Monday, December 31, 2007

SoCal Voices 3: Former Mets Transportation Engineer Marybeth Miceli Looks at Staples Center

Have a Very Transit New Year...Or At Least Try

As the former transportation engineer for the NY Mets, I was in charge of traffic demand management, VMS, wayfinding, transit, remote parking, shuttles, and general coordination with the zillion different agencies involved with transportation around Shea Stadium and the new Citi Field currently under construction in the parking lots adjacent to Shea. I spent two years on the project. I tell you this so you are aware of where I am coming from when I speak about the transportation access and egress at the Staples Center during a recent Lakers games.

Now, I have never before been to the Staples Center (being new to the L.A. area and neither rooting for the Lakers, nor the Clippers, nor the Kings, nor the Sparks, nor whoever else plays there). So I began by visiting the Lakers website for directions to the arena because I was going to a Lakers game. On the directions page, there is no mention of mass transit anywhere (though we will find out later, there is mass transit around the arena and we witnessed some people even taking it!) Not one mention of transit. In fact, you can’t even find any mention of transit on the entire site! My favorite part though is that under the directions it boasts, "the arena is accessible from many freeways", well of course it is, we’re in L.A. The handy dandy map provided is very helpful in showing all of the plentiful surface parking around the stadium but oddly, doesn’t show the many transit stops that are even closer than the parking at times. See below for the Lakers’ super helpful map.

By contrast, the NY Mets give transit directions first and have pushed transit through deals with the major transit rail agencies in the NY Metro area and a ton of advertising. You can see their very detailed and helpful directions here.
In fact Mr. Met and Mayor Bloomberg have encouraged mass transit to the game (the extensive ‘Take the Train to the Game’ campaign) in various TV and print ads, as well as in the stadium itself. The Mets have also added a ferry service as another appealing transit option.
So, of course, after seeing how poor the Lakers website was, in disbelief, I went searching for mention of transit and the Staples center anywhere.

I found it...sort of.

So, if you visit the Staples Center website and go to the directions page and scroll to the bottom, you can get...a phone number for the transit, that’s great, thanks Staples Center.

Hey Lakers, Hey Staples Center, pay attention! Go to the Kings website...they list something called... transit.

Well, ok, they list trains and not buses but we’re getting closer to useful.

Then I went to the Clippers site and got very excited because they have a whole page called "Public Transportation", FINALLY.

Except...the page lists the same contact info as on the Staples site with this paragraph added:
"There are many alternative forms of transportation to STAPLES Center events, including Metro Rail and Metro buses which frequently stop near STAPLES Center. If you're coming to STAPLES Center by train, Metro Rail Pico Station is only a block away from the STAPLES Center. To find the route that's best for you, use the Trip Planner on"

Well, ok, at least the Clippers acknowledge the existence of alternative transportation (though I’d like to point out mass transit is not the only form of alternative transportation but I guess I’m being picky) whereas it seems maybe the Lakers think it is some sort of mythical creature and refuse to use their website to propagate such a myth.

Well, enough about the Lakers joke of a website. Moving on.

Upon arriving at the arena, I was impressed...yes impressed. The parking permits are color coded so that traffic management teams can easily identify and direct vehicles to the correct parking area.

The signage and VMS (variable message signage) was well distributed. The pedestrian wayfidning was well planned, very visible and even architecturally appealing. The pedestrian walkways and crosswalks were well marked and wide. The signal timing allowed for easy pedestrian crossing to surrounding parking lots. The pavement markings for vehicles were clear. And to be fair, the immense amounts of surface parking is shared between venues which is better planning than designated parking for just Staples or just Nokia (though it looked as though a Nokia specific parking structure was being built.) Even during egress, they close Chick Hearn Blvd. for pedestrian safety and ease of egress from the arena. All in all the operations and planning in the immediate vicinity of the stadium was well thought out and executed.

However, here are my suggestions. So much more can be done to enhance the fan experience, to encourage patronage of the local businesses and vendors and generally for urban revitalization in the area.

1. The parking lots are spread out around the vicinity of the arena. Great, let’s use this to promote local businesses or local vendors as it is done around Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
If the parking layout is not going to be used for revitalization then just build one tall parking structure and allow the immense amount of surface parking land to be used to revitalize the neighborhood.
2. Transit...on the Lakers website...promote transit deals...consistency of information between teams and venues. Transit, transit, transit equals less congestion. And many stadiums are now planning transit oriented development (TOD) with residential and retail venues around the arena. That would certainly help revitalize the area.
3. Since Flower is a bike route, maybe some bike parking and some mention on the website.
In short, there are many things the Staples Center does correctly...for vehicles and people walking from their vehicles, period. There is so much more that can be done though. Transit should be encouraged and patronage of local businesses and/or vendors should be encouraged. With such a busy arena and large theater right in the area so much more can be done to encourage revitalization of the neighborhood. One might dare to say that the large venues there have an obligation to work with the city to encourage such a revitalization, certainly everyone would benefit. And transit would play a large role.
So, at the very least, let’s try to promote the use of transit and reduce congestion in the area. It can and has been done. The NY Mets have successfully achieved and maintained a modal shift from approximately 25% transit to 50% transit with a concerted marketing effort by the Mets and the MTA and by providing LESS parking. Perhaps a lesson can be learned here. Provide less parking, encourage mass transit and maybe, just maybe we can get people out of their cars and onto mass transit.
New Year’s is described on Wikipedia as "an event that happens when a culture celebrates the end of one year and the beginning of the next year." Wouldn’t it be great if we could at least try to embrace transit culture in L.A. in the New Year and dissuade the insane car culture here?
Marybeth Miceli served as the senior transportation engineer for the New York Mets in 2006 and 2007. She now lives in Los Angeles and serves as Chief Operating Officer of an engineering firm.

Street Heat Clips Are Back!

Times Readers Hate HOT Lanes (Times)

Local Neighborhood Opposed to Pico-Olympic Plan (Jewish Journal)

Rush Hour Starting Earlier (Daily News, Daily Breeze)

Mayor Focuses on Gridlock in New Year (Daily News)

City Council Getting More Powerful (Daily News)

Free Metro on New Year's Eve (Press-Telegram)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

SoCal Voice 2: Joe Shaw, Huntington Beach Planning Commissioner, Talks About Transportation in the Suburbs

Greetings from Huntington Beach! Most of Orange County and Huntington Beach as well, was built on the back of the mighty interstates, which led to the massive development that is Southern California. I want to tell you a little about my town and our challenges as a pedestrian and transit friendly town.

Much of my city is defined by sprawl: subdivision after subdivision, cul-de-sac-ed and surrounded by walls, you know, the American Dream. Many of our streetscapes near our older subdivisions feature dismal, diminished sidewalks abutting walls, that seem to be mostly there as an afterthought. Few dare to walk these streets. Who’d want to?

Amazingly enough, Downtown Huntington Beach and Old Town--the parts of town that are walkable--are the parts that are the most derided by our residents as noisy, dirty and full of people, you know, urban. What many of our residents moved here to escape.

But these are the parts of my city that I love, there’s nothing better to me than walking around our downtown with my dog, which I do several times a day. Usually along my walk, I greet people that I see everyday, stop to catch up with people I haven’t seen, you know, like it used to be when people were connected to the place they lived.

People ride their bikes in droves downtown, downtown has events in the summer, a street fair on Tuesday nights, a farmer’s market on Friday afternoons, a famous pier and a sunset to-die-for nearly everyday of the year. We can get almost everything we need here by foot. We’ll soon have a drugstore. A grocery we can walk or bike to is on downtown residents’ wish list.

A big challenge for us in the future, as fossil fuels become more expensive and less available, will be to find away to retrofit our subdivisions, create more walkable streetscapes and promote sustainable mixed-use development that provides more services that people can access by foot or bicycle. The days of the stand-alone mall that you can only access by your SUV are numbered.

Our city has started to move in that direction, slowly but surely. We have a number of mixed-use projects in the planning pipeline. We’re in the final stages of creating areas along two of our major corridors for mixed-use zoning.

Unfortunately, many of the people here, as everywhere, are still living in a world that doesn’t recognize that the suburbs’ best days are probably behind us. Even the environmentalists who have worked hard to save and restore our numerous wetlands, have yet to fully embrace the need for more density and mixed-use development in our city.

That’s why it’s important for us all to continue to talk about making cities more walkable, and finding mass transit solutions. The conversation we’re having with each other on blogs like this needs to filter out to the masses and create a demand for change in the way we develop cities.

Joe Shaw is a member of the City of Huntington Beach Planning Council. Joe also wrote a great piece called New Suburbanism. You can read all about Joe (and read some of his writings) at his website

SoCal Voice 1: Pastor Joshua Elliott-McGuffie Preaches Virtue of Bike Commuting

So I'm a bike commuter, or at least I was up until an amateur football match two weeks ago at Pan-Pacific Park, next to the Grove.

Ending up on the wrong end of a tackle, my right foot has now been multiple shades of purple and I've been told by various medical personnel to 'stay off it' for either a) the next few weeks or b) until a leftist is in the White House.

This is troubling to me. First of all because these lovely, cool, clear days are great days to be out on the bike in West LA (the siren song of the Santa Monica Bay Bike Path is so sweet). Secondly, because I now have to rely on my mostly-trusty '79 Mercedes 240d (The Desert Fox) to get around the West Side. This is a hassle for everybody, mostly for my wife, Nicole, who's stuck ferrying me around. From a less narcissistic standpoint though, having to drive around in the car is a hassle because it means needing to participate in the vehicular orgy that is rush hour in Los Angeles and it means needlessly spewing out hydrocarbon exhaust as we putter around Palms/Mar Vista.

First hassle: Rush Hour

Sitting in a miles-long queue of cars kills men's souls. Doesn't matter if it's on the freeway or on surface streets, a mass pneumaticide is going on in the greater Los Angeles area every day. Sure KUSC or KCSN provide calming classical music, sure KPCC will allow you to drown out your sorrows in progressive news and banter, sure KFUO will indulge the insanity you feel after taking 45 minutes to get between Wishire and Olympic on Westwood. But at best, the airwaves are only filling a part of all of us that is dead, killed by the crawling king snake of steel, plastic, and rolling rubber. We need to get cars off the road. More of us need to file onto buses or enjoy the sartorial splendor of whizzing, on the right in the liberated zone between the cars and the curb, past the stopped line of cars on our bicycles.

Second hassle: Exhaust

I like the folks in the Inland Empire as much as the next person. My college roommate was from Yucaipa. I have a colleague in Upland whom I respect. Yet, I feel pangs of guilt when, turning the key and feeling the 2.4 Litres of pure diesel power, the Fox is fired up and CO2, CO, NO2, NO and a host of Particulates warm the cold winter air behind my exhaust pipe. If these various and sundry emissions were to stay in place, I suppose that would be kinda OK. But given the offshore breeze that makes Palms a quasi-Eden, my vehicular refuse will end up as part of the lovely haze that graces the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire, and eventually, if conditions are perfect, the Mojave National Preserve. The fine folk and flora and fauna of these locals simply don't need this gift that I have to offer them every time my four-speed performance machine hits the road. Much better would it be, and has it been, for me to bike the 1.5 miles to work and for my wife to walk down to Venice Blvd. to take the bus all the way to CSULA. We find ourselves in the desirable position of living within walking distance of a Trader Joe's, Albertsons, two bars, and a number of restaurants. We live within easy biking distance of a Whole Foods, a Target, and the Westside Pavilion. Really, much of LA live within easy walking or biking distance of much of what we need to live on a week-to-week basis. We just need to start walking and biking more, treating our cars properly, as a guilty pleasure, best used driving up PCH or Angeles Crest Highway on Saturdays!

So, use your legs! Be good stewards of both your body and the earth! I'd pontificate more, but I'm off to practice on my crutches so I can make the walk up the hill on Palms to Sepulveda, so I can bus it to work on Sunday.

Pastor Joshua Elliott-McGuffie, STS, serves St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in West LA.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post XMAS News - Not a Lot Out There

Road Rage Devastates LA Family (Daily Breeze)

Nine Injured in Pileup on 101 (CBS2)

Paper: EPA Wrong on All Accounts (Vacaville Reporter)

Cyclist Shot in Drive-By (CBS2)

Santa Monica Tree Savers Illustrate Their Problem with SM's Plans (Tree Savers)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Clips

While The Metro Library is away for two days, I'll try and do news clips for the junkies out there.

A rant about car-cultured laziness (Metro Rider)

LA as a Green Leader (Planetizen)

Congress Steps in to EPA/Schwarzenegger Brawl... (eFM)

...As does NJ Governor Jon Corzine (Bergen Record)

Highway 91 Express Lanes toll will hit $10 in January (Press Enterprise)

Which Way to Funding (for Subway to the Sea?) (LAist)

Holy Cross Hospital Needs More Transportation Options (San Fernando Business Journal)

Former AMTRAK and NJ Transit Head George Warrington Dead at 55 (Newark Star Ledger)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Announcing the "SoCal Voices" Series

Streetheat will be operating at about half power for the next week and a half. Between the holidays, my travel back east, and working on an exciting change for next year; I'm going to be very busy...too busy for three posts of unique content a day.

However, for those of you that read this blog daily, I've arranged for some help over the next twelve days. Four different SoCal residents (at least) will be writing posts about their own experiences and opinions on our transportation network. They'll cover everything from the urban planning around the Staples Center to life in the suburbs.

If you'd like to join them with a post about something that's been on your mind about the LA Transportation scene...I'd be happy for the extra help. Email me at

Today's Headlines

Coalition Established to Fight Pico/Olympic Plan (City Watch)

CA Emissions Lawsuit to Be Heard in EPA's "Home Court" (Times)

Robinson Plans to Fix Woodland Hills (City Watch)

LA Weekly, MetroRider, Look at Turnstiles (LA Weekly, Metro Rider)

Grueul Shocked By Lack of Transportation Plan (City Watch)

Bush Expected To Sign Federal Legislation Lifting Tunneling Ban, Aiding Purple Line Expansion (KNBC)

Disney's Highway to Hell, an old 9 minute cartoon. Hilarious and scarifying at the same time. (Streetsblog)

Today Is the Longest Day of the Year, Drive Carefully (Daily News)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

LADOT's Press Release on Downtown Fare Changes Probably Too Late to Control Blame

As we approach the start of the new year, we also get closer to the end of the free transfer between LADOT and Metro. While this blog writer seems to be the only person outside of city government that care about this "stealth fare hike", based on the collective yawn the news has received from advocacy groups, it is somewhat amusing to compare LA DOT's press release with the one from Metro that announced the change.

Metro announces the policy change in a "just the facts" press release that states that Metro announced the policy change earlier this month. By beating LADOT to the punch (Metro's release beat LADOT's to the punch by over a week), Metro was able to control the early coverage of the story. None of the stories last week mentioned that the free transfer was eliminated because of a decision by Metro staff to eliminate the program.

LADOT's is more blunt, laying the blame directly at the feet of Metro.


Because Metro beat LADOT to the punch with an earlier press release and because DASH drivers will be the ones informaing most DASH/Metro patrons of the change; the blame for this change will probably be laid on LADOT and not the staff at Metro who came to this decision.

A quick word of thanks... the police office directing traffic at the corner of Fairfax and 3rd yesterday afternoon.

While leadership from City Hall seems bound and determined to figure out creative ways to move more cars and not more people; this officer not only held up traffic trying to make a right to go North on Fairfax so pedestrians could cross the street safely...he actually encouraged pedestrians to take their time to cross the street as safely as possible. When a car tried to speed us along by inching up on the crosswalk he earned a sharp rebuke from the officer and was further delayed.

So let it be know, at one cross walk, on one day...Car wasn't king.

Today's Clips

Councilman Reyes Calls for Better Bike Facilities (KNBC, CBS2)

Good Job, Congress. New Energy Bill the 'Hammer' Used to Squash State's Emission Regs (Times, SacBee, Daily News)

Governor Vows to Fight EPA in Courts (Green Daily News)

EPA Had Approved Other CA Requests on Fuel-Efficiency (Times)

Gov. Also Backs Container Tax (Daily News)

Panel Picks High Speed Rail Route (Contra Costa Times)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SCAG’s Top Goal for Bike/Ped: Reduce Fatalities by 25%

It isn’t easy to try to analyze a Regional Transportation Plan without a close examination of the project list (which isn’t available yet) but a first read of the Southern California Association of Governments' RTP shows an agency at least somewhat committed to improving lives for those that don’t take their care everywhere. There will be much more coverage of this report here in the coming weeks, but first lets look at the bike/ped section.

SCAG set out six goals for "non-motorized travel." In short, they are:
1. Decrease bicyclists and pedestrians fatalities and injuries in the state to 25% below 2000 levels.
2. Bike/Ped issues need to be considered as part of all projects.
3. While pedestrian sidewalks are fairly well established in most areas, it is estimated that there are only 3,218 miles of dedicated bicycle facilities in the region, with an additional 3,170 miles planned.
4. Increase non-motorized transportation data: To make non-motorized modes an integral part of the region’s intermodal transportation planning process and system, reliable data for planning are needed.
5. Bicycling and Pedestrians should always be included in general plan updates. SCAG also encourages the development of local Non-Motorized Plans.
6. Develop a Regional Non-motorized plan: SCAG will work with all counties and their cities to coordinate and integrate all non-motorized plans from counties and jurisdictions.

The full text of the goals can be found on page 19 of this link.

Naturally, I have a couple of quick thoughts.

First, a little research shows that CALTRANS already has a goal of reducing "non-motorized fatalities" by 50%. That goal can be found on page 21 of this report. Sometime tomorrow or Friday, I’ll do some research on what this goal actually is in real numbers.

Second, back in Jersey we added specific goal-based language for building 1,000 miles of new bike lanes every five years. While I don’t think we ever made that goal, it was more effective in encouraging bike/ped to be added to road projects than the more vague language that SCAG uses here. Of course, if SCAG is serious about wanting to make sure bike/ped concerns are part of the planning process it could throw its weight behind Complete Streets Legislation.

Lastly, you can tell you’re in Carifornia when walking is defined as "travel without a car."

Today's Clips

Times Writer Calls Using Metro and Bike Commuting "Painful" Ways to Help the Environment. Recommends Being in a Better Mood (Times)

Business Writer Uses "Lexus-Lanes" Argument Against HOT Lanes (Smart Money)

Metro Rider Looks at Line 728 (Metro Rider)

Congress Moving to Lift West LA Tunneling Ban (San Diego Union Tribune)

New Transportation Blogger Joins Us Online (Transportation Information Group)

Carpool Lanes Coming to Route 60 (Press-Enterprise)

Conservative Mag: Solution to Global Warming "to stop having babies and become bicycle-riding vegans" (FrontPage Magazine)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Update: for a shopping center with 3.8 million gross square feet of leasable area

For anyone working on comments for the Warner Center Mall, I got some sobering numbers for the amount of trips that will be generated by the addition to your local mega-mall.

The following chart is from the ITE trip generation manual, for a shopping center with 3.8 million gross square feet of leasable area:

Original story here.

From Transportation Alternatives in New York: City Pedestrian Crossings Are Discriminatory by Design

photo courtesy:Streetsblog

A story on Streetsblog yesterday covered a report by the reform group Transportation Alternatives showing what many have already guessed. Because of the size of many "urban boulevards" and the short cross time granted, most urban roads are discriminatory to elderly pedestrians.

I'll let T.A.'s Deputy Director of Planning, Carla Quintero, take it from here. Remember, she's talking about New York's street design, but is there any doubt that there findings would apply LA as well?

There are currently over one million senior citizens living in New York City. While they represent only about 13 percent of the population, they account for 33 percent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Discriminatory by Design (pdf), a report released today by Transportation Alternatives, finds that street design, and in particular the width of a street, is a major contributing factor in negatively influencing pedestrian and driver behavior.

The study focused on the Upper East Side, an area with a high concentration of elderly residents as well as wide cross-town streets that are crossed by thousands of pedestrians and vehicles each day. Within this neighborhood, Transportation Alternatives and Rachel Krug, a doctoral student at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, observed vehicles and pedestrians at 18 locations, 6 wide crossings and 12 narrow crossings (30 feet).

The team found that senior citizens begin to show signs of distress and engage in dangerous crossing behavior -- such as speeding up their walking pace, walking unsteadily, standing in the street before beginning to cross and crossing before the signal has changed -- at wider crossings to compensate for the fact that they walk at slower speeds. Coupled with the fact that 95 percent of vehicles observed during the study period did not yield to pedestrians, the study concludes that wider streets present unacceptable risks to elderly pedestrians. These risks have an overwhelming impact on the well-being and quality of life of senior citizens.

To reduce these risks, Transportation Alternatives recommends that the city re-time pedestrian signals to accommodate senior average walking speeds of 3 feet per second (currently the signals are timed for speeds of 4 feet per second) and implement measures such as leading pedestrian intervals and curb extensions that would protect senior citizens from turning vehicles. The study also calls for a public awareness campaign to educate drivers and the public as to what it is like to be a senior pedestrian.

Today's Clips

Metro Rider IS BACK! (And complaining about the 770) (Metro Rider)

Congress' Greenhouse Gas Bill Won't Make Sweeping Changes to Cars (Times)

An Answer to the World of War Craft/Truck Commercial. Prof Uses Video Game for Transit Planning (OC Register)

Elderly Resistant to Giving Up Driver's License (Ventura County Star)

How Did I Miss These Yesterday?

L.A.'s Bike-Unfriendly Festival (Times)

Planners find Southland a hell on Earth (OC Register)

Monday, December 17, 2007

StreetHeat Holiday Shopping Guide

With just seven shopping days left until Christmas, your friendly neighborhood transportation blogger has some holiday ideas for all of you to pass on to all of yours. Unfortunately, I'm way to late for the Eco Gift Expo.

For that special cyclist in your life:

Get them a copy of Eat!Sleep?Bikes! available on line at Sascha's myspace page.

Orange 20, LA's Hottest Bike Shop, has a hot new bike in stock. If you don't have $600 just lying around, you can always do a gift certificate....

Have I mentioned that the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition is having a holiday sale on memberships?

If they already have a membership, you could always rent them a bike locker by their nearest transit stop...

For that Special Transit Rider:

Speaking of memberships, The Transit Coalition and the Southern California Transit Advocates are always looking for new members.

Metro's online store has a lot of different knick-knacks for sale. I like the token lapel pins. AMTRAK also has an online store.

Since we won't be seeing high-speed rail coming to SOCAL anytime soon, maybe a gift certificate to AMTRAK isn't such a bad idea...or heck...why not a whole AMTRAK vacation?

If you have a transit rider who uses Metro and DASH services, you might want to get them a one month EZ PASS, so they can remember what it was like when they didn't have to pay to transfer between services.

Regardless of your gift choice, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Today and Weekend Clips

Undercover at Santa Monica Critical Mass (SM Daily Press)

Politicians Must Learn to Sell Road Pricing (Economist)

Anaheim's Downtown Plan Threatened By Traffic (Times)

New Metro Monitors Show Train Schedule (Angelinic)

LaBonge Takes Aim at Transit Planning (Studio City Sun)

Truckers Say Clean Air Law Will Bankrupt Them (Orange County Business Journal)

America's Dumbest Transit Sign (Metro Mole)

Riverside Columnist Calls for More Concrete! (Californian)

California High-Speed Rail Authority Calls for More High Speed Rail (Daily News)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mega Mall Wants Your Comments (Well, maybe not your comments...but it does want someones comments.)

The Woodland Hills/Warner Center Neighborhood Council wants your feedback on the expansion of its mega-mall in the valley. Paradox Unbound has the best description of the Warner Center Deverlopment Project I could find online:

The project will link the adjacent Westfield Topanga and Westfield Promenade malls, creating a massive shopping and entertainment district that will be the undisputed hub of the western San Fernando Valley. At 3.8 million square feet in combined size, the three centers will rival Orange County's South Coast Plaza for regional prominence.

Unlike its neighbors Westfield Topanga and Westfield Promenade, The Village in Warner Center will not be a traditional enclosed mall with department store anchors. Instead, it will offer an outdoor environment organized around internal streets, a format commonly referred to as a "lifestyle center." The company has not decided on how it will connect the two indoor malls and the proposed outdoor village.
If you look at the survey, you'll see that there is some area for transportation/related comments. I thought I would share some of them with you.
"I live within walking distance of The Grove to the West, just North of Beverley. The Grove has a very nice indoor street pattern with a trolley system integrated with wide, clean sidewalks. It's not a bad place to visit. However, the design of the street grid around The Grove is decidedly pedestrian unfriendly. If I want to park a bike or have a pleasant walk to get to The Grove I actually have to travel east past The Grove and park my bike/enter through the Farmer's Market. It doesn't make sense to me to try and create a great pedestrian environment that is difficult to travel to as a pedestrian.
You should also make certain that all transit stops near the new mall area have safe and attractive features to encourage people to take transit to the outdoor mall.
3.8 million square feet is a lot of retail space. If you want to be a good neighbor, you should do your best to make sure you're not inducing thousands of new car trips onto local streets."

eat!sleep?bikes! - Awesome

Director Sasha Perry and Team Bonobo

Writing this post was one of the harder things I've done here...what do I focus on, the awesome movie, or the crowd of cyclists that greeted it? Let's try both..

The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition and the Bike Oven put on a great event that literally packed the house so tight that people were sitting on the floor and standing in the street. But on top of raising money for a good cause, people showed up to watch the documentary eat!sleep?bikes?

The documentary, directed by Sasha Perry, is about four friends who love their bikes and decided to take on a five hundred and eight mile bike race from LA and through Death Valley. Just to make their lives more difficult, the "four rider vegan relay team" decided to do the trip on single gear bikes.

I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone that's interested in watching it later (I have a copy in my house and have it on now, just come on over!), so I'm just going to say this. The documentary was professionally done with excellent camera work and editing and the story is entertaining, due in large part to the personalities of the racing team, Team Bonobo. Finding out everything from the plight of the Bonobo to what a banana tastes like after 508 miles attached somewhere to a cyclist is both fun and inspiring.

Instead of just telling you about how the event was, let me show you....incidentally, it isn't too late to join LACBC at their holiday rate....

This event, brought to you by the LACBC and the Bike Oven...

LACBC staffer Dorothy is hard at work signing up new members, greeting the event stars and signing the guests in...

There's nothing like a packed Oven on a cold night (rimshot).

With plenty of folks still chilling outside

Today's Clips

Toll Lanes Will Charge HOV's (Times)

Federal Energy Bill Tougher on Emissions, Nicer to Big Oil (Times)

Officials fuming on road funding (San Bernadino Sun)

We're #4! Earth Lab Foundation Ranks Green Cities (Press Release)

LA Gets High-Tech Parking Meters (Daily News, KNBC, CBS2)

Planners And Developers Have Grand Visions For Empty Land in L.A. (Planetizen)

CS Monitor: Mayor Takes Hits for Not Supporting BRU (Christian Science Monitor)

Presidential Debates Ignore Urbanites (NY Times)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Congressional Resource Service: California Better Than Most on GHG Density

A new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the non-partisan research branch of the legislative branch of government, ranks each state in terms of their Greenhouse Gas emissions per capita (called GHG Intensity Levels) and releases a dire warning about how far we have to go to even come close to meet the goals set in the Kyoto protocol.

First, the good news. California compares well to other states when looking at GHG Intensity ranking 4th being Vermont, New York and Connecticut. However, before we start putting up the streamers we should note that temperature has a lot to do with GHG emissions as the states with the highest GHG Intensity are
Wyoming, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana and Alaska.

All that being said, the report concludes we're a long way away from even being on the path to meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol or Governor Scharzenegger's emission reduction goals we're going to have to each reduce our personal emissions at a much faster rate than we already are.

Reducing GHG emissions in the United States would necessitate further declines in GHG intensity. Several legislative proposals in the 110th Congress would require GHG emissions to return to 1990 levels by 2020.40 To meet this objective, national GHG intensity would need to decline annually (starting in 2010) by 5.0%. As of 2003, the most recent data used by CRS, Californians were reducing their GHG Intenstiy by 1.9% per year.

Compounding the problem, California isn't maximizing its transportation resources. When government officials are promoting the newest popular road capacity enhancement project they often claim it will reduce congestion and thus reduce the amount of GHG's in the atmosphere. However, the CRS doesn't seem to think so. A search for the word congestion will have no hits in the report.

The Case of the Disappearing Question

It could just be that I'm going crazy or senile...but I would swear that yesterday I read a question in Pam O'Conner's online chat asking about Metro's policy concerning Metro's advertisement policies. Specifically, they were concerned that Metro was accepting "racist" advertisements on their buses, stations and bus stops. On my way home from the Council meeting, I grabbed a picture of one of the advertisements.

So, here's the racist ad...what do you think? Is this poster acceptable or not?

Today's Clips

Suit Against State Emission Standards Rejected (Times, SacBee, Gov's press release)

Article Calls for New Roads in Riverside Because of LA Ports (North County Times)

City Council Nonsensically Ends Free Parking for Hybrids Unless They Have the Magic Stickers (Wasn't the sticker program supposed to be an incentive to buy???) (KTLA, CBS2)

Original Flat Earth Society Calls Climate Change Threat Overblown (Daily Mail)

UCLA Professor Rocks NYC (Streetsblog)

EU's Had Enough of US Greenhouse Policies (Times)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pico/Olympic Meeting Announced

At the end of the committee hearing, Rosendahl announced the time and location of his promised public meeting on the Mayor's Pico/Olympic Plan. The meeting will be held on January 9 at 7 P.M., at Daniel Webster Middle School, 11330 West Graham Pl.
(photo from Los Angeles Times)

Council Committee Moves on HOT Lanes

Despite vocal opposition from Councilam Tom LaBonge (but not a "no vote") the City Council Transportation Committee endorsed the further study of turning current and proposed HOV lanes on Greater LA highways into HOT (High Occupancy/Toll) Lanes by Metro. Metro is preparing a proposal, due by the end of the year, to the FHWA for a grant to pilot HOT Lanes in the very near future.
While there will certainly be a public process before HOT Lanes would be implemented, getting the approval to move forward by the full council is something that would be a lot more controversial back east. Don't count out opposition from LaBonge who, in his own words, "might not vote for them (HOT Lanes) in the future."
There was some mixed action on improving the system in the city. While the Council heard an update on the progress of adding bus-only lanes to Wilshire Boulevard, it also moved a motion to remove a bus-only lane from the 180-foot northbound bus only lane segment on Hill Street north of 12th Street after nearly 10 years of operation.
Lastly, Councilman Bill Rosendahl had the quote of the night when during a report on SCAG's plans for 2008 remarked that, "I don't see any connection between SCAG and the real world."

Does Metro Board Chair Take Metro? Apparently, Yes...(updated)

(ed note: I think the entire chat can be viewed here. Longtime readers will remember I had trouble figuring out Metro's website during the first one of these...The Update Is at the Bottom)

Today's chat with Metro Board Chairwoman Pam O'Connor stayed in reasonably safe ground avoiding topics such as the end of reciprocity between Metro and DASH, where the funding is coming from for those ever-popular turnstiles and whether or not there's plans for a fare hike in 2008. I know it's not that Metro didn't receive any questions on these topics, because I asked them myself...

On top of updates on future rail expansion, dealing with minor issues like damaged bike lockers and on-bus annunciators, O'Conner did find time to repeatedly promote Metro's HOT Lanes proposal (although she didn't use those words) as both a means to fight congestion and a way to raise funds for future projects.

There were two questions/answers that stuck out for me though...

Question: Why did MTA remove the "Bus Only" lane on Wilshire Blvd between San Vicente and (past) Bundy? Philip
Good afternoon, Philip. Well, the one mile peak-period bus-only lane on Wilshire Boulevard was recently removed by the City of Los Angeles after 3 years of operation. The performance of the bus lane was very good with transit riders stating the bus lanes allowed their buses to move faster and more reliably through this often congested segment of the boulevard. But the City of Los Angeles stated that the lane was too short to be effective and should be removed until such time as a longer segment could be implemented. (For the rest of the answer see the full chat.)

Wait a second...transit riders said the bus-only lane was effective and cut down on their commute but the city decided unilaterally that the lane was too short and should be removed? That doesn't sound like effective government...

Question: Pam, As a straphanger in New York and Los Angeles for many years, I am intimately familiar with both systems. (I might add that while NYC is called metro, most folk still recognise it as three agencies: the BMT, IND and IRT.) Anyhow, the mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, rides the east side line (4,5,6) to work (Brooklyn Bridge station) at City Hall in lower Manhattan. Which train or bus do you take to work at One Gateway Plaza?
I don't "work at's a part time policy making position. But I have several options to get downtown LA. For me the #10 Big Blue Bus works best if I'm going directly. But, depending on my path of travel I can take the Metro Wilshire Rapid downtown and take the DASH, or Metro Rapid to subway...and Dash to get around central LA!

Happy Holidays live chat is Jan 23 at noon!

He didn't ask what lines you could take. He asked what lines you did take. Big difference.

UPDATE: One of the great things about blogging as opposed to writing in a more traditional media outlet is that you can correct mistakes immediately. I've gotten a comment and a personal email letting me know I was way off base questioning whether or not Metro Board Chair O'Conner takes transit. Apparently she regularly does. Instead of making a comment about transit officials who don't take transit, I just nitpicked the way someone answered a question. I'm certainly no grammar and spelling expert, and I apologize for the insinuation in my commentary.

Reading the Newspaper's So You Don't Have To

Anaheim Wants a Dense Downtown (Times)

Burbank Adds Hydrogen Buses (San Fernando Valley Business)

Live Online Chat with Metro Boss Today (

Toronto Street Plan Puts Pedestrians and Transit Riders First (Toronto Star via Planetizen)

This set of clips taken verbatim from Streetsblog...
Americans Could Save Themselves, and the Planet, by Walking ... (AlterNet)

... But "Drive Score" Helps Ensure They Won't Have To (Transit Miami)

Oh Well -- It's Too Late to Stop Climate Change Anyway (Grist)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Test Driving a Hydrogen Car

Knowing that environmentally friendly cars aren't the silver bullet that is going to solve all of our transportation problems (cleaner cars will probably increase demand for automobiles and could worsen sprawl and congestion) wasn't enough to stop me from taking the chance to test drive one today at a luncheon held by the Women's Transportation Seminar of Greater Los Angeles. Silver Bullet or not, its pretty cool to drive a car that has water vents instead of a tail pipe.

Before getting behind the wheel, there was a presentation given by Tim Powers of GM. Powers explained the difficulties in marketing the car and the timeline before the cars could be released to the general public. He anticipates that the engineering will be ready by 2011, but a release to the general public could be postponed if power companies and local utilities are slow to have stations for people to recharge their batteries. Currently there are only 9 places to recharge such a car in the Greater Los Angeles area, and that's assuming the area goes as far South as UC Irvine.

GM plans to release 110 Hydrogen powered Equinox's in 2008 to test drivers to begin piloting the program. Test drivers will include some businesses, Disney, limo services, and some regular commuters. The Equinox was chosen because GM wanted to show that this technology is going to be available to all vehicles, not just smaller ones like the Volt.

But enough with the presentation, onto the test drive. If I hadn't been told that it was a Hydrogen Car, I wouldn't have known it except that it was so darned quiet. The car handled well, accelerated like a normal car, and braked like a normal car. Given the choice between this and my last GM car, I would certainly take this.

All of that being said, we're a long way from actually seeing these cars on the road. Even if all went as planned, the original general release wouldn't be at prices that many people could probably wouldn't be until 2015 (at the earliest) that us mortals would be able to purchase them. After that, it would be at least another decade until there were enough of them in circulation to really improve air quality.

In other words, even if these cars were silver bullets, its still incumbent that we pursue policies to reduce auto-dependency. But it is nice to know that in the future, the cars that are still on the road will be cleaner, quieter and better than the ones we see now.

LACBC Needs Your Help

(ed note: The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition is asking for help this holiday season and there's two ways you can help. The following text is right out of their fundraising email.)

Help LACBC Help You!

Join, Renew or Donate by December 31st!

We urgently need your support - Join or renew today! If you're already a member, consider making an extra donation, or get a gift membership for a friend! Our Year End Funds Drive ends December 31st, and your tax-deductible contribution will go towards advocacy work that makes Los Angeles County a great place to ride.

From bike lockers at Metro train stations, to bike lanes, to regional bike planning projects in cities from Long Beach to Santa Clarita - LACBC is there to make the roads and bike paths a better place to ride. Your help is needed to keep these programs going. SUPPORT BETTER BIKING - make a contribution today!


Come hang out and watch a movie with us!


Featuring: eat!sleep?bikes!

Thursday, December 13, 2007, 7-10 pm

3706 N. Figueroa St, Highland Park 90065 MAP

Special LACBC screening! We will be joined by director Sasha Edge, as well as the four cyclists who braved the Furnace Creek 508 on fixed gear bikes.

Cover: $5 LACBC Members, $10 Non-membersMembership deal: Join tonight for just $30, and get in FREE!

Prize raffle! DJ Pig in a Blanket! Snacks!Beer generously donated by New Belgium Brewing!Screening at 8pm, but come early for the fun!

Today's Clips

Pedestrians! Stay off the Freeways! (Times)

Op/Ed Promoting Turnstiles (Times)

DOT Not Taking Metro Passes in 2008 (LADOT)

Traffic Initiative Supporters Turn in Over 15,000 Signatures (Press Release)

UCLA Parking Expert Heads to the Big Apple (NY Times)

Passenger Rail's Time Has Come (Maybe) (Streetsblog)

Monday, December 10, 2007

SCAG:Better Isn't Good Enough

Congratulations Southern California! Our transportation system is no longer considered a failure (at least by the government agency in charge of transportation funding.)

A recent report card by Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) gave Southern California a passing grade (D-) after two years of F's. True, this grade would disqualify you for the honor role where I come from, but it does show that regionally we're seeing some progress. Let the Party begin!

The accompanying report shows where SoCal's transportation system is and how far we have to go. The highlights...

1) Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and average commute time per household was down for the second consecutive year.

2) The region (particularly Los Angeles and Orange counties) continued to experience the highest level of congestion among the largest metropolitan areas in the nation.

3) From 2004 to 2006, there was a notable decrease in the region’s share of drive-alone commuting from 76.7 percent to 74.1 percent, reversing the trend of steady increases between 2000 and 2004. Transit boardings per capita and as a percent of total trips and miles increased in large part due to increased service by Metro and increased gas prices by OPEC.

4) I'm sure there was some interesting bike/ped news from the last year, but we'll never know what it was. SCAG didn't discuss cyclists or pedestrians after a single mention on the first page.... and they didn't analyze these travel modes at all.

SCAG is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Southern California.

Weekend Clips

Times Shocker Story! Freeways=pollution=lung damage (Times)

Times Reporter Slams Hizzoner for Recycling News on Right-To-Turn-Left (Times)

Despite Worsening Gridlock, Ventura Boulevard Plan Promotes More Commercial Development (Times)

Complete Streets a Nationwide Phenomenon (New Urban News)

Daily News Salutes Sprawl Commuters (Daily News)

Metro Adds Two New Lines (Downtown News)

Times Readers Join "Something for Nothing" Movement (Times)

SCAGS: "We're Soooooo Broke" (Whittier Daily News, Daily Breeze)

For Whom Road Tolls (LAist)

Santa Monica Residents Want More Big Blue (SM Lookout)

Southland Transit in Need of Big Ideas (Times)

Rice-101 plan may be funded in '08 (Ventura County Star)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Santa Monica's Transportation Plan Hopefully a Preview for LA

Last night I tried to go to a public meeting on Santa Monica's Transportation and Land Use Plan. Sadly, whenever I get into a car to go to a meeting that's not local, I don't actually make the meeting because there's a ton of congestion.

Thanks to the Internet, all was not lost. A poke around the "Shape The Future 2025" website, the online home of their Transportation and Land Use Plan, revealed a presentation from an October outreach meeting with a lot of good material. Of particular interest, was their suggestions for reducing congestion:

􀁺 Locate congestion where it has the least impact and keep it from spreading
􀁺 Identify local routes to avoid bottlenecks
􀁺 Smarter regional traffic management
􀁺 Create transportation alternatives that avoid congestion: Expo Line, Subway-to-Sea, walking, biking
􀁺 Create and maintain local services to reduce Santa Monicans’ need to drive long distances

Unlike our friends at AASHTO, the planners at Santa Monica are looking at alternatives to larger roads to reduce congestion. Lets hope that when Santa Monica's neighbor does its own circulation plan, its planners follow this local example of how to move people instead of just cars.

Next Week's Meeting Schedule...

Monday, 12/10

5 P.M.
Metro San Gabriel Valley Service Sector Council Meeting
**San Gabriel Valley Sector Office3449 Santa Anita Ave., 3RD Floor, El Monte, CA 91731

Wednesday 12/12

3:15 P.M.
Joint City Council Transportation/Public Works Committee

5 P.M.
Metro Westside/Central Service Sector Council Meeting
La Cienega Tennis Center, Sunset Room325 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Thursday 12/13

2 P.M.
Metro Gateway Cities Service Sector Council Meeting
The Gas Company, 9240 Firestone Blvd., Downey, CA 90241

6:30 P.M.
LACBC THURSDAY NIGHT SOCIAL: eat!sleep?bikes! Check out LACBC's new monthly fundraising event! This month, we are pleased to host a special screening of documentary eat!sleep?bikes! We will be joined by director Sasha Edge, as well as the four cyclists who braved the brutal race on fixed gear bikes. Screening at 7pm, followed by Q&A. Before and after the film, enjoy drinks, snacks and a DJ set by our very own DJ Pig in a Blanket.

Plus, enter to win PRIZES in our raffle!Cover: $5 for members, $10 for non-members. Membership deal: Join tonight for just $30, and get in FREE! Remember, your contribution goes directly to local bike advocacy.

Email to volunteer.
Location: LACBC Headquarters, 634 S. Spring Street, 1st Floor, Los Angeles 90014 (downtown at 6th and Spring).

Friday 12/14

9:30 A.M.
Metro South Bay Service Sector Council Meeting
Carson Community Center, 801 E. Carson, Carson, CA 90745

9:30pm - Saturday, December 15, 2007, 1:30am
For more information,

Saturday 12/15

9:30 - 11:30am
Bus Riders Union Monthly Meeting
Immanuel Presbyterian Church3300 Wilshire Blvd.Los Angeles, Ca
Join us for a light breakfast at 9:30 AM.Meeting starts at 10:00 AM
(213) 387-2800

AASHTO'S Back to the Future

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has recently put up a new video on You Tube promoting "A New Vision for the 21st Century." The eight minute video is designed to elicit support for greater transportation funding for the next 50 years. Unfortunately, the video promotes building 100,000 new lane miles to our highways in the next 50 years.

The real problem with this is that AASHTO is the lobbying group for DOT officials across the country. That the top goal of state DOT's over the next fifty years is to increase our highway lane miles is a real problem. That when AASHTO looks to visionary transportation leaders like the American Trucking Association and the American Automobile Association (no bike rider's or transit groups need apply,) to articulate a vision for the future, there's a problem. Sure, there's passing references to increasing transit and bikeways, but the thrust of this video is DOT's and road advocates advocating for money for more roads.

If this is the future of American transportation, it looks awfully familar.

Today's Clips

Santa Monica Wants Critical Mass to Go Elsewhere (Times)

Gore Taking Transit in Oslo (Huffington Post)

Global Warming Bill Passes House and Boxer's Committee (SacBee, OC Register)

Highlights of Energy Bill (Times)

CA Out of Transportation Funds (Whittier Daily News, Press-Enterprise)

Governor Makes Fox's List of "Green Hypocrites" (Fox News)

Port of LA to Expand (Times)

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Following my coverage of the Greenhouse Gas Forum last month, I received a call from a fundraiser for one of the Democratic candidates asking me to put my money where my mouth was and fashion a "green transportation proposal" for the candidates. I'm way behind on getting this done, but I still hope to wrap it up this week. If anyone out there has any suggestions for changes in federal transportation funding/policy that they would like to see, please feel free to post something below...

Brookings: LA More Walkable Than Most Cities

LAist reports on a Brookings Institute study ranking LA and the #12 city for walkability out of the top 30 US cities. LAist post:

A recent Brookings Institute study finds that Los Angeles ranks 12th in a field survey of walkable urban places in the top 30 U.S. metropolitan areas. Washington DC came in 1st and New York City at number 10. In California, San Francisco ranked 3rd while San Diego nudged up against Los Angeles at 11th.

The report, by visiting fellow Christopher B. Leinberger, is based on “walkable places” per capita (for Los Angeles, the metro area of 16 million was considered, not just city limits). Model areas for walkability include Downtown, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Culver City, Westwood, Century City, the Valencia Town Center, Costa Mesa and the South Coast Town Center.

For the full LAist post (and the full list of cities), click here.

Today's Clips

A Bumpy Road to Toll Roads (Times)

Mayor Announces 100 New Left Turn Lanes (Daily Breeze, CBS2)

More On Pico/Olympic (City Beat)

A Green Home for Big Blue (Santa Monica Lookout)

Transit Ridership Continues to Grow (American Public Transit Association)

Few Transportation Options for Aging Americans (USA Today)

No Room Left on California Bike Train (Palo Alto Daily)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Federal Government: CO2 Emissions Growing from Transportation Sector

For as long as the government has been keeping track of such things, the amount of greenhouse gases put into the environment by the transportation sector has grown year by year. Growing at almost the same speed has been the amount of miles people travel in their cars. With CA spending more and more efforts to deal with vehicle emission standards, it is worth noting that one of the easiest ways to reduce Carbon and other Greenhouse emissions is to reduce people's need to drive their cars.

Just something to think about when Governor Greenhouse releases his budget for next year.

To read the entire report from the Energy Information Administration, click here. The transportation page is #23 of the pdf.

Reading the Newspapers So You Don't Have To

Boxer Leads Senate Committee To Pass Greenhouse Gas Measure (SacBee, CC Times, Daily News)

Turnstile Plan As Ugly As It Is Stupid (Times)

Tom LaBonge - The Grinch Who Stole Our Green Christmas! (LAist)

Industry Spokesman Pushes Metro Studio@Lankershim (Daily News)

AG Goes After Airlines on Transportation-Related Greenhouse Gases (CC Times)

Toronto Cops Pull Over a Pedal-Powered ‘86 Buick (Streetsblog)

Commuter Kicks Car Habit (Daily News)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

LADOT, CALTRANS Look at Grating problem

(Image from The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition at

For those that haven't heard, CALTRANS and LADOT have committed to replacing storm drains that are dangerous to bikes everywhere bikes are permitted throughout the city and all of CALTRANS' District 7 (Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.)

So far, CALTRANS's Office of Maintenance has identified 157 grates that need replacing on State Highways in CALTRANS' District 7. The next step for CALTRANS is to find the money to finish the project.

LADOT is still identifying grates off the state highway network that need replacing and is being aided bu the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition. If you're an LA area bike rider and know of a bad storm grate, email Please list the street intersection of the offending grate, and which corner (SW, NE, etc).

If I see a bad grate while I'm biking around Fairfax, I'll make sure to post pictures of it here.

Want a Chance to Drive a Hydrogen Car?

From an email from the Women's Transportation Forum:

This is no tailpipe dream. The future is here in the form of a fullyfunctioning hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. And WTS-LA will have it ondisplay on December 11. Featuring a revolutionary advance in vehicletechnology, WTS-LA welcomes GM Western Regional Manager for Fuel CellActivities Tim Powers for a lunchtime reception. But Powers will notbe arriving alone. He will be bringing with him a brand-new ChevyEquinox Fuel Cell vehicle, a road-ready Chevy Equinox that runs solely on a hydrogen fuel cell technology. Aside from boasting all of thesafety and comfort features of a Chevy Equinox, this vehicle alsoboasts "no harmful tailpipe emissions."

This is no tailpipe dream. This is future reality. Come drive itbefore everyone else. Join us on December 11 at J Restaurant and Lounge. For more information, download the invitation attached to this email.

Thank you and see you there.

Reservations: Contact Maribeth E.Lopez
(e-mail preferred) at or at 213-593-8254

Today's Clips

More on Opposition to Pico/Olympic Plan (Times, City Watch LA)

Feedback on Fare Gates (LAist, Metro Rider)

Gold Line Gets in Line for HOT Lanes' money (Whittier Daily News)

LAist looks at coverage of transportation plan (LAist)

Schwarzenegger's Lament: Its Not Easy Being Green (AP)

California Transpo Funds Restricted to Non-Polluting Projects (Union-Trib)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Community Slams Mayor, Weiss on Pico/Olympic Plan

"The medium is the message" is a well known saying among Public Relations theorists. In the story we're about to discuss, the medium used to send the message was the traditional media. By choosing that medium, the unintended message that the community received was "up yours."

When Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Jack Weiss held a press conference to announce their plan to aid commuter traffic on Pico and Olympic Boulevards they were looking to take a little credit for thinking outside the box to help ease gridlock. What they ended up doing was creating a firestorm in the surrounding communities and uniting landowner, resident, and businessman with a common goal: stop the Pico-Olympic Plan from ever seeing the light of day.

The blowback against the Mayor and his plan began today when a who's-who of community leaders, business owners, homeowner's groups, chambers of commerce and regular old citizens from the Pico Blvd. area flooded a City Council Transportation Hearing and spoke for hours about their concerns with the plan. While many people didn't like the plan, they were even more irritated with a grandstanding mayor (where have we heard that before...) for notifying them of the changes via newspaper and tv headlines without first holding a public meeting.

The number of people testifying was so great that the normal committee room was too small, and the hearing was held in the full Council Chambers. The DOT was asking for funding for Phases 1 and 2 of the Mayor's plan, which would standardize the rush hour restrictions along both roads, eliminating parking during rush hour, and re-time signals to give priority to east-west commuters during rush hour. The Committee promised not to move forward with the plan until after an extensive public outreach.

After a presentation by the DOT and Deputy Mayor Jaime de la Vega outlining the plan, Chairwoman Grueul opened the floor for comments. The over thirty commenters then strode to the microphone and proceeded to trash the plan, the mayor and the Council (or Councilman Weiss) in that order.

The best barbs thrown by testifiers were aimed at the Mayor. One resident, responding to de le Vega's rhetorical question, "why are we here today?" answered, "We're here today because we woke up one morning and saw the Mayor and Councilman Weiss smiling in the LA Times. That was our notification!" A member of Councilman Weiss' Pico-Olympic Task Force complained that the committee was hoodwinked. They were promised a full hearing process but were instead were "treated to policy by press conference."

The angriest people were the business owners along Pico Boulevard who see a speedier road with no parking as the death knell for their restaurants, shops and dry cleaners. "We already have a freeway system" one restaurant owner complained, "Stop trying to turn our surface streets into a second one and bankrupt all our businesses at the same time!" The owner of two dry cleaners complained that "70% of my business occurs between 7 and 9 in the morning and 4 and seven at night. If you take away my parking, you'll force me to close both shops."

Some of the other complaints with the plan itself included:

1) Restricting left-hand turns will create more people driving on community streets to avoid having to make three rights to get home

2) Pico and Olympic will become un-passable boundries for those that need to turn left off of them to get home

3)The real problem is the over-development in places like Santa Monica and Wesfield Mall (located conveniently in Councilman Weiss' Fifth District) and nothing is being done about that

4) The plan is just moving the bottleneck and won't impact traffic

5) Seven minutes (the estimated savings for commuters) isn't worth displacing hundreds of businesses

6) What effect will this plan have on ridership for the Expo Line?

Each councilperson reacted to the testimony in their own way.

The usually-affable Councilman Rosendahl sat off the center podium and just listened to the testimony. Rosendahl's district will benefit from the quicker commute and the Councilman will be holding a public hearing on January 9th to elicit more feedback. The meeting was criticised as being held too early by many speakers, but the Councilman did not commit to moving it to February or beyond.

Chairwoman Grueul focused on keeping the meeting moving along and making sure every speaker was heard. Somehow she managed to do this without the aid of a gigantic countdown clock. She also let speakers finish their thoughts if they went over the suggested speaking time of a minute. I hope her courtesy towards her constituents doesn't impede her career.

So the job of soothing people's anger fell to the HOT-Lanes-hating, parcel-tax-promoting, Councilman LaBonge. LaBonge tried joking (How do I get this many people to come to Parks and Arts?), teaching history (We didn't build our freeways correctly because of a strong homeowners group in Cheviot Hills, now we're doing what we can.), and stumping for his parcel tax (Who wants to see more transit?).

What worked best was responding intelligently to people's concerns and working with the one person who didn't testify against the plan (a representative from Metro) to make sure that Metro would work with DOT and the Council to hear people's concerns.

The future of the Mayor's congestion busting plan for the Westside is now in question as the opposition seems deep, angry, and well organized. What isn't in question is that its generally a bad idea to ignore your community groups and committees and talk to the newspapers before your constituents.