-only lane. But bear in mind that Wilshire Blvd in each individual lane can accommodate 600 cars per hour. There will be two bus-only lanes, one in each direction. Adding a third lane if you're having a bus every 60 seconds, and you're dealing with somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 riders an hour. So the problem is to the people in West L.A. it probably would be the end of the world if the 1,200 drivers and hour in the two lanes couldn't get through or they were delayed for 30, 60 or 90 seconds but you have 10,000 bus riders getting through right there. So this is always the paradigm. That was why poor Bill Rosendahl went crazy because it's the end of the world now that bus rapid transit is coming to west L.A. I would like to say that bus rapid transit and rapid bus in Los Angeles, the average speed of that bus is 13.7 miles an hour. With the bus-only lanes it will be up to about 15 miles an hour. The subway towards the sea when it gets towards the veteran's center will roughly take about 10 to 12 minutes to get from Wilshire-Western to the end of the line versus the bus, which will still take 20 to 30 minutes, even with the bus-only lanes. I would like to say that Beverly Hills doesn't tallow curb parking so in essence you do have an open lane on there. When you have a tail end of a route like the four miles from the Santa Monica Bay to Brentwood, the marginal costs in terms of speeding riders * unintelligible *. The real benefit is getting through the clogged areas of Brentwood and that's going to be fixed. Some of our rail lines, even the maligned Gold Line, have an average speed of almost 30 miles an hour despite going at 20 miles an hour through parts of Highland Park. But overall we have some of the fastest light rail lines in the county. You can get a pretty good * unintelligible *, but what do you do with public policy in Long Beach where it takes 15 minutes to get five miles there because they don't have the traffic system coordinated with the rail? It's all the cross traffic rather than the flow traffic. Those kinds of public policies have never favored public transit or rail in this particular case. So you've got this whole dichotomy about public policy explaining what the capacity is, what you can do. The truth is that Metro today carries on the 405 corridor between the valley and West L.A. a grand total of 2,700 bus riders in one direction. In the other direction they carry 3,000. Put a train in that connects UCLA, which has the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th parking structures in the world (note: this is inaccurate) and from day one of it's opening you'll get 50,000 riders in each direction. You'll get 100,000 riders because people will see the benefit of the speed. The bus service, even if you put bus rapid transit over the freeway, it's slow and plodding because we don't have buses with high powered, Porche-style engines. So you're going to have a slow trip from whatever destination. In terms of the overall benefit, buses have their importance piece. They connect with rail and rail does the longer distance. It's like the toolbox. If you have the toolbox you've got your local streets, you've got your allys, you've got your major streets, you've got your freeways and the transit system works the same way. When you have that integrated and properly working together you're going to win for everybody.

Abel: We can't come up with to many solutions on this panel. This is the opening act. This is the history of the future of transportation. In other panels you're going to come up with solutions. So I want to press back if I can. Maybe I'll turn to Geoff and Jeremiah. I'll start with Jeremiah. We don't have a doctor on the panel but this nurture versus nature- I want to turn to the nature part of this thing. Is our future somewhat determined by the way we've laid this city out over 100 years when we've gone from a pueblo to a megalopolis? We're on the grids, we've already laid ourselves out here. We've laid 11 million people out in the county. Does that limit our options?

Axelrod: No. We've changed a lot over the years. Los Angeles went from being a downtown-centric community not that dissimilar from other growing mid-sized towns in 1920. It was on its way towards having a traditional urban structure. A little more far-flung in terms of the residential communities that were stretched out became of the Pacific Electric system but all the businesses in Southern California for the most part were located in the downtown district. Why didn't Los Angeles become San Francisco or New York or Chicago? It was because there was a choice that was made not to make it that way. Planners and business people and politicians collaborated to change the course of Los Angeles's future because they were afraid of what high-density urbanism might betoken for the region. There was a reaction against the traditional city and they invented something new. Similarly when they brought in the freeway system it was another attempt to reassert a kind of livability onto an increasingly sprawling megalopolis. What it did was it much further diffused the region. So there are all choices. But hey are not over. I think the real question that we have to address before we think about anything in terms of Los Angeles is do we think we're going to be continuing to grow? Are we going to be growing quickly? Are we going to be shrinking? This is the future that we need to put in a larger context. In almost any scenario not involving shrinking, which I really don't see taking place in the medium term, what we're going to probably get it more density. The alternative is to get our suburban developments further and further afield. I think that support for that is collapsing. So there is going to be a change. The question is whether we are going to support it and how we're going to support it. Obviously transit is the key to this. Transit oriented development is also the key to this.

Abel: Advanced mobility research: do you start with a template? Or do you just imagine us in a lab and decide that that's the way it's going to be?

Wardle: No, you can never just imagine that that's the way it's going to be. But I'd just like to address something to your earlier question. I think that one of our problems as a species in talking about nurturing and nature is that as a species, we've totally lost touch of the nature that we're part of. The pockets of optimism that I harbor within me about the future suggest that we are going to inevitably go towards a much more community based living system just because of the demands on our planets resources and the food that we need to eat and consume. We're going to have to start thinking about doing that very close to where we live and preferably work close to where we live as well. If you look at Detroit for instance there are actually some very interesting things beginning to emerge in Detroit out of economic necessity because of the downturn in the auto industry and others there where we're beginning to see people growing their own food in their backyards. I think to get back to your earlier point about being within this system where we already have this structure, there are plenty of cities around the world including my hometown of London which is a collection of little villages. I think to Jeremiah's point that I see that very much being a part of the future of Los Angeles. I think that we inevitably have to get denser around the nodes, which allows a little more room for leisure activities between the nodes. Of course we could never been as tall as some other cities because of our seismic challenges that we have as well. But I think that densification around the notes and villages is inevitable. So to your specific question to me, there is no silver bullet for imagining the future of transportation and mobility. Every different region of the world and even parts of different cities require different solutions. So what one has to do is to be able to look at the future as best one can generating different future scenarios and try to figure out which are the most likely scenarios that are going to happen. We can never be absolutely sure. We have to be able to make some smart decisions about what the long-term things that we need to be taking into account. These include urban structure, which takes a long time to come to an idea about what the future urban structure should be and even longer to then deliver it. That's a long, long time. The transportation is almost secondary if you do the planning right, because that will fall in line afterwards. There are cases in point where I guess the automobile is a classic example where the automobile has tended to define what the urban structure should be. The reason we're having this meeting today is it's time now to look at the other way around. It's not easy.

Audience Question: I'm Brian Taylor from Urban Planning at UCLA. I just wanted to make an observation about moving the vehicles more quickly with the bus-only lanes or other ways to try and move transit more quickly. People often think that the ridership affects are due to the fact that the vehicles faster, and that's part of it. But a much bigger part of it is the effect it has on wait times for people. This is often misunderstood. So if you have a vehicle moving more quickly it means that the same number of vehicles now are able to shorten the headways, which is the time between the vehicles, without spending more money on them. People weight wait time at a much higher level than even vehicle time, between one and a half and four times more. So for someone waiting five minutes and than getting on a bus and riding for ten minutes, in their behavioral perception they often think that most of the burden of the trip was waiting for the bus and not being on the bus. So moving a little more quickly is important. By lowering those headways it has a dramatic effect on people's behavior. So there's what you might call multiplying benefits that come from moving the transit vehicles through more quickly, and most of that comes from actually lowering wait times and not so much from the fact that the vehicle is going much faster. If you have a subway that is moving very quickly but you have long headways between it you may not be realizing the benefits that you would if you had vehicles coming more quickly.

Reed: Good point. I have to say that I don't agree with that. Why? Because buses work on headways but you're working on humans getting on the bus. As soon as you have one individual who wants to go through the entrance door and your bus misses a signal and then a second signal, which is often what happens on Vermont and Wilshire, the problem is that buses start bunching. Just because you have a bus-only lane, yeah you can schedule a bus every 60 seconds or every two minutes. The problem is that if you ever go on Wilshire I've seen 12 buses clumped together. Why is bus bunching there? Because you only have a limited capacity per vehicle and theoretically even if you are running them every five minutes apart, the first bus misses a signal. Then the bus misses a second signal, and a third signal, and all of a sudden that bus is three minutes behind schedule or two minutes between the bus behind it. So then you've got crowding on the first bus. It's an inherent problem with bus operations. Nobody has figured out how to make human beings flow. If you can't get them to flow, you can see in an elevator. People try to get in as you're trying to get out. That's a problem with flow. If you go to store, it's got arrows for which door is in and which door is out. The bus system, low technology as it is, nobody has actually figured out how to solve this, except for New York City where you're shunned if you don't go out the back door. In Los Angeles it costs something like $30 million because we can't get people to go out of the back door of the bus. So it's great that there will be more frequency...

Abel: So that's the takeaway line of this session. We can't get people to go out the back door. But I want Jim to pick up on Geoff's comments. What is the urban form of Los Angeles in the 21st century?

Thomas: Well I think we're already seeing it happen. We're seeing, not only in Los Angeles but all across the country, residential moving back downtown. You're seeing retail moving back downtown. You're seeing entertainment. We see it here in Los Angeles in a big way. We sort of have a ridiculous situation in my mind that we have all of these jobs in Santa Monica and Westwood, etc. So you have all these people driving from far to the east to the west in the morning clogging the freeways, and then at night you have the reverse. So anybody who is on the west side wants to get to the east side in the afternoon, I mean it's impossible after 2:30. So we are already seeing that all of these things moving, including the office area. We've just had a very substantial tenant move from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles. That's one example. But I think that this is makes a lot of sense because in the central city there is a lot more ability to accommodate density. I think that Los Angeles is beginning to appreciate that you can't have * unintelligible * and live 50 miles away and spend three hours each way coming to work. So I think it's happening in Los Angeles. I think it's happening across the country. We're in a number of different cities and there has been this mass migration back to the Central Business District. I think that will continue, and I think it's a positive trend.

Abel: I see that we do have a health professional in the room, the county health director. Doctor, your comment:

Audience Question: There is a dimension that hasn't been discussed. If you look at the poster right up there it says healthier communities. It is an imperative in terms of health that we have a different future of transportation than our current system. The worst epidemic we have currently in L.A. County is overweight and obesity. Two thirds of our adults are either overweight or obese. We have higher rates of diabetes then ever in the past and we risk having our children live shorter life expectancies than we do because of this problem. We have higher rates of high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia all because of this. We have to have more physical activity and we have to have transit-oriented development. We have to have mass transit if we want to have a healthier community. There are a lot of other social issues, and that's not even talking about the climate change and the effects of global warming. This is an imperative. We feel from a public health point of view that working on these issues is one of the highest priorities we can see if we want to have a healthier community and also reduce the terrible disparities among different parts of our population. I would just add one more thing. There is one new technology or technique to try and look at this in terms of planning, and its called Health Impact Assessment, where you look at the impact in terms of health of the things you're doing. We don't need 39,000 pages to do that in. It can be done very simply. This does not have to be as bureaucratic- it's already by the way part of an EIR. It's part of the requirement to deal with the health component. It's critical that we do that and public health has to be at the table and has to be a strong ally in trying to change some of the current incentives.

Abel: Doctor Fielding by the way made a heroic effort ten years ago to try to have schools, the hundred-plus schools being built in LAUSD as centers of neighborhoods. We realize that the schools aren't even on the general plans of cities. It's not an easy task to integrate these ideas with one another. We have a question over here.

Audience Question: I'm also a physician and sort of leaning into the next group. I'll be a responder as well. My name is Ken Alpern with the Transit Coalition. As someone whose looking at trying to provide an alternative and certainly as a dermatologist, I'm very appalled at how the transit stations and for that matter the flexible bus stations don't have a lot of shelter from the sun and the rain, making it a horribly inhospitable environment for anyone in their right mind to want to take mass transit. On that note I think that the idea of making it an attractive alternative, something with more freedom is the way to go. We have to think outside the box in terms of not only making it more attractive for people to get out of their cars, but when people have to get in their cars, if for example you're driving from the South Bay or from the Inland Empire or from the San Fernando Valley to Wilshire Blvd, we're going to need some parking, because I can't expect people to bicycle from those parts. So if we want to get them out of their car, how do you feel about integrating the alternatives and not playing the bus vs. rail or the car vs. whatever game? How about doing something concrete to give people the perception of more freedom, greater opportunities, and something that's just more attractive instead of just clubbing them over the head and telling you it's your civic duty to do this.


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