Transportation Board Ponders New Approach

Margaret McAustin

A board made up of officials from Pasadena and nearby cities is crafting a new strategic plan, potentially expanding its role in coordinating transportation initiatives in the area.
Members of the governing board for the Arroyo Verdugo Communities Joint Powers Authority expressed interest Aug. 6 in moving beyond traffic and infrastructure concerns to consider other types of transportation, such as light rail and bicycles, for local development, as well as environment-related projects.
The joint powers authority was formed in 2017 and includes officials from Pasadena, South Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Burbank and the Los Angeles County Fifth Supervisorial District. Councilwoman Margaret McAustin represents Pasadena on the board, but she announced during the meeting that this would be her last term on the authority’s panel, as she is not running for re-election to City Council.
The authority was founded to coordinate regional transportation projects and the allocation of Measure M funds, gained from a half-cent sales tax that county voters approved in 2016 to improve traffic infrastructure. For instance, after each city receives approval for transportation projects from its commission or city council, the authority divides available Measure M funds among its members and grants the submission of the projects to the L.A. Metro transportation agency for consideration.
But in recent interviews with city officials, representatives from the Lee Andrews Group — which serves as a consultant for the authority — found that many felt the group’s mission needed to be expanded, with some saying they wanted it to address issues beyond transportation.
Most cities also agreed that the authority “should focus on identifying projects that benefit all of the member agencies instead of each agency protecting its own interest,” according to a report from the Lee Andrews Group that was presented at the governing board meeting.
Though concrete initiatives were not discussed at the meeting, where board members participated in a brainstorming session for a revamped mission statement, officials expressed unified interest in including transportation projects that promoted economic development.
However, multiple board members warned against straying too far from the authority’s original emphasis.
“The reason I focus it on transportation is because that’s what we’re founded on,” McAustin said. “That’s kind of how we came into being, and I want to make sure we gain recognition in our core business before we start trying to go out in too many other things.”
Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer, who was appointed the board’s chair on Aug. 6, voiced support for broadening the focus slightly from transportation to mobility, a word she believed had broader connection with other modes of movement as well as housing.
“If it’s done correctly — it has to be planned, but it will just happen,” she said at the meeting. “It will result in affordable living [and] it will result in a more sustainable lifestyle in terms of housing.”
Though many city officials present at the meeting — which included city staff members not on the governing board — shared a desire to consider the extended impacts of transportation in the group’s decision-making, several also continued to urge caution as the panel continued to explore its future goals.
“It seems at this moment the board is not ready to make that leap,” McAustin said. “I would rather take smaller steps and be successful than take [larger steps] and flounder.”
Due to time constraints, board members decided to end the planning session and agreed to continue the discussion at a future special meeting, the date of which was still to be determined as of Aug. 6.

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