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UCLA

Bruins Who Build Los Angeles

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By Mary Daily, Photos by Naomi Harris

Published Apr 1, 2013 8:00 AM


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Michael Lejeune: The Metro creative director has redesigned the L.A. transportation entity's identity and, in the process, made riding public transportation cool—even in car-crazy Los Angeles.

Making Transit Trendy

Making modern Los Angeles work, of course, also hinges on tackling the problem of too many cars and too many solitary drivers. Yet the whole world knows how much Angelenos love to drive alone.

To hit that moving target, Michael Lejeune '86 was charged with remaking the image of the once-clunky Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "Make it cool," he was told when he became the first creative director of the nation's third-largest mass-transit system more than a decade ago.

He and his team changed the name to "Metro" and then did a visual overhaul that included websites, timetables, billboards, a mobile app and tickets. Today, public awareness of Metro and its mission is almost 95 percent, up from just over 50 percent in 2003. Rail ridership has increased 38 percent since 2005. Metro's 30-person team has won more than 100 awards and completes about 2,500 projects a year. They target the 30 to 40 percent of riders who might choose to drive by reminding them of transit choices.

The native Angeleno practices what he preaches, taking the Gold Line from his home in South Pasadena. And he sees the city's lack of "collective urbanism" changing. "We want to show L.A. to itself in the city's perfect best light," he says.

Improved Parking

To learn more about Shoup's parking solutions, visit: SFpark.

The Parking Prophet

The first cousin of traffic is parking. Where to put all the cars? Professor Donald Shoup has some solutions: Adjust on-street parking prices according to demand so that a few spaces are always open. Use the parking revenue to pay for public services in the neighborhood.

"Parking is the single largest land use in most cities, and small reforms can produce big benefits," he says.

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Donald Shoup: His ideas on innovations in parking policies and their potential benefits to urban life are so popular, he has become America's de facto parking guru.

Shoup's ideas have been implemented in a number of cities, including downtown Los Angeles, where L.A. Express Park includes 6,000 meters that charge variable prices to regulate supply according to demand. Sensors report the occupancy of each space. He cites Old Pasadena as a signature success. The area made a dramatic turnaround from commercial skid row to popular shopping destination after parking meters were installed and the revenue funneled toward local public improvements.

Shoup was also behind California's 1992 parking cash-out law, whereby many employers who offer free parking to commuters must also offer the cash value of the parking subsidy to those who don't drive to work. Shoup's 1997 study of eight L.A. employers found that parking cash-out increased public-transit use by 50 percent and carpooling by 64 percent. The Wall Street Journal called Shoup a "parking rock star," which he knows is not the same as a real rock star, although he's thinking of changing his name to Shoup Dogg.

Big City, Bigger Dreams

"Los Angeles holds so much promise for the 21st century," says L.A.'s current leader, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa '77. "It's the city where the world comes together."

In his two terms as mayor, Villaraigosa says, "I asked Los Angeles to dream with me. We needed to improve our schools, become a safer city, expand public transit and become the cleanest, greenest big city in the country."

In his own words

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks about the art of leadership.

So what has been achieved? The mayor points to a 40-percent drop in violent crime, with the LAPD force exceeding 10,000 for the first time. He cites the doubling of the rail system and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30 percent.

The Villaraigosa administration also claims to have reduced water use by 20 percent and cut air pollution by more than half at the Port of Los Angeles. The number of schools in the LAUSD meeting the state goal for academic performance has more than doubled.

But the City of Angels' 41st mayor acknowledges that he built on the foundation others have laid. At his victory celebration in 2005, he said, "I am standing here on the shoulders of Tom Bradley."

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