After several weeks of cold-calling and introducing myself to every member of the MTA that I could track down contact info for - I finally was put in touch with Paul Backstrom, the Transportation Policy Director for Councilmember Mike Bonin.
We spoke on the phone for roughly 50 minutes, going into the call I had four questions that I hoped to have answered, all of them geared towards effectively and efficiently presenting The Bridge as an unsolicited transit proposal to the MTA board:
- Areas of focus to lead with. IE, what was the board looking for?
- Common mistakes made by citizens submitting unsolicited proposals.
- Is this idea a new one?
- Advice on how to spark a fundamental shift in tech and approach.
Paul was very helpful and very open to my ideas, though, it was clear that no one within Bonin's office was going to necessarily jump at the opportunity to help move this project forward.
Paul made a few things clear to me on this phone call:
- The MTA simply procures existing tech.
- That I should reach out to the MTA's OEI (Office of Extraordinary Innovation).
- That CalTrans was just as large of a hurdle as the MTA.
- And that certain groups within the MTA were more interested in Congestion Pricing than expanding the scope and ridership of public transit.
Number four on the above list was, of course, the least encouraging to hear - Los Angeles recently passed Measure M and most people might assume that new revenue would lead to innovative approached to solving the world's worst-congested city. It may be a harsh simplicity, but the MTA proposing freeway tolls during high trafficked times of the day feels like a failure of imagination.
To be clear, I think most people living in LA would be all for Congestion Pricing if the Metro provided a comparable alternative to driving - however, the system of buses and rail falls hours short of driving times, which puts people in a tough spot.
In any case, it was good to finally discuss The Bridge with someone closely involved with the MTA. It seemed to be that Paul gave honest advice and feedback about the project.