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Eric Garcetti Talks About Transportation and Homelessness in Los Angeles

With the Olympics returning to California, the mayor talks about his plans to alleviate some of L.A.’s most pressing concerns

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

On Monday, it was announced that the 2028 Olympic Games will be held in Los Angeles, but not all Angelenos are pleased with the news. The event takes a structural and financial toll on its host cities, and while Los Angeles may be more prepared to shoulder this burden than most other cities across the world, Southern California likely won’t escape unscathed. On the most recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti talked about some of the city’s most pressing issues and the plans to prepare the city for the Olympics.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Bill Simmons: It’s not all hunky-dory [in Los Angeles].

Eric Garcetti: It’s not.

Simmons: I think the homelessness is as bad as it’s been since I’ve been here.

Garcetti: No. 1 in the country, unfortunately.

Simmons: The roads are in really bad shape. Traffic’s bad still. … I would just say those are the three biggest things right now and it seems like that crime is going up a bit.

Garcetti: Crime has leveled off. It’s still the fifth- or sixth-safest year in 60 years.

Simmons: That’s good.

Garcetti: And the increases have been in certain areas, it’s actually tied into, I think, tied to homelessness as we’ve had a lot of people come out of the criminal justice system. Everybody doesn’t want people locked away for 20 years for having a gram of something too much. But the savings that were supposed to go to the street to catch them when they got out early isn’t there. So I’ve been frustrated because these folks are coming out. It’s cheaper to get high than to get drunk. They’re living in tents. Skid Row and other places and we’re not serving them, we’re serving us. But the nice thing on traffic and homelessness, which are my top two priorities, the voters, the same election that changed the presidency, passed the biggest initiatives in both of those in American history. So that money’s just starting to come in and people are like, "Why isn’t it solved today?" It takes a minute. But over, it’ll be, let’s see, $4 billion for homelessness over the next 10 years to build housing and give mental health services and the whole anti-addiction stuff. And then on public transportation, we’re building 15 new rapid transit lines in L.A.

Simmons: Wow.

Garcetti: And that was approved by voters. So everything from Elon Musk, who we’re working with on new tunneling technology to speed it up, to, as we talked about, bringing public transportation to the airport and downtown. It’ll be a pretty transformed city. And Uber and Lyft were just the beginning. Connected cars is probably the quickest way to resolve traffic. Because when you think about it, a car about 95 percent of the time isn’t moving. So the idea you have to own your car then park it someplace, which is valuable real estate but takes away the city’s green space, increases the price of rents and stuff. L.A. is going to be a pretty transformed place and I think we’re going to lead the way. So no question we’re no. 1 in traffic, no. 1 in homelessness, but I think those are crowns we can lose.

Simmons: The carpool stuff seems like everybody can be better at that.

Garcetti: The carpool stuff, think about it. The old model of carpool was try to work it out so you and I are going to the same place coincidentally and we can do that every single day. The new one is essentially car share.

Simmons: Yeah, car sharing I guess is a better way to put it.

Garcetti: And the technology too … I don’t think autonomous vehicles, fully autonomous in complicated cities, are right around the corner. But interconnected ones are. So you know that frustration on the freeway of, I don’t see an accident, but why is everybody stopping and going— if we just all hit the accelerator at the same time, we’d go. When traffic is at its peak, which is only about 10 percent of the day, 95 percent of the streets don’t have a car on top of it. So it’s just inefficient space. We think we’re closer to the cars, we’re stopping and going, but once cars are connected to each other and can be a foot away and never hit each other, that’s almost like doubling your capacity. So we have the money to do this. I want L.A. to be the first big city in America to test that stuff. And like I said, it takes a minute. Nobody’s saying tomorrow it’s going to be no traffic, but think about Carmageddon. Everybody said it was going to be the worst ever—

Simmons: That was the best weekend ever to drive in the history of L.A.

Garcetti: It was! Because you take a few people off the roads … You get like 5, 10 percent of people off the roads and it flows.

Simmons: It was great. I was flying!

Garcetti: So part of it is changing behavior, and if need be, it is also, in the future, charging people for the roads they use. So if everybody knew they’d have to pay more to come into the city every single day—

Simmons: That’s a good idea.

Garcetti: — we would figure out ways to do car share more often so three or four people would come in from the Antelope Valley to downtown to their jobs.

Simmons: The 110 is fun with that because you put the little thing on your dashboard—

Garcetti: Yeah, the transponder.

Simmons: — and you can fly through.

Garcetti: Yeah. And we’re gonna do more of those lanes which people really like. So there’s good things in the future but no question right now, that’s the toughest part of living in L.A.