Vroom! Eleven More Miles of Faster Cars Coming to the Valley

This Wednesday at 2:00 P.M., the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meets to deal with a backlog of speed limit increases and setting "prima facie" limits on several other streets.

For any new readers, state law requires that speed limits be set at the 85th percentile of automobile traffic speeds to avoid being labeled a "speed trap."  If a municipality fails to set the speed by these standards, then they lose enforcement power with radar devices.  Because Los Angeles is a city designed to move car traffic as quickly as possible, you can imagine what happens when surveys are done to see how fast people are driving.  If there is a provable compelling reason, the city can round down.  But as we saw last month, people walking on the road in an area with higher than average crashes partially caused by the speed of the vehicle is not a reason to keep speed limits below the 85th percentile.

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The first street on the docket for an increase is Branford Street between San Fernando Road and Woodman Avenue.  This 2.3 mile stretch of road runs past two parks, but isn’t moving enough car traffic.  Pending Council action, the limit will increase from 30 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour on this four lane road.  To be fair to the LADOT, the study area for this traffic speed survey was Glen Oaks Boulevard to San Fernando Road, an additional .7 of a mile.  While the traffic survey showed that traffic on Branford Street between Glen Oaks Boulevard and Woodman Avenue moves at 35 miles per hour at the eighty-fifth percentile, but because there are irregularities in the car parking and a high amount of pedestrian traffic and crossings, they recommended keeping the limit at the current speed for this three-quarters of a mile stretch or road.

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The other increase on the agenda is an increase from 35 m.p.h. to 40 m.p.h. along over eight miles of roadway on Sherman Way between Balboa Boulevard and Clybourn Avenue.  There’s no silver lining to this story, as the entire segment of roadway, some of which is two lanes and some of which is four, be designated a 40 m.p.h. route.

Last year, responding to a question from Councilman Alarcon, the LADOT promised that even though so far the increases have been confined to the Valley; that’s just where they’re starting.  In the coming years, the increases will come to a street near you.

  • Kevin

    Who should we email our opinions on increasing speed limits to? Is there a main L.A. City Council Transportation Committee we should be emailing to or are there certain individuals we should email?

  • Seems like the fix is at the state level. It’s a pretty insane policy to let reckless behavior be the legal justification for more reckless behavior.

    So, if enough people are speeding, you have to raise the speed limit or lose your ability to enforce the old one. Does that mean if enough people rob banks you can’t prosecute people for robbing banks?

  • UrbanReason

    Time and time again we are shown things like adding lanes does not decrease traffic, and higher speeds do not improve traffic flow. Yet here we are, defending the rights of one in eight people to cause an accident each year and trying our best to increase the number of those that are fatal by upping speed limits to the manslaughter/suicide zone.

  • What we need are more people to speak out against these speed limit increases. Unfortunately LA holds its meetings during the day making it hard for working people to go to meetings and prevent their neighborhoods from being turned into freeways. Last August I attended a transportation commission meeting to speak against a bunch of routine speed limit increases in the valley. I was the only non-city official in the room and I’ve never been so rudely treated. The LADOT served up its usual mix of arrogance and incompetence stating that their hands are tied in such matters but insinuating that they’d raise the limits anyways. Astonishingly, the LAPD also got up to support the speed limit increases. The commission members acted clueless.

    We need to pack the commission room and remind the city who they work for.

  • Honestly, if the road bed is designed for fast car speeds, and we get fast cars, then isn’t all of this a bit of sour grapes? The street design is what is critical, not the posted speed limit!

    Having the LAPD solve a transportation safety problem with a radar gun and a ticket book is like charging the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment with ensuring our park’s playground equipment is clean and well-maintained. It would be a noble effort, but they don’t have the legal authority to get the job done.

    The Los Angeles DOT needs to get take another look at the Administrative Code authorizing its creation. There is nothing in there that puts the car at the top of some sort of hierarchy. Un-written departmental policy at the LADOT directly contradicts the character and planning dictates that govern most of Los Angeles’ neighborhoods.

  • In other words, this fight is not one we can win (we’re too small and it’s a stat-level issue) and changing this wouldn’t mean we have cars driving any slower on these streets!

    What we can do is change the way these streets are designed. Lane removals, and other traffic calming, and speed reducing, techniques (and outreach programs)are what will lower the 85th percentile of drivers.

    The LADOT needs to be reigned in. It’s prime directive of “more cars, faster cars” on every single street is ruinous to our social fabric, our local commerce, our health, our safety, and quality of life.

  • Jean

    Ubrayj02, you hit the nail right on the head.

  • UrbanReason

    @ubrayj02

    Amen to that.

  • ubrayj02 is completely right.

    Heres another way to put it: If you want the 85th percentile to be 30mph (or whatever), a series of giant potholes do the job quite well.

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