L.A. leaders announce transit changes to better serve transportation needs of women in the region

Aug. 2, 2021
L.A. releases a first-of-its-kind study on gender disparities as the region marks the historic female leadership of its major transit agencies.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) released its study on gender equity in transportation and announced a new pilot program for on-demand stops for the DASH service.

The pilot, which debuts in August for the Panorama City, Watts, Pico-Union, and El Sereno Community DASH routes, will allow riders to request a location to disembark along their route separate from established stop locations.

The study, “Changing Lanes: A Gender Equity Transportation Study,” identifies barriers for women who depend on public transit as LADOT seeks to achieve gender equity across department operations as part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Executive Directive 11 on Gender Equity.

“Our transportation systems need to work for everyone, but we can’t make our services more inclusive until we focus on improving the experience for women,” said Mayor Garcetti. “By taking a careful look at where we fall short today, this study points the way toward a more equitable system moving forward.”

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez requested LADOT pilot key changes to transit operations to better address the needs of women. LADOT selected initial routes for the DASH pilot based upon ridership levels, route times and the proportion of riders who identify as female.

 “When women are in leadership positions, we recognize situations where policies need to change because we have firsthand experience with the daily responsibilities women manage – putting food on the table, riding the buses with our children, running the household, among countless others,” said Martinez. “DASH’s ‘on-demand stops’ program will be the difference between hauling your bags of groceries 10 blocks or 10 feet.”

“Representation matters,” added LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds. “Investing in community-based research with community-based organizations illuminated blind spots in transportation planning that have left women behind for decades. We cannot accept the status quo that leaves half the population stranded -- we can all rise together by understanding that changing lanes will change everyone's lives for the better.”

The analysis and changes arrive at a historic moment for female representation in transportation as the top leadership positions of the region’s two largest transit agencies are held by women.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) announced the appointment of Stephanie Wiggins as CEO of L.A. Metro while Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Hilda L. Solis began serving as chair of the L.A. Metro Board of Directors earlier this month.

Seleta Reynolds has served as general manager of LADOT since 2014 and the Los Angeles City Council is led by Council President Nury Martinez. This is the first time that women have held each of these leadership positions in the L.A. region simultaneously, shaping a field where women are underrepresented and underserved.

“Women have historically been underrepresented as it relates to leadership roles and design considerations in transportation,” said Solis. “With two women of color at the helm of Metro, we are uniquely positioned to effect cultural and systemic change by focusing on meeting the needs of the most underserved transit riders and working towards truly equitable infrastructure.”

“As the first woman CEO of Metro I am committing to addressing gender disparity issues on our system,” said Wiggins. “LADOT’s Changing Lanes report is going to change everything for the better. It will inspire Metro to advance our own Gender Action Plan so that we can be transformative for the entire county as well as help LADOT optimize their findings and recommendations from this report.”

LADOT commissioned Changing Lanes with the explicit objective of prioritizing equity in transportation planning and design. The study focuses on low-income, BIPOC women and communities in three Los Angeles neighborhoods— Sun Valley in the Valley region, Watts in the Central City region, and Sawtelle in the Westside region — chosen, in part, due to their high proportions of BIPOC residents and women workers living in zero-car households.

While BIPOC women face a multitude of barriers, Changing Lanes also reveals the critical role of income in determining women’s experiences of gender inequity. By gathering data pertaining to the unique experiences and needs of women navigating Los Angeles’ transportation system, LADOT has committed to addressing female residents' needs at every stage of the planning and implementation process.

LADOT commissioned the report conducted by Kounkey Design Initiative (KDI) with support from Toole Design Group, UCLA-Affiliated Researchers, Cityfi and Investing in Place. The report was produced in collaboration with community partners and co-authors Pacoima Beautiful and Watts Century Latino Organization.

The full results of the study are available in English and Spanish on LADOT’s website.