Voting ‘yes’ on Measure HLA will make LA streets safer for all

The transportation measure will force the city to follow through on its Mobility Plan.

(Shea Noland / Daily Trojan)

If you pass through downtown Los Angeles, chances are you’ll see one of the yellow ochre billboards that read “Vote YES on HLA for Safe Streets.” There’s one in particular that I see everytime I go to work that says, along with its voter slogan, “In 2022, more pedestrians died on Vermont Avenue than in the state of Vermont.” 

As unbelievable as it sounds, it is unfortunately true: Seven pedestrians died in Vermont in 2022, but eight died on Vermont Avenue that same year.

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Measure Healthy Streets L.A. is on the ballot for the upcoming March 5 primary election and would instill a mandate to implement the city’s Mobility Plan 2035. 

The plan calls for an update of transportation infrastructure to include things like bike lanes, pedestrian facilities, bus lanes and wider sidewalks for roads of a certain length. The goal of the Mobility Plan is to create transportation equity, encourage more environmentally friendly ways of traversing the city and, most importantly, decrease the amount of deaths related to traffic violence.

However, since the plan was passed by city officials in 2015, only 5% of the infrastructure described has actually been installed due to a lack of enforcement mechanisms. Projects under the Mobility Plan can easily be dismissed by an individual council member, meaning unless there is unanimous support, very little progress can be made. 

This happened with the Uplift Melrose project, a plan to revitalize Melrose Avenue by creating bike lanes and more pedestrian amenities like crosswalks. Despite local support from residents and businesses alike, the project was killed when then-Councilmember Paul Koretz removed its access to its primary source of funding.

This is where Measure HLA comes in: If the measure passes, the city will be required to follow its Mobility Plan and make necessary updates to city streets. The city already does road maintenance regularly, repaving slightly less than 7% of the city’s roads every year. Measure HLA would mandate that every time a road gets repaved, it must also fit the Mobility Plan’s requirements. 

The measure will also have the city create a portal for the public to see the progress that is made on the plan, increasing transparency. If the city does not follow the mandates set by Measure HLA, residents will be able to sue the city and receive compensation for the money spent on filing the suit. Through this enforcement mechanism, the measure creates transparency and accountability, ensuring the city honors its commitment to protect everyone who uses city streets.

There are three main arguments from those that oppose the measure. One: It will create more traffic in an already congested and gridlocked city. Two: It will slow down emergency vehicles by removing traffic lanes. And three: It will be too expensive. All three of these arguments are misguided, largely formed through fearmongering by opposing politicians. 

In fact, improving systems of non-automobile transportation would take more cars off the street as drivers switch to carless transportation, decreasing traffic in high-congestion areas. More efficient and safer streets benefit people without cars and drivers alike. 

Additionally, gridlock delays affect emergency vehicles: If there’s bumper-to-bumper traffic, ambulances and firetrucks can’t move through. But, on roads with bus lanes, emergency vehicles are allowed to use these lanes to respond in an emergency. Separate lanes that can only be used by buses and emergency vehicles would improve response times, not delay them. 

Finally, a recent report by L.A. City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo predicted Measure HLA would cost $3.1 billion over the next 10 years. This figure is likely vastly inflated based on what the city has paid for previous transportation projects. Even if it does cost that much, the cost is nothing compared to the more than 4,800 people we’ve lost to traffic violence in L.A. over the past decade.

Opposition and delays to the implementation of the Mobility Plan make the problems of L.A. streets grow worse. Since the passage of the plan in 2015, pedestrian and cyclist deaths have nearly doubled. But we have the power to make change. So, get out there and vote for Measure HLA and a safer city for all Angelenos.

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