“Transportation investments being made in the region today will have a transformative effect beyond simply increasing mobility. That change can be disruptive and exclusive or it can be intentional and inclusive. We believe that we have a responsibility—and duty to the taxpayers—to strive for the latter...transportation can be a bridge to opportunity.”
Can you explain your role at METRO?
I help lead L.A. Metro’s Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) team, which is responsible for administering programs and projects to foster neighborhoods that—by their design—allow people to drive less and access transit more. Through our TOC initiatives, L.A. Metro is taking a holistic community development approach to station area planning to maximize equitable access to our growing, multi-modal transit network. This includes programs such as joint development through which we partner with private developers to implement transit-oriented developments, including affordable housing to encourage ridership and decrease auto dependency. We're also focused on first/last mile connections to ensure that there is access to our transportation systems—a significant challenge in L.A. County given the sprawling development patterns. Once riders reach our service, what is their experience as they journey into and through our system? We're focused on the built environment and the role that urban design and system architecture play in the user’s experience. Collectively, these efforts aim to promote equitable, livable communities that capitalize on their proximity to transit.
As stated in Metro Vision 2028, the agency’s mission ‘is to provide a world-class transportation system that enhances quality of life for those who live, work, and play within LA County.’ It goes further stating, ‘transportation interfaces with quality of life issues, such as equity, economic opportunity, gentrification, displacement, affordable housing, homelessness, environment, public health, and access to education and health care.’ Does this philosophy set Metro apart from other transit agencies?
I do believe Metro is redefining the role of the transportation agency. Fundamentally, we plan, fund, build and operate mobility systems throughout L.A. County. But in recent years, that mandate has expanded. There's an acknowledgment that transportation investments being made in the region today will have a transformative effect beyond simply increasing mobility. That change can be disruptive and exclusive or it can be intentional and inclusive. We believe that we have a responsibility—and duty to the taxpayers—to strive for the latter. Although tremendous social and economic disparities exist throughout the region, transportation can be a bridge to opportunity.
How does such a socially minded philosophy influence Metro’s planning and implementation of projects?
The most important part of TOC is the community. At the end of day, we serve people, and their voice in the process is critical to ensuring that the decision-making is inclusive and responsive to community needs. For example, before we engage the development community, our Joint Development process begins with extensive community engagement to better understand the needs and priorities of stakeholders in the area which informs ‘development guidelines’ that get packaged as a part of the developer Request for Proposals. We think in doing that, we're able to begin to lay a path for developers to help them ensure that their responses to those solicitation fulfill the community's vision and stand a greater chance of being successful projects. Another example is the recently completed First/Last Mile Plan for the Metro Blue Line, a first in terms of a corridor-wide plan to improve safe access. Critical to that process were partnerships with a number of grassroots Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that helped facilitate innovative community engagement to reach individuals who might not otherwise have had their voices and perspectives heard. The result was a recommended set of improvements that are responsive to the needs of actual users in the community. Perhaps more importantly, it has instilled confidence in the process.
"The most important part of TOC is the community."