Janette Sadik-Khan talks making LA more livable and a transportation strategy that is also an economic development strategy

Janette sadik-khan

Janette Sadik-Khan, the former transportation commissioner for the City of New York, is now working with LA to help not only envision what the city could be…but to help make it more livable  by changing the way people move throughout the city and interact in people friendly spaces.

As commissioner she championed the very successful NYC bike share program and she famously led an effort to make the city more livable by creating more space for pedestrians (and bicyclists) in highly congested areas such as Time Square.

In this KPCC interview Ms Sadik-Khan talks about smart strategies for cities like LA (and Long Beach) to grow in affordable, sustainable ways. Ways that improve the quality of life for residents and are a sound economic development strategy.

Below are a few excerpts from her conversation with KPCC’s Ben Burgman (BB).

We are in a global economy where people can live anywhere.  It is a real premium to attract the type of people you want to have and insuring people with families have the kind of lifestyles they want.  An  economic development strategy is improving the quality of life. Improving the convenience and the way to get around. These transportation strategies that we are talking about, at their root, are all about an economically strong strategy for  ensuring these cities continue to grow in the days, months and years ahead.  The alternative is being stuck in gridlock. The 405 being a parking lot.  And that is not really a great competitive strategy for Los Angeles to continue to grow and thrive in the decades to come.

It is difficult to build your way out of congestion.  There are only so many lanes you can add to the 405 Smart strategy to invest in transit, light rail, bike share, smart strategies for cities like LA that are looking to grow in sustainable ways, ways that are affordable. You can set up a strong infrastructure backbone that can get you most of the way for where you need to go and then you are looking a building out convenient, attractive first mile, last mile options.  So that there is a system  for you at the end that can get you to those places you need to go in a flexible way.

The sharing economy will make it easier to share cars, share bikes, share transit.

BB: Do you see CitiBike (the NYC Bikeshare program) being replicated in other cities?  JS-K “You are seeing that already.  There is an exponential explosion in cities implementing bikeshare programs. It has become the mark of a world class city. In NY Citibike was the first new transportation system in 60 years. And it was delivered at no cost to tax payers because we had sponsors, Citibank and Master Card who paid for the system.  And I think that in an era of shrinking federal and state resources cites are going to have to look for alternative ways to get their transportation systems funded. I think that this is one new avenue to explore when cities are looking to expand their transportation options.”

BB: You were able to transform Time Square with with what you famously said was “a little bit of paint.” What can be done to create more open/public space in LA?  JS-K “I do think it is a great strategy to use paint to transform spaces, because it really is about reclaiming spaces, and changing the use of space is key.  And it doesn’t have to take a long time and it doesn’t have to take a lot of money. In New York we reclaimed 180 acres of former roadway space and transformed them into space for people on foot or people on bikes, for people to enjoy the city.  You look on the streets of Los Angeles and I think you could paint the city that you want to see. There are tremendous opportunities all over the city to reclaim former roadway space and transform it into new green space, new public space for Angelenos to use. It is a key quality of life strategy and economic development strategy.”

As advocates, political leaders, business leaders and residents what are the key elements of this that we can apply to making Long Beach and our surrounding communities a great place to live, work and bike?  As our good friend Charlie Gandy has been saying for years…”Being bike friendly is a great economic development strategy.”