2017 Mayoral Candidate Report Card: Mitchell Schwartz

Primary Election day: Tuesday, March 7, 7am-8pm
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Vision for Livable Communities: C-
Prioritization of Safety: B+
Commitment to Equity: (not enough info to grade)
Commitment to Collaboration: C+
Overall Bike The Vote LA Grade: C

Former California campaign director for Obama, Mitchell Schwartz is perhaps the most politically seasoned of challengers to Mayor Garcetti. His campaign is focused on addressing LADWP reform and tackling L.A.’s pension costs. In his response to Bike The Vote L.A, he offers a generally welcoming platform on active transportation, calling for implementation of the 2010 Bike Plan and a vague commitment to creating protected bicycle infrastructure. But as a candidate who opposed Measure M and wants to tackle ‘out of control real estate development,’ it’s not clear that Schwartz shares the goals of the active transportation community for vibrant neighborhoods linked by an equitable and sustainable transportation system. Should Mitchell Schwartz advance in the Mayoral race, we hope that he will further engage with safe streets and mobility advocates to expand his platform on transportation.

(See below for Mitchell Schwartz’s response to Bike The Vote L.A.)

1. In 2015, Los Angeles approved Mobility Plan 2035, the first update to the Transportation Element of its General Plan since 1999. Mobility Plan 2035 puts “safety first” in transportation decisions, and provides a vision for a transportation system composed of safe and quality transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and automotive options. How would you like to see this Plan implemented, and how do you envision Los Angeles’ transportation system in 2022 at the end of the next Mayoral term?

I’m a lifelong supporter of public transportation and strongly believe that improving Los Angeles’s public transit system is fundamentally necessary to improve the lives of Angelenos and to combat climate change. The Mobility Plan 2035 is a great step toward becoming a more livable city and ensuring that bicyclists and pedestrians are also kept safe in the process. I would seek better relations with Bike-The-Vote LA and other like-minded organizations to ensure that bikers feel safe on our streets. By 2022, I envision a much more people-friendly city with the continued expansion of Metro ridership opportunities.

Furthermore, to keep our bicyclists safe from hit and run crimes we must also work to develop the precautionary infrastructure necessary to keep bicyclists safe from vehicles and buses. That’s why one of my top priorities is to install permanent bike-to-street barriers along our east-to-west corridors in the Los Angeles Basin, Valley, and Downtown regions. Streets and areas of consideration include Pico Blvd, Venice Blvd, Washington Blvd, and the LA River. The latter of which should be Measure M’s top priority.

2. How can Los Angeles catch up to peer cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle in terms of quality of roadway infrastructure and bicycle-friendliness?

We need to encourage more transit friendly projects like LADOT’s Bike Program, which encourage Angelenos to enjoy the city by bike for a small cost, and support the expansion of bike-friendly policies. Only by creating the proper infrastructure for biking can we as a city make real progressive progress for our residents.

3. On August 24, 2015, Mayor Garcetti signed Executive Directive 10, setting ‘Vision Zero’ as a policy for Los Angeles, with the goal of eliminating traffic-related deaths within 10 years. In order to meet this goal, LADOT identified a “High Injury Network” to prioritize safety improvements on L.A.’s most dangerous streets. However, after a year and a half, we have seen very little concrete action to reduce transportation-related deaths on City streets. What do you see as the critical hurdles for improving safety on Los Angeles streets, and how would you work to address these impediments in reducing speeding in order to save lives?

When it comes to enforcing Directive 10, we need to be able to fund the improvements we envision, and that’s not going to happen when we see huge budget increases that go to rising pension costs. We need to get our fiscal house in order first.

4. In 2011 the City of Los Angeles adopted a Bicycle Master Plan identifying a network of bike lanes to make bicycle commuting a safe and comfortable commuting option. However, after most easy-to-install bike lanes were implemented, the City largely stopped pursuing reconfigurations of roads to accommodate bike lanes on streets where the number of travel lanes might be affected. Since Mayor Garcetti took office, implemented bike lane miles have plummeted from 251 in FY2013-14 and 120 in FY2014-15 to 38 in FY2014-15 and a mere 17 in FY2015-16. Do you see a network of bicycle infrastructure as an important component to making Los Angeles a bike-friendly city? If so, what will your administration do within the next Mayoral term to accelerate the development of a comprehensive network of bike lanes in Los Angeles?

Again, the Bicycle Master Plan and many essential services have been crowded out of the budget due to rising pension costs. Since Garcetti took office, the budget has grown 22% ($1 billion), but nearly all of it has gone to growing pension costs. He has not shown the leadership to tackle this issue and fight for other budget priorities. I will.

5. Much emphasis in transportation engineering has been placed in recent years on protected bike lanes and protected intersections. New York City began installing modern parking-protected bicycle lanes in 2007. Los Angeles has started to follow suit, installing short stretches of protected bike lanes in the 2nd Street Tunnel, on Reseda Blvd, on westbound Venice Blvd, on Los Angeles Street, and on southbound Van Nuys Blvd. But with many of these installations limited to ½-mile segments, separated by many miles across a large city, and no protected intersections implemented in Los Angeles; they hardly represent a viable backbone to support bicycle commuting for all ages and skill levels. How do you plan to implement the protected bike lane network envisioned in Mobility Plan 2035, seeing as so far only about 1.1 lane miles of the 300 planned lane miles have been been built in the year and a half since the Plan was adopted? When can Angelenos expect to rely on a system of protected bike lanes to get them around Los Angeles, as commuters now do in New York and Chicago?

By making safety a top priority and bicycle funding part of its own designated budget, we can properly ensure that bike safety via new bike lanes finally comes to fruition.

6. A 2014 report by the L.A. Times noted a rise in hit & run crimes against people on bikes in Los Angeles. What action will your administration take – both at the local level and in working with State legislators – to reduce hit & run crimes?

We need to ensure that those who endanger the public safety of our city are put to justice. I support the hiring of 2,500 additional police officers to police the streets of Los Angeles to help with not just the 40% increase in violent crime, but to serve as additional vigilance to all members of the community and to minimize issues like hit-and-runs.

7. Bike share systems have been implemented across Los Angeles, but as systems expand to different areas of Los Angeles and neighboring cities, experts foresee three major obstacles: stations that are discontinuous/too far apart, stations with unsafe walking conditions that limit access, and systems that are out of reach for low-income residents. What areas would you like to see bike share expanded to within Los Angeles, and what should the City be doing to make these systems more accessible, affordable, and useful to all Angelenos?

In supporting the general expansion of bike sharing, such as the LADOT’s Bike sharing service, I would want to see expansion where it is most ideal. Realistically, the most sense would be to expand the programs in the most population-dense areas that have the best current infrastructure i.e. bike lanes, to ensure that the program does not lead to an increase in bike-related accidents.

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