Taxi Drivers Rally!

Taxi Drivers Rally!

I got a chance to drop by the Taxi Workers Alliance rally this morning at Los Angeles City Hall. The Taxi Workers are a participant in the Green L.A. Transportation Working Group (GLATWG.) A healthy transportation system includes a broad range of traveller choices, and taxis are one important option. Urbanist Gordon Price, in a talk in Los Angeles last year, stated that a resilient transportation system includes the possibility of taking a car and paying “by the trip” – including taxis and car-sharing.

The first thing I saw as I bicycled in was a ring of taxis slowly circling the block where city hall is located:

Taxi Procession Down First Street

Taxi Procession Down First Street

Taxis had signs posted on them with slogans including “ALTO A LA FRANQUISIA DE ESCAVITUD” [stop the franchise slavery,] “WHY NO TRANSPARENCY?” and more. There were dozens of taxis stretching the entire circumference of the block. Taxi supporters were gathered on the south lawn, urging the drivers on. I pulled up and took my place in the supportive crowd. I caught up with city transportation commissioner and GLATWG advisor Malcolm Carson and Woodrow and Tammy from the Bus Riders Union (also a GLATWG participant – we nearly had a quorum – [note: we don’t actually do the quorum thing yet at GLATWG… we probably should?])

The drivers circled a while, then parked, and held a rally on the steps of city hall. Among their demands are that they city end the system of “sweatshops on wheels,” and that the city issue medallions (permits to operate a cab) only to actual active full-time drivers.

I confess to not being completely up to speed on all these issues… but it does seem pretty clear to me that our city regulations (including things like dress codes for drivers) hinder our taxi system from being effective and equitable. There’s a lot more L.A. taxi issue information available in this 2006 report entitled Sweatshops on Wheels.

Unfortunately I had to leave early to get to a lunch meeting… but I was glad to add my voice briefly in support of these workers and their campaign.

Taxi Workers Alliance at the City Hall Steps

Taxi Workers Alliance at the City Hall Steps

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This morning, Green L.A. Coalition had a meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Here’s the mayoral ask from the Transportation Work Group:

The City of Los Angeles has prioritized car traffic over other modes. This over-dependence on automobiles has resulted in many problems locally — from congestion, to smog, to obesity, to a rash of recent collisions resulting in pedestrian fatalities — and globally — from resource wars, to global warming. Continuing our imbalanced reliance on cars hurts Los Angeles economically, environmentally, and erodes our quality of life.

While there are some notable smaller-scale initiatives, mostly from the City Planning Department, the culture of LADOT continues to approach streets as if the only users are cars. There is a new paradigm emerging nationally for “Complete Streets” — streets that are shared by pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and cars.

Green L.A. Ask:

We urge the Mayor to move Los Angeles into the era of Complete Streets. There are four arenas where Mayoral action is necessary to make this vision a reality:

1. Adopt a Complete Streets policy, including reworking existing street standards.

2. Ensure that future city budgets reflect the city’s commitment to accommodating pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, by dedicating more funds specifically for such modes. This includes dedicating local return funds from Measure R for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit services.

3. Use the Mayor’s leadership at Metro to emphasize Complete Streets regionally, including incorporating a Complete Streets policy in Metro’s Call for Projects, where pedestrian and bicycle projects need to be given more funding.

4. Direct deputy mayors for environment, transportation, and economic development to work together and meet with us on a regular basis to make Los Angeles streets livable, vibrant, environmentally-friendly and efficient for all.

The mayor responded affirmatively, though not necessarily committing to specifics.  He cited his leadership on Measure R,  pledged to keep Metro fares low, and stated his interest in a “more serious bicycle program.”  The mayor concluded with a call to the assembled environmental and environmental justice communities to “stand up more” so that our agenda can move forward and not get bogged down by the “retrenched group of folks who weigh in against everything we do.”

Environmental Deputy Mayor David Freeman followed.  Freeman was generally very good – refreshingly straightforward and emphasizing “actions that end up in results.”  He placed a lot of importance on climate change which he considers the most important issue facing us today.  He was generally supportive of bikes, but his interest, though, was more in getting cleaner/renewable energy and ultimately getting L.A.’s fleet of cars to be powered by renewable energy.

(For more information on GLATWG Complete Streets campaign, see older posts here, here, and here.)

CalPIRG (the California Public Interest Research Group), one the organizations involved in the Green L.A. Transportation Working Group, is hosting a big conference on the future of L.A. transportation. Speakers include influential electeds, various experts from agencies and advocacy groups, and more!

It’s this Friday May 1st from 10am to 3pm, at the Cathedral conference center in Downtown L.A. It’s free, including a free lunch, if you pre-register online.

PLEASE JOIN US:

When: May 1st, 2009
10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Where: Cathedral of Our Lady the Angels
555 W Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Angelinos clearly want more and better transportation options, as evidenced by the passage of major ballot measures to invest in local transportation and high-speed rail to Northern California. What are the next steps to 21st Century Transportation? Major initiatives in Congress could reform the next transportation funding bill and cap global warming pollution. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles MTA is developing their long-range plan for Los Angeles transportation and the California High-Speed Rail Authority is moving forward with plans for a 220-mile an hour bullet train. Come learn more about opportunities, obstacles, and how you can play a role in Los Angeles’ transportation future.

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*Lunch to be provided*

Confirmed Speakers and Moderators Include:

  • The Honorable Bob Blumenfield, Chair, Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Information Technology and Transportation
  • The Honorable Mike Eng, Chair, Assembly Transportation Committee
  • The Honorable Judge Quentin Kopp, Chair, California High-Speed Rail Authority
  • Mr. Richard Slawson, Executive, Los Angeles and Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Mr. James Corless, Director, Transportation for America
  • Mr. Michael Woo, Professor, University of Southern California and Los Angeles City Planning Commissioner
  • Mr. Alex Pugh, Senior Policy Manager, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Mr. Dan Turner, Editorial Writer, Los Angeles Times
  • Mr. Ed Begley, Actor and Activist

Please RSVP. Click here, or contact Erin Steva at esteva@calpirg.org or 213-251-3680 x. 308.

Next Green LA Transportation Working Group Meeting
Tuesday April 14th 2009 2:30pm-4:30pm
Note Different Start time
at Coalition for Clean Air, 811 W. 7th Street, Suite 1100, Los Angeles 90017
(at Metro Red/Blue Line 7th Street Station, bikes allowed inside building/elevator, paid car parking at Hope and 8th Street)

The Green LA Transportation Working Group meetings are open to organizations and individuals interested in promoting sustainable and equitable transportation in Los Angeles.  RSVP if possible to staylor {at} libertyhill.org (if you don’t RSVP, we might not bring enough copies of handouts for you.)

AGENDA

1)      2009/2010 Work Plan – Identify benchmarks and timelines

2)      City Budget

3)      Mayor’s Meeting Review and Confirm Accomplishment & Ask

4)      Presentation on Cicolvia in Los Angeles
(What’s a Ciclovia? Watch this.)

5)      Updates/Report Back
a.       Federal Stimulus
b.      Federal Reauthorization
c.       Metro Board – new members
d.      Measure R
e.      National Bike Conference

6)      Announcements

7)      Next meeting – Tuesday, May 12 – location and time