Tragic Turn at the Hollywood and Vine T.O.D.

6_22_10_box1.jpgPhoto: Stephen Box

If Hollywood were to make a movie entitled "Hollywood & Vine –
Transit Oriented Development" they’d have to hire professionals to
manage the streets, control the traffic, move the trucks and make sure
the entire environment was safe. There would be a 1st Assistant
Director on set, legally responsible for the safety of all cast and
crew, a commitment that would include a safety meeting each day. It’s
been this way for a long time, ever since the tragic incident on the
set of "Twilight Zone" that took the lives of Vic Morrow and two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen.

;

But
"Hollywood & Vine – Transit Oriented Development" isn’t a movie,
it’s simply real life. That means that there were no Teamsters on set,
there were no SAG or DGA rules in place, there was no 1st AD on the
streets watching out for the safety of the pedestrians crossing Vine on
Monday afternoon when a truck driver traveling west on Selma passed an
18 Wheeler being unloaded and then turned north onto Vine Ave.,
striking and killing a woman as she attempted to cross the street.

The
intersection of Vine & Selma is at the southwest corner of the
Metro’s Hollywood & Vine TOD, home to the W Hollywood Hotel &
Residences and the 1600 Vine Apartment Community. The new Trader Joes
sits right on the corner with huge plate glass windows that look out
onto the Walk of Fame.

The
south side of the building has more of an industrial aesthetic,
featuring seven driveways including an exit for Metro & DASH buses
on layover, an exit for Trucking, entrances and exits for customers,
for residents and for visitors. Selma, between Argyle and Vine, is a
monument to engineered conflictAs for the corner of Vine and
Selma, the cement is new as a result of the construction of the
Hollywood & Vine Fortress but the cosmetic repair of the sidewalk
failed to include any of the improvements that would demonstrate a TOD
commitment to enhancing the safety of pedestrians. There are no bulb-outs, no refuge islands, no ped scrambles, no perpendicular curbcuts, no preferential signalization, nothing that would support the anticipated pedestrian activity to be found at a Transit Oriented Development.

The
notion that the development of the Metro’s Hollywood & Vine TOD
should have resulted in traffic mitigation improvements that support
pedestrian comfort and safety with enhanced sidewalk and intersection
features is an old topic. It has been several years since
representatives from the LADOT, the CRA, the Developers and the City
Council staff attended neighborhood council meetings and heard requests
for community benefit improvements that included everything from
car-share and bike-share to delivery services to streetscape
improvements that facilitated pedestrians and cyclists.

Vine
is a shortcut to the freeway but it has an unenforceable speed limit.
Argyle is a shortcut to the freeway and it doesn’t have demand actuated
crosswalk buttons. Selma is an inhospitable industrial zone that has
just demonstrated that the movement of this many trucks in the
afternoon may be good for the employee schedule but deathly for the
humans who live in the community and walk the streets.

In the
movie industry, it took a tragedy to get the attention of the public.
It took the risk of financial ruin to get the attention of the film
studios. It took a personal safety threat to unions to mobilize and
demand protection.

On the streets of Hollywood, this woman’s
tragic death is a call to action. The specifics behind this incident
may be complicated but the fact remains, a pedestrian lost her life, a
truck operator’s life will never be the same, their families will
suffer and the witnesses to this tragedy will be forever traumatized.
This completely unnecessary death demands the attention of the Metro,
the CRA, the City of LA, the LADOT, the City Council, Gatehouse Capital
and Legacy Partners, all of whom share in the responsibility for the
impact of the Hollywood & Vine TOD on the streets of Hollywood.

  • Will Campbell

    What a Tragic Oriented Development

    Important and excellent documentation, Stephen.

  • In an old LA Times article, from November 9, 1953, “Woman Struck by Auto Killed”, there is a tiny box of text that state that the Traffic Toll for that day was 2 deaths. The total for LA County that year to that point was 713.

    Is anybody keeping track of this stuff anymore? How can so many people get killed and injured and it’s just a big shrug of the shoulders, “nothing to see here”, and let’s get motoring.

    The way street is designed is a disservice to our shared humanity. Automobiles are important, but not this important.

  • skd

    I was riding down Vine yesterday, a couple of hours before this tragic accident. I got into the left-hand turn lane at Vine and Selma and signaled my intention to make a left turn. The light turned yellow, then red. I started to turn left and a small SUV blew the red light at 40-50 mph. I was able to take evasive action and stop my bike before ending up as hamburger on the street. This is the kind of insane traffic that exists on the streets of Hollywood. People drive too fast and violate traffic laws. It happens everyday, all the time. If you aren’t careful you will be a dead person lying on the street. We need to stop the carnage. Stop the traffic. Slow the cars down or remove them from streets and allow only pedestrians and bicycles. Since the W Hotel, Sunset and Vine and Trader Joes has opened up, there is a marked increase in pedestrian traffic. But the cars still speed by and run red lights. We are only going to have more deaths. Something has got to go. Either the cars or the pedestrians….and the pedestrians were there first over 100 years ago in Hollywood.

  • Quick correction: the pedestrians were here first *over 10,000 years ago in the first cities!*

  • Ruby Keller

    Being originally from Portland and recently moving down to LA, the Hollywood and Vine TOD has too much traffic that is unregulated to ever be a safe TOD.

    The best TODs in the country always had moderate pedestrian activity and moderate or low auto traffic.

    Hollywood and Vine has always had lots of traffic and due to all the freight that comes in and out of the area, it was and will always remain a flawed TOD.

    TODs are made to attract Pedestrian traffic, but also not deter automobiles due to public transit services (Rail, Bus, light rail). The policies that were needed for the design or the successful implementation of a TOD was never instilled prior to the construction of the project.

    Metro, CRA, and future developers need to buckle down and do what’s right and relabel it to a TED (Transit Enhanced Destination) rather than a TOD so that pedestrians and visitors won’t come to the area with the false perception that it is a TOD. Then, they can hopefully use the money and time of their staff to create real TODs rather than prancing around calling the Hollywood and Vine station a TOD, when it is not.

  • Jordan

    Although I don’t condone driving that’s not safe or aware of its surroundings, I can say as someone who lives nearby that, for drivers, even a modicum of effort on the city’s part to keep vehicles moving, would mean that people wouldn’t feel so rushed and need to behave in reckless ways.

    For example, drive from Melrose to Hollywood on Vine at 7am, and you’ll hit no less than four red lights. None of the lights are timed in succession. Why is this? A rudimentary light-timing would allow vehicles to make better time between point A and point B, without feeling like they’re constantly stopping and starting, and having to “beat the light.”

    Other considerations are just as important — better pedestrian guides, better bike considerations, and so-forth — but the city has made no effort at all to do the simplest things that would help the situation.

  • Chris L

    @jordan

    Rightttt. If only we could make traffic move faster, the innocent pedestrians would be spared.

    1950 called. They want you to help with some transportation planning.

  • Jordan

    @Chris

    I’m sorry if I mis-communicated – I did not mean to imply that traffic should move FASTER, but that it should simply move with less impediment. Either way, did I not also mention that other fixes would be required as well?

  • mandor

    The last thing automobile drivers in Los Angeles need is a greater sense of entitlement to the road/ability to move unimpeded.

  • Alex

    I live across the street and had the displeasure yesterday of arriving at the scene a mere 20 minutes after this accident. The body was still in the street covered in a white sheet. Truly horrific. As someone who attended the ULI’s TOD conference and toured this site, I know full well the inadequacies of this TOD. One hopes that this sad event will wake some people up.

  • Chris L

    Jordan I don’t mean to come off snarky. Its just that while the point you’re making might make sense to you, the reality is that if you “give drivers an inch” they take a mile. Syncing the lights make make drivers less frustrated, but I have a hard time believing that that peace of mind will translate into slower, more cautious, and more pedestrian-aware driving.

    25 mph is the key speed. A pedestrian struck by an auto at less than this speed is likely to survive, and a pedestrian struck by an auto going more than this speed is likely to perish. Any way we can get cars below 25 mph is fine by me, whether that be through enforcement, traffic calming measures, or poorly timed lights- I really don’t care how it gets done.

    I have a feeling that most drivers in LA would vehemently disagree with me if I were to tell them that the only safe, sane course of action is to slow cars down to 25 mph on every street in the city. Yet that is really what we should be doing. Cities are for people. Cars are supposed to be a convenience, not an ever present danger. By developing LA as we have, where everyone depends on their cars and depends on going much faster than 25 mph to be productive, we’ve completely set ourselves up for failure, for conflicting goals, and for tragedy in too many cases like this one.

  • Jordan

    I see. So everyone here has had a nice drink of the Kool-Aide, and decided that the only good traffic is traffic that frustrates drivers, and is wildly inefficient. I didn’t realize so many of you were experts in this, and had made the decision for all of us that the only thing we need to do is slow every vehicle down to a crawl, speed-bumping every major road and ensuring that every light stops every vehicle.

    I can’t imagine why anyone thinks that people are safer when a system works inefficiently, as opposed to efficiently. Stop with the nonsense about how “entitled” LA drivers are — this is a problem everywhere. Any time people are forced to sit at red lights and in traffic, they’re going to be angry and looking for shortcuts. If the system was made to be more efficient, and people didn’t feel the need to speed, because the flow of traffic was operating at an efficient rate, everyone would be safer.

    AS I SAID, the best course of action is holistic, ensuring safer routes for pedestrians, and better management of bike lanes. But I guess the easiest thing is to be contrarian, so apparently the discussion is over…

  • Chris L

    Jordan,

    LADOT is on top of it. They monitor every intersection in the city and have what is probably the most advanced traffic control center in the world. The lights that annoy you are likely set the way they are because it helps improve overall throughput of the entire system, even if it slows traffic down on your particular route. Streetfilm even did a segment on it a while back: http://www.streetfilms.org/atsac-behind-the-scenes-at-la-traffic-control/

    The point is, LADOT has taken improving throughput as far as it can go. And there’s still traffic. Doesn’t that tell you that maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree? Maybe throughput shouldn’t be the holy grail of a city’s department of transportation?

    If the “Kool Aid” of which you speak is the acknowledgment that we’ve taken cars as far as they can go and we should be spending our resources giving people alternatives in the form of a) transit improvements b) pedestrian improvements c) bike infrastructure improvements, then yes, I’ve drank every drop.

  • The LADOT should review all of the streets in Hollywood. Try walking down the sidewalk along Hollywood Blvd between Highland and Vine. The sidewalk is too small to support the volume of pedestrian traffic at Hollywood/Highland. We should be taking lanes away, making sidewalks bigger, slowing cars down and putting out pleasant street plantings/furniture. Look at the difference in Long Beach with their new improvements. We could have that in Hollywood, one of the top tourist destinations in LA. That would help upgrade the quality of retail and help the city/state with higher tax revenues.

  • Cathy

    Some day some intelligent city planner will invent a way to get commuters quickly and safely through a densely populated city. It will probably be called a subway.

  • Jordan

    @Chris

    “Maybe throughput shouldn’t be the holy grail of a city’s department of transportation?”

    I’m sorry, would you mind please quoting where I said that was the case? Or would you like to take something else out of context?

  • Erik G.

    Out of curiousity, why are articulated trucks needed or allowed to service these areas of dense development? Not only the TOD, but the city of Los Angeles as a whole being already one of the denser areas in North America.

    And if there can be an argument made for bringing these truck-trains into the city, why are they allowed to park with no on-duty traffic control personnel such as a flagger or a police officer?

  • Chris L

    @revuebleu

    “That would help upgrade the quality of retail and help the city/state with higher tax revenues.”

    I feel like that’s the connection that city officials in LA still haven’t made. They still think of pedestrian improvements as something that environmentalists and urban planners whine about, not as a tool in the toolbox to generate economic development and increased tax revenues.

    Maybe there’s a lesson here- we need to frame the argument for these improvements differently.

  • rlr

    just an FYI, another pedestrian was hit today at the corner of Hollywood & Vine around 2pm. This time a hit & run. Pretty sure the person survived this one. I think I’ll start eating lunch at the office from now on. Seeing this twice in two days is hard enough.

  • rbr

    Hollywood Blvd and the adjacent streets have become mini-freeways. We need to expand the sidewalks out and take away a lane in each direction. Either put speed humps on the street or eliminate car traffic altogether from Hollywood Blvd from Gower to La Brea. Maybe only allowing taxis and buses. Also bike lanes on Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd would be useful. We have a subway that runs the length of Hollywood Blvd from Western Ave to Highland. There is no reason to have private cars on Hollywood Blvd when there is a perfectly adequate transit system underground.
    I know the bicycle people block traffic on Hollywood Blvd once a month in some kind of protest, but now I know why they do it. These injuries and deaths must be stopped.

  • Ross

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention–and rlr’s comment reports yet another incident at this intersection! Every Sunday the Hollywood Farmer’s Market brings 1000s of people to just this area–and I regularly bike this intersection with my young son on the way to/from the Farmer’s Market. It’s always a bit sketchy.

    If nothing is (or gets) done, either the City, BID, or developer of the “TOD” should place crossing guards at the intersection. I’d like to live to eat the locally grown produce I just purchased.

  • la rider

    Increasing traffic throughput is an idiotic solution for safety. Why don’t we just knock out buildings on each side and widen the streets just like the freeways. There is no such thing as increasing throughput other than widening lanes. We went over peak capacity a long time ago. There are just too many cars. If inconvenience is causing people to drive recklessly then we are gonna have many more deaths in the years to come.

    Car drivers will need to be inconvenienced while other forms of transportation is developed for inner city movement.

  • wanderer

    Maximizing “throughput” doesn’t mean maximizing vehicles, it means maximizing the number of people who can move easily through the space. On Hollywood Boulevard the throughput priorities should probably be buses, then pedestrians, then bikes, then trucks (necessary for business), then cars.

  • Cathy

    Why doesn’t the Los Angeles Times report this? Not news, just an everyday occurrence? And why do they always report that the driver is not charged unless he/she flees the scene or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs? This gives the impression that you can get away with hitting pedestrians if you “don’t see” them (because you are speeding or texting).

  • Cathy

    Why doesn’t the Los Angeles Times report this? Not news, just an everyday occurrence? And why do they always report that the driver is not charged unless he/she flees the scene or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs? This gives the impression that you can get away with hitting pedestrians if you “don’t see” them (because you are speeding or texting).

  • Chris L

    @Cathy

    Because horrifically, most people view these kinds of accidents as the “cost of doing business”. 35,000 auto-related deaths in the US a year, and most people don’t even bat an eyelash. It boggles the mind.

    Over at Greater Greater Washington (A DC urban planning blog), blogger David Alpert has made it his mission to point out news reports that go out of their way to deflect blame away from negligent drivers. Example: a driver hits and kills a pedestrian, but the news reports the incident as “A pedestrian struck by a vehicle”. Cars don’t drive themselves!

  • Too many pedestrians are getting killed in Southern California – we need to make our roads safer today.

    25% of all roadway fatalities in So Cal are pedestrians and bicyclists

    12% of all current trips are done via walking and bicycling, if you add in transit it’s even higher (17% of all trips in LA Region)

    and yet less than half a percent of regional transportation dollars for ped/bike projects.

  • Regarding the timing of lights, one of the great red herrings of debate about transportation, I can assure you that your appraisal of their value in reducing automobile wait times is grossly overestimated.

    Le’;s be honest: the streets around this place are designed as though a right-of-way in the city were some sort of irrigation ditch moving waste to the sea. Humans daring to trespass into this funnel of automotive excrement are like a small undigested bit of corn floating in the sewer.

    The car moving sewer pipe fantasy must come to and end. Instead of talking about signal timing to aid auto throughput, it is time to start “taming the cars” and focusing on other, less expensive and dangerous, modes of transportation. It is actually quite a good idea to do this, politically, as this is the direction public opinion is turning.

  • Ryan

    Jessica has an excellent point about so little transportation dollars being used for bike/ped projects. One way to fund pedestrian and bicycle improvements would be to reduce automobile parking requirements for new developments near transit, but then require the developments to contribute dollars toward implementation of ped and bicycle facilities.

    With each parking spot costing about $30,000 to build, significant money is going into infrastructure that supports making it more convenient to drive. Here are a couple of proposed projects in Hollywood that are proposing significant amounts of parking:

    New office building with 770 spaces near Hollywood & Vine:

    http://la.curbed.com/archives/2010/05/twenty_story_microphones_and_radios_planned_for_hollywood.php

    A new Target down the street from the Sunset/Western station with 458 spaces:

    http://la.curbed.com/archives/2010/06/heres_what_your_hollywood_target_would_look_like.php

  • mandor

    Cathy–that’s a great idea! The LA Times already has the homicide report blog with a google map of the incidents. They need to add a motor vehicle morbidity and mortality report (including a map).

  • BikesideLA has taken a bunch of SWTIRS (did I get that acronym right?) data from the state and published it as a Google Map (which has unfortunately never worked properly for me), but it would be nice to have this data used constantly in the assessment of projects, road design, political candidates’ safety records, and loads of public forums and debates.

    The death toll from traffic crashes is pretty big, bigger than homicides for sure.

    This should not be background noise, it should be front and center in the debate over which modes of transport our streets should be designed for.

  • jaesen

    well i was there right after it happened. i was walking out of trader joes. i made the initial phone call to the police who then sent my call to the fire dpt. that sight will remain in my head forever. that poor old lady.

  • jaesen

    ps. to the young lady who decided to take cell phone pictures. SHAME ON YOU

  • jaesen

    @ cathy on comment #16. subways are cool, or movable sidewalks and bridges like las vegas. a place where its crowded by both vehicles and pedestrians.

  • Spokker

    Citizen photography can help show the world how bad these accidents really are and drum up empathy for the victim.

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