LA’s Synchronized Traffic Gets a Green Light

By Cliff Liu
Annenberg Radio News

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa flipped the switch today on the final traffic light control box in the citywide signal synchronization program.

“Every single traffic light in the City of Los Angeles is fully synchronized. The only big city over a million in the entire world that has every traffic light synchronized,” said Villaraigosa.

Synching all of LA’s traffic lights on the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control system has been an ongoing effort since before the 1984 Olympics. The computer-based traffic signal control system monitors traffic in real time and syncs traffic lights accordingly.

Those behind the program say it will result in a 16 percent increase in travel speed and a 12 percent decrease in travel time.

“That translates into an average 22 hours and 23 minutes of time savings a year- nearly a day in the lives spent in travels,” the Mayor said.

That should help people get to where they’re going on time, but it didn’t work out for the Mayor who came half an hour late to today’s unveiling.

Along with the faster travel times comes environmental benefits in a city with 2.5 million registered cars.

“We have so many benefits that come from this. Less time idling at intersections that will help clean the air and reduce our air pollution and with twelve million plus people on our city streets, that translates into an incredible improvement on air quality,” said Councilwoman Jan Perry at the event.

The LA Department of Transportation says today’s synchronization will have the same effect as taking 190,000 cars off the road.


OpEd: Conflicting views on the “State of the City.”

The South Los Angeles Power Coaltion released their response to Mayor Villaraigosa’s address, citing specific instances where South LA is missing out on the improvements he listed.

A People’s View of the City

As the Mayor of Los Angeles delivered his annual “State of the City” speech touting various improvements in recruiting new businesses, improving test scores and expanding rail projects, residents in an area commonly known as South Los Angeles remain stuck in an alternative universe.

While the Mayor spoke passionately about Google and a handful of other corporations moving into the city, thousands of South Los Angeles renters and homeowners are at risk of losing their housing because they don’t earn enough or can’t find work. Just a few months ago, activists had to go to the streets to save the home of Faith Parker, a 79 year old retired school teacher, who was facing foreclosure as a direct result of the rising cost of living in the city of Angels. As a number of corporations – lured by the promise of tax breaks and a business-friendly government – move into Los Angeles, low-income residents in neighborhoods like Jefferson Park, Pico Union and King Estates are facing eviction from their homes because the University of Southern California (USC) and the new football stadium needs land to entertain and house wealthier individuals.

While the Mayor spoke proudly about the number of schools within LAUSD that met minimum state standards, thousands of South Los Angeles students, parents and teachers continue to be exposed to deteriorating classroom conditions. Last year, children at the newly-opened Barack Obama Preparatory Academy in Chesterfield Square were forced to go to class without textbooks and other basic necessities for learning. While test scores for some increased, African American students in LAUSD were being disproportionately suspended at a rate 3 times their population. Latino and African American students were being served by the District so poorly that the Federal Government initiated an investigation, which led to the development of an exhaustive list of corrective actions. Recent proposals like reducing the importance of homework and making D grades passing clearly shows that leaders within LAUSD are finding little solace in test score increases.

While the Mayor spoke on the urgent need to pass another tax increase to fund mass transit, South Los Angeles residents continue to suffer the negative impacts of past projects like the Blue and Expo Line. There have been disruptions in traffic patterns, accidents and yes, even deaths. In spite of his understanding of this history, the Mayor, who controls multiple votes on the MTA Board, practically ignored the pleas of hundreds of South Los Angeles residents and leaders who packed a public meeting to demand that the coming Crenshaw-LAX Line stop at Leimert Park and go underground in the Crenshaw corridor. Despite the enormous show of unity among civil rights activists, elected officials and other stakeholders, the Mayor and his supporters on the board simply voted no. As a result, South Los Angeles residents, even those in middle-class communities like Baldwin Hills will be subjected to years of travel detours, a train going dangerously fast down a busy corridor and worst, very few jobs and business opportunities for the people from the area.

The State of the City is, and has always depended upon where you live, work, attend school and shop. For the millions of residents who call South Los Angeles home, the City presents a future without a clear path to significant improvements and prosperity. Our leaders are currently divided and fighting among each other over ideas and influence. Many of our great advocacy and service organizations are struggling to keep their doors open. If we want good schools, affordable housing, quality jobs and other benefits of a free and humane society, it would appear that the regular, everyday people of South Los Angeles will have to once again rise up and fight for it. This fight will require nearly every man, woman and child in the region to make the conscious decision to take part in this movement by supporting courageous organizations who genuinely fight on behalf of the people, voting for candidates and policies that improve the quality of life (instead of relying on big-name endorsements) and organizing consistently to force elected officials to serve the needs of the community. The words spoken by the Mayor in the State of the City were indeed true. I agree with him that “we can do anything we put our minds to, and we know what we need to do.” Unfortunately, the optimism contained within the Mayor’s State of the City address does not accurately express the complete reality of those who live on both sides of the 110 freeway.

In Solidarity,

Coordinating Committee
2nd Annual South Los Angeles People’s Convention

Join Us May 12, 2012 from 8am-4pm
Maya Angelou Community School – 300 E. 53rd Street Los Angeles, CA

New LAUSD program makes breakfast a priority

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

imageYou probably used to hear it from your parents all the time.

“It turns out our moms were right,” Mayor Villaraigosa said Thursday morning. “Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.”

It’s so important, that Villaraigosa has joined the Los Angeles Unified School District and community organization, InnerCity Struggle, to form “Food For Thought.”

The new program is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and looks to offer LAUSD students breakfast in the classroom.

“Food For Thought” will give students free breakfast at the start of each day, offering healthy options such as fresh fruit, whole wheat muffins, and one-percent milk.

But isn’t it the parents’ responsibility to feed their children in the morning?

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy says, “not necessarily.”

“It is a community’s responsibility,” Deasy said. “So that if a parent would not have the means, then we wrap our arms around the student and make sure that no one goes hungry.”

Monica Garcia, Board President of the LAUSD, believes “Food For Thought” will increase student attendance, decrease child obesity, and help students reach her ambitious goal.

“We said one hundred percent graduation and we meant it,” Garcia said. “Breakfast in the classroom helps kids get to graduation. Breakfast in the classroom help our employees maximize the service for our young people.”

Deasy shares Garcia’s goal of a perfect graduation rate, and says that poverty shouldn’t hurt a student’s chances of success.

“If great breakfast is good enough in Beverly Hills, it’s good enough in Boyle Heights. The idea that every student deserves [to] and will graduate college workforce ready is not a dream; it’s not unattainable. It’s the right of students.”

David Binkle, Deputy Director of Food Services for the LAUSD, knows that an empty stomach in the morning can lead to poor performance in the classroom.

“If you have a hungry stomach, then you focus on the hunger pains as opposed to focusing on whatever it is you’re trying to focus on,” said Binkle. “And in our case, in the educational day, the kids are trying to focus on learning life lessons; they’re trying to learn mathematics and science.”
Maria Brenes, Executive Director of InnerCity Struggle, is happy to help feed hungry children, but says that in the long run, “Food For Thought” can help more than just students.

“We have to play that role of being that safety net for these families and for these children so that they can succeed, go on to graduate, go on to college, and be able to come back to our communities and be those teachers and be those elected officials, and those doctors. So it’s a community investment.”

Now that is some serious food for thought.

You can follow Nick Edmonds on Twitter @NickEdmondsUSC

New Expo line to finally open to public

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, MTA board member Richard Katz and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky were on board the Expo line’s preview ride with the media.

The mayor hopped on the Expo line this morning to take a preview ride on the new light-rail train scheduled to open to the public on Saturday, April 28. The public will get a chance to try it out for free during that first weekend.

In the first phase of the line, which cost $932 million, there will be passenger service from downtown’s 7th Street Metro Center station to La Cienega/Jefferson, with an extension into Culver City to be completed by this summer. The line features a total of 12 stations with two shared by the Metro Blue Line in downtown L.A.

The second phase, which will lengthen the line 6.6 miles with seven stations and provide service to Santa Monica, is expected to be a reality by 2015.

“Everything we expand is just going to keep connecting us all over the region,” said mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during the train ride. “I remember when we had the red cars. It’s back, everybody!”

Villaraigosa referred to the PCC Streetcar service inaugurated on March 22, 1937 and which was completely eliminated by 1963. It has taken 50 years for the South LA area to see another “trolley” on its streets.

The old PCC “red cars” connected the city with the valley.

“This is a milestone. One that we’ve waited for a long time,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was on board during the preview ride along with the mayor and Art Leahy, the CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Construction on the line began in 2006. The opening date has been postponed multiple times due to technical problems uncovered during the testing phase.

“Safety is the number one priority,” said the MTA’s Leahy. “During the next month, we’re going to continue making sure all systems work and that every supervisor and every operator has been properly trained for when we have customers on board.”

The ride from downtown L.A. to La Cienega is about 30 minutes, with the train running at 55 miles per hour. The trains will run approximately every 12 minutes, stopping at each station for 20 seconds.

Carolyn Kelly is one of the train operators of the new Expo Line.

The frequency of the trains will increase depending on the ridership. Leahy points out that when the Blue Line opened, it only had about 10,000 riders a day. Now, it carries about 80,000 people on a daily basis.

Carolyn Kelly, from Compton, is one of the line’s operators. A 22-year MTA veteran, she has been participating on the testing phase.

“We’ve been testing in the morning, afternoon and evening – at all hours for a year to make sure everything is safe,” she explained. “There are many safety mechanisms in the train that prevent us from going over the speed limit in the different areas of the line.”

For example, as the train nears the Farmdale station, it cannot run at a speed higher than 10 miles per hour, because there’s a school – Dorsey High School – just feet away from the station. If the operator were to exceed the 10 mph speed limit, a warning beep will sound off. If it’s ignored, the train automatically shuts down.

MTA will operate the Expo Line seven days a week from 5 am to 12:30AM. The fare for a one-way ticket will be $1.50.

You can check out video of today’s ride here:
Video courtesy MTA


Study Shows Impact of the LA’s BEST After School Program

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News


From the time the bell rings to the moment their parents collect them, elementary students in the LA’s Best Program are encouraged to both focus on schoolwork and have fun.

Homework is mandatory, and they get help if they need it. But once its done there’s sports, games and art.

The study found that students in the program did better academically in middle school, performed better on standardized tests, and were more likely to take algebra in eighth grade.

Catherine Stringer is the vice president of communications and public affairs for LA’s Best.

“This is very exciting for us because our program only serves elementary school so we’re finding that the effect of the program in elementary school outlasts the program and continues with students as they get into middle school.”

Stringer said after-school programs provide a better environment. And these programs should be available to everyone.

“All children deserve this kind of enrichment, not just those whose families can afford it.”

Denise Huang is a senior research associate at CRESST and she was the project director for the LA’s Best study. She said the program’s effects continued through high school.

“Over the years we find that the la best participants have lower crime rate committed when we look at them into their high school years and they have lower dropout rate.”

Huang said the decrease in crime lowered the public cost for juvenile delinquency facilities. So much so, that every dollar invested in the program meant a two-dollar return in lower crime expenses.

L.A. residents urged to turn in guns


Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck held a news conference Friday near Dodger Stadium to urge L.A. residents to participate in the 3rd Annual Gun Buy-Back program.

Watch Chief Beck’s comments:

The city-wide event will be hosted at six different locations on Saturday, May 7th. Sponsored by Ralphs Grocery Stores, participants who turn in guns will receive a Ralphs gift card for up to $250. Ralphs, along with other corporate sponsors, contributed $200,000 for the 2011 program. Those who turn in weapons will be allowed to do so without being asked any questions.

image Villaraigosa said guns and gangs are the two main issues that threaten the safety of residents in Los Angeles. Because of the success of programs like the Gun Buy-Back, cities all over the country are following L.A.’s lead and implementing similar programs of their own.

The mayor pointed out that some 4,000 weapons were taken off the streets of Los Angeles last year because of a collective effort from the community, non-profit organizations and law enforcement. Due to an overwhelming response, they were unable to buy back all of the weapons that were brought the buy-back sites.

Watch Mayor Villaraigosa’s comments:

The Mayor conceded that all guns won’t be removed from the streets, but he said that if it helps to keep another mother from feeling the pain of losing a child, then the program is worthy. The event is planned to coincide with Mother’s Day weekend each year.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich discussed surprising statistics, noting that last year 600 guns were retrieved from children ages 12 to 17 and 3,200 guns were traced to young people ages 18 to 24 years old in L.A. County.

Watch City Attorney Trutanich’s comments:

Records also showed that 74 percent of California’s homicides are committed with guns and 41 percent of all suicides involved a weapon. More than 32,000 guns used in a crime were recovered in California, with 50 percent of those being recovered in Los Angeles County and 17 percent of that in the City of Los Angeles.

In an exclusive interview with Intersections South LA, Chief Beck spoke about the importance of young people making a concerted effort to talk with peers who have weapons. He said that gun violence is the leading cause of death for young men ages 16 to 41 in L.A. County, and therefore, young people especially should have a stake in this effort.

Watch Chief Beck’s interview with LaMonica Peters:

Anyone who would like to participate should place unloaded weapons in the trunk of their car and drop them off at the following six locations:

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church – 7900 South Western Ave., Los Angeles
Santa Barbara Plaza – 3900 West Martin Luther King Blvd., Los Angeles
The L.A. Fire Dept Training Academy – 1700 Stadium Way, Los Angeles
Florentine Gardens – 5951 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood
Valley Area – 11165 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills
Park and Ride Parking Lot – 1300 West Pacific Coast Highway, Wilmington

For more information on the Gun Buy-Back program, call 1-877-LAPD-247