South LA residents can get $150 a month in transit funds

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In a city as car-dependent as Los Angeles, people who can’t drive or can’t afford to buy their own vehicle are at a huge disadvantage. Seleta Reynolds, CEO of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, explains it this way: “Right now in Los Angeles you can get to about 12 times more jobs in an hour by car than in an hour by public transport.”

Today, LADOT is officially launching a pilot program that aims to close that gap in South LA – not by putting more cars on the street, but by giving residents more help and ways to get around town. . The agency’s Sustainable Transportation Equity Project aims to make public transportation more affordable and accessible, increase the use of electric vehicles and cars, and promote jobs related to electric vehicles.

Reflecting a fundamental environmental goal of the project, the bulk of the funding comes from the California Air Resources Board. The pilot also takes an approach that Reynolds calls “universal basic mobility” – the idea that every resident should have the resources to meet their basic transportation needs.

A key component of the project is a “mobility wallet” from LADOT and Metro that will be available to 2,000 residents of the project area, who will receive monthly assistance of $150 for one year for public bus and train fares, shuttles on demand, and the rental of scooters, bicycles and electric vehicles. Loaded onto a Transit Access Pass card, the money will pay for rides on any transit line that’s part of the TAP system, Reynolds said, as well as BlueLA and Metro electric car-sharing program rentals. Bike Share.

The wallet will be offered to members of the community who face mobility challenges, “including students, seniors, low-income residents, and people with different abilities,” the project’s website says. But the precise eligibility requirements for the portfolio are still being worked out by LADOT, in consultation with a local advisory committee and the agency’s research partners at UC Davis, said LADOT spokesperson Colin Sweeney. .

Monthly grants are expected to begin in the first three months of 2023, he said. If you sign up on the project’s website, he added, the agency will let you know when the wallet and other services (which have different timelines) become available.

Other parts of the driver include:

  • More clean transportation options. The LA CleanTech Incubator is building an e-bike library that will make e-bikes available for free or at low cost for long periods of time. LADOT will experiment with an on-demand electric shuttle service to fill the gaps between its DASH bus routes. And the BlueLA program will make at least 50 additional electric vehicles available to members in the project area.
  • A network of public EV charging stations. Green Lots will install 21 chargers in five public libraries and 30 EV chargers on streetlights maintained by the Bureau of Street Lighting. More chargers will be added by EVGo and BlueLA.
  • Streets that are more pedestrian and cycle-friendly. The project envisions a variety of efforts to make the streets more inviting for pedestrians and cyclists. Among them are improvements along the upcoming light rail line connecting Exposition Boulevard and LAX.
  • Training in jobs related to EVs. The LA CleanTech Incubator and Los Angeles Trade Technical College will provide workforce training to community members seeking employment as EV technicians. According to LADOT, “participants will receive training in technical areas and interpersonal skills, as well as industry-recognized certifications to succeed in the green economy.”

The Air Resources Board provided $13.8 million for the project as part of its efforts to promote cleaner transportation in areas with a history of transportation divestment, Sweeney said. This disinvestment has borne bitter fruits, in the form of poorer air quality, a higher concentration of fatal collisions and a lack of access to basic services and employment opportunities, did he declare.

“Transportation tends to be the reason people don’t live the life they want,” Reynolds said. “They can’t get reliable, affordable access to the doctor’s office, or they don’t feel comfortable letting their kids walk down the street to the park without parental supervision because they worry about cars and safety. Or they can’t get to work on time because they don’t have access to credit and can’t afford a car.

“I try to level the playing field between me and someone who lives in a certain neighborhood or has a certain income level, but they have a lot less choice to move around,” Reynolds added. “How to knit all this together? And how can we talk about transportation in a different way so that we’re not just talking about getting from point A to point B, but we’re actually talking about the value it adds to people’s lives people — the jobs they can get, the education they can get, the things they can do for their families, the hobbies they can get — that, you know, makes life worth living .

The City of Los Angeles added $4 million to the council’s contribution, giving the project a budget of nearly $18 million.

Universal basic mobility programs are rare. A similar effort was launched in Portland in 2019, when the city gave residents of affordable housing estates access to free transportation options such as transit passes, bicycle or scooter sharing subscriptions. and carpool and carpool credits.

A 2021 study found that the program encouraged people to use transportation options they had never tried before, such as ride-sharing services, shared bikes and electric scooters. The program eventually expanded where and how participants could travel, allowing them to take more trips and get to places that were once out of reach.

Oscar Zarate, an organizer with Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, hailed the new transportation resources, which he says can bring much-needed relief to working-class South Los Angeles, especially as its neighborhoods are recovering economically from the effects of the pandemic. Nonetheless, Zarate said he fears the new transportation resources will inadvertently fuel gentrification and displacement of the people the program is meant to help.

“These transportation resources are amenities for developers, which justifies higher rents, which exclude low-income people,” Zarate said.

He also warned that the program’s potential success could distract officials and policymakers from the larger goal of many advocates: free public transport. “What is the biggest economic relief? Zarate asked. “To completely eliminate a cost to people.”

Sweeney said Tuesday’s launch of the program is, in essence, “proof of concept” that funding these services “is making a difference in people’s lives.” So the test will not only look at the extent to which the services are used, but also the extent to which they improve the environment, health and safety on the streets, he said.

The project area extends approximately from Highway 10 to Florence Avenue and from South Alameda Street to Crenshaw Boulevard. More than 370,000 people live there, 29% of households with incomes below the poverty line. More than 6% of households do not own a vehicle and 21% commute to work on foot, by bike or by public transport, according to LADOT.

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