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The Intersection of Public and Private Financing for Transportation in Los Angeles

04/13/2018 12:45 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

With rapid urbanization and population growth in Los Angeles, there is an increased strain on the public infrastructure and transportation.

At our Transportation panel on April 10, 2018, leaders from three different agencies convened to share insights as to how they are implementing creative finance strategies to plan and build the future of transportation in Los Angeles. Panelists raised the question – can Los Angeles catch up with its transportation needs to improve urban mobility?

“Among housing and employment, transportation is one of the biggest challenges Los Angeles is currently facing,” says Stephen Polechronis, Regional Business Line Leader, Transportation at AECOM, who moderated the panel discussion.

From left to right: Stephen Polechronis, AECOM; Jenna Hornstock, Metro; Samantha Bricker, Los Angeles World Airports; Darin Chidsey, Southern California Association of Governments

Darin Chidsey, Chief Operating Officer of Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), an organization that undertakes a variety of planning and policy initiatives to build a more sustainable Southern California, believes “we have a responsibility to look ahead at the next 20 years of transportation and to consider the foundation of what the demographics will look like.” He recognized the fact that no one wants to sit in traffic concluding that if we don’t come together to solve transportation issues now, we’ll have bigger problems in the future.

Fortunately, things are looking up for Los Angeles as Measure M, a half-cent sales tax that will fund an unprecedented $120 billion in transit projects in the next 40 years, recently passed in the county. This measure will allow the Metro Board of Directors to improve the traffic in Los Angeles, repair potholes and sidewalks, repave local streets, improve connections and more.

Jenna Hornstock, Executive Officer at Metro, expressed how excited her team is about the current opportunities. She provided insights on current projects throughout the county and highlighted Metro’s purchase of Union Station in 2011, for which they have done some major restoration, preserving its historic characteristics while also improving its functionality.

Chidsey reemphasized that, because voters have set the stage and funding is now available, the time to act is now.

Another way to be mindful of spending is to consider public-private partnerships (P3s). P3s can be an effective way to build and implement transportation infrastructure for multiple decades. In both the public and private arenas, P3s can be a mutually beneficial way to resolve important transportation issues without the financial strain on the public.

Samantha Bricker, Deputy Executive Director of Project Development, Coordination and Environmental Programs Group at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) acknowledged that pursuing P3s for the current LAX LAMP project has allowed her and her team to maintain their design aesthetic and keep costs to a minimum. Although P3s are not ideal for all transportation projects, they often reduce upfront public costs through fast-tracked, efficient delivery methods. That is because with P3s, all stakeholders collaborate early in the process, allowing each team member to provide valuable insight which ultimately results in savings and a longer project lifespan.

According to Hornstock, we are the local advocates and, as a result, “we have to go out and fight for this new image of Los Angeles. We have to take the fear of change and turn it into excitement for the future.”

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