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New LASC Report: Paths Forward: The San Gabriel Valley Greenway Project

Creating the Path Forward:  Positive Impacts from the San Gabriel Valley Greenway Network

By: James Howe and Natalia Sifuentes

Images by: Rachel Lindt

The proposed greenway network in the San Gabriel Valley has the potential to increase safety, improve the health of residents, and improve the environment. Within the thirty municipalities of the San Gabriel Valley, there is currently an average of 0.6 acres of park space for every 1000 residents – a figure well below the national average of 6 acres per 1000 residents. Fortunately, this project has the potential to be completely funded through state and local mechanisms, and can increase access to transit services and recreational opportunities for park-poor communities in the San Gabriel Valley.

There are seven priority areas where the greenways project truly excels. Within public health, the bicycle network provides an opportunity to increase residents’ activity. Increased activity is proven to reduce the risk of developing diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, and can also minimize obesity. The greenways will improve public safety due to two main factors. First, bicycle riders and walkers will have a grade-separated path to use, which eliminates the possibility of being struck by a vehicle. This is especially important in the San Gabriel Valley, where destinations are predominantly connected through long and wide streets that promote vehicles traveling at faster speeds. Second, greenways have been shown to reduce crime in surrounding areas because of the open and visible space, which promotes more “eyes on the street.”

Next, greenhouse gases will be reduced because residents now have the choice of whether to bicycle, walk, or drive to their work or other destination. The greenways will also serve as an important recreation and learning area for children and adults alike. Municipalities have instituted programs such as “Safe Routes to Schools,” which encourage children to walk or bike to school safely. As such, these greenways will be an important educational tool for improving community awareness of the multiple benefits provided, such as public safety and public health.

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Due to the increased connections to transit and other destinations, mobility for residents will be expanded. With the addition of more overall transportation network connectivity, there will be greater opportunity to reach areas faster and more safely by using the greenways. Furthermore, other cities that installed bike lanes and bike paths saw increased economic development within those areas. Cyclists and walkers would be able to access a greater number of shops without using their cars, increasing the likelihood that they will stop at a store. Finally, the greenways can serve as an important way to manage stormwater within the region with best management practices, such as bioswales and permeable pavement. With nearly 500 square miles of impermeable surface in the Los Angeles watershed, it is more important than ever to find effective ways to recharge the groundwater.

This project would not be viable without the proper funding mechanisms to actually install the greenway network. There are already funding mechanisms in place through Caltrans and Measure R (the regional transportation funding tax), as well as support from Governor Brown’s administration. Other potential ways to fund the project include use of cap and trade funds, which can be used for climate change mitigation projects, and funding through Assembly Bill 1251, the greenway development act in California. This act specifically allocates funds to the development of projects such as these. Finally, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover (TIGER) grants through the U.S. Department of Transportation can help make up the difference in potential funding, as the goals of the project align with the TIGER grant program’s mission.

New funding opportunities for projects such as the greenway network are continually made available as need for such projects increases, and as the benefits provided by comprehensive, regional projects gain attention amongst various stakeholders. For example, there are two potential ballot measures in Los Angeles County through which voters this November may be able to support funding to the greenway network and other similar projects. The first, Measure R2, is an extension of Measure R that is supported by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) and will continue to fund regional transportation projects. Secondly, the LA County Board of Supervisors and the LA County Regional Park and Open Space District have proposed a 35-year Parcel Tax that would augment Proposition A, the Safe Neighborhood Parks Act, which is set to expire in 2019.

With such funding mechanisms already in place, we eagerly anticipate the results of continued collaboration among local government entities in developing greenways that will increase safety, mobility, and accessibility for San Gabriel Valley residents and visitors alike.

LASC Fellows James Howe and Natalia Sifuentes conducted this research as part of a ‘Leaders in Sustainability’ certificate program while completing Master of Public Policy degrees at UCLA. The Paths Forward report was developed in partnership with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, Los Angeles County Supervisorial District 1, the San Gabriel Valley Greenway Task Force, and the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative.

Download the full report here.