Wednesday, February 27, 2008

LA Streetsblog

Most of the action will be happening here now: la.streetsblog.org

As We Creep Closer to the Launch of LA Streetsblog

I've written a post over at Streetsblog analyzing the just announced transportation plan by Barack Obama entitled "Strengthening America's Transportation Infrastructure" (download it).

Feel free to head on over and join the conversation.

Today's Headlines

New NBC Studio Provides Barrier to Bike Path (Times)

Report: Congestion Pricing For LAX When Hell Freezes Over (Curbed LA)

Sherman Oaks Residents Ticked About 405 Widening (Fox LA)

Downtowners Want Metro Connector Underground (Blog Downtown)

Meetings This Week for Gold Line Extension (San Bernadino Sun)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cities Try Other Crosswalk Safety Plans

A Pedestrian Decoy in a Portland Intersection


USA Today reports on what other cities are doing to try and improve pedestrian safety, particularly in crosswalks. Below is the list of some of the innovative plans that are being tried throughout the country. Can you guess which one wasn't mentioned as part of the article?
  • In Portland, Ore., where 49% of pedestrian injuries occur in crosswalks, police conduct monthly crackdowns similar to drunken-driving stings. Police identify an intersection where pedestrians have complained about motorists. They post signs warning drivers of "crosswalk enforcement ahead" and have pedestrian decoys try to cross the street. "If the drivers don't stop, a line of police on motorcycles will pull them over," says April Bertelsen, the city's pedestrian coordinator. Portland also has an "I Brake for People" campaign to educate drivers.
  • St. Petersburg, Fla., partly attributes major reductions in pedestrian accidents to rapid-flashing signals that have raised the rate at which drivers yield to people in crosswalks to above 80% from about 8% at 18 marked intersections. The devices, which flash in an irregular pattern to alert drivers to pedestrians, will be field-tested next in Cambridge, Mass., Las Cruces, N.M., and Mundelein, Ill.
  • Los Angeles, CA., The LAPD is targeting pedestrians who break laws and cross against a flashing signal. Even when they can make it across the street before the light turns to "hard orange," tickets are given to pedestrians who violate the law.
  • Washington, where two women crossing Pennsylvania Avenue on a green light were killed last year by a city bus in a crosswalk, plans to add innovative signals developed by the city of Tucson at about 30 locations, says George Branyan, the city's pedestrian program coordinator.
  • Phoenix is replacing 1,000 traditional traffic lights with countdown-timer signals that tell people how many seconds they have to cross. The signals could cut pedestrian accidents by up to 25%, traffic engineering supervisor Michael Cynecki says. "The countdown is so self-explanatory even a third-grader can understand it," he says.
  • Denver, Knoxville, Tenn., and several other cities, have implemented a method in which all traffic at an intersection is stopped for about 30 seconds and pedestrians can cross in any direction.

So, which one of these is not like the others?

Re-defining a 180

In yesterday's Times, Steve Hymon discusses the changing attitude at LADOT about how best to move people throughout the city. The headline, "L.A. officials do a 180 in traffic planning" suggests that we were about to read some radical stuff. Maybe he was going to discuss Gordon Price's argument that LA needs to be more like Vancouver and plan on how to design the roads to best move people, not cars . Maybe he was going to discuss charging people to use our highways through a toll or HOT Lane system and redirect that money towards transit. Instead, this is what we was meant by a "180 in traffic planning":

By the 1950s, the politicians and planners of Southern California had made their bet: Freeways would solve the awful traffic gripping city streets.

Now, Los Angeles officials are taking a different tack. With the Santa Monica Freeway congested, they're looking at increasing the capacity of Olympic and Pico boulevards to ease traffic on the Westside.

Life has a way of coming full circle, eh?

Oh. So the "180" is adding capacity arterial streets instead of adding capacity to the highways.
How radical.

Later in the article, Gail Goldberg, head of City Planning proposes something that would be truly radical for Los Angeles, but then dismisses the idea out of hand.

"One way you can move toward less congestion is if you provide people better accessibility and walkability and more pleasant streets," said Gail Goldberg, the city's chief planner, who is not wild about the Olympic-Pico plan. "But as a city we're not ready for that conversation yet."

I'm sorry, but who says that this city isn't ready for that conversation?

Cyberspace is filled with blogs dedicated to bike, bus and train advocacy. And organizations, from the BRU to the Transit Coalition to SO.CA.TA. to the LACBC to C.I.C.L.E. all exist because people are tired of car-culture warriors making all of the major transportation decisions for Los Angeles.

In just the past couple of weeks, public meetings for the city's Bike Master Plan were overflowing with cyclists demanding better facilities.

Pedestrian advocates, tired of waiting for the city/county to do something about our unsafe and unpleasant roads for pedestrians are taking matters into their own hands. It seems that every month there is a new walkabout planned for somewhere in LA County. A walkabout is an event where the community patrols its own streets to discover how to change them into pleasant pedestrian environments. In February, one was held by the neighborhood council in Woodland Hills. This Saturday, there is another one in downtown Pasadena.

And for transit users, their reactions to plans to reduce service are also telling. Hundreds of people took time off from their evenings and weekends to beg the city not to cut service.

In short, the people of Los Angeles are ready for a real 180 in transportation planning. We're ready for streets that are safe to walk and bike on. We're ready for a world class transit system. Angelenos are ready, but is there a public official willing to lead us there?

Today's Headlines

New Downtown Delayed (Times)

Feuer Introduces Transportation Funding Bills (California Chronicle)

Downtown L.A. Rail Battle a Street Fight (Mass Transit Magazine)

LACBC Announces This Year's River Ride (LACBC Blog)

Obama Announces Transportation Plan (barackobama.com)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coming Soon: Buses to Chavez Ravine?

Some baseball teams have full transit plans...the Dodgers don't even have buses

Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Eric Garcetti have been earning high marks from cyclists recently, and soon they might be earning high marks from baseball fans as well.
The councilmembers are backing a motion that will be heard at tomorrow's Transportation Committee Hearing which would bring back public buses as an alternative to get to Dodger Stadium. The resolution calls on the MTA and Dodgers to work on re-routing existing bus routes by the start of the 2008 season (better hurry...). The new routes should also include a stop at Elysian Park, the newly opened Los Angeles State Historic Park.
The resolution also notes that the Dodgers have benefitted in the past from a coordinated effort to manage traffic in past baseball seasons.
The road to having transit serve Dodgers fans is going to be more difficult than just passing a resolution. Previous attempts to serve the Stadium failed do to lack of passengers and were canceled. Also, it should be noted that the Council isn't proposing altering DASH routes, something that is within their power, but asking Metro to altar some of their existing routes.
Image from AMNY

LA Streetsblog: Help Pick the Tagline

The tech work being done to move Street Heat to Streetsblog is almost complete and LA Streetsblog ought to be here soon. Before the final touches are made and the move is complete, I need a little help from all of you, especially you Angelenos.

I need help coming up with a tag line. The New York Times has "All the News That's Fit to Print," and Streetsblog has "Covering the New York City Streets Renaissance" so what should the tagline be for LA Streetsblog? Post suggestions in the comments section, and we'll announce a winner with LA Streetsblog launches soon.

(Editor's note: I don't know what kind of bug is going around right now, but I know that I have it. This may end up being my only post for the day, but fear not, we should be back at full strength tomorrow.)



Today's Headlines

Crenshaw Alternative Slammed (Times, LAist)

Ed Reyes, Bike Advocate (Brayj Against the Machine)

Greenhouse Gas Used as Car Fuel (Carectomy via NYT)

Fact Sheet for Sepulveda Boulevard Reversible Lane Project (Bel Air Online)

Ventura Also Considering Toll Roads (Ventura County Star)

Speak Out on Regional Connector Meetings (LA Downtown News, Times)

Amgen Coverage (Star News)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Metro Busy with Expanion Plans


Just because I've been writing about bikes and development, doesn't mean that Metro hasn't been busy with a myriad of different rail and light rail expansion projects. In addition to the Subway to the Sea and the Expo Line, both of which have been talked about extensively on this and other blogs, Expo is also looking to add light rail along the Crenshaw Corridor and to connect the Gold, Blue and Expo lines in LA's downtown.

This week, Metro began holding hearings to update the public on the agency’s Crenshaw-Prairie Transit Corridor Study. The Santa Monica Daily Breeze reports that Metro has picked a preferred alternative for the project. The new light rail would connect the Expo Line to the Green Line, and pass within a mile of Los Angeles International Airport. The line will run along existing track through an industrial area of Inglewood and not through the heart of the downtown. Unlike Phase II of Expo or the Subway to the Sea, there are already some funds set aside for the project.

Next week, Metro will be holding similar meetings for the Regional Connector plan as it had for the Crenshaw-Prarie Plan. According to the press release, Metro has identified some potential alignments and station locations for a more detailed technical analysis. People interested in seeing and commenting on these alignments will have their chance at two public hearings:

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008: Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. 5th Street, Los Angeles

Image from Light Rail Now

Making Pasadena a Pedestrian Haven

The Downtown Pasadena Walkabout, originally scheduled for the end of January, is back on next weekend (Saturday, March 1.) For residents/regular visitors to Pasadena, the walkabout represents a chance to take control of the streets and help make them a better and safer place for people to, well, walk about town. For those less familiar with Pasadena, it provides a chance to see what kind of changes are possible when a community demands streets that are safe for all users, not just cars.

Those wishing to take part in the walkabout should call the Pasadena Playhouse District at 626-744-0340. The walkabout starts at 8:30 A.M. and ends at 2 P.M. Breakfast and lunch are included.

For many Angelenos, Pasadena probably seems like a strange place to do a "walkabout," a community walk designed to document where pedestrian improvements are needed. After all, given the urban jungle that is Los Angeles, Pasadena is a virtual Garden of Eden for pedestrians.

I doubt the Pasadena PD have even thought of harassing pedestrians who cross the street to slowly.

Yet, there are few places that are truly paradise. A presentation by Deborah Murphy, known pedestrian advocate and urban planner, to team leaders before the walkabout's original date showed that Downtown Pasadena has its problems just like everywhere else. Cracked sidewalks, poor signage to transit locations, uneven enforcement of traffic laws are less present here than elsewhere in Southern California, but are still a problem.

And that's exactly what the walkabout seeks to document, where are the problems and what should be done about them. If you're interested in taking part in a street renaissance in Pasadena, give the Playhouse District a call...

Image from Localphotours

Today's Headlines

Preferred Route Selected for Crenshaw Light Rail (Daily Breeze)

Times' Art Critic Gets Liveable Streets (Times)

Here Come the Smart Cars (Daily News)

Apparently Some People Don't Like the Pico/Olympic Plan (City Watch)

City's Plan for Sidewalks: Charge Homesellers for Fixes (Times)

LACBC Offers Bike Valet at AMGEN Event (KHTS)

Coming Next Week: Regional Connector Meetings (Blogdowntown, Metro)

Biofuels Hot in U.S., Not in Europe (Grist)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So I Went to a Bike Master Plan Meeting...

To Voice Your Opinions Go Here
...and a Pico/Olympic meeting broke out .

Frustrated with the limited public process, cyclists showed up by the dozens last night to discuss what should be in the next Bike Master Plan (BMP) for the city and vent about current conditions and the attitudes of city staff toward cyclists.

Many cyclists in the room fretted that the BMP was just going to be another document that gathers dust, and the city's outreach was more about being able to check a box on a to-do list than to gather public input. That there were only four meetings scheduled before the plan is drafted (with two more on mountain biking, and four after the plan is drafted) was a major catching point with the audience, nearly all of whom "voted" to ask for more meetings at the end of the session.

The deplorable current state of affairs for cyclists was highlighted that last night's meeting (and according to Stephen Box, none of the four meetings), held on a city-owned building, had bike parking. Some makeshift indoor parking was available behind a booth set up by the LACBC, but the building itself was rack and locker free. Oh, and there was no sound system, despite nearly 80 (I hand-counted 73 at one point) people in attendance.

One thing the city is definitely doing right is bringing in a consultant who has experience creating BMP's that work. Mia Burke, from Alta Planning and Design, worked on BMP's for Portland and other bike-friendly cities and seemed to know her stuff about what engineering options should be on the table. Burke's can-do attitude was needed for a meeting like this as she had to deflect or answer questions all night from a hostile audience.

The meeting started off with a lot of questions and complaints on the first sets of data presented by the consultants. Of chief concern is how the city currently accounts for "bike routes." There are more than 7,350 miles of highway miles in Los Angeles, compared to about 300 miles of bike ways. However, those 300 miles include recreational trails, partial routes (for example, where a bike path or lane exists for one block) and "death traps" such as Sepulveda Boulevard where the words "bike route" don't actually mean anything. Later in the meeting, Burke herself referred to the 150 miles of bike routes as "so-called bike routes."

One of the problems, Burke explained, is that bike planning in the city is so old. Much of the routing was done in the 1980's and the last full update was done in 1996 (the 2002 BMP relied heavily on the one from the 1990's).

So what can be done? The presentation listed several options for improving conditions on the street, from connecting and increasing the city's "broken skeleton" of bike lanes, to creating bike boulevards (streets designed to make it easy for bikes and harder for cars) to better ways of marking and designating "bike routes."

But each of these engineering methods had detractors as well. Numerous speakers spoke against bike lanes as places made more dangerous by opening car doors. Because bike boulevards are usually side streets, many cyclists will avoid them in the evening when they're poorly lit. As for bike routes, few in the room believe that they are anything more than signs and have no real meaning. Despite these complaints, everyone agreed that something needs to be done, and more speakers than not expressed enthusiasm for seeing some of these engineering options tried throughout the city.

For example, 4th Street (currently a bike route from La Brea Ave. to just north of the downtown) seems a logical candidate to be redesignated and redesigned as a bike boulevard. All that would be needed was some traffic calming, new signage, some paint, and changing the stop signs to always favor east-west traffic along the route. The speed humps and other traffic calming would keep cars (except for local trips) off the road and the signage would make it easy for bikes to have a continuous ride.

One engineering option that everyone liked was the "road diet" made popular in the Northwest and Europe. A road diet consists of taking a lane designated for car traffic and using the asphalt to create bike lanes. While popular in the room, Burke was joined by representatives from LADOT and the Planning Department as skeptics that there is the political will to try these types of projects city wide. DOT bike coordinator Michelle Mowery did note that the city has done some road diets in the past.

There was also discussion from the audience about non-engineering issues such as how to encourage more people to take up biking, how to get better enforcement of bike laws, and how to make those laws more equitable for cyclists. All of these issues will be addressed in some form in the final plan, although Burke stressed it was outside of their power to force better police education or to change the law.

There's two bike hearings left. If you can't make one, feel free to post your comments at the plan's official website.

Canadians Keen on Carbon Tax


Those crazy Cannucks and their silly environmental taxes...

British Columbia joins Quebec as the second Canadian province to implement a carbon tax designed to reduce emissions by 3 million tons within five years. Grist has the full story:

The tax is expected to bring in as much as $1.8 billion over the next three years by increasing the price of almost all fossil fuels in the province, though it's designed to be revenue neutral and won't raise funds for clean energy like Quebec's carbon tax. Instead, to enhance its appeal to consumers, B.C.'s carbon tax is being paired with a $100 rebate as well as a range of tax cuts. Officials hope to change consumers' habits for the better.

Meanwhile, we continue to debate the value of congestion pricing in any form...

For more information on the B.C.'s plan, check out articles in The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail.
Image from ViewImages.com

Today's Headlines

EcoVillage Needs Your Help (Bike Commuters)

California's budget deficit grows to $16 billion (Press-Enterprise)

Nothing is Completely Safe...(Metro Rider)

Fare Gate Reasoning Deconstructed (Metro Rider)

Hearings Coming for Crenshaw-Prarie Transit Corridor (LAist, Wave)

Missing: Urban Policy In Presidential Campaign (NYT via Streetsblog)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's Official: Council Takes on Santa Clarita Project

The Santa Clarita Signal reports today that the LA City Council is taking a stand on the Newhall Ranch project in the San Fernando Valley. The Signal Notes:

The unanimous vote by 14 Los Angeles council members came on a motion by District 7 Councilman Richard Alarcon; it pits Los Angeles against the planned Newhall Land and Farming Co. development in the Santa Clarita Valley northwest of Stevenson Ranch, and against the first phase of that plan - the development of Landmark Village.

For their part, the developer's claim that this plan has been in the works for a long time, and opposition now is too late to the game.

"The Newhall Ranch Specific Plan was approved nearly five years ago by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, culminating more than a decade of community outreach, public hearings, governmental reviews and court reviews."

As noted last week in Street Heat, the largest concern is over the traffic the project will create 100,000 residents who won't be able to find jobs in the Valley.

County officials are expected to vote on the plan next Thursday.

Cyclists Unhappy with LADOT's Public Process

Image from Portland DOT's "Bike Master Plan Monthly Rides" Website

A growing chorus is building in the cycling/activist community that the LADOT's public outreach for its Bike Master Plan is insufficient, and perhaps the harbringer of a bad plan. Stephen Box, of the Bike Writer's Collective, Illuminate LA, and Soapbox LA wrote an article today for LAist comparing LADOT's shoddy outreach with those in Portland and Long Beach:

Using Portland and Long Beach as a guideline, LA cyclists expect a comprehensive BMP public input process that reaches each of the neighborhoods in the 465 square miles of Los Angeles and that really reaches out to the 3.8 million people who share the 6500 miles of LA public roadway.

But instead, LADOT Bikeways and Planning gave the public three weeks notice, notification so insufficient that the Bicycle Coalition and the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee were both unable to get the BMP on their agendas prior to the workshops. The City’s own partners were caught off-guard in this process. This is hardly a demonstration of a commitment to an open and transparent and inclusive endeavor.

In a post last week at West Side Bike Side, Alex Thompson noted the meetings' locations also don't make a lot of sense.

Where are these meetings located? One is located at the absolute end of the universe, a few miles from the water in San Pedro. San Pedro deserves it's chance for input, but it's not exactly the center of the LA biking scene, and certainly not in the top four of regions that need to offer input. Further, there's not one meeting in the Los Feliz/Silverlake/Hollywood/Bicycle District area. If you live near the original Midnight Ridazz meeting point, the center of LA's urban bike scene, you'll have a long ride to attend one of these meetings.

Militant Angeleno also noted the odd meeting locations in his review of this weekend's confab. When listing the future outreach locations, the Militant noted:

The Eastside: Sorry, guess that means that they just don't care about you.

As we noted here last week, for a BMP to have real impact, it needs to have the enthusiastic support of the city and of riders (in all five cities we reviewed, the Mayor was a leader in getting the plan off of its feet) So far, the outreach process seems to be a turnoff to the bike activists in the community. If the city is simlarly unenthused, we probably won't be too happy with the final work product of the consultants when we see the draft plan this November.

Today's Headlines

LAist Slams Bike Master Plan Workshops (LAist)

USC Needs Better Transit Service (Daily Trojan)

History of LA Transit Planning (Times)

Metro Sues Parsons for Gold Line (Pasadena Star News)

Sacramento a Stronghold of Bike Culture (Sac Bee via Bike Commute Tips)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Councilman Moves to Stop Sale of Hollywood Hills Lot

A battle is brewing between Councilman Tom LaBonge and the real estate company who owns land to the west of the famed "HOLLYWOOD" sign.

Last week, Teles Properties of Chicago issued a press release announcing the sale. The agency, claiming an easement was obtained by former property owner Howard Hughes and that the city reneged on a deal to buy the land for preservation, has begun shopping the 138 acre site for residential development.

LaBonge held a press conference later in the day disputing these claims. “I’m going to use all of my options to fight this and I’m going to ask the public’s help and support, ” LaBonge said. The most likely option to stop the sale would be for the city to declare that the development on the land is impossible, a prosepct deemed unlikely by Teles Properties.

If the Councilman is going to be succesful in fighting the development planned for the area, he better move fast because the properties are on the market, and according to the Washington Post, "the phone is ringing."

Image (and caption) from the office of Councilman LaBonge

Today's Headlines

Pico/Olympic: The War Continues (Bottleneck Blog)

A Beverly Hills Look at Pico/Olympic (Blog Beverly Hills)

43 Injuries, One Death on LA Public Transit So Far in 2008 (LAist)

Patriarch of City Planning Passes (Times)

SANBAG Considering Carpools for Part of I-10 (San Bernadino Sun)

London Mayoral Hopefuls Tout Their Green Credentials (BBC via Planetizen)

Monday, February 18, 2008

This Weekend's Headlines

Review of Bike Master Plan Meeting (Militant Angeleno)

Former Citycouncil President Poo-poo's Maglev (Daily News)

Mayor Sued Over Pico-Olympic Plan (City Watch)

Percent of Trips Made in Single Passenger Vehicles Decreases (LA Times)

Hollywood 'bike rider' killer still at large (ABC7)

Video Tour of New Redondo Beach Bike Path (SM Breeze)

Farewell to Flexcar (LA Downtown News)

How Federal Policy Favors Highways Over Transit (Politico via Planetizen)

China Spending Huge Sums on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Economist)

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Done Deal" Pico Plan Moves Forward Depite "Some Opposition"

Who Cares What This Guy Thinks?

In their rush to cover the news (broken last night in an excellent piece in the Times) that the Mayor is ignoring the wishes of the City Council and local councilmen, the mainstream media is downplaying the opposition to the Mayor's plan to remove parking, synchronize lights and promote traffic flow on Pico and Olympic Boulevards.

Fox, the LA Business Journal and NBC are all running with the AP story on the mayor's move which marginalizes the near unanimous opposition of the community groups, business groups, business owners and residents along the corridor as "some opposition." The AP story takes the Mayor's word on the benefits of the project, and ignores the controversy created by a Mayor bulldozing opposition and the public process. There is no mention of the thousands of people that have shown up to hearings and public meetings, that testified and signed petititions in the time between the plan's surprise announcement and yesterday's decree that "the council did not have jurisdiction over such issues as parking regulations or whether streets were one-way."
The Times gets it right, repeatedly going back to the breadth and passion of the opponents to this plan. The story here isn't just that the Mayor has a new plan to fight traffic, the story here is also that neighborhood councils and councilmen don't have any power to influence what happens on their streets (according to the Mayor's office.)

While the community will doubtless fight on, lawsuits are already in the works, the other big loser is Counciman Bill Rosendahl, an outspoken critic of the project who saw the concerns of Councilman Herb Wesson addressed (the plan no longer extends all the way from Santa Monica to La Brea, it now stops at Fairfax) and his own ignored.
And what were Rosendahl's radical ideas that were so revolutionary that they couldn't even be considered? Rosendahl asked that the Department of Planning work with LADOT and the community to address the community's concerns before the plan was implemented.
Yesterday's power play by the Mayor marks the end of the pretense that the city and the community is working together to make the best plan possible for everyone.
You can check back with Street Heat for full all of the latest coverage as the controversy enters its next stages.
For previous coverage of the Pico/Olympic plan, click here.
Image from PR Web.

Bike Plan Stop 5: New York City

That's NYC DOT Commish Janette Sadik-Khan, a Regular Bike Commuter, in the Black

New York City offers perhaps the most prophetic glimpse into what the future may hold for bike/pedestrian projects and planning in the coming years. At the top levels of the government, there is a dedication to improving the lot for cyclists. DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, an avid cyclist, has surrounded herself with a dream team of alternative transportation advocates and has pushed forward with a lot of exciting projects even though she's been in office for less than a year. In just the last six months, new bike lanes have opened and major bike routes have been planned, for instance:

New Bike Shelters Are Popping Up All Over the City

The City Announced Its First Bike Share Plan

Prince Street Bike Lane Has Arrived

Manhattan Bridge Bike & Ped Improvements Nearing Completion

While none of these stories is earth shaking by itself, the trend is clear; the city is slowly re-engineering itself to become a more bike compatible place.

However, giant urban bureaucracys being what they are, the execution remains uneven as bureaucrats and the police continue to do things the old way and slow the pace of the reforms.

Image (and about half of the links) via Streetsblog

(Full Disclosure: Sadik-Khan sat on the board of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign while I was the Campaign's New Jersey Coordinator. During much of that time, Jon Orcutt was the Campaign's executive director)

"Making Connections" Website Looks at Transportation for Two Communities


The programs offered by Livable Spaces aren't limited to their speaker's series, the group also does community and transportation planning for communities around the city. Currently, the group is chronicling their efforts in creating the needed bicycle and pedestrian connections for two neighborhoods surrounding the Chinatown and Lincoln/Cypress Metro Gold Line Stations. Much more information about the project can be found at the projects website, which can be found here.

Image from Livable Spaces

Today's Headlines

Done Deal, Mayor Ignores Council Moves Ahead with Pico/Olympic Plan (Times, CBS2)

Metrolink and law enforcement agencies team up (KHTS 1220 AM)

It's Official, No Widening of 2nd Next to CALTRANS (blogdowntown)

In Historic Shift, U.S. Rail Network Is Expanding (WSJ via Planetizen, CBS2)

Wisconsin College Gives Bikes to Students Who Don't Have Cars (Grist)

Lance Armstrong Opens Shop, Wants to Promote Bike Commuting (Austin 360)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bike Plan Stop 4: Mexico City

Viva La Raza

Like the other cities discussed this week, Mexico also has a bike lover as a Mayor. Last year, Mayor Marcelo Ebrard ordered a new Bike Master Plan and set a goal of tripling the mode share for cyclists in the next three years from .7% to 2%. The eventual goal of the plan is for mode share to stabilize at 5%

When Ebrard announced the new plan, he also announced that city employees must bike to their jobs on the first Monday of every month. Surprisingly, the rides have been a hit with city employees, but of course such symbolism is worthless if not backed by policy.

The final Master Plan will build 186 new miles of bike lanes, install bike facilities at Metro stations and create a bike sharing program for residents unable to purchase bikes themselves. As we've seen before, cities serious about promoting cycling commit to building hundreds of miles of new lanes.

Unrelated, my research also found what is perhaps the coolest bike law in the world, "...Also, anyone who whistled at or annoyed a bicycle rider could be arrested."

For the second time in two international stories, my research led me straight to research already done by writer's at my future home at Streetsblog. Helmuts off...
Photo from San Diego Union Tribune via Streetsblog

Council Holds Slimmed Down Pico/Olympic Plan

When an angry mob of westside business owners descends on city hall it can mean just one thing...it's time for another hearing of the Mayor's Pico/Olympic Plan.

Yesterday, the City Council's Transportation Committee picked up where they left off last December to listen to LADOT and the local business owners tell two different stories of the beleaguered plan to eliminate parking, modernize traffic signals and give "preferential directional flow" to the Pico and Olympic Boulevard corridors.

But first, the Council Members registered their own anger and opposition to the project. Councilmember Bernard Parks read a letter from Councilmember Herb Wesson promising an amendment to the plan exempting his district to the applause of the audience.
Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes the northern end of the process, didn't go as far as Wesson but did promise a similar resolution for his district if the LADOT didn't work with the city's planning office and the community to rethink the plan in his area. "If we're every going to move beyond the rhetoric of transportation and planning being joined at the hip, it's now."

LADOT representative John Fisher reported on the 13 public meetings the DOT held with community and business groups along the corridor. Based on community response, the new Pico/Olympic plan has fewer parking restrictions than the previous plan. Restrictions are no longer planned for the areas of Pico Boulevard between Centinella and Gateway, and the area between Fairfax and La Brea. DOT has also shortened the hours for restrictions in both the morning and evening. The DOT distributed maps of the new restricted areas to the committee, but not the general audience. Fortunately, Councilmember Tom LaBonge shared his with the audience and community activists huddled around the map as the DOT continued its presentation.

The community was unimpressed with the new plan. The cruxes of the arguments were one's we've heard before at other public hearings. Some new twists were added as two groups promised legal action to stop the project.

Jay Handal, Chairman of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, claimed that 5th District Councilman Jack Weiss, a vocal supporter of the plan, is telling people the plan is a "done deal." Despite not yet receiving funding from the Council, Weiss is allegedly giving specific dates that the project’s phases will begin. Handal claims that such deal making is a violation of the Brown Act (mandating open public meetings in California) and the WLACC will contact the Attorney General's office later today. Weiss was again conspicuous by his absence.

Zariah Washington, representing the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, announced a lawsuit against the DOT claiming that the informal community process is a violation of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The committee ultimately tabled the report, meaning it will have to hold another hearing before either sending the report to the full council or rejecting it. Based on the strength of the opposition and the multiple avenues it is pursuing to fight, this project isn't a "Done Deal" quite yet.

Photo from LA Times

Less People, Same Passion at Westside/Central Sector

Planned Westside and Central Sector Changes
Last night the Westside/Central Sector Council for the Metro Board held their public hearing on Metro's planned service cuts. The meeting wasn't as well attended as the one I attended last week in the San Fernando Valley, but nearly everyone that attended the meeting testified and the outcry was the same, "don't cut our buses, now is the time to grow our transit system, not cut it."
Nearly 30 people testified last evening, all opposed to either some or all of the proposed cuts. A note of levity was added to the evening as Chair Jerard Wright continually announced the "last speaker" only to have someone turn in a speaker's card while the "last speaker" submitted their comments. But, the meeting remained a somber one, as a mix of transit riders all pleaded for their local lines. Among the most popular lines due for elimination was the 220, and the entire night owl (service between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.) cuts planned for the 10, 14, 37 and 38.
In another rare show of unity, SO.CA.TA and the Bus Rider's Union both spoke forcefully against the elimination of the late night bus service.
SO.CA.TA representative Ken Ruben noted that "Owl service has always been a 'lifeline' service for those who are both transit-dependent and forced by their economic circumstances to work hours that are not otherwise conductive to using public transit."
A flyer (written in both English and Spanish) from the BRU reminded that Metro planned to cut owl service in 1997 and the BRU with help from janitors, security officers, and hotel workers worked together to defeat the cuts.
If an alliance is forming to stop Metro cuts, they better act fast. The last hearing is tonight, and written comments need to be postmarked today.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Image from the Transit Coalition

Today's Headlines

Cops in the Right in Koreatown (Curbed LA)

City Beat Examines Damien Goodmon, Expo Line (City Beat)

"Ride Metro with the Mayor" Is Good Politics Hiding Bad Policy (Daily News)

Riding the Rails with the Mayor (City Beat)

Mayor's Subway Report Card (LAist)

Miami Cyclists Bike On Despite Awful Conditions (Miami New Times)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Bike Path Opens in Redondo Beach

From a press release:

The City of Redondo Beach recently completed construction on the Bay Cities / North Redondo
Beach Bikeway. The bikeway provides a critical “green” transportation link between corporate
employers in the northern sections of the South Bay and residential communities to the south.

Adding another link in the human-powered bike trails in the South Bay, the Redondo Beach
portion of the bikeway begins connects the final segment of the Torrance bikeway at Anza
and 190th Street and concludes as a bike lane as it unites to the MTA/Redondo Beach Green
Line Station on Marine Avenue.

Bike Plan Stop 3: Seattle

As a precursor to full plan implementation, Seattle DOT Tagger Future Bike Routes
Last year, Seattle revamped its Bicycle Master Plan after the city had agreed to rethink all future road projects as "complete streets" projects, i.e., all modes of transportation would be supported, not just cars. A lot of the plan is typical master plan boilerplate, but Seattle earns major kudos by planning to increase its bike lanes by 900%.
Seattle's plan aims to change the percent of trips taken on a bike from 2% to a whopping 12%. To meet this goal, the city decided to add 200 miles of bike lanes to the 25 that already exist. The Seattle P-I reports that by adding more bikes, the city hopes to increase safety:
At least four times a week, John Duggan, a Seattle attorney specializing in bicycle accidents, gets calls from people who have been hit by cars. "In almost all of these cases, the cars are not aware of the cyclist or they misjudge the bicyclist's speed," he said.
For Duggan and city officials, it's a matter of numbers. There often aren't enough bikes on the road -- and designated bike lanes and signage -- to make motorists aware.
From Copenhagen, Denmark, to Portland, cities have found that as the number of bicyclists increase, so does the safety for those riders. Toward that end, Wentz said his planners are hoping to encourage a threefold increase in urban bicycling over the next decade.

Another sign that the plan was being taken seriously was a city hall press conference where the Mayor announced that Seattle was going to be the NW's new bike capital...while I think Portland may have something to say about that, this ten-year plan is certainly something that the Emerald City can be proud of.
image via IHeartBikes

Mayvis Coyle Redux

Public Enemy #1

Last week, Curbed LA reported that the LAPD was busy over-enforcing traffic safety laws in Koreatown by ticketing people who were crossing the street, even some who were doing so legally. While most commentors shared my sense of outrage, there were of course a select few who were thrilled that the police were finally cracking down on the "lawless" behavior of pedestrians.

While it's certainly concerning that the LAPD is spending time harassing pedestrians that it could spend enforcing traffic laws, it shouldn't be a surprise considering the police's long-standing animosity toward pedestrians.
Two years ago, then 82-year old Mayvis Coyle stepped off the sidewalk into an intersection when she had the walk signal. Half a minute later, she was receiving a $114 ticket for obstructing the flow of traffic. It seems the elderly woman couldn't get across the intersection in the allotted 20 seconds. Coyle found the smugness of the police officer to be as offensive as the ticket itself. “I think it's completely outrageous. He treated me like a 6-year-old, like I don't know what I'm doing,” she told the Daily News.
Following a report in the Daily News, Coyle's story got picked up worldwide and she became a celebrity. The LAPD, always conscious of looking like fools on the world stage, quickly apologized and tore up the ticket. They received an accommodation from Councilwoman Wendy Greuel for acting so quickly to fix a mistake.
Of course, that's not what really happened.
The LAPD closed ranks and despite changing the intersection timing at the request of the Councilwoman, attempts to get the ticket taken care were brushed aside. When contacted by the Ellen Degeneres show to make an appearance, Coyle told them she was being threatened by the LAPD not to do any more media appearances. In July of 2006, a judge found Coyle guilty but waived the fine.
And if that's not bad enough, Coyle's fine of $114 was more than the fine if a car had "accidently" crashed into her while she was crossing the street and the signal was still white.
When a story breaks about the LAPD harassing pedestrians in the name of traffic flow (and it will happen again, and again...), remember Mayvis Coyle and prepare to be outraged all over again.
Image via Transportation Alternatives

Citing Traffic, Councilmember Slams Project in Santa Clarita

Councilmember Richard Alarcon is taking aim at a major planned development that he says will add "long commutes over already jammed freeways into the San Fernando Valley creating further gridlock and adding pollution to our air." The environmental documents for the project state that it will create 357,000 average daily trips, but there is no follow-up on what that will mean to the surrounding roadway network. Alarcon is asking the city to weigh in on this development and do everything in its power to stop the development.

The catch? Alarcon is railing against the Landmark Village residential project which is outside of city limits in the San Fernando Valley. Despite the project's potential impact to the City of L.A.'s transportation network, the city has not weighed in.

At last month's all-day transportation meeting in the City Council chambers, Director of City Planning Gail Goldberg told Alarcon that the city doesn't have a procedure to comment on projects outside of the city's jurisdiction.

For the city to have an impact it has to hurry. The LA County Board of Supervisors could vote on the project as soon as February 26th.

Today's Headlines

City Council Passes Cash Out Parking Resolution (LAist)

Council Committees Move on Making City More Bike Friendly (blogdowntown)

USC Master Plan Focuses on Ped. Safety (Daily Trojan)

Ride Metro with the Mayor (Daily News)

Parking Plan Targets RV's (Times)

More on London's Bike Transformation (Guardian)

Bike Sharing Coming to Tucson? (Tucson Citizen via Bike Commute Tips)

Years of Delays Caused by 101 Widening Project (Pac Coast Business Times)

How Will the Next President Effect Transporation Policy (Smart Growth Online)

Speeding Is Illegal (Times)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Event Tonight: Latino Transportation Needs in Regional Planning


The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is currently in the comment period of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). This twenty year plan (up to 2035) will set a long term framework for transportation investments for the six county SCAG- region (comprised of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties).


Latinos are a growing part of this region which will influence mobility patterns. We need to ensure that these needs will be addressed in the next cycle of the RTP.

Please join us for a lively discussion and presentation on the RTP and Latino mobility patterns.

For further information contact: James Rojas, (626) 437-4446

DATE: TONIGHT!

TIME: 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

PLACE: Metro Headquaters, Gateway Room, 3rd Floor.

For more LUF about visit http://www.latinourbanforum.com/

To post events, activities or meetings that promote planning, cultural or dialogue contact James Rojas at 213 892-0918 or email Latinourbanforum@yahoo.com Please submit post in a word document.

Image and Text from Latino Urban Forum

Road to the Bike Plan Stop 2: Chicago

Nice, It's Even Cubs' Blue
Chicago made news last week when it's #1 bicyclist, Mayor Richard Daley, introduced ordinances that would increase fines for reckless drivers who injure cyclists. The Chicago Sun-Times notes that "It's designed to reduce the number of crashes involving bikes and motor vehicles. There were 6,000 such crashes in Chicago between 2001 and 2005, killing 30 cyclists." For a quick comparison, there were more than 100 bike deaths in Los Angeles over the same period.
The Chicago bicycle federation quickly got behind the plan and wrote on its blog the details:
Specific provisions of the ordinance define three feet as the minimum safe distance to pass a bicyclist, prohibit opening a vehicle door into moving traffic, increase the fines for parking in bike lanes or marked shared lanes, clarify that left-turning motorists yield to oncoming bicyclists and prohibit motorists from turning right in front of a bicyclist.Violation of the proposed rules will result in a minimum fine of $150 and no less than $500 when the violation results in a bicycle crash. The proposed ordinance will make it easier for police to issue tickets, and for prosecutors to bring charges when motorists hit bicyclists.
Better enforcement of bike safety laws is a key part of the city's "Bike 2015" Master Plan, which aims to "make bicycling an integral part of Chicago's daily life." The plan is divided into eight sections, each with a specific goal:
  1. Bikeway Network – Establish a bikeway network that serves all Chicago residents and neighborhoods.
  2. Bicycle-friendly Streets – Make all of Chicago’s streets safe and convenient for bicycling.
  3. Bike Parking – Provide convenient and secure short-term and long-term bike parking throughout Chicago.
  4. Transit – Provide convenient connections between bicycling and public transit.
  5. Education – Educate bicyclists, motorists, and the general public about bicycle safety and the benefits of bicycling.
  6. Marketing and Health Promotion – Increase bicycle use through targeted marketing and health promotion.
  7. Law Enforcement and Crash Analysis – Increase bicyclist safety through effective law enforcement and detailed crash analysis.
  8. Bicycle Messengers – Expand the use of bicycle messengers; improve their workplace safety and public image.

As Los Angeles moves forward with it's own Master plan, Chicago's provides a useful blueprint. It shows that a Master Plan is more than just engineering, it's about creating a city where biking is safe, pleasant and affordable.

Image from bike2015plan.org

Price Speaks on the Failure of LA's Boulevards



Gordon Price began his lecture at City Hall yesterday by noting that big changes are coming as a result of global warming and a decline in the amount of oil the world can produce and warned that Los Angeles will be one of the cities that will see the most change.

But it didn't have to be that way. Back in the 1920's, Los Angeles, like Vancouver, was built around a streetcar system. The difference between how each city grew in the last 75 years can be described in two sentences, "Los Angeles committed to the car. Vancouver accommodated the car." Today in Vancouver, nobody is more than 1/4 mile away from public transportation, and in the walkable, bikeable downtown area more people walk or bike (to say nothing of transit) than drive.

To achieve this mode share, Vancouver had to do a lot of thing's differently than Los Angeles has been doing. First, it needed to re-zone and rebuild its downtown and neighborhoods. Price claimed the key to walkability wasn't just having wide sidewalks, attractive store fronts and minimal white noise (traffic of more than 30 mph reduces walkability because it impedes a conversation). A community also needs access to a mid-sized grocery store. Without it, people will get in their cars to go grocery shopping and once in their cars drive other places.

In Price's own neighborhood, a grocery store was put in the bottom floor of a high rise (that is easily accessible via foot traffic) and of the 230 spaces built below the store, there is never more than 1/4 of them being used.

Of course, parking, and the North American obsession with providing free parking, is also at the root of many urban ills. Price pointed to the Larchmont Village in Los Angeles as an example of the kind of development that works for both neighborhood residents and business owners. He then pointed out it would be illegal to build today under LA's parking codes because of a lack of car parking.

So, what are the results of the different planning styles we've seen between Vancouver and Los Angeles? In Vancouver's downtown, 49% of all trips were made by car in 1992, compared to 13% car pool, 23% transit and 15% walking/biking. The government set ambitious goals to change the mode share. By 2021 they planned to reduce driving to 36% and car pooling to 12% by increasing transit usage to 34% and walking and biking to 30%.

So far, they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. By 2004, single-occupancy driving was reduced to 30% of all trips with car-pooling adding another 9%. Transit usage and walking/biking each achieved a 30% share meaning more people commute by transit, walking and biking than by car. By contrast, census figures show that in 2006 more than 70% of LA commuters drove in a single passenger vehicle and another 12% car pooled. Given that 6% worked from home that means about 1/5 as many workers either took transit, walked or biked as they do in Vancouver.

So, what can Los Angeles do now? Price didn't have a silver bullet answer, but the blueprint is there in his talk. But re-engineering our streets for all modes of transportation, reforming the parking code, adding more dense development, and rebuilding our mass transit system is easier said than done. But since we live in a world where oil is beginning to run out just as the competition for it is heating up, if Los Angeles wants to remain one of the world's premier cities we don't have a choice.

Today's Headlines

GM Has Record Loss in 2007 (Times)

10 Ways to Improve LA Public Transit (Metro Rider via Blogging LA)

It's Official, LA Traffic Lights Suck (LAist via Times)

OC Not Collecting All of Red Light Revenue (Bottleneck Blog)

A Critique of Downtown Ped. Friendliness (LA Straphanger)

NY Mayor: Climate Change 'Just as Lethal' as Terrorism (Post)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Countdown to Bike Master Plan: Five Days, Five Stories


As we count down to the hearings for the City of Los Angeles' new Bike Master Plan, I thought we could take a look at what other cities are doing when it comes to planning a city that is safe and enjoyable for cyclists. I was all set to write about Chicago and they're bike loving Mayor, but then I heard Gordon Price talk about some big news out of London. Naturally, by the time I got home Streetsblog had more than covered it, but here we go anyway.


Earlier today, London Mayor Ken Livingston released what is probably the world's first billion dollar bike plan.

"By ensuring that Londoners have easy access to bikes in the centre of the capital, as well as making our city a safer and more enjoyable place to cycle, we will build upon London’s leading position as the only major world city to have achieved a switch from private car use to public transport, cycling and walking," Livingston said in a statement.


The five parts of the Mayor's plan are:
  1. A Central London bike hire scheme, similar to the recently launched Paris scheme, with up to 6,000 bikes located across docking stations every 300m so Londoners and visitors have quick and easy access to a bike. This will be supported by a series of easily navigable routes so that people can enjoy London’s sights by bike.
  2. Around a dozen radial Cycling Corridors for commuters to provide high-profile, easy to follow cycling streams into central London.
  3. The creation of a series of Bike Zones for shoppers and the school run in Inner and Outer London, with cycle priority streets, 20mph speed limits and quick, clear and simple routes that link key local destinations and open parks and waterways for cyclists.
  4. The expansion of the Legible London signage system to help people make short trips around the capital on foot, rather than driving, or taking the bus and tube.
  5. Working with the London Boroughs on the establishment of 200 Streets of Gold – urban makeovers which link key local destinations like stations, schools and shops in inner and outer London with high quality walking facilities, delivering improved pavements, seating and crossings alongside regeneration measures.
Image: This is London, via Streetsblog

The Bus Bench Ends "Dead Escalator Series"


If there was a great example of a blogger/activist writing to bring about change on an issue, it was The Bus Bench's Dead Escalator Series. The series chronicled the experiences of "Bus Tard" as he went from station to station wondering why the hell the escalators/elevators would work one day and not the next (or not at all.) In the series' final post, Bus Tard is able to both claim partial victory and gets an explin why the escalators are sometimes working and sometimes not.

This past week, a team of inspectors was in the Metro tending to the escalators and lifts. Quite a few escalators were fixed, and for that I am happy. The lifts may take a bit longer, but we'll see...
The emergency stop button is frequently engaged by school kids (whose idea of a prank is frighteningly dim, I might add) and to re-start the escalator in question, one must reach into the lower left panel for the switch. (Those panels are rarely locked, a statement that prompted no responce from the MTA official that day.) The aluminum steps —"teeth," as I call them—cost several thousand dollars each. When a metal item—say, a penny—is dropped and becomes stuck in the upper or lower skirt, the aluminum ridges are ground down and the "tooth" has to be replaced. Several million a year are spent replacing these parts. Finally, there is an emergency number for the reporting of dead escalators that is placed not very prominently near the emergency stop button.

Some hearty Street Heat congratulations go out to Bus Tard. Now, good luck on fixing those service cuts.

Reminder: It's Gordon Price Day!

For those that can't make one of today's talks...

Just a friendly reminder that Liveable Places is presenting three different presentations by Gordon Price, former Vancouver City Councillor, tell the story of how Vancouver became a greener city. Price's speech kicks off the "Envisioning Green LA" series for 2008 which will also include Manuel Pastor, Bill Reed - May 2008, and Jan Gehl.

Today's talks include a lunchtime chat at city hall (which is already completely booked) and a 2:30 P.M. talk at the Long Beach Public Library.

But the highlight of the day will be a talk between Price and Cecilia Estolano, Chief Executive Officer of L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency at 5:30pm Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

For directions or other information, visit the Liveable Places website.

Video from You Tube courtesy Liveable Places.

Today's Headlines

Police Harrasing Pedestrians in Koreatown (Curbed LA)

SOCAL Officials: Bond Money for Highways Not Freight Rail (Times)

Downtown Streetcar Plan Moves to Phase II (Blog Downtown)

Taxi plan moves forward (Downtown News)

Biofules Bad for the Environment? (Times)

Waxman Subpoenas EPA/Greenhouse Documents (Times)

CA Greenhouse Guidelines Should Lead to More Walkable Cities (Ventura County Star)

It's Time to Call Out Reckless Drivers (Gristmill)

Women-Only Buses Prove Popular in Mexico City (NYT)

Coulmnist: More Transit Options a "Virtuous Circle" (SM Lookout)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bush Budget "Bad for Transit"


My old friends at Mobilizing the Region have crunched the numbers on President Bush's FY09 budget, and the news is not good for transit. Even in a year where Transporation Secretary Mary Peters is arguing that the federal government should think about getting out of the transportation funding game, Bush continues to set a new low by robbing transit funds to pay for highway projects.


In the broader scheme, however, the Bush budget is bad news for transit. It proposes to shore up the Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by “borrowing” $3.2 billion from the HTF’s Mass Transit Account. It would also cut national transit spending by more than $200 million from previously proposed levels.

There is some good news...MtR predicts the Democratic Congress will reject Bush's transportation budget, but also notes that:

If the Bush proposal goes through, it will establish a dangerous precedent of raiding transit funds to build highways. More immediately, it will cut the balance in the Mass Transit Account to the point where, without new funding, the 2010 federal transit program could not be funded at current levels, let alone see an increase.

East coast governors have already blasted Bush's budget priorities. We're still waiting for a statement from Governor Schwarzenegger.

Photo from Coljan.com

LACBC Opens Blog...

In what's been a big week for bike bloggers, the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition decided to join the online party and opened their own blog at http://lacbc.wordpress.com/.


So far, the CBC's posts have had to deal with group business. The first post is a promo for their Valentine's Day fundraiser and their second announces the timeline for new board elections. Be sure to check back regularly for more bike and LACBC news as time progresses.

Today's Headlines

Daily News: LA Needs to Slow Down Las Lomas Plan

OC Tollway Plan Not Dead Yet (Times)

Decrease Your Mass by Taking Mass Transit (Calorie Lab)

Scientists Find Ethanol May Worsen Global Warming (Gristmill, Times)

Bicycling Guru Sheldon Brown Is Dead at 63 (Bike Commute Tips)

TSA Opens Blog (TSA.gov)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Expo's Bumpy Ride Continues

Dorsey High, At the Center of the Storm

The issue of grade separating Phase II of the Expo Line at Dorsey High School is back on the table after the Expo Board voted to undertake an Environmental Assessment on five different options for the grade separation at the Farmdale Avenue intersection. The Board stopped short of reopening the EIR (a move advocates of Phase II fear would kill the project) and claimed that the EA will not impact the schedule for the project.

The study will examine five options for the intersection:

1) The at-grade intersection plan as it is included in the EIR

2) A pedestrian bridge and closing the connecting road

3) Running the train below grade at and around the intersection

4) Running the train above grade at and around the intersection

5) Anything else they can come up with

Both sides seemed happy with the compromise. Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition stressed on the phone to me that this study shouldn't delay the project. An email from Damien Goodmon, head of Citizens' Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line, declared victory stating simply, "It's what we requested: that the study include the underpass option."

Meanwhile, the Expo Line faces delays in other areas. Phase I is already running behind schedule because of increased fees causing a conflict between the contractor and the authority, a cracked sewer pipe, and other unexpected impacts of construction.

Advocates for and against reopening the EIR spoke passionately before the board went into a closed session.

Karen Leonard, speaking on her own behalf, argued that the at-grade plans for the Farmdale intersection were much better than the treatments being given at schools along the Gold Line routes on the east side. "This project is a no-brainer, don't blow it," she warned the board.

Fear for students’ safety was questioned by a letter written by two middle school students saying, "We and our friends aren't as dumb as some groups would like you to believe...that we can’t look both ways before crossing a street nor could we not see flashing lights and gates which mean the trains are coming and to stop. These are things we’ve learned since Sesame Street."

Advocates for reopening the project were just as forceful. Clint Simmons accused Friends for Expo of being an "agency for the MTA" and claimed "you've got to be insane to think that this would be safe at grade running next to a high school."

Colleen Marion Heller brought a letter from her own. Dated in 1992, the letter was written by the Unified School District of Los Angeles, and raised concerns with both the way the project was being done and some of the safety concerns that we see now. Heller claimed this letter shows that the Expo project has been ignoring the safety concerns of the community for 16 years. Representatives of the Unified School District were present at today's meeting and supported grade separating the crossing.

Now that both sides seem to have gotten what they wanted today, the question of what's next for the Phase II looms large and whether or not the rhetoric of both sides can begin to cool down. Typically there is a public comment period as part of the EA procedure, but a time line for the EA (other than an estimated completion date) was not released today.

photo from answer.com

Sector Board Also Against Service Cuts

Residents Get on the Bus in the Valley
Just before last night's hearing was gaveled to a close, Board Member Kymberleigh Richards stopped the chairman before the meeting was ended. It was a good thing she did, because each board member took a turn discussing their views on the service cuts (all were negative in some way,) and those statements offered a look at the dilemma facing these volunteers. I doubt that they volunteered to serve on these regional councils because they liked messing with bus schedules, and last night we got to see the emotional impact these cuts will have on the people that are being forced to vote for them.

Richards was one of the more pragmatic board members. She recognized that Metro's ongoing financial crisis must lead to some cuts, but proposed her own plans for several lines. Her plan was backed by SO.CA.TA. and the Glendale Hills North Neighborhood Council. Richards' plan proposed alternatives for cuts to four lines (Lines 96, 154, 155, and 237) that would preserve service on the lines by trimming the fat elsewhere.
Here's some of the other interesting quotes and ideas from the board at last night's meeting.
Board Chair Coby King, "Our hands are tied...the full board has mandated the creation of rapid bus lines...some of these lines will cause cuts in other areas."
Richard Arivzu called on greater involvement by the public sector, "we need more of you to come to these meetings to help us send a message."
Joan Lenard, who like Richards rides the bus, called for a greater public process. "We need the numbers on specific cuts...these numbers should be public."
Later, she offered a general attack on cuts and the public process Metro is pushing, "At a time we should be encouraging people to get on the bus; we're encouraging people to get off the bus...we're being forced to pass our approval on cuts we don't believe in."
The most impassioned came from Nury Martinez, who noted that her father rode the bus to work six days a week. Martinez offered a combination of Arivzu's and Lenard's comments, "to be under the kind of pressure to accept these cuts...we need your help. We need more bus riders at these meetings....We must stop balancing the budget on the back of working class people!"
In a board with seven voting members and a board chair (if they're following Roberts Rules of Order, the chair votes only in the case of a tie), three board members speaking so forcefully against cuts and for making a statement is a significant number. However, the board won't vote until March 5, and it remains to be seen what will happen in the next month.

Photo from Metro Rider

Today's Headlines

Bus Riders Vent Anger at Service Cuts (Daily News)

Bike Writers Present Bicyclist Bill of Rights
(LAist, WildBell, West Side Bike Side, Digg.com, Soap Box LA)

Panel rejects toll road through San Onofre State Beach (Times)

Bullet Train Will Have Zero Emissions (Alameda Times Star)

Hillary Clinton on LA Public Transportation (LAist)

Portland Passes Bike Parking Ordinance (Rights of Way)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

San Fernando Valley Service Cuts Hearing Report

Francisca Sanchez didn't testify but made her opinion known.

More than 60 people showed up to ask Metro to cancel or modify some of their proposed service cuts in San Fernando Valley earlier this evening (Wednesday). What wasn't surprising was that so many members of the public came out on a Christian religious holiday, but that the members of the Service Sector Board (more on that tomorrow) seemed as aghast at the proposed cuts as the general public was.

Service cuts hearings are a rare time when the transit activist groups can all agree. A representative from the BRU wondered what happened to the promise that last year's fare increase while the Transit Coalition raged that proposed cuts are "destroying the bus network." A representative for SO.CA.TA also spoke against some of the cuts, but I he was speaking so fast (to try and get his comments within the limit) and was speaking on so many different lines that I had trouble following him.

It wasn't just the usual suspects blasting Metro's plans. Advocates for the disabled, the elderly, college students at L.A. Mission College (who would lose the only transit line to their campus) and a representative for Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes all testified against parts or all of the planned cuts. There was even a cameo appearance from a representative for LADOT who called the proposal "premature" and noted the plan would "inconvenience a lot of people."

There were plenty of members of the riding public who weren't there to move an agenda, but to plead for the lines that connect them from where they live to where they work, shop, worship, eat and play.

Sean Ewell Murphy, speaking on behalf of his wife, noted that cutting Line 224 would lead to his wife having to walk over a mile just to reach the bus stop and warned the board that "you would disenfranchise her from riding the bus." Bus rider Chuck Erickson noted that he rode line 154 to the hearing and "It didn't seem empty to me." The 154 is one of the routes that may be eliminated.

Some of the commentors noted that previous cuts had left service so poor on lines that it isn't a surprise that people are abandoning the lines. Others noted that some of the routes due to be cut are heading toward major trip generators in the future. For example, NBC Studios is moving many of its operations to Universal Studios who's line from San Fernando is being cut.

The most popular lines that are facing the ax are the 154 and 155 out of Burbank Station, 168 (connecting San Fernando to Chatsworth) and the 634 (which is the aforementioned connection to L.A. Mission College.) While each line will be fought for individually by those that ride it, more than one person testifying that they could think of a way for Metro to trim a lot of the $100 million needed to close its operating deficit.