This Week’s Transportation Committee: Focus on a Progressive Van Nuys

7_12_10_van_nuys.jpgVan Nuys Civic Center, lit up. Photo: RsixO7/Flickr

All of a sudden, Van Nuys is a hot bed of transportation reform.  First came a report from the city that Van Nuys Boulevard would be a perfect place for another separated bus lane or even a light rail line.  Next, the City is working on a plan to increase metered prices near the Van Nuys Civic Center to encourage more people to use the local parking garages. 

From a policy standpoint, this should reduce local VMT, as people cease "cruising for parking" as savings for curb parking are reduced and could free up some public space on the streets.

A motion by Council Man Tony Cardenas and seconded by Transportation Committee Member Richard Alarcon explains the problem:

Optimal utilization for parking lots occur when the maintain 90% utilization throughout a typical day. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has found that in the first half of FY2009-10, that average occupancy of the Van Nuys Civic Center parking lots is 57%, with a high of 76% (Lot 609) and a low of 28% (Lot 752)" Clearly, these lots are underutilized, partially due to the surrounding inexpensive on-street parking and lack of adequate signage directing drivers to the lots. LADOT piloting new meter technology that will adjust parking rates to maintain the desired level of use, but it will be provided in limited areas.

Woah, this sounds positively Shoupian in theory.  The reality on the street and in the lots may be bleak, but at least the city seems aware of the problem and is working to fix it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that under-utilized lots are going to make it hard to sell the rights to run city-owned lots.

However, whenever talk of raising parking rates comes up, it seems that local businesses speak against the proposal, fearing the increased cost will lead to fewer patrons.  This time, it seems that the city did its homework before going public with a plan that could lead to a parking rate increase.

The surrounding business community is interested in partnering with the City to implement new parking meter technology and identify funding for these infrastructure improvements in order to maximize the use of all available parking facilities.

While this all sounds great because the city seems to be, in at least a small area, really getting it in terms of car parking strategies.  However, as Parking Guru Donald Shoup has demonstrated in the past, the city doesn’t always get that pricing parking as high as possible isn’t always the best strategy to have it utlizied.  Of course, if those lots pull more cars off the street because of cost differences, then maybe the dream of running a bus-only lane down Van Nuys Boulevard isn’t so far-fetched.

Note: The Council will also consider a motion keeping those garages open until 2:00 A.M.

  • As someone who calls Van Nuys (and the Val in general) her hometown *and* studied with Shoup, I’d like to say that this it is about time! I am intrigued that the motion shoots for 90% utilization and not the 85% oft-cited by Shoup, though.

  • That’s utilization of the lots – not utilization of street parking. I guess the city wants their lots to be “almost full”. If they want to do that, they’ll probably have to introduce time of day pricing differentials in their lots. Of course if drivers enter a lot that’s 90% full, they can still cruise to find an available spot (especially if there are multiple pathways through the lot/garage). That’s where real time parking spot directions and identification (Century City Mall, Water Garden office building) become important.

    I’m sure the city got an earful about these low lot utilization rates when shopping around the lots to private buyers. I’m sure any sales agreement would come with a clause that made the city increase on-street parking pricing within a 1/4 mile radius of the lot to higher than lot prices, or to only allow preferential permits.

  • The City (and Metro) needs to dramatically improve alternative transportation options to the Van Nuys Civic Center. Getting to there from West LA is all but impossible on transit. Having City meetings alternate there is great for the Valley, but very difficult to get to if you’re not on the Red/Orange lines. Market pricing for parking is great, but there have to be options for people to not drive for that discouragement to work.

  • Eric B, you seem to have overlooked the Rapid 761. Direct from Westwood to the Van Nuys Civic Center area (albeit I think it entails a few block walk from the stop adjacent to the Orange Line). That still doesn’t sound “all but impossible”…

  • That’s what I took last time, but still doesn’t get down to those of us in Palms. For a north-south connection, it would make sense to extend it south of UCLA to cover the whole westside and extend the “grid” aspect of the rapid network. Even a mile further south to Santa Monica would hit another Metro Rapid and some Culver City buses. Dana, you’re the expert: has this been studied? I got to believe the ridership is there given this is the only transit route parallel to the 405.

  • “expert”–I don’t think I remotely deserve to be called that. But thanks for the kind thoughts.

    The Van Nuys expresses (numbered 88, 560 and 561 at various times) used to go further south. Westside traffic and trouble operating on freeways made the folks at Metro feel serving a hub like Westwood was about all they could realiably operate over the hill.

    The matrix on Kymberleigh Richards’ website has more details on the specifics.

    http://transit-insider.org/history/history.htm

    Measure R has an ill-defined project to serve the Sepulveda Pass/I-405 corridor. And it is dead last on the priority list. Ifwe can get 30 in 10 jump-startedin the forthcoming year maybe it will happed by the early part of the next decade. That is probably the best solution to the long stated desire to address thiscorridor (anyone else remember the 30 years LACTC plan had a high speed line from the westside to Antelope Valey?–of course it was all for naught…)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27717393@N05/4053815409/

  • Eric:

    The problem is a parochial one, not a Metro one.

    Palms, by long standing agreement going back decades, is served by Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Culver CityBus, not Metro.

    In fact, the old Metro Line 561 (and its predecessors) had to operate via the freeway between Wilshire and Jefferson Blvds., with no intermediate stops, because that agreement preceded the extension to LAX from Westwood.

    “Doesn’t make sense” has no meaning in this case, because the agreements with these two municipal operators are not likely to be amended. Santa Monica and Culver City will not give up ridership and revenue on “their” streets, regardless of the regional concern.

    Rock. Hard place. Caught.

  • Eric B

    Thanks for the insight, Kymberleigh. Imagine a world where car drivers have to worry about turf wars and buses go everywhere they’re needed… In the meantime I’ll just keep dreaming and riding my bike!

  • Jake Wegmann

    Eric, I think you bring up good points, although wouldn’t “The Donald” (Shoup, that is) say that we should rationalize parking even in advance of having adequate transit service to important urban nodes? That is, even if we accept that most people are still going to drive to Van Nuys for the foreseeable future, there would still be efficiency gains (in terms of reduced congestion and pollution) from reducing cruising for underpriced parking. After all, even with full 30-10 buildout we will be nowhere close to having the LA Basin and the Valley completely blanketed with TOD. We’ll still have a lot of “drive-to” or bus-served locations, but maybe people who go to them can at least be encouraged to only park once and then go about their business on foot (and maybe add some street life and vibrancy while they’re at it).

    I think strict theory according to The Donald would also dictate that the resulting revenues from increased on-street parking rates should be at least partially plowed back into making the public realm of the area nicer and better-maintained, would it not? Doesn’t sound like that’s being proposed here.

  • joe

    please, the valley doesn’t get rail. We get subway leftovers from Hollywood. I would say that I don’t think any street in the Valley deserves some type of transit upgrade more then Van Nuys Blvd. I would bet that if that ridership of a bussway on Van Nuys Blvd would be twice or three times that of the new orangeline extension.

    but rail, please when pigs fly. The Valley gets no rail. Thats for hip places like Santa Monica, Pasadena and Montclair.

  • One thing the city gets wrong with parking fees, and other cities get right, is that a portion of the money collected should benefit the district that it comes from! That is, if rates rise in this neighborhood, then extend them into the evening but give the local BID (or something) those funds and pay for improvements and maintenance in this corridor.

    Pasadena funds extra police, sidewalk cleaning, etc. with this money. L.A. jsut takes it and keeps it in a coffer downtown, doling it out to council offices (like the J.C Decaux money they collect for bus bench/sidewalk blocking advertisements).

  • Spokker

    “The Valley gets no rail. Thats for hip places like Santa Monica, Pasadena and Montclair.”

    And Compton.

  • NWA

    Please, Compton is way more “hip” (hop) than Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Montclair _combined_

  • Erik G.
  • The Valley could get rail in the future, but transit advocates need to get their act together.

    The San Gabriel Valley politicos are ALL lined up to support two or more Gold line extensions.

    Advocates in the San Fernando Valley need to tell their elected officials that a measly busway extension isn’t good enough.

    Hopefully, the Sepulveda Pass project in Measure R will be light rail that can be then extended north/south to Sylmar Metrolink and LAX.

    For a east/west rail line in, there are really four options.

    1) For the north county, double tracking and running more frequent Metrolink trains. That should be done whether which of the following options is done for the south Valley.

    2) Upgrading the Orange Line to light rail — the first thing you need to do is lobby to have the California Legislature repeal infamous Robbins bill that requires subway for the Orange Line. This could be extended east to the Burbank Airport and/or to the Gold Line via Burbank and Glendale to Pasadena.

    3) Run a Ventura Blvd. streetcar between Universal City and Warner Center in a transit only lane.

    4) Put in a Ventura Blvd. subway between Warner Center and Universal City that then extends to the media district and to the Burbank Metrolink/HighSpeedRail station. This would be several decades away with all of the other projects ahead of it in line.

    However, as long is the Valley acts as if extending a busway is a big deal, the powers that be will assume you are happy to settle for that.

    I hate calling it the “Orange Line” Busways are necessary, but they shouldn’t get official “colors”.

  • A negative (more expensive on-street parking) never promotes a positive (encouraging alternative parking).

    Let me understand this.

    The city wants to increase parking meter rates so that drivers will be motivated to use the local parking garages?

    Drivers are looking for a convenient place to park. They are not hunting for places to park. And who is self-motivated to shop in Van Nuys anyway? How many of us spend, say our Saturday afternoons, shopping in bail bond outlets?

    Is the type of irrational “planning” that Mr. Cardenas supports? Will forcing drivers to pay more to park on Van Nuys’ streets help local businesses?

  • TransitPlanner

    A Valley-Westside-Long Beach Corridor was on the original Measure A map. Downtown-Glendale, Downtown-Norwalk and Downtown-El Monte corridors were also shown. What happened to them ? Personally, I think an elevated Green Line extension, both north and south from LAX, would be the best option. It would be able to directly serve trip generators and would be fast with no traffic conflicts. Our version of the Vancouver Skytrain…

  • “The Valley gets no rail.”

    Please! I am so sick of the self-pity of the Valley political culture. And the amnesia. The Valley in its endless bickering and desire for something today brought this upon themselves.

    In the 90s there was a battle over rail in the Valley–whether it belonged along Burbank/Chandler right-of-way or the Ventura Freeway corridor. Folks in each corridor went nuts advocating having it in the other corridor (e.g. Chandler folks thought the Ventura Freeway was the way to go and vice versa). Eventually tired of this stalemate the old County Transportation Commission went forward with the next project on the list, the light rail line to Pasadena we know as the Gold Line. That’s right, the Valley was next on the list except it couldn’t get its act together.

    Eventually the Chandler corridor was selected. But in the interim the prospects of rail happening any time soon had dried up. That is when Martha Welborne had her Curitiba junket that got Supervisor Yaroslavsky excited about doing a busway along Chandler. Then Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg (back when the state was flush from capital gains proceeds) offered a quarter billion to get the busway built. All the usual Valley bigshots saw a prize in the offing and gung ho pushed the busway. And that is why the valley got the Orange Line along a route that was originally intended for rail. I lived through all this and I know it cold.

  • Brendan Clarke

    Dan Wetzel says: “For a east/west rail line in, there are really four options.”

    Dan (or anyone) – why don’t you consider Sherman Way as an east/west option? It’s where the original Valley east/west streetcar was, it’s very wide, it has a alternating mix of older high density residential and high density commercial,some interspersed vacant areas that could draw the support of TOD developers, and some of the few places in valley with character – old Canoga and old Reseda, as well as one or two institutions that could provide some political pull (if they were on board), eg Jewish Home for the Aging.

  • Ed

    Awesome picture of the Van Nuys Civic Center!

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