Los Angeles in the 21st Century: How Much Do the City’s 1988 Forecast and Transportation Recommendations Hold Up?

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the submission to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley the final report of The Los Angeles 2000 Committee, LA 2000: A City for the Future.

A compelling read in its entirety, the report is a fascinating snapshot of how a vast swath of prominent Angelenos envisioned their city at a time when they were contemplating the challenges and opportunities ahead just four years after hosting the successful 1984 Summer Olympics and four years before the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

From the foreword:

When Mayor Tom Bradley established the Los Angeles 2000 Committee in December 1985. he asked 85 diverse citizens to prepare a strategic plan for Los Angeles. This book is the result. It should be viewed not as an end but as the beginning of a dialogue about the future of Los Angeles. Ultimately more than 150 civic and business leaders representing many constituencies and perspectives developed (a) a shared sense of what Los Angeles has already become and (b) mutual trust that enabled a consensus about goals and policy recommendations to emerge. Reflecting that consensus. this report was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles 2000 Committee Board of Directors. The Los Angeles 2000 planning process. which strategic planners at RAND helped to shape. began in March 1986. Committee members met monthly to discuss with experts such issues as demographics, jobs, education, arts, transportation, housing, environment, urban design, social services, law and justice, governance and finance.

As we acquired information. we concluded that the city could not be considered in a vacuum because urban problems cross political boundaries. We have therefore looked at the City. present and future. in the context of the Southern California region. Further. we noted that the issues are interrelated making it difficult to address one problem in isolation from others. We therefore structured a planning process that required us to look at the interrelationships among issues.

So, how has Los Angeles realized the Committee’s transportation recommendations to prepare for the 21st century?

Pretty well. 

See how many proposals you can find that have already come to fruition in 2018 Los Angeles.

(1) The Committee proposed the following strategies to lessen traffic congestion.  The State, City and County should construct new transportation facilities, including transit and freeways in heavily traveled corridors, as follows:

  • Complete the 18-mile Metro Rail project, operating between downtown and the southeast San Fernando Valley; and develop rail transit between downtown, Century City and Westwood
  • Implement the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission’s Rail Development Program, adopted by the voters in 1980
    Expand the rail development program beyond the Proposition A rail corridors to meet the high-capacity travel corridor needs beyond the year 2000
  • Renovate the El Monte Transitway extension and station
  • Expand the 20.6-mile Harbor Freeway, dedicating the additional lanes to car/van pools and transit vehicles
  • Implement the freeway capital improvements identified in the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission’s highway plan, “On the Road to the Year 2000”
  • Explore the development of a high-speed rail system to serve such corridors as Los Angeles-Las Vegas and Los Angeles-Palmdale.

(2) The City and the region should move towards better balance between jobs and housing in order to reduce time spent and distance travelled to and from work. Rectifying the current and projected imbalance between housing and jobs is a cost-effective way to reduce congestion.

(3) Employers, both private and public, must take more direct responsibility for managing the commute of their employees by: (a) restructuring work hours to reduce congestion during peak hours, coordinating employee arrival and departure times to space out the peak periods; (b) reforming existing parking fee programs to encourage transit and ridesharing; and c) working with the existing region-wide Commuter Transportation Service to promote and market ridesharing, the use of transportation incentives, vehicular operations such as shuttles, short-term auto rentals, the sale of transit passes, reserved parking for ride sharers, management of van pool fleet, management and distribution of traffic congestion information to assist drivers in planning afternoon and evening departures, management of bicycle facilities with showers, parking racks, etc., and employee information about alternative services.

(4) The City should provide incentives to build telecommuting satellite work centers. Public and private employers should encourage employees to work at home or at satellite work centers

(5) The City and State must improve the efficiency of the existing street and highway system by: (a) creating an area-wide system of new High-Occupancy-Vehicle (HOV) lanes for bus and ridesharing traffic, including a system of meter ramps on freeways and selected surface streets; (b) expanding the existing Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) network to improve traffic signal management; (c) limiting or prohibiting peak-hour parking on selected major streets with capacity problems; (d) limiting or prohibiting large trucks on freeways during peak hours to the extent allowable under existing laws; (e) imposing fees on trucks that create accident-related congestion (accidents produce more than one-half of all the congestion on freeways); and (f) adding more response teams whose highest priority is to keep traffic moving during freeway incidents.

(6) A joint state/local/private sector transportation technology project should be established to stimulate the development of innovative transportation-related technology such as: (a) Automated Traffic Surveillance to spot congested areas or unusual incidents; (b) Direct Access/Real-Time Traffic Information to provide the commuter with information about travel speeds and major congestion points on alternate routes; (c) Automated/Electrified Highway System to manage the traffic flow and use freeways more efficiently; and (d) On-Board Vehicle Navigation Systems to provide pre-planned routing advice based on traffic operations-center data.

(7) The City should formalize the links between transportation management and land use planning decisions by: (a) including transportation as an element in the city-wide and community-level growth management plans, which would integrate all city land use planning and transportation policy decisions; (b) integrating the City’s Capital Improvement Program with the Growth Management Plan, timing the investment with growth policies; (c) encouraging developers to incorporate transportation facilities into the design of new projects, including such improvements as passenger waiting areas, transit stops and reserved parking for ridesharing vehicles; (d) protecting existing railroad rights-of-way for use as transportation corridors; and (e) implementing a “streets for people” program to enhance pedestrian activity and the ambience [sic] of surface streets. In order to generate adequate revenue to fund needed transportation projects and improve transportation services: (a) gas taxes should be increased and the revenues generated should be used only for transit-related purposes, e.g. building and maintaining streets and highways and building and operating subsidies for mass transit; (b) existing transportation funds (under Prop. A, for example) should be allocated in a timely and effective manner; (c) an aggressive program of privatization or contracting-out for construction of highways and transit services should be instituted; (d) additional local revenues must be generated on a reliable and long-term basis, such as increasing county sales tax for street and highway improvement; (e) a road pricing program should be considered as a means of altering driving habits; and (f) toll roads should be considered in order to fund new highways.

Equally fascinating and thought-provoking is the report’s epilogue, written by Los Angeles’ and California’s most notable historian, Kevin Starr.  Near its conclusion, he writes:

For all its power and wealth and contrasting poverty and powerlessness, for all its size and complexity, Los Angeles is a strongly non-arrogant community, willing to shift and re-examine its problems, indeed its fundamental premises. Whatever the outcome, whatever the Los Angeles of 2000 or 2050 will turn out to be, historians of the future will one day marvel at the courage of this Los Angeles 2000 dialogue.

Such a future historian might very well write that in the year 1987 Los Angeles, so overwhelmed in conflicts and problems, refused to despair or grow cynical. In the past that future was envisioned in so many ways-as a railroad, as water and hydroelectricity, as a port, as hotels, as boulevards, freeways, as architecture, as the film industry, as aviation, as great universities, art museums, libraries, newspapers, as Olympiads.

But that was yesterday. Today, no building, however grand, no work of construction or engineering, however necessary, no feat of technology, holds within itself the exclusive promise of the future. Human questions about justice, community, common language and values, livability, personal fulfillment rush forward, demanding to be asked. Technical/environmental questions — transportation, toxicity — emerge as seeming impenetrable to solution. Yet somewhere amidst it all, I believe Los Angeles, old and new, the pueblo and the world city, awaits re-discovery. To ask the question what will the future be? is also to suggest that an answer is possible, that a future can be created.