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Los Angeles’s $120 Billion Bet On Transit Innovation

With the 2028 Olympics on the horizon, Mayor Eric Garcetti has a plan to reduce congestion—and transform the way people navigate the city.

Los Angeles’s $120 Billion Bet On Transit Innovation
[Illustration: Neasden Control Center]

Now that Los Angeles has claimed the 2028 Olympics, it’s embarking on an ambitious effort to reduce congestion and transform the city’s transportation infrastructure. Last November, residents approved Measure M, a sales-tax increase that will give the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (known as Metro) an estimated $120 billion over 40 years for the overhaul. Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised to add bus and train lines, along with an array of on-demand, autonomous, and electric transit options within the next decade. Here, five ways L.A. is charting new paths to navigate a city.

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A Neighborly Cityscape

“We’re trying to create communities where people can walk to a lot of the things they might otherwise have had to drive to,” says Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer for L.A.’s Metro. That means helping local businesses (grocery stores, pharmacies, and cafés) secure space in buildings within walking or biking distance of transit stops, and assisting them with low-interest loans to set up shop.

Last-Mile Transit

In addition to adding new rail and bus lines to better connect L.A.’s far-flung neighborhoods, the city is designing transit hubs that serve as pickup points for shared bikes, cars, and carpool services, such as Lyft Line and UberPool—giving riders more ways to travel home from a mass-transit station. Prominent kiosks will offer real-time transit information; built-in seating will allow waiting passengers to rest. The first hubs will open in several locations, including East Hollywood, Westlake, and Koreatown, in December.

Responsive Buses

City officials are exploring how shared, self-driving vehicles could ease congestion and reduce the need for parking spaces, freeing up even more of the road. Metro is developing a system of on-demand MicroTransit buses that will run on dynamic (rather than fixed) routes to ferry riders short distances. Schank hopes one day they will operate autonomously.

Cleaner Skies

To meet Garcetti’s goal of in­­creasing the share of electric cars in L.A. to 10% by 2025, the city is helping the BlueLA Electric Car Sharing Program establish fleets of 30 to 50 vehicles at new transit hubs. It’s also working with car-sharing company Green Com­­muter to make electric cars available for short-term rental throughout L.A.

Better Data

City transit vehicles are getting Mobileye cloud-connected tracking sensors; other plans will bring internet-connected technology to traffic lights. Officials will use the resulting data to inform future projects and quantify the success of these new endeavors.

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company who covers gig economy platforms, contract workers, and the future of jobs.

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