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first_img“Will we be a city choked by gridlock or will we succeed in creating solutions that will keep us moving?” The audit comes as Los Angeles vies for billions of dollars in state bond money and city leaders lobby in Washington, D.C., for even more money for subways and light-rail projects. “How do we go up to Sacramento, much less Washington, D.C., effectively without a coordinated strategic plan for the city and Los Angeles County?” Chick said Tuesday in her office. “No wonder we have traffic problems. No wonder we have difficulty moving from one place to another. This is a city that has not planned for the traffic and transportation needs of the 21st century.” “There are no easy or immediate fixes. But we can’t fix the problem until we fix the Department of Transportation.” The review is the latest of the agency by Chick, who last year found that more than $12 million earmarked to help ease traffic congestion and add parking was “gathering dust” because of the agency’s flawed fiscal management. The DOT oversees street issues in the city, and is responsible for traffic signals, crosswalks and DASH buses. Appointed by Villaraigosa early last year, General Manager Gloria Jeff requested the audit to help her revamp a department with 1,700 staff members and a $144 million annual budget. Mayor sets goals Last August, the mayor set goals for Jeff, which includes reorganizing the staff and developing a 25-year strategic plan. Jeff’s office said the DOT has already begun many of the changes recommended in the audit, including developing a project tracking system and more long-range planning. However, the DOT still has a lot to do. “The mayor has set ambitious goals and high expectations for reducing traffic congestion. While we’ve made some substantial progress, the mayor believes and expects more can be done,” his spokesman Matt Szabo said. Lacking a strategic plan with a mission statement and list of priority projects, the DOT should create a unit dedicated to transportation planning and managing long-term capital projects such as traffic-signal synchronization, Chick said. That unit should also take the lead in developing a long-range transportation plan with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation, she said. “The mayor has called for a strategic plan to meet the transit needs for the city and the region for the next 25 years and we don’t have it for the next 25 days,” she said. Billions on table This is especially important now with billions of dollars in state bond revenue on the table and a turnover in Congress that gave several Los Angeles-area elected officials more power to steer funding back home. “It’s a perfect storm, in a good way,” said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who heads the council’s Transportation Committee. “We’re going to be applying for funds at state and federal levels and we need to be able to compete.” But the audit found that the DOT has not closely watched its own budget when approving new DASH bus routes, and may have to cut routes in the future. The local bus service is funded by the Proposition A half-percent sales tax and is facing a $29 million shortfall in 2010 and a $200 million shortfall by 2016. “First and foremost, before thinking about adding routes, the city needs to look at how it’s going to meet that shortfall just to keep up the current routes,” Chick said. The audit recommends a more rigorous standard in approving new routes based on whether it can afford them, and evaluating existing routes that don’t meet ridership goals. Auditors also found that the DOT has not been staffed, funded or organized to meet the city’s infrastructure demands. The department is responsible for developing and implementing the city’s transportation policy, but the manager doesn’t have the resources to do that, the report said. And, too often the high-level managers don’t have timely, useful or accurate information needed to spot trends or determine whether the department is meeting its goals. Greuel said the DOT probably has been shortchanged in previous budget years. “It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg problem. They haven’t come forward with a good plan to make the changes necessary,” Greuel said, so the department hasn’t received funding to make changes. The audit and the mayor’s guidelines will help Jeff as she develops that long-range plan. “This is a very good blueprint because it backs up our request for more budget, more talent, more personnel and more IT support,” said Bruce Gillman, director of public information for DOT. And many are watching whether Jeff can create the vision the DOT has lacked. “I don’t see a lot of people coming up with a plan for San Fernando Valley transportation,” said Brendan Huffman, executive director of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. “Gloria Jeff has an opportunity to present that vision and get us on that track.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390 Highlights Recommendations: DOT lacks focus on transportation policy, short- and long-range planning and management of capital programs. Project reporting and monitoring is fragmented between DOT and city government. DOT has not incorporated Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s goals and objectives and is not performing the requested strategic capital program planning. DOT lacks sufficient reporting to monitor and control program progress, problems and trends. DOT has not set minimum performance standards for DASH routes. An estimated $29 million shortfall in fiscal 2010 could grow to $200 million by fiscal 2016. The agency lacks budget reporting policies for capital projects, resulting in inaccurate, outdated and inconsistent information. Restructure and create a Transportation Policy and Planning unit responsible for policies, short- and long-range planning and capital program management. Establish an intranet system to more effectively communicate goals and objectives throughout the department. Develop immediate action plan and timetable to resolve DASH shortfall including alternatives such as route and service cuts. Reorganize the agency to consolidate maintenance of seven Metrolink stations and monitoring of off-street parking facilities in DOT’s Office of Regulatory Services unit. Develop a departmentwide project reporting system. Improve efficiency to maximize budget resources. SOURCE: Los Angeles city controller 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Los Angeles’ transportation department lacks a long-term, comprehensive plan to build city infrastructure even as gridlock threatens to choke the region, according to an audit released Tuesday. The Department of Transportation is in “enormous need of reinvention and reorganization,” lacks specific short- and long-term goals, has no strategic plan and has not incorporated many of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s transit goals, City Controller Laura Chick said in the audit. Chick said the agency also has failed to budget properly for its DASH bus services – including routes in the San Fernando Valley – which face a shortfall that could soar to more than $200 million in the next decade. “For too long the LADOT has found itself focusing on one project after another without an overarching vision,” she wrote in the audit. last_img read more