For Universal City, It’s a Bridge Not Far Enough

The proposed bridge design serves all three corners of the intersection of Lankershim Boulevard and Campo de Cahuenga. Of course, the intersection has four corners.

As the local media focuses on this morning’s hearing on the NBC Universal Evolution project, there’s another project that impacts the area. The proposed pedestrian bridge crossing Lankershim Boulevard and Campo de Cahuenga as part of an eighteen year old Memorandum of Understanding will cost $19 million, but questions remain on whether the bridge is even a good idea.

Because of the proximity of both a Red Line rail station and a major bus terminal across the street from Universal’s City Walk and Universal Studios, this intersection would be a natural one to create a world-class intersection, with safe crossings and street-level food and retail options. Instead, NBC Universal is forcing Metro to build a costly pedestrian bridge to, in the words of the agency, “prevent pedestrian crossing Lankershim.”

With the spotlight on NBC Universal, advocates are stepping up calls to scrap the pedestrian bridge in favor of something that could reduce congestion and create a better environment for pedestrians.

“With NBC Universal asking Los Angeles city and county elected officials to approve its huge project, our elected officials should require as a condition of approval that NBC Universal drop its demand to force Metro to spend $19 million on a bridge that no one else wants,” said Faramarz Nabavi, a San Fernando Valley pedestrian and transit advocate. 

So what could be done with the $19 million that Metro owes as part of the MOU? Nabavi points out that bus service in the San Fernando Valley used to be much heavier than it is today, however recent service cuts have reduced the number of buses on the route. Nabavi calculates that Metro could add an additional 30 hours of bus service to serve Universal every day for the next thirty years with the same money used for the pedestrian bridge.

If pedestrian safety really is the chief concern, $19 million could pay for making hundreds intersections much safer for pedestrians through better signage, overhead signals, and crosswalks.

“There is a real risk that Valley residents might not vote to extend the transit sales tax this November if they see this type of waste of taxpayer dollars,” adds Nabavi.  “Metro’s own polling already suggests that Valley is one of the regions of the county that is least likely to support the tax extension.”

To add insult to injury, Metro continues to claim that the bridge “[f]acilitates access to all 3 corners of Lankershim and Campo de Cahuenga intersection.” Of course, the intersection of Lankershim and  Campo Cahuenga has four corners.

The local bus terminal, with thousands of daily passengers, is on the fourth (southwest) corner of the intersection not touched by the bridge. Metro bus passengers going east-west across the Valley need to cross both Campo de Cahuenga and Lankershim to transfer to Line 155 (Burbank/Toluca Lake) from the buses that come from the west on Ventura Boulevard. Even as Metro and NBC Universal tour their concern for pedestrian safety, their ignoring the safety of many of Metro’s customers.

  • One of the things I really hate about the pedestrian experience in Las Vegas is the prevalence of pedestrian bridges. I mean, nice that you don’t have to wait for the light, but it allows the roads to become gigantic, and forces pedestrians to hike up a flight of stairs on both ends just to cross the street.

    The fact that Metro would be doing this right next to a subway station is outrageous– and, of course, failing at basic geometry.

  • roadblock

    excellent breakdown.

  • roadblock

    TOTALLY.

  • Erik Griswold

    1)Does this thing have escalators?
    2) What would it cost to build a pedestrian tunnel to the southeast corner of the intersection and add a headhouse/portal?
    3) Why not implement a Barnes Dance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedestrian_scramble
    in the meantime and see how it works out. That only requires some paint and some reprogramming of the traffic signals.

  • BRUFAN

    I don’t understand your logic. At one point you’re saying this bridge is a bad idea then you’re saying it doesn’t hit all 4 corners causing so called “insult to injury” (an idiom certain overused by transportation blogs). So would it be a good idea if it did cover all 4 corners? Would metro customers feel vindicated because they are protected from using a crosswalk?

  • J. Ryan

    “Because of the proximity of both a Red Line rail station and Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit Station…”

    That’s North Hollywood. Universal is just adjacent to Red Line.

  • Anonymous

    Really you don’t understand that? Its not a good idea, but if its going to be built, it should at least cover the whole intersection and not just 3 corners of it. Option 1) No bridge, money goes to making whole intersection safer, Option 2) Stuck with the bridge, then the bridge should be accessible to all metro users from all 4 corners, not just the 3. Pretty simple to understand.

  • BRUFAN

    There is a tunnel (train station) that you can use from the sw corner to the nw corner if you really want to avoid crossing Campo Chuenga. Do you really need a bridge and a tunnel?

  • M

    So you are suggesting that if you end up at the sw corner (where the buses are), the person should first go downstairs into the Metro station to cross the street, then exit the metro station (up another level) to get to the street level, then go up another level to the bridge, just to simply get across to the east side of lankershim? That’s asking someone to travel up and down 2 “levels” simply to cross the street where the buses let ppl off?

  • John K

    I use this intersection everyday and this bridge will make my commute that much worse. Total auto-oriented design. It is bad design and will lower ridership.

  • ubrayj02

    How much does the engineering profession hate people? $19 million.

    This bridge is an economic disaster. It brings no value to this corner and it replaces the risk of death by auto with the risk of robbery on a secluded bridge over traffic.

    Where has a bridge like this made life, business, or safety better? The bridges I cross in LA designed to keep pedestrians out of the way of cars are all, every single one of them, a psychological, financial, and aesthetic disaster.

  • M

    True – There is however, there is a very large number of buses that connect at this station/terminate at the layover area at the sw corner of this intersection including the Metro 750, 240 and 155.

  • The pedestrian tunnel option was thrown out years ago because it was too expensive. I would love a Scramble Crosswalk/Barnes Dance. I think the odds of getting it are…not great…Remember, this is part of a legal deal struck two decades ago. The people to pressure are NBC Universal, Metro’s just doing what it’s obligated to do.

  • Thanks J. Ryan. I have made the correction.

  • I have to disagree. I love the idea of a Pedestrian bridge. I work at
    NBCUniversal and live in Studio City. I cross the Lankershim/Campo De
    Cahuenga intersection twice a day (sometimes more) and as a pedestrian
    AND as a driver I would like to see this bridge. As a driver, you want
    to make your turns, but so many people crossing the intersection makes
    it tough so you end up waiting two light cycles before you can turn.
    I’ve also seen many drivers get pulled over by the cops for making a
    turn as a last minute pedestrian crosses, so the driver gets a ticket
    for crossing the intersection.

    As a pedestrian, I welcome the idea of not waiting for the light at the
    cross walk. I get scared that drivers are speeding along Lankershim and
    may not see me. I’ve seen a lot of people almost get hit by cars. Plus,
    if I’ve got a good walking pace, I don’t want to stop for the
    light…slows down my heart rate.

    I suppose if you don’t live in the area, you have no idea the real
    impact that bridge would have. If no bridge is possible, then we should
    have a 4 way pedestrian light like the have in Downtown Pasadena
    (^__^)

  • John Kerr

    Hi,

    Can you provide contact information so we can fight this thing? 

  • Is this being done with operations-eligible money? Often funds are only available for certain categories of use.

  • I’d suggest contacting L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents this area. If he opposes it that would make a difference:

    tom.labonge@lacity.org.

  • Atheisticallyyours

    I have been to this station, and a bridge is SO NOT NEEDED! Put the money into EXPANDING BUS SERVICE METRO! 

  • Erik Griswold

    Don’t forget, the $19 million is going to be spent primarily to get pedestrians over to the stop for the Universal Studios (and City Walk) “Tram”, which presently stays on Universal property because the vehicle cannot operate legally on public streets.  

    Why can’t some arrangement be made to allow this “Tram” to cross Lankersham and enter the Red Line station’s bus terminal?  Seems silly to spend all that money just because of some Vehicular Code legalese that could be corrected or changed.

  • Faramarz

    The NBC Universal project must receive entitlements (approvals) from both the City and County because the project covers both areas inside and outside city limits.

    Here are two major improvements NBC Universal must commit to make before either the City or the County grant any entitlements:

    1. Modified its legal settlement with Metro by dropping its demand that Metro build a $19 million pedestrian bridge in favor of requiring Metro to increase service on existing bus lines to Universal by the same amount of money over a specified period of time (such as 10 years).  Note that this will not cost NBC Universal one penny!

    2. Agree to make a continuous bike path along the LA River an integral part of its project, including its transportation element, especially now that NBC Universal has eliminated the proposed north-south road that would have provided a hilly bike lane or path.

    Remember to be nice, but firm!

    Here are the elected official’s staff:

    Ben Saltsman, Deputy, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, bsaltsman@lacbos.org

    Renee Weitzer, Chief of Land Use Planning, Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, renee.weitzer@lacity.org

  • Faramarz

     The NBC Universal project must receive entitlements (approvals) from both the City and County because the project covers both areas inside and outside city limits.

    Here are two major improvements NBC Universal must commit to make before either the City or the County grant any entitlements:

    1. Modify its legal settlement with Metro by dropping its demand that Metro build a $19 million pedestrian bridge in favor of requiring Metro to increase service on existing bus lines to Universal by the same amount of money over a specified period of time (such as 10 years).  Note that this will not cost NBC Universal one penny!

    2. Agree to make a continuous bike path along the LA River an integral part of its project, including its transportation element, especially now that NBC Universal has eliminated the proposed north-south road that would have provided a hilly bike lane or path.

    Remember that it’s usually best to be nice, but firm.

    Here are the county and city staff covering the project:

    Ben Saltsman, Deputy, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, bsaltsman@lacbos.org

    Renee Weitzer, Chief of Land Use Planning, Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, renee.weitzer@lacity.org

    Mariana Salazar, Planning Department, City of Los Angeles, mariana.salazar@lacity.org

  • Jim61773

    They should have gone with the pedestrian tunnel.    I have no problem with separating pedestrian traffic from car traffic.  The logical choice for a subway station would be a tunnel. 

    That corner will never be a “world-class intersection” with retail as long as Metro owns one side and Universal owns the other.

  • calwatch

    The problem is that the tunnel costs $4 million more than the bridge, although ironically, had they just accepted the bid for the tunnel when it came out, they would be spending about as much as the bridge costs today. 
    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2010/09_september/20100915CONItem3.pdf

    There are tunnels underneath lots of Metrolink stations now, with no issues. Put heavy lighting and cameras and there will be no homeless camping out. 

  • Anonymous

    A pedestrian scramble is the best option. 

    The bridge would be cumbersome and take too long. The street life at that intersection is completely, utterly lacking. Development efforts should be focused on fixing things on a human scale, not by asking 60 people to climb up and down out of the way of a few dozen single-occupancy cars. 

  • Nicolem

    To incoporate safefty and sustainability into this project install SlipNOTmetal products and provide slip resistant walking/working surfaces.

  • Cygnihurley

    “With the spotlight on NBC Universal, advocates are stepping up calls to
    scrap the pedestrian bridge in favor of something that could reduce
    congestion and create a better environment for pedestrians.”

    Umm, the best answer to this question is maybe some type of FUCKIN’ BRIDGE.

  • John McNary

    It’s Universal Studios! Why not a “Conan The BArbarian” Catapault?

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