The city of Los Angeles is plagued with a serious infrastructure problem involving its sidewalks. But the city’s government — with over $3 billion in debt — is in need of solutions that are light on the price tag.
A recent report by Reason.tv’s Paul Detrick sought out such solutions. The problem, if not solved, could be a liability for the city over time.
“This is a serious safety condition,” Peter Griswold, a resident of Los Angeles, told Reason. “People can get hurt and people can die from falling down and hitting their head on the sidewalk, breaking bones.”
According to the report, 2,500 claims a year are made against the city for its poor sidewalk conditions, for which the Los Angeles Times reported back in September the city looks to spend $10 million for a three-year study to determine where the roughly 5,000 miles of bad sidewalks exist.
Adrian Moore, vice president of research at the Reason Foundation, said spending an additional $10 million on something the city should already have data on is “ridiculous.”
“The idea of spending $10 million on something that should have been the business of the streets department all along and for which there are much cheaper alternatives is ridiculous,” Moore said. “First of all, to think about this business of the streets department, it should be fundamentally their business that they know what they have, they know what condition it is. Clearly they don’t have any of that. They don’t even know where the sidewalks that need to be repaired are. They’re starting from scratch. They have not been doing their job for the last two decades.”
However, Griswold told Reason he could do it for much less than the $10 million price tag the city proposed.
“I could do it for nothing,” Griswold said. “It’s all volunteers. They would go out and document it with a photograph and [tag it] with the GPS. And email it instantaneously to contractors who would bid to repair the sidewalk problem within a particular grid area that might have ten-or-twenty-four hundred for that particular contract.”
Moore said Griswold’s idea was a good one since it decentralizes the process. However, he had little confidence that the city government would want to manage the data for such a huge undertaking.
“One of the problems that bureaucracies have, and L.A. in particular has, is nobody who manages these departments actually invests the management effort in saying let’s be ruthless in prioritizing what’s important, where the resources need to go, what’s going to bring the most benefit to the most people and stop doing all the trivial and expensive low benefit stuff,” Moore said. “Instead it’s a government of we got to do everything for everybody all the time. We’ve got to respond to every request. We can’t prioritize because that would be ‘picking and choosing’ and so we waste resources right now.”