Candidate Questionnaire: Jorge Miron
City Council District 3
What is your vision for Costa Mesa’s transportation infrastructure in 2050? If elected, what will you do to prepare Costa Mesa for that future?
To the members of Costa Mesa's engaged active transportation community, first off thank you so much for allowing me to provide some of the concerns and potential solutions that I have in mind. As some of you know, my loving husband, who is a Civil Engineer and Traffic engineer that specializes in Active Transportation, served on the Costa Mesa Bikeway and Walkability Committee for several years. We talk about mobility issues all the time in our family. My mother suffers from mobility issues and has never owned a car, so access for seniors and those without vehicles is extremely important to me.
One of the most important principles in good government is that if you build it, you must make sure you operate and maintain it F-O-R-E-V-E-R. The more expensive a project, the more money it costs to maintain it. So, my approach would be to look at strategic opportunities to considerably improve mobility equitably for all communities, and make sure that we always budget for upkeep of those improvements.
According to recent estimates released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, from 2020 to 2021, motor vehicle fatalities rose 10.5%, bicyclist fatalities rose 5%, and pedestrian fatalities rose 13% (https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/early-estimate-2021-traffic-fatalities). If elected, what will you do to address these worrying trends?
I trust science. When I first read that earlier in the year, I was alarmed. So I naturally turned to the expert in the family to break this all down. It's really technical and I'll do my best, but here it goes:
When we look at statistics, we all know that they can be presented in different ways. One of those is to look at changes per fixed value. In this case, the fixed value can be the total length of roads, or the total population. So when crashes go up by about 10%, and when the amount people are driving go up about 10%, you would expect the rate to remain close to the same. Which it did. Here's what the article says upon digging deeper:
"Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration show that vehicle miles traveled in 2021 increased by about 325 billion miles, or about 11.2%, as compared to 2020. Data estimates show the fatality rate for 2021 was 1.33 fatalities per 100 million VMT, marginally down from 1.34 fatalities in 2020. While the fatality rate continued to rise in the first quarter, it declined in the other three quarters of 2021, compared to 2020."
So is there really a trend? The science says "inconclusive". That's also not to say we don't have a problem worth addressing. Any injury or fatality is a tragedy and we should manage risk to avoid those. I've heard about something called "Leading Pedestrian Interval" where the walk signal comes on before the green light does. It allows pedestrians to enter the crosswalk early and become more visible to turning cars. I was very happy to see Costa Mesa try that out at the new signal on Randolph near SoBECA. I'd advocate to do that in other high accident locations, and when we do apply innovative methods, be sure to evaluate whether the benefits are actually being achieved.
Many Costa Mesa residents complain of cut-through traffic and speeding on the streets near their homes. How do you think Costa Mesa should address these complaints?
This question reminds me of how my family and I circulated a petition to get speed bumps on our street in Santa Ana several years ago. The vast majority of people rented the duplex they lived in, and very few signed or even answered the door. So guess what? The petition failed.
Cut-through traffic has and will always be a problem in congested areas. Costa Mesa needs to adopt a comprehensive traffic calming strategy, that incorporates the various policies that work, research new policies that have been successful in other communities, and always check to see if those measures implemented are making a difference. It can be as simple as asking residents what they think of something that was installed. By having a more comprehensive policy, we are also ensuring that the process is fairer and that we allow people who aren't as active in their community (e.g., renters in apartments) can also participate.
Nationally, about a third of all car trips are two miles or less. Do you think Costa Mesa should encourage more people to make these short trips on foot, by bike or via transit, and if so, how would you pursue that goal?
One of the things that always concerns me about the "push" for more biking and walking, is that yes it's great if people live within reasonable distance to and from work or other activities, but what doesn't get talked about as much is the issue of "time equity". By that, I mean the investment of time from people from disadvantaged backgrounds to walk or bike is so much more than it is for someone who doesn't work 2 jobs earning less than median household income. We have to stop pretending that if we waive a magic wand and build it, everyone will start using active transportation facilities in droves. They don't. In fact, most people who end up using those facilities are people who are recreational active transportation users, rather than those who use it to commute. Which then leads to gentrification. Which then leads to disadvantaged communities being priced out.
Building true equity in our transportation network starts with building DEMAND, not the other way around. Educating kids about healthy and active lifestyles. Making it fun to ride a bike in their neighborhood, not scary. Setting up walking school buses for your block. Provide better transit options (can you believe buses didn't have bike racks for so long?).
This year, the City hired a new Active Transportation Coordinator and devoted approximately $3,150,000 of the Capital Improvement Budget to active transportation projects. Do you think the City is spending too much or too little on active transportation? Why?
The best thing about hiring a new coordinator, is that now we have a dedicated person to pursue grant funding. We need to leverage this avenue much more than we do now. Doing so will free up more funds for our other programs. There are plenty of funds out there for communities who can show actual active transportation demand and how these projects can be "transformative", by making a real difference in people's lives. I'd like us to focus on the "transformative" demand-based approach. And maybe that means we need to create more city-wide programs beyond Safe Routes to School.
Should children be encouraged to walk, bicycle or take transit to school? Why or why not?
Absolutely! Kids should be afforded the opportunity to walk and bike to school within reasonable age limits. Kids on our block partner up to walk to and from Pomona Elementary together. It's a bit harder for Davis Elementary since kids arrive from all over the district.
Electric bicycles (or ebikes) have surged in popularity during the pandemic, bringing new bicyclists of all ages onto our streets. What, if anything, should the City do to respond to this trend?
We walk our dogs regularly, and I can't tell you how many times we've had a "near miss" with someone with an e-bike on the sidewalk. We can easily put speed limits on trails. But one of my priorities is to significantly enhance and build up our Bicycle Police program, so that we can have more officers visible on beats rather than simply driving. There's so much that is missed when you're not at a pedestrian-level. We need to feel like a community again. I also think that will help with other issues like unhoused residents (hard to notice when you're speeding by in a car). Just seeing officers out of the cars will help deter many petty crimes.
I do not like the idea of licensing bikes or e-bikes, but perhaps it's time to see more regulation of e-bikes. That is more of a State issue, so I would partner with our State elected representatives to see what can be done, while also not making e-bikes inaccessible to those who might benefit from them the most.
What role do you think public transportation will play in in the future of Costa Mesa and Orange County, as a whole? What are your thoughts on buses, light rail, micro transit, street cars, or similar modes in Orange County?
We have to be realistic and strategic in infrastructure investment. It costs so much to build anything. It'd be great if we could be like Europe or Japan (absolutely fantastic rail system I might add). In Japan's case, they didn't have much of a choice because after World War II, their access to fossil fuels was limited. The US is a much more sparsely populated place. Most people in the US just will never get out of their cars. And there is always the equity factor that I mentioned before.
While not as "appealing", Bus Rapid Transit and other "express" type routes are making a comeback in LA County. The major advantage is that rail lines take years to plan and build. Buses are much more flexible and can be deployed (or shifted to new corridors) with much less lead time. Much like why we build roads that are always over-congested, it's hard to plan out public transportation needs when projects and changes in land use span 10-20 years. And on routes where Bus Rapid Transit shows stable usage, then we can explore a fixed route rail line. I'd like to push more with OCTA the possibility of going to an all-electric fleet by 2035.