Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday he will be calling for $91 million in funding for his Vision Zero traffic safety initiative when he releases his proposed budget later this week, which would more than triple what was dedicated to the program during the current fiscal year.
The Vision Zero program, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2025, was started in 2015 but saw pedestrian deaths surge more than 80 percent in its first two years while the program also fell well short of its goal to reduce overall traffic deaths by 20 percent by 2017.
Garcetti did not mention Vision Zero during his State of the City address on Monday. During a news conference primarily dedicated to homelessness, he was asked about Vision Zero and told that some activists were upset he did not talk about the program during his speech. Garcetti responded with the news that he would be asking for the major increase in funding for the program.
“I’m saying it here right now to every activist, we are with you on this. We’ve done over 1,000 Vision Zero improvements,” Garcetti said. “One or two get all the press because we don’t always do them perfectly. We always have to look at the impact of them. But we will keep moving forward them.”
The Vision Zero program called for traffic fatality reductions of 20 percent by 2017 and 50 percent by 2020, but the 6 percent decline in traffic deaths last year fell well short of that goal. Garcetti did say that traffic deaths in 2018 have been reduced by 14 percent, but did not provide any figures.
The program has also proven to be unpopular in some areas — the “one or two” projects Garcetti referred to — because it sometimes involves reducing traffic lanes that have caused some congestion issues.
Efforts to reduce some lanes on the Westside in Councilman Mike Bonin’s district, although not all of the reductions were related to Vision Zero, proved to be so unpopular that the city had to bring the lanes back and a group of unhappy residents have begun an effort to have Bonin recalled.
Bonin, one of Vision Zero’s biggest proponents on the council, has continued to promote the program and said in February that its failures to meet its goals was a sign the city should spend more, not less, on the program
“There are some folks who have seen (the statistics) and said, `Oh Vision Zero isn’t working.’ That’s certainly not how I look at it. What that means to me is that we need to be doing more of Vision Zero,” Bonin said.
Vision Zero proved to be one of the biggest sticking points as the City Council debated the 2017-18 budget last May, with Bonin fighting hard for the program’s funding amid efforts by other council members to divert Vision Zero dollars toward more traditional street improvement projects.
However, Bonin and Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, struck a late deal that allowed for about $17 million in direct funding for the program by focusing on areas where Vision Zero and the more traditional improvement projects overlapped.
The $17 million was also in addition to about $9 million in Vision Zero funds that have been included in various departments’ budgets, including the police department. The program only received $3 million in the 2016-17 budget.
The Vision Zero plan centers around an identified series of streets, called the High Injury Network, which have a higher incidence of severe and fatal collisions and prioritizes those streets for safety improvements.
“The three `Es’ of Vision Zero, which is education, engineering and enforcement, we are going to see that begin to bear fruit,” Garcetti said. “We remind people to get off your cellphones, whether you are walking or driving. It’s illegal and we’re going to be enforcing that.”
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