An Apology to Ray Klein and Why It Doesn’t Change Streetsblog’s Position on the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes

On Friday night, I received an agitated email from Ray Klein, a Board Member for the Brentwood Neighborhood Council who requested a retraction for my claim that he has continually misquoted LADOT Senior Traffic Engineer Kang Hu while making the case that Brentwood should be excluded from the Wilshire Bus Only Lane (BOL) project.

Ray Klein, making his case to the City Council.

I promised to look into his claim.  I talked to Hu, downloaded and listened to testimony from the December meeting of the Metro Board of Directors and now feel that I do indeed owe Klein an apology.  The two times I mentioned Mr. Klein’s testimony and quotation of Hu’s remarks from the Metro Board Meeting are the City Council Transportation Committee Hearing on January 12 and the City Council Hearing on February 2.

First, the words he credited to Hu were indeed spoken.  They’re taken somewhat out of context, but Klein is trying to win a campaign and using one’s words against them is a pretty common tactic.  We’ll talk below about Klein’s quote of Hu and the full testimony delivered by the LADOT Senior Traffic Engineer.

Second, while listening to the testimony at the Metro Board Meeting, it was Jay Handal of the Westside Neighborhood Council, not Klein, who took Hu’s words out of context at the Metro Board Meeting in December.

For both of these errors, I apologize to Mr. Klein and to Streetsblog’s readers and supporters.  That being said, I stand by my assertion that trying to use Hu’s statement, one that flows with praise for the BOL project, as proof the project shouldn’t be built is a mistake.  After reading both the excerpt that Klein quotes and Hu’s full statement I maintain that Hu did not mean, or say, that the BOL project in Brentwood or Condo Canyon should be exempted.

To the City Council, Klein quotes Hu as saying, “…fragmented bus lanes will be confusing to all traffic; the moving in and out of curb lanes would diminish the benefit for this project and also would create environmental problems.”

Wow, that seems like an open and shut case that Brentwood should be excluded from the project because there is no continuity on either sides.  While I would argue that a 1.8 mile bus only project would stand on its own, and asking cars to change lanes once in less than two miles is hardly an undue burden, let’s look at Hu’s statement in its entirety.

“Good afternoon, I’m Kang Hu, LADOT.  We at LADOT are fully supportive of this project.  We have worked with Metro over the past three years on the environmental process.

We understand there will be traffic impacts.  And that’s why we pushed to elevate this project from initial study to a full EIR, to disclose all the impacts and consider project alternatives.  After a very thorough and comprehensive study we believe this project alternative, with some street widening segments and proper mitigation measures along Wilshire, the traffic impact will be manageable.

As Brad indicated, our analysis shows that there will be more people riding the buses than driving on Wilshire Boulevard.  The net benefit for bus passengers is greater than the additional delay for cars within the project.  And more importantly, this project can sustain future growth and it will encourage mode shift from cars to transit, and be a strong passenger base for the Subway to the Sea.

I’d like to emphasize that it is important to maintain a continuous bus lane to get the maximum benefit from the project.  If we exempt one segment in between and create fragmented bus lanes, it will be confusing to traffic.  The weaving in and out of traffic would diminish the benefit for this project and also would create environmental problems.  Thank You. “

If you read the full statement, it’s pretty clear that Hu thinks this project is a great one for the City of Los Angeles and the last paragraph is saying that the less area that is exempted, the better the project.  The project’s benefit is “diminished” as in “not as great” with exemptions not “eliminated.”  While we can argue all we want about Hu’s intent, I decided to go straight to the man himself.

After a pleasant exchange about Streetsblog’s coverage of the BOL debate, Hu admitted that Klein did accurately quote him on a word-for-word basis, but what he complained has attempted to clarify to was that Klein was using the quote to mis-represent Hu’s overall statement as showed above.  To that end, we had this brief exchange point blank at the end of the call.

Streetsblog: Do you believe there is benefit to completing the Bus Only Lanes in Brentwood.

Hu: Yes.  Based on our studies, that is my position.

Streetsblog: Even without Santa Monica or Westwood being part of the project at this time?

Hu: Yes.

Seems pretty clear to me.