“Vision Zero,” Program to End All Traffic Deaths in Pasadena by 2027, Would Require Change in Funding Priorities, says City Official

Published : Sunday, December 11, 2016 | 10:48 PM

Late last week, in a memorandum to City Manager Steve Mermell, a city official gave significantly more details about what a Vision Zero program designed to prevent 100 percent of all traffic deaths “would mean for Pasadena.”

The official said adopting the program would require a change in funding priorities, at least in fiscal year 2018, likely “defunding some currently funded programs to advance the priority of unfunded safety projects” like Vision Zero.

In the memorandum, City Department of Transportation Director Frederick Dock explained that Vision Zero, which started in Sweden in 1997 and has since been adopted by several countries and cities throughout the world, is now being implemented in both San Francisco and the city of Los Angeles, although Vision Zero SF is on a more advanced state than Vision Zero Los Angeles.

Images: Pasadena Dept. of Transportation

Vision Zero aims to prevent deaths and serious injuries resulting from traffic accidents. The Swedish version aims that “no one will be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system.” The Swedish version stresses that “it can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system.”

Dock said it is helpful to take a look at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles programs in order to state what the program would mean for Pasadena. In both of these cities, collision data has been analyzed to determine that 65 to 70 percent of severe and fatal collisions occur on about 5 to 10 percent of the streets in each city, Dock said.

“For comparison, Pasadena has determined similar collision clustering patterns through data analytics that indicate 70 percent of all fatal and serious injury pedestrian collisions occur at signalized intersections which make up only about 10 percent of all intersections in the city,” Dock said in the memorandum.

Dock also stressed that although Pasadena has already put a number of the elements of the San Francisco and Los Angeles programs in place, the City lags in the implementation of physical changes to the street system “because of limited funding resources and public controversy about reducing traffic capacity and/or removing on-street parking.”

The transportation head also explained that much of Pasadena’s transportation-related projects – particularly its pedestrian and bicycle projects – rely on grant funding, which usually stretches out capital projects to five years or more between project identification and funding availability, as the City has to compete for funding with all other governments county-wide, and in some cases statewide.

“Because Pasadena’s funding for transportation and street maintenance capital projects is essentially at a zero-sum status, a Vision Zero commitment would mean defunding some currently funded programs to advance the priority of unfunded safety projects,” Dock said. “If Vision Zero is adopted, staff’s recommendations for the FY 2018 Capital Improvement Program budget would reflect more funding towards the safety projects and less for the traditional pavement management projects.”

Vision Zero was discussed in an October City Council meeting as one of two safety-related transportation programs the City wants considered. The other program involves a series of pedestrian and bicycle initiatives to help prevent collisions involving cars and pedestrians in the City.

In a presentation on October 24, the Transportation Department cited Los Angeles County data which says only 18 percent of travelers in the county are pedestrians and only one percent are cyclists; yet, in Pasadena, cyclists account for 15 percent of traffic deaths and injuries and pedestrians account for 30 percent.