Mobilities and pandemic in the city : case studies from Los Angeles


  • Jean DEBRIE University Paris 1 - Pantheon Sorbonne
  • Juliette MAULAT University Paris 1 - Pantheon Sorbonne
  • Celine VACCHIANI MARCUZZO University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne


Active mobility, Mobility Policies, pandemic, Transport modes




Los Angeles has been emblematic of the city of cars for decades. The urban form, economic trajectories and cultural dimension of the metropolis reveal the omnipresence of this mode of transport, with commuters spending an average of 2-3 hours a day in one of the most characteristic areas of dense urban sprawl (Eidlin, 2005) in the United States, if not the world. Against this backdrop, public transport and active mobility have a low priority, despite the city's long history of rail and tramway networks, which have shaped part of its urban structure (Lefèvre, 1984). While the development of public transport is not new, it has become a major issue in political debate, and a source of conflict, relatively recently (Elkind, 2014), following the undeniable effects in terms of congestion but above all environmental pollution. The public transport system, mainly based on bus and metrorail, falls under the jurisdiction of the County through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) and is concentrated in a relatively small central area.

The recent period has been marked by a shift, or at least a more pronounced focus on the issue of sustainability. The issue of active mobility (public transport, cycling, walking) is at the heart of metropolitan planning documents ("We Have a plan for our next LA", METRO) and municipal documents ("Sustainable mobility city Plan", LA Municipality), with increasing emphasis on the development of bicycle paths especially. In this new context, the Covid 19 pandemic has played a significant role in shifting policies in Los Angeles, as it has in many other cities around the world. The drop in public transport ridership, already low, is notable, as is a renewed interest in active mobility. Several schemes have been set up in this context, such as Bicycling LA.

The aim of the presentation is to examine the effects of the pandemic on active mobility policies in Los Angeles, on several scales: those of the METRO, the Los Angeles municipality, but also, on a finer scale, in two independent municipalities within Greater Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Culver City, which are relatively exemplary case studies. The aim will be to discuss the role of the pandemic in accelerating existing trends, to question the risk of divergence and fragmentation between the various public policies implemented, between the County and municipal levels, and to assess the social integration capacity of public transport and active mobility.


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ELKIND, E., 2014, Railtown. The fight for the Los Angeles Metro rail and the future of the city, University of California Press.

LEFEVRE, C., 1984, "Où les tramways font la ville. Los Angeles", Annales de la Recherche Urbaine, vol.21, p.85-105

LU Y., GIULIANO G., 2023, "Understanding mobility change in response to COVID-19: A Los Angeles case study", Travel Behaviour and Society, 31, 189–201