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Inequality and Rationality in Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 2008 Long Range Transportation Plan 2009/12/13

Posted by zadriaenssens3 in Transportation Planning.
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I would like to believe that planning has come a long way; that we – as a profession – have learned from the mistakes of our past, and have learned the drawbacks associated with didactic, rational planning techniques that rarely hear the needs of the public as well as they should. Yet, upon reading the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 2008 Long Range Transportation Plan, it seems all too clear that there is still far to go and much to learn. From strictly adhering to a rational planning process to undervaluing the needs of the urban poor, the 2008 Transportation Plan represents some of planning’s least admirable qualities.

As outlined in the document itself, the developmental process behind the plan followed eight sequential steps: 1) establishing performance criteria, 2) evaluating “no build” scenario, 3) honoring past commitments, 4) determining financial capacity, 5) evaluating potential new projects, 6) developing draft plan recommendations, 7) finalizing the plan, and 8) including the plan into the regional transportation plan. Rational planning – the “ends justify the means” planning model that rarely included equity as one of its goals – has long been discredited. However, the aforementioned 8-step program is a shining example of its lesser qualities; chief among them – the only opportunity for public input comes in the form of a “45 day review process” that takes place after step sex, long after much of the plan had already been finalized. The fact that the population of the area directed by the plan is nearly 10 million people, merely serves to highlight the absurdity of a “45 day review process”, which includes only six meetings at venues that are hardly accommodating to the large number of people that would be needed to make the process truly representative.

A second striking quality of the Plan is its treatment of L.A. Metro’s widely used and over-taxed bus system. Access to the system is essential to Los Angeles’s working-poor and immigrant populations, who often have limited car-access in a city where mobility is key to employment. In the Plan’s voiced support of increased implementation of Metro Rapid lines – regional bus lines with simple route layouts, fewer stops, and bus signal priority – it greatly harms the economic interests of the aforementioned groups. This is due to the fact that the more expensive Metro Rapid lines often necessitate cessation of local bus routes that often serve poorer and immigrant communities.

In many respects, planning today has found ways of incorporating diverse economic and ethnic viewpoints – bringing the field to a far more equitable place than it has been in the past. However, progress can still be made. The last vestiges of rational planning still remain – as made evident by the 2008 Long Range Transportation Plan of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. Such plans exert enormous influence in how the urban landscape is shaped. Los Angeles – of all places – must learn to better incorporate more equitable planning practices into the development of its transportation plans, no matter the spatial or temporal scale.

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