Nithya Raman
Candidate campaign page:

1. Los Angeles Metro is constructing and planning multiple transit lines through CD4, including the Purple Line extension, the East Valley Transit Corridor, the Sepulveda corridor line, and the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line. How do you plan to solve the first mile/last mile problem and connect riders to these lines?

As a lifelong user of transit, and as someone who took multiple trains to commute from my home in Silver Lake to my job in Santa Monica, the lack of first / last mile connectivity was something that I thought about every single day. And I had a lot of time to think about it! I was a supercommuter – 90+ minutes each way, with a challenging last mile back to my house.

Here are a few solutions to the first/last mile problem I would work to put in place.

  • I’d make it easier to get on the bus. For people of all abilities and incomes, the bus is the most effective mover of people we have in the City of Los Angeles. And while we have a good bus network, we’ve been losing ridership steadily for many years. There are many reasons for this, including the rise of rideshare and the decrease in lower income residents in the city who make up the majority of bus ridership. But there’s one major reason that is fairly straightforward to address: bus frequency! Buses should run at a maximum of 10-minute intervals, and faster on heavy-use corridors, especially during rush hour. To get people to their destination faster and to make taking the bus more appealing, I’d also fight to build shelters for every bus station in the city, expand all-door boarding across the entire bus fleet, and build out the city’s network of bus lanes – some tactical lanes that shift from one side of the street to another depending on which way rush-hour traffic moves, and some dedicated lanes on major boulevards
  • Make it easier for people to walk, cycle, and scoot to the stations. Metro has found over and over again in surveys that the majority of train users are not getting to the station in cars – they’re mostly walking, but also biking and scooting. There’s simply no way to increase ridership without increasing access for pedestrians and cyclists. 

I’d take a number of approaches to make walking and bike trips safer and more pleasant depending on the station and its needs: repairing sidewalks, planting lots of trees, lowering traffic speeds around the station, installing bicycle facilities, improving crosswalks, and more. A network of protected bike lanes and widened sidewalks that lead to the stations must be a part of the solution, especially in those areas where they’ve already been prescribed by the Mobility Plan 2035. 

Metro has laid out detailed guidelines for how to improve infrastructure to maximize accessibility to train stations in their First Mile Last Mile Strategic Plan, and I would ensure that all stations in the District implement those guidelines. 

  • While we’re at it: make it easier to take the train! First and last mile problems are important to address, but part of the reason why taking transit continues to be difficult in Los Angeles is that the headways on the trains are too long, especially for transit users who are using multiple modes (which is more than half of train users!). If my bus or drop off to the train station was late, I had to wait 9 minutes for another train during rush hour – way too long for someone who had to be at the office by a particular time. Investing as much as we are in building out new train lines while making it more inconvenient for users of existing transit infrastructure seems incredibly counterproductive.
  • Political will: I strongly believe that the most important element of improving first / last mile access is not a technical one: it’s political will. 

Voters in LA have shown over and over again that they overwhelmingly support improvements to public transit, most recently in passing Measure M in 2016 with more than 70% of people in support. It is because of this widespread voter support that CD4 is able to have these historic investments in new rail. Yet without addressing the issues of first/last mile access to our trains, we are not keeping the promises that Metro and City leaders made to Angelenos. And we will likely fail to meet our broader climate goals for the city, which involve a 39% decrease in our vehicle miles traveled by 2035. 

Keeping those promises to voters will require real political courage from councilmembers. Changes in traffic management and reductions in road space for cars have elicited and will continue to elicit loud opposition from some residents. As a result of such vocal opposition, City Councilmembers have mostly used their power over City streets to impede the development of safe, friendly, and accessible routes to and from transit that will encourage people to use the non-car alternatives that we’re building. They have impeded or ignored plans that both Metro has put in place, such as the First Mile Last Mile Strategic Plan, and that the City of Los Angeles has put in place, such as the 2010 Bicycle Plan, the Mobility Plan 2035, and Vision Zero

We have all of the technical expertise and evidence we need to create an interconnected system of transit that works for users, and that offers safe first / last mile connectivity, much of it codified into the plans listed above. As councilmember, I will wholeheartedly support the planning work that Metro has done and make sure that the City follows through on its own plans.

2. News outlets are reporting that 242 Angelenos were killed in car crashes in 2018, showing that L.A. has failed to make significant progress towards Vision Zero since adopting the policy in 2015. Why do LA’s streets remain so deadly by design? What would you do to make them safer?

Higher speeds lead to greater numbers of deaths in car crashes. This is especially true for pedestrians, whose chances of significant injury or death rise drastically when cars are traveling at speeds higher than 20 mph.

The reason LA’s streets are so deadly is a bleak and simple one: our city’s leaders have chosen the preferences of car drivers over the safety of everyone else. Just last week, a councilmember said outright that if they slowed down car traffic to make the streets safer for other modes, voters would “have our heads on a rail.” As a result, we are facing a reality where Angelenos, primarily residents of color, put their bodies at serious risk every day just trying to cross the street. And instead of working to slow down traffic, the city has increased speed limits all over the city.

However, we do know how to solve these problems. We know where the dangerous streets are. And we know how to design roads to discourage speeding and other forms of unsafe driving. There are a number of evidence-backed methods at our disposal, including protected bike lanes, raised medians, bulb-outs, and daylighting intersections, just to name a few.

As councilmember, I’d move to get safety improvements on every High Injury Network street in my district, and fight to get similar infrastructure in place across the city. I also would not support changes in other parts of the city that will decrease the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. 

3. Los Angeles’ traffic woes are compounded by the reality that many parents and students don’t feel safe allowing their children to walk or bike to school. Why do you think this is? What would you do as councilmember to improve active transportation options around schools?

This past April, two sisters were hit by a big rig on their way to school as they tried to cross Exposition Boulevard. Both died from their injuries. The driver never even saw them. Five months later, not a single change to the street’s design has even been proposed.

Parents don’t feel safe letting their children walk to school because in most of Los Angeles, they aren’t safe. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one single cause of death of children and adolescents, and our leaders haven’t taken adequate action to protect our youngest, most vulnerable residents from the greatest threat to their lives. It is something I think about so much as the mother of twin preschoolers who walk and use scooters and balance bikes around my neighborhood.

Improving active transportation options around schools and increasing safety will involve investments in street design, and this is something I am committed to doing. These changes will include many of the design interventions described above in the previous two answers.

An important element of executing these improvements is winning community support in advance of implementing changes. Through my work as a founder of the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition and as co-chair of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Homelessness Committee, I was able to work with neighborhood councils throughout the region to win their support for much needed local resources for unhoused residents in the area. To obtain this support, SELAH members worked closely with Homelessness Committees and with the wider Councils to educate them on the needs and benefits of such services, and asked them to submit letters and statements in support of such services to the City. We also designed SELAH to bring in as many volunteers as possible. Through SELAH’s outreach, shower, and hot meal programs, hundreds of local residents have been able to volunteer to provide direct services for their unhoused neighbors. Through volunteering and getting educated, they have changed their perceptions of homelessness and many of them have become vocal advocates for more resources.

Similar methods, such as reaching out to Moms Clubs, PTAs, Education Committees on Neighborhood Councils, and other local stakeholders, will be essential in winning the public’s support for slowing traffic and other safety improvements around schools. As someone who has spent much of their career in building coalitions to support change, this is the kind of community outreach that I will prioritize as a Councilmember.

4. Neighborhood councils in CD4, including Silver Lake, Mid City West, and Los Feliz, have all shown strong support for a more bikeable CD4. Despite this, the few bike lanes in CD4 are discontinuous and dump riders out into dangerous thoroughfares. What do you see as the impediments to building out the adopted Mobility Plan 2035’s network of bike infrastructure? Which of the connections in CD4 do you see as a priority and will you push for as councilmember?

The Mobility Plan 2035 is an incredibly powerful weapon we have as a city to improve our air quality and combat climate change. If the City made all of the plan’s recommendations, we would easily meet the goals set by Mayor Garcetti in his Green New Deal to reduce vehicle miles traveled by 2035.

The biggest impediment to building out the network, in my view, is our city’s reluctance to part with on-street parking on major boulevards. There are simply better uses for the space, and no excuses not to have bike lanes on Hollywood and Wilshire Boulevard. There isn’t a recommendation in the Plan that I wouldn’t fight for, though.

5. Please respond to the following questions regarding specific CD4 corridors with known safety issues:

5A. Bike lanes on Rowena Ave. and Silver Lake Blvd. both terminate at Glendale Blvd., leaving a dangerous gap between these lanes and the L.A. River Path. Despite L.A.’s future plans for revitalization of the Los Angeles River, there are no bike lanes that access the entire segment of the L.A. River Path between Elysian Valley and Glendale. What will you do as councilmember to actively push for bike lanes on Glendale Blvd. and Fletcher Dr. to provide families with safe access by bike to the L.A. River Path?

One of the biggest issues with how our bicycle infrastructure has been built in Los Angeles is its lack of interconnectivity.

The lack of bike lanes on Glendale and Fletcher has rendered the Rowena Road Diet much less effective than it could be at getting people out of their cars and onto bikes. There’s no reason not to extend the same design that has made Rowena safer onto those streets. The welcome revitalization of the river makes these fixes all the more necessary.

And we shouldn’t stop just at the small section of Glendale Boulevard between Rowena and Fletcher — while it’s mostly not in my district, the portion of Glendale that runs south to Sunset and beyond is one of the most inhospitable to pedestrians and cyclists in the city, and must be addressed.

5B. Despite unanimous support from the Mid City West Community Council for a road diet on 6th Street to provide an important connection to LACMA and to West Hollywood, and in response to 3 fatalities on the street over 5 years, the office of Council District 4 opted instead for a modest plan that added left turn pockets at one intersection. Will you implement the LADOT-recommended road diet?

Yes. As Mid City expands into a major tourism and transit hub, we have to use every strategy available to prioritize alternative transit modes and street safety.


5C. Hyperion Ave. was recently the site of a horrific crash that took the life of local grandmother, Cristina Garcia. Citing the unsafe conditions of Hyperion, the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council has repeatedly called for safety improvements to this street, which LADOT has determined is part of the High Injury Network. Speed is the predominant factor in determining whether a crash is deadly. Would you support a road diet reconfiguration of Hyperion Ave. to reduce speeding and improve the safety of pedestrians, people on bikes, and turning drivers?

Absolutely. I also believe bike lanes could replace on-street parking on Hyperion between Griffith Park Boulevard and Rowena, creating a continuous network of lanes from Sunset to Glendale Boulevard. And while it’s not in my district, I’d support extending safety measures onto Fountain Ave. by King Middle School — it’s inexcusable to put hundreds of children next to such a dangerous street.


6. Over the past year, we have seen increased use of privately owned and shared mobility electric scooters throughout Los Angeles. What role do you see for this emerging transportation technology, and how can the City of Los Angeles act to ensure safe mobility for all road users during a time when many Angelenos are making shifts in their mobility choices?

Scooters are a flashpoint in LA, but I think that they are an exciting addition to our transit options, particularly as a solution to the aforementioned last-mile problem. Even if the current wave of venture-backed scooter companies close up shop, individuals will continue to use scooters, along with e-bikes and regular bicycles. 

Unfortunately, like many things in Los Angeles, our lack of good management of scooters and scooter companies has led to conflicts between them and other users of the streets.

Emerging data suggests that scooter users are mostly a danger to themselves: the vast majority of

scooter-related injuries are from people falling off their scooters , with almost no injuries resulting from collisions with pedestrians. But pedestrians on sidewalks have felt unsafe with scooters sharing that space. However, scooter users ride on the sidewalks because they feel unsafe on roads! We must make it easier and safer for people to use non-automobile modes of transit. That means implementing more protected bike lanes and all of the other street design solutions at our disposal.


Read Bike The Vote L.A.’s Endorsement