1. Metro bus ridership has dropped 25% over the last 10 years, as Metro has largely failed to provide quality and frequent bus service to transit-dependent communities including those in South and Central Los Angeles. It is clear that a wide network of frequent, reliable bus service utilizing bus-only lanes is a critical solution for low-income residents who depend on transit. If elected as supervisor, would you use your position on the Metro Board to support bus rapid transit projects prescribed by Measure M, and work with cities to aggressively implement bus-only lanes?
I would. One of the priorities in my campaign is to work toward a greener Los Angeles, and expanding our metro services is a big part of that. We need to move our city away from reliance on fossil fuels and personal vehicles, but we can’t do that unless the metro here is viable. It must be reliable and frequent, so people can rely on it to get where they need to go. Our train lines cover only a fraction of the city, neglecting the majority of west and south LA, and we do not have enough express bus lines to compensate. In some areas residents can wait up to an hour between buses. That’s not acceptable to me. I would support any measure that would make it easier, including bus only lanes and expanded lines. I would readjust city budgets so that we can hire more drivers, so that buses and trains can arrive more regularly.
And everybody knows one of the quickest, biggest-impact ways to ease traffic is by increasing bus-only lanes. We’re already seeing it grow in popularity so why not take it a few steps further? Add more lanes, and increase enforcement to keep drivers out of them. Studies have shown that bus only lanes leads to several benefits: it’s safer for buses, drivers, and cyclists, and it eases vehicular congestion. Both are serious problems in our city.
2. The lack of safe infrastructure in the Second District means that people on foot and on bicycles are especially vulnerable to being killed or injured while moving around their communities, including the late Frederick “Woon” Frazier, who was killed by a hit and run driver in South L.A. What would you do as a Supervisor to prioritize safe mobility for low-income residents and students who depend on active transportation options?
Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our city’s residents. We need to focus more stoplights and crosswalks in areas like Manchester corridor, where Frederick Frazier was slain. In 2018, there were 240 traffic deaths, Garcetti pledged Vision Zero by 2025. If we are to strive for this goal, we need to drastically replan the way our streets are designed. I want to work toward expanding bike lanes along every major street. Bicyclists should not be on the road with cars and trucks. It’s a safety hazard, and preventable. Bike lanes are a much safer alternative for all involved. I also support additional installations of HAWK beacons at major intersections. The HAWK beacon uses a three-light yellow and red system that activates when pedestrians push a button to cross. It alerts motorists early that pedestrians will be crossing, and communicates effectively what is happening.
3. This past summer Metro incorporated Equity Focused Communities into its Equity Platform to prioritize the needs of low-income residents and households with low vehicle ownership. On the Metro Board, would you put meaningful financial resources behind the Metro Equity Platform and fund projects that improve mobility, access, and safety of these communities?
Absolutely. Some people think we don’t have the money for such measures. The truth is that the money is there, it’s just being abused and mismanaged. As supervisor, I will personally oversee readjustments of our city’s budget to make sure we’re funding what we need to fund. I support the Metro Equity Platform – it was able to identify race, income-level, and vehicle ownership as three determining factors for disadvantaged areas. This is a good start, and yes, I would fund more research to see what other common factors can be identified, such as home ownership and commute data. But as all the data already shows, our low-income areas need the most help. The streets need repair, and I would work closely with the communities so that projects can be planned according to their needs. The answer is not simply adding more buses or stops, which could inconvenience everyone in traffic. If you need to walk a minute farther to a bus stop (the difference between the current average of 0.15 miles between stops to a new 0.25 average) it would mean a more efficient trip for a majority of riders.
I want to be better at community engagement. Too often project money devoted to such is not used efficiently. I want to have an open door policy to my community, and I plan to host regular livestreams through my website that are open to all. In addition, when resident petitions gain enough traction I promise I will look them over personally and see what I can do. Every voice in Los Angeles is important to me. It’s part of my Transparent LA program.
4. Gentrification is a major issue facing many communities across the District, especially where new transit investments are being made, such as along the Crenshaw Line. Metro’s power relative to individual cities lies with Metro’s power over funding. As a Metro director, how would you use funding incentives and existing programs (e.g. the Business Interruption Fund, Joint Development program, and Transit Oriented Communities program) to encourage cities to protect existing tenants and produce affordable housing, particularly near new transit investments?
We, as a city, have a lot of work to do. Extending the subway and rail systems, and Metro’s Transit Oriented Communities programs are promises of benefiting the low-income population. However, most developments are geared towards the higher-income population. There is not enough being done to compensate for the disparity. We need new developments to benefit ALL Angelenos while working harder to maintain neighborhood integrity.
The main priority of my campaign is Affordable Housing. I want to transition to the modular model, where units can be built for $130,000 instead of the $600,000 the city is currently spending. The biggest enemy of Affordable Housing is its expiration date. The expiration dates set in the 80s are expiring, and new models are discussing an expiration date of 55 years from now. Once those expiration dates arrive, landlords can immediately switch to market rates. For some households, that can mean up to a 300% increase in their rent. The residents are being evicted with no places to go. Some may end up on the streets. Affordable Housing with an expiration date really isn’t Affordable Housing at all. One way we can work around this is to build housing units on publicly owned land. There are many unused public lands in the city and county of Los Angeles. Much of this land is near existing metro stations, making it easier for lower income residents to get around Los Angeles.
5. Far too many Angelenos face barriers in their access to public space including on public transit. For example, many Metro riders—but especially women—face high levels of harassment from other system users. At the same time, teens and young men of color are too frequently the victims of police brutality for simply existing in public spaces. In 2017 and fed by the false narrative that more policing provides more safety for riders, Metro directors approved a 5-year, nearly $1 billion security contract which has expanded the presence of armed police on trains and buses. What will you do to address the issue of harassment on Metro services and what would you do to build a relationship of trust between communities of color and law enforcement?
Harassment is not okay in any medium, and it’s a huge problem on our metro. Only 13% of women surveyed reported that they felt safe while waiting for a bus or train late at night. We need to find a way to protect our riders. That can mean training drivers in incident prevention and intervention, teaching them how to spot predators before they act. We should encourage a private system for reporting harassment that riders feel safe approaching, a safe space where they will be supported and protected. It would also help a great deal to install brighter lights at subway and transit stations, as well as hiring more custodians and especially security officers.
We need to get police out of our metro. Safety shouldn’t be seen as law enforcement, but rather a more welcoming experience for riders. And currently there is just not enough trust between community and law enforcement agencies. I also support third-party oversight committees of police and sheriffs departments with initial investigation power. I believe that body cameras should be used for accountability and not surveillance. I support the creation of a Do Not Call List, where court cases that rely solely on the testimony of officers that have been accused of domestic abuse or misconduct are tossed out. This encourages departments to discipline or outright fire such officers, and encourages officers to behave responsibly. No one is above the law. If we want to bring trust back to the community, we need to enforce accountability.
6. Metro CEO Phil Washington has called for congestion pricing to fund free transit in the Los Angeles region. A) What are your thoughts on Congestion Pricing and would you seek to expand Metro’s ExpressLanes program? B) Do you support making transit in Los Angeles County free?
I do not support congestion pricing as of now, but it is something we should explore in relation to how we design our public transportation system moving forward. As of now, I do support making public transit free. If not completely free, the money is there for monthly or annual transit costs to be heavily subsidized through school, work, and benefits programs.
As I said before, money is being misused. We need to rework our city’s budget so that it makes sense. I believe that we can make transit viable for all residents without adding additional costs, without raising taxes.