By Adylbek Abdykalikov, USC, IPPAM 2020
On April 23rd, 2019 the East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy at Esteban E. Torres High School (ELARA), Public Matters, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works; and USC Sol Price School of Public Policy joined to present "Greetings from East LA," a day at USC to showcase ELARA student projects addressing how to improve traffic safety. The projects and the event were generously supported by the ELARA and the LEAP Program at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
Each of five student teams examined a distinct East Los Angeles corridors identified by LA County’s Vision Zero Action Plan, the initiative on reducing traffic deaths and severe injuries on unincorporated County roadways over the next five years. Based on students’ education and their lived experiences of existing traffic safety conditions, the teams shared their visions on improving safety along the East LA streets, the collision concentration corridors of Cesar Chavez Ave, Eastern Ave, First St, Ford Blvd and Whittier Blvd.
This is the first in a new mini series of articles dedicated to individually highlighting these individual projects.
Prepared by students Tanya Cerezo, Christian Manzo, Brandon Mendiola, Josué Molina, Kristine Navarro and Andrea Sustaita, and with the help of their teacher Ana Tenorio, this project tackles safety issues on Cesar Chavez Avenue between Rowan Avenue and Colonia de las Palmas. The students mapped traffic safety conditions in the area and identified specific locations where different incidents took place. For instance, the team, based on their experience, found intersections and road sections where there is not enough time given to cross the street, such as the intersection of Cezar Chavez Avenue and Ford Boulevard. The students also visualized various spots with no traffic lights at all, such as several sections along Ford Boulevard, Cesar Chavez Avenue and East First Street. The team showed various different traffic safety incidents on a map that took place in their neighborhood, noting areas where cars often turn without stopping, or turn in other unsafe manners, such as coming too close to objects or pedestrians. The team paid attention not only to cars and drivers but to pedestrians and bicyclists as well. The students specified on their map street sections where pedestrians usually walk on red light.
Glimpse from a zine created by the students- a map identified with issues/challenges around Cesar Chavez Avenue.
After collecting and analyzing incidents and general safety conditions the team made recommendations on how to improve the situation in their neighborhood. From the students’ perspective, one of the first measures could be the curb extension on two road sections along the corridor, specifically the intersections with North Hazard Avenue and with North Eastern Avenue. The students believe that curb extensions will slow down traffic travelling along these streets and will improve safety in these areas.
Their other recommendation focused on students’ safety at their school. They proposed a crosswalk in front of the entrance to their Torres High School at Dozier Street. The noted the absence of a crosswalk there, and without a crosswalk many students jaywalk, putting them in constant risk of getting hit by cars.
Another suggestion by the team is the addition of a pedestrian activated warning beacon at North Arizona Ave. The team discovered that many Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School students are scared to use the crosswalk there because it is a very wide street and cars speed by frequently. The crosswalk lines are also faded, and the closest traffic signals are at least one or two blocks away from the crosswalk.
Kristine Navarro, one of the team members says: “To me, East LA is the place I fit in. I have lived here for many years and grew up loving this place.” She feels that a lot of streets in her neighborhoods are safe if you know those streets well but many are not, in particular the more heavily travelled thoroughfares. “Many of the main streets are unsafe, so I typically see an accident occurring or I see the aftermath of it”. Navarro envisions an attainable future where these neighborhood streets are tree lines and pedestrian friendly.
Student Andrea Sustaita shared her optimism, and thinks projects like theirs help us to realize this future. “We are also becoming aware of the danger that our streets have, and we’ll be able to prevent them”.
At "Greetings from East LA" the students were truly excited to present their visions on improving their neighborhoods and share their ideas. We will continue our mini series of articles dedicated to each of the student projects. Stay tuned!
About the Author:
Adylbek Abdykalikov is a graduate student in the International Public Policy and Management Program at USC Price. He has working experience in various positions at the Ministries of Transport and Communication and Investment and Development of Kazakhstan and was in charge of Transportation and Civil Aviation policy development and implementation, and serves as lead student event coordinator for METRANS and PSR.