What is the role and relevance of the various government agencies all of our local advocates have to deal with?
Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority)
Metro affects bicycle planning and policy in a number of ways stemming from its dual role as both a regional transportation planning agency and a bus/rail transit operator.
Funding for bike infrastructure and programs: As a regional transportation planning agency, Metro develops and oversees transportation plans, policies and funding programs for LA County. It is the funnel through which a lot of discretionary state, federal and local transportation funding -- including funding for bike/ped -- gets distributed to local jurisdictions, who plan and implement the vast majority of bike infrastructure projects.
The most important mechanism by which this happens is through the bi-annual Call for Projects , a "competitive process that distributes discretionary capital transportation funds to regionally significant projects," i.e., stuff that has a big impact and costs a lot of money (in bikeway terms). Many LA County cities cite the Call in their bike master plans as a potential source of funding to implement projects. The Call has eight different modal categories, of which bikeway projects (i.e., physical infrastructure) comprise one. There's also the "transportation enhancements" category, which includes educational and safety activities. The last Call, in 2011, distributed $123.5 million to 76 projects; of this, $17.3 million went to 14 bikeway projects.
Bike access to transit and bike/transit connectivity: Metro is also a planner, builder and operator of bus and rail transit services, which means its policies determine whether people can get their bikes on buses and trains and lock up or store their bikes at stations. LACBC has dealt with Metro on a number of operational policy changes in recent years, most notably the removal of the peak hour bike ban on Metro Rail and (hopefully, someday) the use of three-bike racks on more buses. Metro also provides racks and lockers at Metro Rail and busway stations and other transit hubs. It also has its own education and outreach programs, participating in events like Bike to Work Day and holding regular Bicycle Roundtable meetings to gather feedback.
In recent years, Metro has been striving to incorporate parallel bikeways as part of its rail and busway projects. Naturally, this is a complicated process that involves a) Metro, b) the cities in which the lines are located and c) if there is one, the construction authority for the project, as is the case with the Expo Line. This policy holds a lot of promise for enhanced regional connectivity as the Measure R construction boom plays out, but it also offers plenty of trip-up opportunities, particularly if one or more actors in the process aren't particularly interested in taking the time to design the bikeway properly -- a major complaint about the Expo authority.
SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments)
SCAG is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Southern California region, which means it is responsible for setting regional transportation planning, policy and funding priorities for Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial Counties. The most important policy document it produces is the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) , which gets updated every eight years -- most recently in 2012. The RTP articulates general, overarching transportation policies and priorities that represent the consensus of the various municipal governments in the region. Most transportation captial projects, in order to be eligible for federal funding, have to be consistent with the RTP. For local jurisdictions' use of their own monies, however, the RTP is non-binding. The RTP contains, among other things, a financial plan allocating anticipated expenditures among various modal categories over a 20-25 year period. The most recent RTP included a puny $6.7 billion for "active transportation" capital projects, or about two and a half percent of all regional capital expenditures.
SCAG also provides technical and financial assistance for land use and transportation planning to local governments. Its Compass Blueprint program awards grants for cities to plan for Smart Growth and transit-oriented development, and the reports frequently recommend using bikes to improve neighborhood connectivity. The program also includes a training component for planning professionals and local government officials that offers opportunities for advocates to educate decision-makers regarding best practices for bike planning.
Los Angeles County
The County of LA is important mainly as a substitute municipal government for unincorporated communities such as East LA, Willowbrook, Rowland Heights, etc. Much like a city transportation or public works department, LA County Public Works is responsible for getting bikeways on the ground in these areas. Additionally, LA County has control over the many flood control channels that provide right-of-way for existing and planned bike paths. Most of the off-street bike paths in the county -- including the Marvin Braude trail (aka the beach path) and the LA River and Ballona Creek paths -- are maintained by the county government.
CalTrans (California Department of Transportation)
CalTrans holds the purse strings on a fair amount of transportation funding, most notably the Bicycle Transportation Account (BTA). The BTA is a $7.2 million pot of money that gets distributed statewide on an annual basis. In FY 2011-12, 24 projects were funded -- mostly design and construction of bikeways, but also some racks and lockers. The BTA also influences the content of most bike master plans throughout the state; a city or county has to have an adopted bike master plan containing certain information in order to be eligible for BTA funding.
CalTrans is very important as the gatekeeper for bikeway design and engineering standards. It publishes two important documents, the Highway Design Manual (HDM) and the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CAMUTCD), that local jurisdictions and transportation engineers typically adhere to when determining the width and configuration of streets, intersections and bikeways. Adherence to the standards in these maunuals generally offers cities and their engineers some protection from legal liability if someone alleges that the roadway design is unsafe and caused them to crash; significant deviation from the standards typically requires a costly and time-consuming bureaucratic process or increased exposure to liablity.
The problem is that both the HDM and the MUTCD are notorious among many bike planners and advocates for being conservative and inflexible concerning a) unconventional (for the US) bikeway designs like cycle tracks that offer better protection/separation from traffic and b) street designs that include narrower lanes, tighter corners and other features that discourage fast, aggressive driving. Part of the problem stems from the standards contained in the manuals themselves, but part also stems from their incorrect application by engineers who don't realize, for example, that the HDM doesn't absolutely require 12-foot-wide (i.e., freeway-width) lanes on every street or may not appreciate why wide lanes that encourage fast driving might be a problem for those on foot or on bikes. There's a great discussion on the proper use of existing design/engineering standards in the introduction of the Model Design Manual for Living Streets prepared by the UCLA Luskin Center and Ryan Snyder Associates.
West Hollywood's Department of Long-Range and Mobility Planning has jurisdiction over the planning of bike infrastructure. Projects are generally presented to the Transportation Committee and then to City Council.
From 2010 to 2011, the city convened a Bicycle Task Force that compiled a comprehensive report of recommendations.