Los Angeles has long been a testing ground for innovative ideas and creativity. This appeal, combined with a moderate climate and ocean-to-mountain landscapes, may explain how LA has become a thriving metropolis of nearly four million people in its relatively young history. Yet decades of attracting new people with new ideas has brought significant challenges to the city’s infrastructure. Increasing density, as well as climate change, have led to daunting and persistent water shortages, the ever-present threat of a natural disaster—from wildfires to landslides and the threat of a catastrophic earthquake — along with traffic congestion that has become as much an LA icon as the towering palm trees.
These issues demand innovative and eco-friendly solutions that will lead to long-term success.
More than 1,100 Los Angeles residents shared their opinions for AECOM’s second Future of Infrastructure report. These responses acknowledge both the need and the significant opportunity for improvement. Concerns over the integrity of local infrastructure and access to clean water are strong, as is the appreciation for maintaining the affordability of public transit systems. Also reflected in this feedback is
AECOM has a deep connection to Los Angeles as our headquarters’
Executive Vice President, National Cities Leader, Design and Consulting Services, Americas, AECOM
Los Angeles is a city in motion. Mixed-use towers rise on the downtown skyline as transit lines and freeways extend their reach, the LA River begins its revitalization, and world-class sports venues open to much fanfare. But along with the promise of a bright future are the realities of a homelessness crisis, nation-high housing prices, traffic, and infrastructure improvement needs that plague many large urban landscapes across the United States. Increasingly volatile cycles of drought and wildfires, and the ever-present threat of a major earthquake, demand that Angelenos prepare for resilience not only to prevent, but also to rebound from catastrophic events more effectively than ever before.
In collaboration with Longitude — a Financial Times Company, AECOM’s Future of Infrastructure research harnesses survey data and opinions from over 10,000 infrastructure users in 10 major global cities, including Los Angeles, to ask how satisfied, safe, inspired and engaged people feel with their roads and bridges, rail services and utilities.
In a city known for its diversity, it is not surprising that Los Angeles residents have varying opinions about infrastructure. The city’s overall Infrastructure Satisfaction Index score of 4.01 suggests ample room for improvement, but sits around the average of all cities surveyed (4.12), and is slightly higher than scores from other North American cities represented. A deeper dive into the findings reveals that Angelenos find common ground when it comes to advancements in public transportation, and secure and more resilient water resources. They share a desire for innovative technology, a demand for greater engagement in the process, and a willingness to invest in achieving long-term solutions.
"As we build a more sustainable, livable, and safe city, Los Angeles is investing in new infrastructure that will expand our transit system, protect our environment, build new jobs, and make it easier for everyone to get where they’re going. We are repaving thousands of roads, restoring sidewalks, modernizing LAX and the port, expanding our public transit system, and rebuilding the 6th Street Viaduct." — Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles
In the area of transportation, respondents ranked their satisfaction with the overall quality (performance and reliability) at 5.9, with affordability scoring a slightly more favorable 6.5. In a vote of confidence for improving mobility, LA County taxpayers passed Measure M in 2016 that will fuel vast improvements to transportation infrastructure for decades to come.
Metro keeps LA moving
In the utility sector, only 48% of respondents feel their regular water bill is affordable, but they remain 'very satisfied' with the reliability of their water utility (8.0). Electric utility reliability fared less favorably at 6.4 due to seasonal power outages, with the majority of respondents indicating they experienced at least one power outage in their residence or neighborhood in the past 12 months. At the same time, only 39% of respondents feel their regular electricity bill is affordable. These outcomes demonstrate the challenges of balancing the costs associated with ensuring infrastructure reliability with efforts to remain a leader in creating renewable energy and a sustainable water system.
Respondents are split on the issue of paying higher taxes to fund infrastructure improvements, with 35% in disagreement and 41% in agreement — which ranked just above the global average (37% in agreement). It’s important to note that since 2016, LA County voters have approved multiple new tax measures for transportation, water, parks, and homelessness – so this sentiment may indicate voter fatigue for new taxes.
Also related to funding, 64% of LA respondents agree that the private sector should have a greater role in infrastructure development. In parallel, city leaders are pursuing more public-private partnerships throughout the region. Examples include two substantial capital improvement projects at Los Angeles International Airport, the redevelopment of multiple civic facilities, and joint development of underutilized public land near transit stations.
These findings align with the direction LA leaders are heading. In energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power's (LADWP) power mix includes 50% from carbon-free energy sources, with 30% generated by renewable energy. As LA continues to pursue a renewable energy agenda, advancements in power reliability and storage will be critical. LADWP has a number of innovative projects intended to increase its renewable energy portfolio, coupled with a goal to considerably increase its total of publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations to 10,000 across the city.
In transportation infrastructure, an automated people mover is beginning construction at Los Angeles International Airport, which will feed directly to Metro’s expanding rail network and create a valuable mass transit connection to one of the world’s busiest airports.