Los Angeles pilots universal basic mobility

  • May 9, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

South Los Angeles has launched a universal basic mobility pilot, one of the largest programmes of its kind in the USA, increasing access to transportation options for thousands of Angelenos.

The pilot will bring e-bikes, shared EV cars and an on-demand EV shuttle service, in addition to a partnership with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to subsidise transit fares for 2000 pilot area residents who have historically lacked options for how to get to where they need to go safely.

Universal basic mobility (UBM) is a concept that believes that robust transportation options are essential to opportunity. Without mobility, people cannot access basic needs such as education, employment, housing and healthcare. For example, in Los Angeles today, there are twelve times more jobs accessible in one hour by car than by transit.

The pilot is supported by nearly $18m in state and city funding. The California Air Resources Board (Carb) recently announced that the LA Department of Transportation (LADoT) would be awarded $6.7m in additional funding from California Climate Investments (CCI) for its pilot, complementing $7m in funding the department received from the board last year. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve $4m to expand transit subsidies and other programme elements.

“For my constituents, mobility is essential to survival, an avenue to opportunities,” said council member Curren Price, who represents multiple communities served by the pilot. “Without the right transportation, our neighbours cannot access basic needs. Accessible, affordable, safe and sustainable transportation should never be considered a privilege. UBM will serve as a vehicle to ensure that no one is left behind while addressing climate change simultaneously. Transportation is not only the foundation of healthy communities, it is a human right.”

LADoT general manager Seleta Reynolds added: “Mobility is essential to opportunity. That is what drives LADoT’s commitment to provide universal basic mobility for Angelenos. As a city, we must prioritise equal access to dignified, reliable, safe and affordable transportation that serves residents’ needs regardless of income. This initiative helps empower south LA communities and lay the foundation for a concerted, citywide effort to achieve universal basic mobility.”

And Carb member Hector De La Torre said: “This project demonstrates how California is investing in innovative, community-driven mobility that addresses historic inequities and cuts carbon pollution, cleans the air and improves the quality of life in communities hardest hit by pollution.”

Through the pilot’s mobility wallets, residents in the pilot area will have access to subsidised Metro transit fares.

“We are privileged to partner with LADoT and other community partners to bring this mobility wallet to south LA residents,” said Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “This is a first-of-its kind pilot for these residents and it will make it easier for them to get to jobs, run errands, shop and travel throughout our county. This pilot also advances our agency’s own mission to provide high-quality mobility options and positively impact communities with equitable and inclusive solutions.”

LA Trade-Technical College is participating in the pilot through green job training programmes for residents of the pilot area.

“Los Angeles Trade-Technical College offers more than 80 exciting career-technical programmes that move students into careers,” said Katrina VanderWoude, president of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. “With the support of the universal basic mobility pilot, students in our electric vehicle certificate programme will participate in internships with local dealerships and repair facilities where they will gain real-life experience in electric vehicle maintenance and repair. Through this pilot, we are also launching our youth ambassador programme with a focus on sustainable mobility options. We are grateful for LADoT’s support as we foster career paths for students to become agents of change in their communities.”

LADoT’s grant application to Carb was drafted with the input of a coalition of south LA community groups represented by the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (Slate-Z).

“At Slate-Z, we know the universal basic mobility pilot programme is essential to addressing poverty and ensuring south Los Angeles residents are deeply engaged in the decision-making processes that will impact how they get to school, work and childcare,” said Slate-Z CEO Zahirah Mann. “Transit provides essential access to life’s opportunities, while also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that have led to harmful health and related impacts in the area.”

The pilot covers a large swath of south Los Angeles, bounded by the 10 Freeway to the north, South Alameda Street to the east, Crenshaw Boulevard to the west, and Florence Avenue to the south. The area was chosen because of the high proportion of households below the poverty line as well as the large share of residents who rely on public transit.

The pilot will:

  • Deploy 250 e-bikes
  • Expand Blue LA EV carshare by an additional 100 cars within the pilot zone
  • Provide free, on-demand EV shuttle services
  • Provide subsidised Metro and LADoT Dash fares for 2000 pilot area residents
  • Install 16 electric vehicle charging stations at four libraries
  • Install 75 electric vehicle charging stations at recreation and park facilities
  • Install two DC fast charger hubs
  • Provide workforce training on electric charging stations and electric bikes for 30 Angelenos
  • Provide $1m to complete the rail-to-rail project
  • Install safe streets infrastructure

Additional project partners include CicLAvia, Mobility Development Partners, Blink Mobility, Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator and EV Go. Additional city departments include LADWP, Bureau of Street Lighting, LA Public Libraries, Recreation & Parks, and StreetsLA.