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LA Metro: Open for Business by Opening Doors; New Partnership Forum Focuses on Ideas, Innovation

Chief Innovation Officer
Los Angeles Metro

Among our chief goals at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) is to bring best practices in transportation from around the world to Southern California. With that in mind, we recently hosted nearly 400 business and industry leaders for a groundbreaking Industry Forum—Transformation Through Transportation (T3 Forum)—in downtown Los Angeles.

Countries attending illustrated the international nature of traffic issues. Attendees were from China, Korea, Japan, Canada, Spain and, of course, across the U.S.

The T3 Forum was intended to be a clear signal to the private sector and the general public that we want to hear their ideas and we are open for business.

We conveyed this in part by unveiling our new unsolicited proposal policy—a policy that opens the door for industry to partner with us by offering a direct conduit for their best ideas. All ideas submitted will be reviewed by L.A. Metro’s new Office of Extraordinary Innovation (OEI) and we are promising a response within 60 days. We hope this will greatly increase the flow of ideas and innovations from the private sector to L.A. Metro.

The OEI is championing new ideas for improving mobility throughout Los Angeles County while helping L.A. Metro create a balanced transportation system that includes all modes, from walking and bicycling to buses and trains, road and highway improvements to goods movement through our ports.

Also discussed at the forum were L.A. Metro’s plans for current and future transportation delivery and ways to partner with the private sector to introduce pilot programs, leverage local and state funds, optimize services and enhance the overall customer experience in an effort to increase transit ridership and improve mobility.

Throughout the half-day event, attendees heard L.A. Metro’s vision for innovation, the current status of projects and programs, plus challenges, risks and opportunities. A networking reception concluded the day’s activities and provided prospective proposers with a chance to talk with staff and ask questions.

Following the forum, LA Metro began accepting unsolicited private sector proposals under the new policy, which enables the agency to accept proposals that have been written without Metro supervision, endorsement, direction or direct involvement. These conceptual proposals will quickly be reviewed by the agency. If they are found to meet important criteria—such as being innovative, pragmatic, fiscally responsible and useful—the proposers may be asked to submit a more detailed proposal for review.

Among the advantages of this new process for both LA Metro and the private sector is that it will significantly shorten the review process. It also will allow the private sector to be creative in its solutions to traffic and infrastructure challenges, as well as innovative in creating new tools for mobility.

Here in L.A. County where traffic affects everything we do, there’s an urgency that commands us to think differently when approaching very challenging transportation problems. As a transit agency and regional planner for L.A. County, we tend to think from a certain point of view and can often be focused on just keeping the trains and buses running.

With the Industry Forum, we’ve now told the world that we don’t necessarily know the answer to every transportation challenge. We just know what we want to achieve: greater mobility and accessibility, better customer satisfaction, reduced environmental damage and improved safety. We want to hear any and all ideas about how we can get there.

Schank, L.A. Metro’s first chief innovation officer, is the former president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation. Schank, an urban planner, has worked on federal and state transportation policy for more than a decade.
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