LA to include digital ownership in municipal code

27th November 2019 Christopher Carey

Los Angeles is planning to amend its municipal code in order to define ownership of the city’s digital infrastructure.

While the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) has authority over physical street assets, rapid technological advancements have meant ownership of the digital realm is unclear.

Speaking on the sidelines of the City Leadership Forum held in Vancouver, Monique Earl, Assistant General Manager, LADOT told Cities Today: “We want to change the city’s ordinance to include the word digital, so that this realm is also looked at as infrastructure.

“We have control over the concrete–but also want control over the coding that will happen on the streetscape.”

Legislative change is required before the ordinance can be amended, with the process currently being examined by the city.

The ongoing shift towards a digital landscape has also prompted San Francisco to consider creating a dedicated office of emerging technology within its Department of Public Works, responsible for assessing and coordinating permit applications for technology-based services that use public infrastructure.

The concept was first mooted by the city’s Emerging Technology Working Group, which was founded in 2018 and includes more than 200 participants from the tech industry, academia and advocates.

“These things don’t impact just one single body, they’re spread across multiple departments,¨said Darton Ito, Deputy Director of Innovation & Program Delivery at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). “Standardising our processes, closing loopholes and providing a clear path for innovation is very important.”

The plan, which was announced in October is currently being assessed by the city’s board of supervisors, with a final decision expected by the end of the year.

Earlier this month, the SFMTA also announced a deal with Lyft’s Bay Wheels to provide 4,000 dockless e-bikes throughout the city under a four-year agreement, with the rollout of services set to begin in December.

The ride-hailer was forced to withdraw its bike fleet from San Francisco in July following a number of unexplained battery fires.

“The issue has now been resolved, it was a requirement for bringing the bikes back on our streets,” added Ito. “We’re kind of testing the boundaries of things here by expanding the programme, it will involve collecting information, analysing it, understanding what impact benefits these kinds of services are having, and then in the long term seeing how does that influence our transit policy.”

Last week the city’s county transport authority began a consultation process for the introduction of a congestion charge in the downtown, or South of Market (SoMa), neighbourhoods.

The transport authority says the study will aim “to understand whether congestion pricing could be an effective and fair tool to reduce congestion,” and will explore this in addition to discounts and subsidies for transit, biking and walking.

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