connect / 2021

What did $4.3 billion in public works and transportation dollars buy the City of Los Angeles? No one really knows.

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Investing in Place

Many officials point to a lack of funding to explain the disparate and dilapidated state of the City’s streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, street lighting, bus shelters, and public transit options. But we are not sure that’s the answer. Since 2014, over $4.3 billion have gone to transportation and public works projects in the City of Los Angeles alone. Where is our current funding going, and how is that funding being prioritized?


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Los Angeles is the only large city in the US that currently lacks a capital infrastructure plan. No one has a clear picture of where billions of public works and transportation funds have gone over the years, and there is no public accessible funding plan for future investments.The lack of transparency leaves Angelenos in the dark about projects that would benefit their neighborhood, as well as what is budgeted by policymakers. Transportation is more than just how we get around, it is one of the primary determinants of whether Angelenos can access opportunities across the region. However, current transportation infrastructure does not adequately address the needs of the diverse communities and cultures that make up Los Angeles. Transportation policies in Los Angeles continue to foster inequities, which will only worsen without an affirmative commitment by the City to reorganize our transportation networks around racial justice, procedural equity and community-led solutions.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Our plan is to 1) work with the City to get an breakdown of how they currently allocate and spend public works and transportation funds 2) identity the needs and prioritize the basic infrastructure needs first not last, and 3) work together with advocacy, organizing groups, and community members to support a budgeting process that allows investments to be centered around social and racial justice, procedural equity, budget transparency and accountability, as well as long-range planning. This effort would provide transparency on how funding has been distributed over the years, as well as included recommendations and strategies for change. We plan to track the transportation and public works funds that the City receives, the majority of which comes from hundreds of millions allocated to Los Angeles every year from our four countywide transportation sales taxes. This new information and analysis on where the City is prioritizing public works and transportation funding will serve policymakers and staff, and community organizations by co-creating, for the first time, a public works and transportation budget for the City of Los Angeles. Our research and advocacy will include learning from other cities. We will collaborate with allies inside and outside City Hall to share our findings and to dialogue with partners to shape a series of recommendations. Our project is also focused on co-powering processes with other community groups looking to engage in budget advocacy in the City.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

200
Direct impact
3,000
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Success means that Los Angeles will be a place where transportation and public works budgets are transparent and accessible, where people will have the tools to effectively engage with the City around public works and transportation funding decisions. Success means seeing the City of Los Angeles develop a publicly accessible capital infrastructure plan, one that dramatically improves coordination between departments and with public safety, public health, and transportation outcomes in the public right of way. Our vision of success is grounded in the goal of dramatically increasing procedural equity and embedding racial justice in Los Angeles public works and transportation funding decisions. A public policy process that values procedural equity has the potential to support inclusive, accessible and authentic engagement with decision making processes, as well as accountability for historical and ongoing inequities on the current process.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The City of Los Angeles’s lack of a capital infrastructure plan and lack of transparency for public works and transportation budgets has repeatedly come up through our work in advocating for accessible and safe sidewalks, bus-only lanes, bus shelters, Vision Zero, and our Moms and Mobility campaign. We have been addressing this issue on our blog posts since 2017. In 2020, we asked alongside 20 moms across the City for budget information on projects including Safe Routes to School, Vision Zero, the Sidewalk Repair Program, etc. The tragic response from City staff: no one had that information available. We support strong community organizing and advocacy within the City to see public works and transportation investments that meet the needs of our neighborhoods and communities, and a key part of that is improving how people can engage with the City budget and capital planning processes. To be successful, we need to know where our funds have gone to plan where they should go.

Which of the connect metrics will you impact?​

  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
  • Public transit ridership
  • Transit-accessible housing and employment

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE