2014 Grants Challenge

Los Angeles Gets There: A Regional Storytelling project about mobility in Los Angeles County

LAGetsThere is a regional storytelling campaign on mobility in Los Angeles County.


Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

The LA County Active Transportation Collaborative promotes improved policy and increased funding for walking, biking and complete streets.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


What is your idea/project in more detail?

From our transportation policy work, we have consistently found that perspectives of trips to school, healthcare, community destinations and other everyday travel are undervalued, leading to skewed investment priorities that give local mobility solutions like walking and biking short shrift.

By elevating the voices of people moving around their communities, we aim to tell a different mobility narrative in Los Angeles County that better represents our diverse transportation needs, with particular focus on walking, biking and transit. People already live the multimodal future policy makers talk about, but their stories aren’t getting told and the investments that could make their lives better aren’t being made as a result.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

The National Partnership and LACBC will begin by hiring a media expert to oversee the creative direction and strategy for this regional mobility storytelling effort. The media expert will work with a team, including a photographer and videographer, to travel the county collecting stories and user-generated content. This media expert will also serve as the curator for both the professionally produced and user-generated content. We aim to have 100 professionally produced stories and hundreds of user-generated content, with both online and outreach event components. The stories will capture how, why and where everyday Angelenos travel, what they would change about transportation, and what they envision for the future of transportation in 2050.

This effort believes in the power of Angelenos to shape the future of our region, in the multiplicity of how we actually move across the county. We are not, in fact, the "car capital" of the world when one looks at travel pattern data and numbers of car free households. The power to change this paradigm lies in using strategies inspired by ground truthing to capture stories and experiences from hundreds of voices across the Los Angeles region.

Currently, these draft questions are:

Where do you go? With whom?

How do you get around?

How do you feel when traveling in Los Angeles County?

What’s your favorite regular trip?

What transportation options do you imagine in 2050? How do you feel about transportation options now?

If you had a magic wand, what one change would you make to transportation in LA?

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Healthy communities require safe, equitable and accessible transportation, so that residents are able to access healthcare, housing, jobs, schools and other community destinations.

The MyLA2050 report found:

“The more we strengthen ties within families, between neighbors and across our diverse communities, the greater we can ensure that our regions provides a safe environment for all Angelenos,” and “We believe in the power of Angelenos to shape the future of our region.”

This regional mobility storytelling effort seeks to get at the heart of those statements by creating space for inclusive and diverse narratives about mobility/sense of place.

This project aims to highlight how people across Los Angeles County are currently traveling and support a shared vision of not only regional success for mobility, but empathy and compassion for travel needs of all users—all ages, abilities and income levels. These stories can reframe the narrative on mobility in LA by Angelenos themselves, from their own experiences and hopes. By infusing important transportation policy conversations with real experiences from people throughout the region, particularly in traditionally underserved communities like Central, South and East LA, the Gateway Cities and San Gabriel Valley, we hope to unite diverse perspectives around common themes and galvanize support for a transportation system that improves safety and independence for all.

Los Angeles County invests billions of dollars annually into its transportation network, thanks to repeated voter support of local sales tax measures that generate two-thirds of our transportation funding. Metro, the county’s transportation agency, is currently considering a countywide transportation ballot measure for 2016 that will fund a specific lists of projects to be finalized by the summer of 2015. The story we tell over the coming months about mobility will directly inform the projects funded by the measure and the narrative used to sell it to voters. If we are successful with this project, billions of dollars in the next tax measure could be available for walking and bicycling. Any future measure will literally build out Los Angeles County’s 2050 transportation system, so the policy decisions made in the next year will impact the built environment for decades to come. It is imperative that the narrative about this measure be inclusive of diverse community needs and accurately reflect the mobility solutions Angelenos desire.

Whom will your project benefit?

This project will benefit those whose voices, needs and experiences who are not being reflected in current mobility policy and investment decisions for Los Angeles County. These voices are students, seniors, lower income workers, pedestrians and bicyclists--people who have important places to go, but may not happen to be commuting to work.

Over the past two years, the National Partnership and LACBC have been supporting the Los Angeles Active Transportation Collaborative as a way to engage stakeholders in Los Angeles County to discuss the current policy and finance landscape for active transportation in the region. From public agency staff, elected officials, school districts, community-based organizations and other partners, we have consistently heard that the current lack of supportive policy, local revenue and a regional planning and finance strategy are all barriers to greater investment in walking and bicycling, despite overwhelming need and interest in our communities. Most recently, in the summer of 2014, the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative engaged over 60 partners across the County to encourage Metro to support the development of a clear investment strategy to guide county transportation policy and investments aimed at creating a multimodal system that serves all users of our transportation system.

Many transportation conversations in the Los Angeles Region currently lack measurable goals for transportation and health in Los Angeles County and therefore do not provide an understanding of how alternative investment strategies could yield different outcomes related to mode shift, increased transit ridership, land use patterns or public health. This project would directly support addressing that gap by providing a professional campaign rooted in county transportation data trends for all trips and community and individual mobility stories of needs and aspirations. Ultimately all our policy work needs to be founded on real people with real transportation needs. Our region’s transportation policy has largely lost touch with this reality.

With so much attention on efforts to repair city sidewalks, revitalize the Los Angeles River, expand CicLAvia, connect neighborhoods to transit and provide students with safe routes to school, this storytelling effort can weave these individual visions into a broader narrative, leading to smarter investments that improve mobility for people of all ages and abilities.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Safe Routes to School National Partnership (confirmed)

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (confirmed)

HubLA (confirmed)

Multicultural Communities for Mobility (confirmed)

Team Friday (confirmed)

Advancement Project (confirmed)

Learn Do Share LA (confirmed)

And if successful in this funding opportunity, we intend to open this up to more partners

Three factors:

Each partner reaches different target audiences--together we touch a diverse cross-section of Los Angeles County to ensure that everyone has a chance for their story to be told.

This project and resulting partnerships will live on beyond this grant--partners agree to share content and contacts and have the newly created story library be open source for all to use.

The overall tone of effort is inclusive, intentional and incisive--high-quality artistic content will unite transportation conversations with user experiences from across LA County, particularly underserved communities and populations.

How will your project impact the LA2050 LIVE metrics?

Access to healthy food

Healthcare access

Exposure to air toxins

Obesity rates

Walk/bike/transit score

Rates of mental illnesses

Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

support improved transportation policy priorities for Los Angeles County specifically regarding transportation funding, equity, data collection and evaluation.

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Access to healthy food

Half of all trips in Los Angeles County are less than three miles. These are trips around the neighborhood to meet daily needs, including access to supermarkets, farmers markets and other food sources. For those without a car, biking can provide critical access to supermarkets that may be too far to walk, but are a reasonable bike ride.

Healthcare access

Safe and comfortable first and last-mile access to transit via walking and biking increases access to regional health centers, while safe walking and biking facilities provide direct access to community clinics.

Exposure to air toxins

Replacing the half of all trips that are less than three miles with walking and biking have disproportionate benefits for air quality.

Obesity rates

Recent studies have shown that declining rates of physical activity are a primary cause of the current obesity epidemic. This is strongly correlated with declining rates of walking and biking, particularly among students. Creating safe neighborhoods for walking and biking is one of the most important public health interventions to reduce obesity.

Walk/bike/transit score

Access scores measure proximity to goods and services via walking, biking and transit. Essential to providing this access is actually providing safe pedestrian and bike routes so that people are able to take advantage of local businesses. As communities embrace active transportation, land use and transportation begin to reinforce each other to create more livable communities.

Rates of mental illness

Walking and biking are important outlets to relieve stress, particularly in neighborhoods that may lack facilities like parks and open space. Safe and comfortable pedestrian and bike routes are essential for making neighborhood mobility low-stress.

Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)

Children today have a well-documented reduction in their freedom to explore their neighborhood. Safe routes and safe passages together increase parent comfort to restore childhood mobility.

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

After major disasters, the transportation system is often the first to fail (NY subways in Hurricane Sandy, LA freeways after Northridge earthquake). People increase reliance on walking and biking as other transportation options become unavailable, and in New York rates of biking sustained an increase once people discovered just how practical it is.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We aim to build momentum and excitement around this conversation to sustain this project after initial LA2050 seed funding. We will measure our success after one year by the following metrics:

Number of stories and images curated: minimum 100 professionally produced (2 -3 every week over 10 months), and minimum 150 user-generated

Stories reflect the racial/ethnic, age, geographic, and income level of the Los Angeles County region: all significant populations recorded by Census are represented

Stories reflect inclusive tone of all travel modes, creating shared understanding of needs of walking, bicycling, transit and driving in the region: all modes are represented, with walking, bicycling and transit disproportionately featured

Coverage in mainstream media outlets, and impact beyond traditional transportation efforts and groups: coverage in at least 5 mainstream outlets across different media

Presentation of key stories and findings of this effort to LA Metro Policy Makers and key regional decision makers and thought leaders.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Through the work of the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative, we have learned that how people are currently traveling in the County is not reflected in the current regional narrative that informs transportation policy and investment decisions.

In Los Angeles County, the popular narrative says that everyone drives all the time, and transportation policy has largely reflected this social understanding. However, active transportation modes are a significant form of mobility, calling into question the truth of the dominant narrative.

19 percent of all trips made in Los Angeles County are completed on foot or by bicycle (2009 National Household Travel Survey: 17.6 percent walking and 1.4 percent bicycling);

34 percent of Los Angeles County students walk and bicycle to school (2009 National Household Travel Survey); and

39 percent of Los Angeles County roadway fatalities are people walking and bicycling (SWITRS 2010);

91 percent of Metro customers access transit on foot or by bike (First/Last Mile Strategic Plan 2014 p.8);

One percent of Metro’s funding is dedicated to pedestrian and bicycling projects (Metro’s 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan p.15)

Through our policy work, we have also learned that the stories we tell about how we move have an impact on political leaders. In 2008, Measure R was the story of how a gridlocked Los Angeles is building its way out of traffic congestion through massive transit and highway projects. We learned that Measure R’s focus on major projects squeezed out walking and biking, which were not considered priorities at the time. We believe that 2016 could be the year of neighborhood mobility, where people are connected to the Measure R transit system with safe routes to transit, jobs, school and community destinations. Our approach is grounded in both these lessons: that we need a new mobility story in Los Angeles County and that walking and biking can’t afford to be left out of the next measure if we are going to build a truly multimodal transportation system that serves Los Angeles County in 2050.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We believe in the power of the collaborative and the diverse range of skillsets represented by the collected partners we are already working with and anticipated new partners if awarded. The members of the Collaborative already have a history of working together and thus can quickly swing into action. In the conversations generated from the launch of this initiative we have a blueprint for a plan of action:

First two months generate a scope of work plus a more detailed timeline and hire the media expert and creative team

Six months to execute the story gathering (online and in person outreach)

Four months and beyond to populate the website and Social Media, and participate in public events and in person outreach

We already have a hashtag! #LAGetsThere

Using the Collaborative and partners to do the outreach to find the storytellers we are confident we will reach the 60% user-generated goal. Additionally, with the participation of the HubLA community we sure that the storytelling will be well-crafted, compelling and impactful.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

One challenge will be to ensure that the voices of seniors are included in our stories. Our current list of engaged partners do not target seniors in particular, and the social media aspect of the campaign may also make it more challenging to engage seniors. This is a great opportunity to look to LA2050’s extensive list of all the community based organizations and other key partners in the LA Region to help us identify suitable partners to help us get those very important voices represented in our story.

Another challenge is also with reliance on social media when it comes to the 60% user-generated content. Hashtags and smartphone photographs are a limitation for some. Through curation, we will need to carefully balance maintaining the look and feel of the project while including diverse participants to ensure that the best possible stories are told.

Los Angeles County is the most diverse metropolitan area in the world and we want to make sure we can get representation from as many voices as possible. We could easily spend the whole budget on translation/interpretation alone, so again, we will need to rely on our participating partners to help us get the word out and the people and their stories in.

What resources does your project need?

Network/relationship support

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)


Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)

Community outreach