LADOT Head Seleta Reynolds Tackles the Dangers of Traffic in Los Angeles


L.A. has 7,500 miles of streets, and they all lead back to Seleta Reynolds. As the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, she’s responsible for keeping us moving safely along. It’s a tough gig. Seven GMs came and went in 13 years before Reynolds left San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency to take the post in August 2014. Now she’s pursuing an agenda that’s as outsize as the city.

Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager
Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager

Illustration by Nigel Buchanan

One big goal: to rid the city of traffic-related fatalities by 2025 with a strategic plan called Vision Zero. Safer crosswalks are a first step. “We have a couple of hundred people dying every year just trying to get around town. That’s not an acceptable outcome of our transportation system. People will make mistakes, but the system should be designed to forgive those things so they’re not fatal. That’s a huge multijurisdictional lift that requires funding, but first it requires analysis and data. Because right now what drives the conversation is mostly anecdotes. We call that ‘anecdata.’ You’ve got to do as much as you can to bust myths about who a street’s for, why it operates the way it does, who’s using it when, et cetera.”

She wants the LADOT to be more in sync with how tech is changing traffic. “Whether it’s apps like Waze, providers like Lyft, or the arrival of connected and driverless vehicles, the city has a key role to play in making sure those upgrades benefit everybody in the city and not just the most likely candidates if we let the market decide where those services go.”

Another goal: more shared mobility along the lines of downtown’s forthcoming bike-share program. “We have a grant to bring easy car sharing to low-income communities. We’ve got a grant to bring something we call ‘mobility hubs’ to transit hubs in lower-income communities. So you will be able to get off the Red Line and use your smartphone to link to a bike-share bike or a car-share car or get real-time transit information to help make your connection seamless.”