Here's a 4-Step Community Engagement Plan for Addressing TOD Side Effects

When TOD + economic development resulted in Culver City, California, neighborhoods experiencing souring traffic, the city didn't just create a repair plan and hold a town meeting to discuss it.

Culver City, California, in metro Los Angeles, plans to address traffic and mobility challenges resulting from three decades of transit oriented development (TOD) around light rail. To both create and achieve community buy-in for a new, recently approved visioning plan, the city started 2017 with a multi-pronged community engagement campaign that:

  • Increased citizen stakeholder participation in planning discussions about traffic and mobility improvements related to the TOD District.
  • Incorporated community traffic concerns and solutions into transportation planning for future projects.

In addition to research, David Alpaugh, principal of urban design and planning at Johnson Fain, helped the city community engagement effort that went far beyond typical town meetings held after plans are developed.

Looking Back at Culver City's TOD

Before the light rail station, streets reinvented Culver City's downtown, Alpaugh explained.

"The TOD expanded the energy into the east side,” he said.

The high density development that followed the light rail station offered housing, retail and workforce opportunities. There was initially skepticism around density, like parking ratios, and other transit concerns, and there has been a ripple effect of traffic impacts on residential neighborhoods in the surrounding areas, said Alpaugh.

To address concerns and plan for the future -- the TOD-related visioning plan was part of a larger general planning effort -- Culver City had many questions, like "What portion of the traffic is simply passing through?" said Alpaugh, whose firm studied the city's traffic. City residents number just under 40,000, according to Data USA, but daily trips coming in and out are about 72,000 -- many of them in the area of the transit station.

Those looking for faster routes through neighborhoods increased traffic, he said. So residents began asking the city to look at ways to mitigate traffic — better pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, stop signs, speed bumps, “granular things at a small scale," he explained.

But their mobility issue is a much bigger problem.”
Economic Development Continues to Drive Traffic Eastward

As industry continues to grow beyond nearby tech hub Playa Vista, the demand for space to operate in Los Angeles is moving eastward.

Amazon is taking over the former Culver Studios, and other big names are moving into the area, Alpaugh noted.

"The Heart of ScreenLand" wants to adopt policies that address the inevitable changes that come with having a TOD District and improve mobility in a region still growing in economic development. Policies residents support.

To win citizen support, Culver City implemented the following four community engagement tactics.

#1 Engaging Citizens Online with an Interactive Transit Map 

Key for Culver City's community engagement campaign was engaging citizens online, and it began with a website.

'How do we get there from here?' was Culver City's interactive and engaging TOD visioning plan website,

The intent of this visioning plan is to build on the strengths of the TOD. District, examine area mobility and circulation, and plan for the next decade and beyond of Transit Oriented Development. We want to work with you to establish a comprehensive and effective program of alternative transit and mobility improvements to address first and last mile mobility and local circulation needs.

The main feature -- an interactive consultation map tool -- was in use through August 2017. It allowed people to drop a pin on the map, post comments and propose solutions with icons to categorize -- public transit, cycling, traffic and pedestrian -- and give a thumbs up or thumbs down to other comments and solutions.

On May 3, 2017, user DLeblanc3 dropped a transit pin proposing an electric bus route between downtown and the station that got three likes:

there should be a small bus runs from the Metro to downtown Culver City and picks up through out the rout. It would be wonderful if it picked up at Huguera and Lucerne also. If they ran a rout through out the neighborhood to make less cars at Metro station. A run to Hayden track to get people to work and back to metro." .

By the end of the online community engagement campaign, there were approximately 50 comments and suggestions. They came from residents, those who work in the area and some Los Angeles residents on the other side of the TOD -- with both likes and dislikes for solutions proposed.

The city's TOD visioning plan community engagement site also offered:

  • Plan updates and downloadable files for review
  • Events information
  • A link to videos from workshops
  • A direct comment and email update subscription tool
#2 Getting all the TOD Words Out on Social

Since February of 2017, the city "exponentially increased outreach and fostered community input," according to Shelly Wolfberg, assistant to the city manager in an October 2017 Vision blog.

Culver City uses the company's tools, creating and posting news stories, website pages related to city projects including the visioning campaign for the TOD District and polls. From February to October, the city increased it's Facebook reach by 1,253 percent and engagements by 872 percent and Twitter impressions by 228 percent and engagements by 219 percent.

The city used social channels to post information about design community roundtables, workshop videos, plan updates and more:

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