At the opening ceremony for the ITS World Congress in LA, the city’s mayor Eric Garcetti, spoke of how new, multimodal transportation options are required to help his city thrive.
His words may have come as a surprise to some of those in the packed auditorium, not only because LA is famous for being a city built around freeways, but also because ITS itself is traditionally rooted in automotive solutions. But, said Garcetti, LA hasn’t always been that way, and ITS is changing.
“LA, you probably didn’t know, had the best public transportation system in the country in the 1930s and 40s,” he said. “A series of red cars, as we called them, went on train tracks and took us to faraway places so that we could develop this city.
“But when that was seen as an old technology, we innovated and built these things called freeways – roads, with no tolls – cars were the way to get around. And that worked for about 40 or 50 years until suddenly traffic reminded us that might not be the best way to plan a city.
“So today, we’re trying to reimagine the future in Los Angeles. If we can not only engineer and imagine, but also construct a rover that we send to Mars to move on that planet, we certainly should be able to fix what’s wrong with our streets.”
Garcetti said that this could be done, not only by upgrading the advanced traffic signal control system that was first introduced for the 1984 Olympic Games in time for the next time the city hosts the Olympics in 2028, but also by building out public transit.
“Voters here in Los Angeles have passed the largest measure in American history, to ensure we have 15 new transit lines,” he said. “In fact, one of them will hopefully open next month finally bringing public transportation to our airport. So many of you come from places in the world where that is a natural. But here, the seven most feared words in Los Angeles from one Angeleno to another up till now has been, ‘Can you pick me up at LAX?’
“Let’s make sure that transportation isn’t just an idea out there. But something that implements a better world for all of us”