Packed Auditorium Cheers and Questions the MyFigueroa! Project

Will it be?

(It’s taking a long time to process the video from last night. We’ll have full, cleaner, copies of Gandy and Smith’s presentations and the Q and A. late tonight or tomorrow. – DN)

The February 2011 MyFigueroa! meeting was something of a love-in. The room was packed with advocates who loudly applauded the project both with actual applause and during open comment. Two years ago, the negative comments either mocked the vision of the dreamers from Gehl Architects or expressed anger over the lack of Spanish translation tools in the presentation.

Last night was a different story. The room was still packed, with 200 people people lining the walls and back of the room even before the presentation began. State Senator Currren Price, running to replace Jan Perry in Council District 9, watched the presentations and the question and answer period that followed. Loud applause greeted both the introduction by pro-bike visionary Charlie Gandy and the presentation of the proposal by Melani Smith of Melendrez. The public comment was quite a bit more skeptical.

The Figueroa Corridor Streetscape project (MyFigueroa!) seeks to transform the Figueroa Corridor into a complete, multimodal street that better serves the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, while still accommodating drivers. The changes include a road diet, new bike lanes, improved sidewalks, zebra crosswalks, space for a streetcar at sometime in the future and even cycletracks along 3 miles of Figueroa Street, Hope Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

When the comment cards are counted, there will likely be a large difference between the feelings of those in the room and the feelings of those that spoke. The room was dotted with advocates, including ones from regional groups such as the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and South L.A. specific ones such as TRUST South L.A. These groups support the project, but were content to let the general audience hold the floor.

The closest remarks to advocacy testimony came from a young man wearing a MOM RIDAZZ vest who asked why the separated bike lanes are regular bike lanes for part of the project area. Nat Gale, from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s transportation team, also spoke in favor of the project.

As is usually the case, some of the criticism was downright silly, such as concerns that the project would lead to increased property value and property speculators in Downtown Los Angeles or that increased car traffic congestion would lead to a decrease in property values or that the project would hinder deliveries to the convention center or L.A. Live. For the record, there’s a street known as L.A. Live Way which has its own ramp access to the I-110 which was built for precisely the purpose of delivering goods to the Convention Center and L.A. Live.

“Figueroa is a regional street.”

Other complaints had more merit, and could be combined into two sections. The first is the concerns that eliminating one mixed-use travel lane on one street for a couple of miles would mess up the entire road network even more so than it is now.

Sitting feet away from me, Damien Goodmon grumbled that the environmental documents and traffic reports for the study are hard to find. He didn’t seem the least bit mollified when a planning department staff person told him the documents were available on the Planning Department’s website but not (yet) anywhere on the MyFigueroa! webpage. Earlier, he argued that a road diet will push more drivers on to the I-110 creating more traffic and pollution for those living close to the freeway in South L.A. and the Crenshaw area.

Another concern is that a project such as this is a bad idea so near the core of the city, where many people still drive. “If I lived near the beach, I would bike all the time,” one man who lives on 11th street testified after Gandy’s presentation about the improvements made to Long Beach’s transportation network. “I see a lot of cars on 11th street. What’s going to happen when two lanes become one?”

Local Issues

But most of the concerns were about specific, hyper-local, issues. What will happen to street trees along Martin Luther King Boulevard (trees may be removed on the south side), will there be sidewalk space available during construction (yes), does the project conform with plans for Gilbert Lindsey Plaza (yes, but we’ll double check), and what about the flyover project proposed for West Adams Boulevard? In each case, the MyFigueroa! team had an answer. Whether the answer satisfied the inquisitor is not known.

One piece of news from last night’s meeting is that the West Adams Flyover Project, which would build a pedestrian bridge near where congestion pricing lanes would dump traffic off the I-110, is not funded for construction despite earlier reports.

The next steps for the project include more outreach as part of the environmental process. Construction of the $20 million street reconfiguration needs to be completed by the end of 2014 or it loses funding.

  • Anonymous

    The proposed project looks lovely as it relates to Figueroa, but what’s up with presenting a drawing with no bike lanes whatsoever on MLK? So USC students, Lakers fans and downtown hipsters will get a fully protected “ultra-bike lane”, whereas any cyclists who unfortunate enough to live a few blocks away in South L.A. will be forced onto the sidewalk? Boo . . .

  • ubrayj02

    Yeah, it would be awesome if the whole thing would extend beyond MLK – at least the bike lanes or something should extend South … but then again, Figueroa is one of the longest streets in the city. We have to start somewhere and show to the rest of the city that this type of thing works for business, residents, tourists, and everyone else. I think the project is going to be a big success and at that point extending bike and pedestrian facilities and making the street more human scale will seem like the easy and obvious thing to do in South LA.

    I think that Figueroa (both N. and S.) will soon be the flagship street to show the changes in LA in the past decade – bike lanes, revitalizing, human-scaled streets, and increased return on investment for the public and private sectors.

  • Carl

    Isn’t the West Adams Flyover Project already complete?

  • Eric B

    I think there may be some confusion. There are plans to put bike lanes on MLK from Figueroa west to the existing bike lanes at Marlton (just west of Crenshaw) by converting the peak hour lane to full time parking and a bike lane.

  • The city has the bike lanes on MLK as part of the bike plan, not part of this project. They’re coming…at some point.

  • Correct. I had to double check. During the q and a there was discussion of a different flyover project, and as I was broadcasting and taking notes at the same time I clearly confused myself. The post above has been changed to reflect. Sorry.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure that’s quite right. There was a project that was part of the HOT lane project to reroute pedestrian and car traffic at the intersection of Adams and Flower, and the pedestrian bridge was a part of that. But the question at the forum seemed to be about a “flyover” from the freeway that would avoid that whole intersection and “dump” the traffic directly onto Figueroa. I haven’t heard of that project myself, but if that’s the plan, it hasn’t yet happened.

  • Anonymous

    That’s the whole point though. MLK is part of this super ultra bike project, and it actually has bike lanes planned for it as well, just not part of this project, and so what we’ll get from DOT will probably one of these lame bike lanes sandwiched flush against a line of parked cars with three lanes of 50 mph traffic whizzing by inches away. Oh what fun!

  • PC

    Once again, look at how the rendering shows the cyclist being funnelled, without much of an escape route, in between the sidewalk of one of LA’s more bustling neighborhoods and a (presumably busy, or soon to be so) Metro bus stop. I think that as a cyclist I could do without that sort of “protection.”

    Am I safe (heh) in assuming that the rest of this “protected” bike lane will put me right next to the sidewalk right where the peds step out into traffic to hail cabs on busy weekend nights, a la the green-painted Manhattan deathtraps?

  • I should have stuck with my original thought. I have confirmed with MyFig consultants and LADOT that the Fly Away we mentioned is neither built nor funded.

  • Eric B

    It’ll be only two lanes of whizzing traffic, but point taken. :-)

  • Anonymous

    “Earlier, he argued that a road diet will push more drivers on to the I-110 creating more traffic and pollution for those living close to the freeway in South L.A. and the Crenshaw area.”

    Interesting position considering that the 110 is only about 500 feet from Figueroa… 500 feet further away from Crenshaw. I’m trying to be charitable, but it really seems that some people have a foregone conclusion of what the impact of any transpo project will be.

  • Erik Griswold

    You are welcome to “Take the Lane” as is your right under California State Law. But this facility will encourage many more people to get on to a bicycle which has not happened in the last 30-odd years.

    VroomVroom!

  • Those hideous Manhattan deathtraps – you mean the ones that reduced injuries by 63%, reduced speeding by 74%, and reduced sidewalk riding by half? Oh, the humanity!

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/prospectparkwest.shtml

  • Anonymous

    I believe MLK is three lanes in each direction in the segment in question.

  • And would be reduced to two under the bike lane proposal.

  • Anonymous

    There is no bike lane proposal for MLK in this project.

  • But there is under the First Year Bike Plan Implementation Package; i.e., the thing that both Damien and Eric refer to in their comments. Just because it’s not included in MyFig doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/01/17/breaking-news-city-releases-deir-for-5-year-bike-plan-implementationmy-figueroa-project-further-study-not-needed/

  • Good grief, go back and read the comment thread again.

    “and so what we’ll get from DOT will probably one of these lame ***bike lanes*** sandwiched flush against a line of parked cars with three lanes of 50 mph traffic whizzing by inches away.”

    (emphasis mine)

    In order to create the bike lanes under this proposal that YOU ACKNOWLEDGE EXISTS, the existing three peak-hour auto travel lanes would be reduced to two. That’s what Eric is saying, that’s what I’m saying.

    The MLK bike lane proposal is part of the First Year Bike Plan Implementation package, which if approved would likely be striped by the end of calendar year 2013. http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/01/17/breaking-news-city-releases-deir-for-5-year-bike-plan-implementationmy-figueroa-project-further-study-not-needed/

  • Anonymous

    I’m well aware of that fact that there are bike lanes proposed in the 2010 Bike Plan; that’s the precise reason that I’m disappointed that nothing was done for bikes on MLK in this Project. You, Eric, and I all know that the type of bike lanes that will be put in under the regular bicycle planning process are vastly inferior to the type of bike lanes that are planned for this Project. You can go take a look for yourself at the section of MLK already completed between Marlton and Rodeo — in one section, sandwiched between a line of parked cars and two 40+mph traffic, in another against the curb next to three lanes of even faster traffic, even though there’s not even that much traffic on that part of MLK. I live and work in that area, and can tell you that they are almost never utilized by cyclists.

    So my question has been and continues to be why include MLK in a streetscape project that is built around LA’s first cycle track, and not include anything for bikes on MLK as part of the project? They’re improving the sidewalks on MLK as part of this Project, right? The street will certainly be improved as well, just not for bikes?

    It reeks of the “great for me (downtown hipsters and USC students), not for thee (South LA kids and older people trying to get to school and work)” type of planning that has perpetuated a lot of what’s wrong with this city in the first place. We want a safe, state-of-the-art, bicycle facility on MLK just like everyone does on Figueroa. It doesn’t have to be cycle track, but why not at least something better than a minimum width lane squeezed between cars and multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic, with no buffer zones.

  • Anonymous

    You can look at my comment above, but “it” in the sense of a buffered or protected bicycle lane is not going to happen on MLK as part of the Bike Plan Implementation.

  • Nothing I said contradicts what you wrote. I was not arguing that you should be satisfied with the standard bike lanes proposed for MLK under the Bike Plan. I actually agree that unprotected lanes are inadequate and that LADOT needs to start moving in the direction of more protected lanes.

    I merely wanted to point out that the Bike Plan’s (crappy, inadequate) MLK bike lane proposal would reduce the number of automobile travel lanes from three to two each way.

    “the bike lane proposal” I mention in my original comment IS the Bike Plan implementation package, NOT MyFig. Which makes your reply: (“There is no bike lane proposal for MLK in this project”) nonsensical because I wasn’t talking about “this project” (i.e., MyFig) in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Well I apologize for making a nonsensical response. My point is that this Project may have afforded an opportunity for the stretch of MLK included in it to receive a bike lane superior to that which would otherwise be provided, and therefore the failure to include them is a missed opportunity. I’m sure Fig had a sorry bike lane slotted for it in the bike plan too.

  • Hi there, I’m a journalism student and I’m doing a story on the My Figueroa project and I find what you’re saying very interesting. I personally have been working on this story for 2 weeks and have yet to hear anything negative as far as feedback is concerned. But, I’d love to hear more about your perspective about the demographics that have been selected for the bike lanes. You can contact me at: cmfowler@usc.edu. Thanks in advance!

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