Metro’s Hollywood & Vine TOD: a Fortress Surrounded By a Moat of Traffic and Malfunctioning Traffic Signals

On Monday, at Vine and Selma, a woman attempting to cross Vine on foot was killed
after being hit by a delivery truck. The streets were immediately
filled with LAPD vehicles and an investigation ensued. Although it was
evident that statements were taken and that measurements and photos
were taken, missing from the investigation was any evidence that the
traffic signals were tested or surveyed. This is unfortunate because
the signal at Vine and Selma is malfunctioning.

On the SW corner of Vine and Selma is the large Vine Village" id="xpwj" href="http://www.ansoniaproperties.com/sunsetandvine.htm">Sunset & Vine Village,
a 300 unit residential/retail complex, filled with people who walk
across the street to shop at Trader Joe’s. At the NE corner of Selma
and Ivar is Triangle Square,
a 108 unit housing facility for elders. The people who cross the Vine
at Selma use traffic control devices that are out of order.
Malfunctioning equipment communicates to pedestrians that they are on
their own and trains them to engage as opportunity presents itself.

It’s been three months since Julia Siegler
was killed as she attempted to cross Sunset Boulevard on foot. That
incident prompted community challenges to the LADOT’s signalization
logic and to the LADOT’s varied traffic signal strategies. At Vine and
Selma, the demand actuated buttons work independently so that a ped
call for a crossing on the north side will not yield a walk phase on
the south side. Again, does it take a degree from MIT to cross the
street? The LADOT has not responded.

Also, as a result of the
tragedy on Sunset Boulevard, a request was made to the LAPD to include
a survey of signal equipment as a routine element of a traffic
collision investigation. Especially one resulting in a death.
Apparently that request fell on deaf ears. The LAPD has not responded.

Through
it all, the people of Hollywood are told to forget about the details,
the uncrossable streets, the brutal traffic, the honking horns, the
delivery trucks during peak hours, the taxis jockeying for position,
the small streets being used as trucking cut-throughs, the lack of
facilities for humans and the absolute contempt for safety. After all,
look what the Metro’s Hollywood & Vine TOD is doing to the economy!
Remember, "It’s better than it used to be!"

When did we become surrounded by apologists for mediocrity?

The
Hollywood & Vine Transit Oriented Development sits on 4.6 acres of
Metro property, bordered by Hollywood Boulevard to the north, Vine
Avenue to the west, Selma to the south and Argyle to the east.
Encompassing almost the entire block, it took ten years to get to the
ribbon cutting and the result is one of LA County’s largest Type 1
mixed use, transit-oriented developments (TOD) with not only 2 million
sq/ft of gross building area but 29,000 sq/ft of billboard space and
1,322 motor vehicle parking spaces. It’s big!

From 1999 through
2008, there were 226 traffic collisions at the four intersections
surrounding what is now the Hollywood & Vine TOD. Of those
collisions, 14.2% involved pedestrians or cyclists. In 2009 the streets
around the TOD were somewhat restricted because of the construction and
now that the streets are open, they are fast. They are also deadly as
yesterday’s tragedy demonstrated when a pedestrian attempting to cross
the street was hit and killed by a delivery truck.

One would
think that building a TOD in the middle of a busy urban environment
would prompt the Metro and the CRA and the City of LA to insist on
traffic mitigation from Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners, the
developers of the Hollywood & Vine TOD. But apparently this was not
the case.

As
long ago as 2005, local community members at a neighborhood council
meeting asked the City of LA to improve the intersections surrounding
the TOD to make them more walkable, to make them safer for pedestrians.
Hollywood and Argyle has long been a shortcut for motorists exiting the
101 Freeway into Hollywood and the impending arrival of the TOD
prompted requests for ped scrambles, for bulb-outs, for traffic calming.

Instead
of improvements that would benefit the community, the developers gave
the Metro a Bus Layover Station at the expense of pedestrian safety.

The
developers of TOD promise density that reduces congestion by supporting
a lifestyle that is possible without a motor vehicle, providing
opportunities for pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit passengers to
live and work and shop and socialize and otherwise enjoy life without
having to drive a car. That promise hardly panned out at Hollywood
& Vine where the large fortress development is surrounded by valet
parking on Hollywood Blvd, a bus stop in a right-turn-only lane that is
frequently overtaken by cabbies, a motor court entrance on Argyle
followed by trucking driveways and a large bus layover bay, seven
driveways on Selma, and then Vine Avenue, a street that does not have
an enforceable speed limit.

The Metro’s Hollywood & Vine
TOD is a Fortress surrounded by a moat of traffic, hardly an
environment for pedestrians who may wish to cross the street.

Typically,
when developers such as Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners present
plans to build a project in Los Angeles, City Planning and the LADOT
review the plans and evaluate the impact of the project on traffic, on
the community on the quality of life in the surrounding area. Granted,
this project promised so much, a W Hotel, condominiums, townhouses,
apartments, retail and restaurant space, billboards, jobs, energy!

But
what about the negative impact of the Hollywood & Vine TOD? Who
asks the hard questions such as "What are the planned improvements to
the surrounding intersections?" and "How will the surrounding streets
be improved so that they are safer for all road users?" and "How will
the increase in traffic be mitigated so that the quality of life in the
surrounding community is increased, not just for the residents of
Hollywood & Vine, but for the community as a whole?"

The
Metro, one of the largest developers in LA County, owns great swaths of
land and it intends to develop that land as a transportation system
strategy and as a revenue enhancement strategy. The Metro has
approximately 50 TOD projects on paper with 32 of them in play. It is
essential that the community hold the Metro accountable for the impact
of its TOD development on the surrounding community and that the Metro
immediately prioritize the development of TOD standards that position
the individual human experience as a priority. TOD projects work when
people enjoy their surroundings, not just tolerate them. TOD projects
work when people feel safer walking and riding, not just grateful for
surviving the experience. The Metro must take responsibility for the
safety and aesthetic experience of the people who use their TOD
projects.

The CRA, also one of the largest developers in LA
County, engages in development deals that escalate projects, all in the
name of public benefit. The Development Agreements that the CRA
"imposes" address everything from curtains to awnings but contain
nothing of substance when it comes to standards for accommodating
pedestrians, cyclists, families with children, transit passengers,
tourists, locals, shoppers. Why is there no standard for a delivery
service (requested several years ago as a community benefit) or a
standard for public space (requested several years ago as a community
benefit) or parking variances based on bike-share and car-share
(requested several years ago as  community benefit) or intersection
improvements that actually contribute to the walkability of Hollywood
and Vine (requested several years ago as a community benefit). The CRA
must take responsibility for developing and implementing real TOD
standards that put the people of the community first.

The LADOT,
a partner to every developer in Los Angeles and the department
responsible for reviewing and approving projects after ensuring that
the traffic caused by the project is appropriately mitigated, was in on
the Hollywood & Vine TOD from the beginning. Their real job seems
to be to exhaust the community with meeting after meeting, none of
which result in any improvements to the surrounding community, but all
of which simply get chalked up as "community outreach" and filed under
"Whew! I’m glad that’s over!" The LADOT must take responsibility for
ensuring that every development come with a commitment to improve the
surrounding streets and intersections so that the community is left
better than before, not simply an increase in traffic resulting in a
neighborhood "under siege."

6_23_10_box.jpg

The Metro’s Hollywood & Vine
TOD comes with great promise, from the Metro, from the CRA, from the
City of LA, from the City Council, from Gatehouse Capital, from Legacy
Partners, from the W Hollywood, from Trader Joe’s. The Hollywood
community has been promised much. As for the benefits to the community,
it’s imperative that the people of Hollywood call for those promises to
become a reality. It is imperative that the people of Hollywood demand
safer streets, crossable streets, public space that is safe and clean.

For
too long "It’s better than it used to be!" has been Hollywood’s battle
cry of mediocrity. No longer. The standards we set at Hollywood &
Vine are the standards that will position LA as a Great City. It’s time
to reach for greatness!

Hollywood deserves to be so much more than simply LA’s Truck Stop!

  • Brian Smith

    Great article – couldn’t agree more. But just want to point out that Metro should not be referred to as “the Metro”. It’s just “Metro” :-)

  • Race5050

    It doesn’t sound like the traffic signals were malfunctioning. It sounds like the pedestrian wasn’t following the pedestrian signals and may have crossed during a flashing or solid red Don’t Walk symbol. The pedestrina “Walk” symbols don’t always turn-on concurrently with the opposite side crosswalk. When they turn-on depends on the traffic signal phasing. A typical example is at locations with Left-turn phasing. One crosswalk may get the “Walk” symbol, while the opposite side crosswalk is still waiting for left-turn traffic to clear. Of course, I don’t know the specific details of the Selma/Vine accident, however, it doesn’t sound like a malfunction. It actually may be a lack of understanding. Los Angeles is a melting pot of cultures. We have people that have immigrated here from all over the world. In other parts of the world, vehicles have the right of way and pedestrians always have to be on the alert. In the U.S. we have fine tuned our signal systems so well that pedestrians sometimes forget the obvious… to look left, right, then left again (i.e., after you push the button and see the Walk symbol turn-on). We as pedestrians should always be on the alert. A crosswalk line, pedestrian signal or Stop Sign cannot stop a 4,000 +lb. vehicle in its tracks. Teach your kids to always look left, right, then left-again before crossing. Teach them never to enter a crosswalk during the Flashing Don’t Walk or Solid Don’t Walk symbol. I’ve had people laugh at me because I will not enter a crosswalk once the Flashing Don’t Walk symbol has started, even if the vehicular signals are green. I’ll wait for the next Walk cycle. Be safe everyone.

  • Race5050

    As a follow-up comment regarding LADOT’s role in the approval of traffic mitigation measures, I’d like to add that LADOT, like every other agency in the State of California follows California Enviornmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines. CEQA, LADOT and more particulary the LA City Planning Department, make sure that developers mitigate their incremental traffic impacts. However, we need to remember that just because a developer is proposing a project in our area, that we shouldn’t nail him/her for fixing all of the existing deficiencies in the surrounding transportation system. Please note that I am not a developer and am not defending them by any means. There needs to be a balance, which is likely why they have meeting after meeting as part of the community outreach. As a sidebar comment, I think there should be more emphasis on using Transportation Demand Management to encourage use of other forms of transit. I know we all complain of traffic, but when is that last time we rode our bicycles to work, or walked to the local video store instead of drive. Gotta go now. Be safe all.

  • Race5050

    I couldn’t resist one last comment… the “better than it used to be” approach is straight out of CEQA. You don’t have to mitigate anything that has a “less than significant impact”, so if you make it “better than it used to be”, then your ok.

  • Push button walk signals are the icing on the cake for the city that has put “pedestrian regulation” as a major priority.

    In John Fisher’s “Transportation History of Southern California”, Ralph Dorsey is credited with perfecting the push-button walk signal for pedestrians. The move is heralded with “saving lives”, a the streets had by this time become such deadly places that kids could no longer play, walk, run, bicycle, or skip to school without getting slaughtered.

    When the phrase “Go play in the street!” turned into an insult, pedestrian push button signals came to the fore.

    Why is the street so unsafe to cross? Is it really reasonable to force people on foot to face four, five, six lanes of automobile traffic moving at 35, 45, 50 mph right in front of their houses? Or should it be the other way around – motorists should be the ones stopping to press the damned buttons. They give the area the least, blowing through without spending a dime – while those on foot are there to purchase, mingle, and enjoy themselves.

    If a “TOD” is surrounded by fast moving car traffic, with no real provision for quiet and safe walking, there ought to be some sort of repercussions for those responsible, and more importantly there ought to be some changes to the way car traffic moves around the site.

  • Stephen Box

    Watch the first video to the end. The traffic signal has a burned out Walk phase. It’s a malfunctioning signal.

  • Chris L

    I can’t stand the “Mother-May-I?” crosswalk buttons. There should always be a walk phase, as cities are for people.

    Incidentally, I had never seen one of these buttons in a city until I moved to LA. East coast cities simply don’t have them. In the suburbs, sure…its given that there is more driving and less pedestrians in a suburban context, and these buttons are therefore warranted. But in a city? C’mon.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    There is exactly one appropriate use for a pedestrian push-button signal, and that is when the corresponding traffic light would not ordinarily turn green. If the lights are on a cycle, the walk sign should always cycle with it. Unfortunately LA is not the only place these signals are in use. They can be found on San Francisco and Oakland as well.

  • Focusing only on the push button is to lose the argument. The problem is the focus of the entire street, which is al about moving cars as fast as possible.

    If we can make this street work for all user groups, not just as a place we use for transportation, but as a place that people want to use to live a good life then I think we’ll have done a lot to address the issue.

  • Race5050,
    You say:
    “may have crossed during a flashing or solid red Don’t Walk”. Crossing during a flashing red is perfectly legal. What is not is starting to cross after the flashing begins. The problem with flashing, is it gives no indication of whats going on. Thats why a countdown is better, so you can make an informed decision.

    You also say:
    “Teach your kids to always look left, right, then left-again before crossing”
    Ive seen lights in California display walk for 2 seconds (I counted) followed by 20 seconds of flashing red. Your kids would never be able to begin to cross, by the time they finish looking, its flashing.

    Jeffrey W. Baker is right, the only appropriate place for a push button is at a time and place where the regular green signal is not long enough. For example, a small street might get a 10 second light, enough for 1 or 2 cars to cross an avenue, but not enough for a pedestrian. The button should extend the time. Another example is at night, if the light defaults to red. There is nothing more frustrating (and frankly, insulting), then pushing a button a second after the light turns green, and having to wait maybe 2 minutes to cross (and the 6 phases to go through), even though it would have been safe to do so at that moment.

  • MG

    You’ll find those push button signals in SF as well, but the people there don’t seem to rely on them as much as they do in LA. San Francisco pedestrians aren’t nearly as aggressive as those on the East Coast, but they’ll cross the intersection AFTER the flashing red signal starts, and won’t even think twice about it. And you know what, that’s how it should be. If the street is clear, I should feel free to cross it. I’m a big boy. I don’t need a WALK signal to tell me when it’s okay to cross. Honestly, LA’s obsession over regulating pedestrian movement is quite illogical IMO. I posted the following on another thread, but I think it’s relevant here as well:

    Pedestrians will stand at an intersection, waiting and waiting for that WALK signal to come on, regardless of whether or not traffic is coming. It can be 2 AM on a Sunday with no car in sight, yet they will still stand there and wait for the WALK signal to come on. HOWEVER, if it’s a crosswalk on the same street just a block away without an accompanying signal, those same pedestrians will just step out into busy oncoming traffic, assuming that the cars will see them and yield.

    In LA, it’s unheard of, dangerous, and many times, a citation to cross an empty street against a “DON’T WALK”, yet it’s considered to be completely safe and legal to step right into busy traffic at a crosswalk without a signal? As I said, it’s completely illogical thinking. It’s created a “non-thinking” pedestrian culture if you will. Intersection with a traffic signal? I’ll just stand here and wait for the walk signal, never even bothering to analyze the traffic around me. Crosswalk without a signal? I’m free to cross because the cars must yield…again never even bothering to analyze the traffic around me.

  • Pedestrian regulation is actually very logical. It is the result of not giving a wank about anything other than automobile throughput. The LADOT’s proud of their achievement. “Taming the Pedestrian” is how they like to talk about it.

  • Cathy

    It doesn’t sound to me like any of the above comments come from pedestrians. I live in Hollywood and try to walk everywhere I can. It is rare that any driver will yield for a pedestrian, even when the walk light is on. Drivers regularly blow through the red lights, speed, and particularly, turn right on red without stopping or even slowing down for peds. Plenty of times I will wait for a fresh green light and walk sign, a driver will be waiting to make a right turn – waiting only because traffic won’t allow the turn until the light is red for them. The driver will see me, our eyes will meet, and as soon as the light is green for me, the driver hits the accelerator. Sometimes it will be a train of cars making a right turn. Left turns off of Sunset are deadly, too. Drivers will take the rare opportunity of a break in traffic to turn regardless of peds in the intersection. I have pictures and videos. Ironically, I was on a walkability in Hollywood walk where this happened at almost every intersection. There is virtually no enforcement of the law.