Some Los Angeles Road Diet Projects Can Add More On-Street Parking

7th Street looking east from Union Avenue. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
7th Street looking east just east of Union Avenue, current conditions. 7th Street received a road diet in 2011. The space to the left of the bicyclists no longer needs a red curb because the road diet freed up space for additional on-street parking. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Most of the city of Los Angeles’ bike lane mileage has been implemented without removing any car lanes or any parking spaces. The city Transportation Department (LADOT) merely narrows existing overly-wide lanes, and adds bike lanes. In recent years, the city of Los Angeles has also done a number of bike lane projects called “road diets.” These road diets do remove a travel lane.

For a road diet, LADOT generally removes one roughly-10-foot-wide travel lane and replaces it with two 5-foot-wide bike lanes. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has extensively studied road diets and found that they make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and people in cars

Here are some recent LADOT road diet examples – not an exhaustive list:

On many streets with excess capacity relative to current traffic volumes, these projects can be non-controversial. Sometimes, especially in commercial areas with many driveways, they are welcomed, because they facilitate easier turning. Sometimes lane removal can be controversial, when it is perceived as reducing capacity for cars.

But what about parking? Do Los Angeles road diets remove parking?

Well, by definition, a road diet is reducing a travel lane. So, no, road diets don’t remove parking, they remove a travel lane.

In many cases, L.A.’s road diets have actually freed up space for additional parking–although sometimes LADOT doesn’t take advantage of this.

LADOT has been under pressure from the 2011 mayoral directive to build more bike lanes. This urgency has resulted in some projects overlooking possibilities for reworking curb parking in light of the new road configuration. Not maximizing available curb parking can make it a little more difficult for drivers to park, and, in areas with parking meters (including the south side of 7th Street in the example below,) this means that the city could potentially be foregoing some revenue.

Basic 4-to-3 lane road diet schematic. Source: Federal Hightways Administration
Basic 4-to-3 lane road diet schematic. Source: Federal Highways Administration

The most common road diet, diagrammed above, starts with a four-lane street (with two travel lanes in each direction.) The diet removes one of those lanes, resulting in a three-lane street, with one travel lane in each direction, and one center turn lane.

7th Street at Union Street in Pico Union, shown in the photo at the top of the post, is an example of where a road diet frees up space for additional parking. 

The 7th Street example is essentially the same as the FHWA diagram above, but the street has additional width, mostly allocated to on-street parking. This portion of 7th Street received a road diet and bike lanes in 2011. Prior to the road diet, 7th Street had two car lanes in each direction. After the road diet, it had one car lane in each direction, plus a continuous center turn lane.

7th Street at Union Street
7th Street at Union Street road configuration prior to LADOT’s 2011 road diet. Mid-block (right) there are 4 traffic lanes, plus 2 parking lanes (labeled P.) The lanes flare as they approach the intersection (left) where there are 5 car lanes and no parking. Image via Google Maps

Historically, LADOT often flares the four lanes outward at many intersections, removing parking on both sides of the street to make room for a center left-turn lane. So, at intersections , the street has five lanes and no parking – see above image. Prior to 2011, on 7th Street at Union Street there were five lanes of traffic and no curb parking along the area where the lanes flared out.

The same stretch of 7th Street, after the road diet. Base image via Google Street view
The same stretch of 7th Street after the road diet. View from mid-block looking west toward Union Street. With the new continuous center turn lane, there’s no need to flare the lanes at intersections. There are three continuous lanes for cars, plus bike lanes (labeled B) and parking lanes (labeled P.) The curb on both sides no longer needs to be painted red. The road diet freed up space for additional on-street parking (though the city hasn’t actually added the parking yet.) Base image via Google Street View.

When the number of lanes is reduced from four to three, there is often new room for parking near intersections.

Actual road diets, by definition, reduce traffic lanes. They don’t reduce on-street parking, and in some cases they can increase it.

  • momomomomoney

    On Virgil there was peak hour no parking sections that were removed when the road diet was installed.

  • jamesinger

    Another great article Joe. I really love your work on this site!!

  • Niall Huffman

    7th Street also gained peak-hour parking space when the road diet was extended through DTLA… http://ladotbikeblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/7th-street-status-update/

  • Joe B

    There’s really no room to add safe parking at intersections like the one you describe, because there’s no room to add a door-zone parking buffer for careless drivers who fling their doors open in front of oncoming traffic. (A safe parking lane needs at least 10 feet: 7 for the car, plus 3 for the door.) Additionally, parked cars close to intersections often obstruct visibility at the most dangerous place on the road, endangering drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.

    Our road space is an incredibly valuable public asset, and I would hate to see it get used for more free private vehicle storage when it’s desperately needed for safe transportation.

  • DMalcolmCarson

    The curb at the actual intersection could still be red, but I think Joe L. is referring to a bit further back. The red zone could be significantly shortened. I disagree with your apparent bias against parallel parking, although I agree that it shouldn’t be free. Metered parallel parking forms a great buffer between the pedestrian realm and moving traffic. It also helps local businesses and raises revenues for the City.

  • DMalcolmCarson

    As a couple comments below mention, in Los Angeles especially, road diets and bike lane installations can be particularly good for parking to the extent that they necessitate the removal peak period parking restrictions. Removal of those restrictions will coincidentally make the street work better for businesses and pedestrians as well.

  • 7th St Resident

    In exchange for the parking, transit users in the form of transit buses getting delayed time up to 10-15 minutes and time again on 7th Street. This is not a good message to display when trying to convince the use to road diets on constrained streets with high transit usage and frequency.

  • Niall Huffman

    I’m skeptical that the road diet has really added 10-15 minutes to every bus trip. For one thing, from what I remember of the EIR for the Priority 1 bike lane package, LADOT’s modeling didn’t project anywhere near this level of impact, even assuming the worst-case scenario in which no drivers adjust their routes or change modes. For another thing, in my experience peak-hour traffic *always* moved slowly on 7th, particularly in the westbound direction approaching the signal at Figueroa (and to a certain extent Flower), where long waits for a green light produce most of the delays. Notably, LADOT left two westbound lanes in place for three blocks leading up to this intersection, so there’s plenty of room for traffic to queue before the light at Figueroa — the problem is just that the signal cycle is too long and there are too many traffic signals in quick succession leading up to this intersection.

    I realize that delays are frustrating and the minutes can seem to drag on when you’re sitting in traffic, but I seriously doubt that the removal of the extra lane is adding that much travel time *compared to previous conditions.*. I invite you to produce data (i.e., travel times through the corridor from Main to Fig before/after the road diet) in support of this claim.

    Outside of the evening peak, my experience is that 7th tends to be pretty uncongested through DTLA, so the problem is limited to a relatively small percentage of the day.

    Beyond that, yes, I’m quite open to the idea that transit ought to be prioritized over private vehicle storage, particularly considering the ample supply of off-street parking in the vicinity. Maybe it’s time to think about bus-only lanes for 7th, or possibly turning it into a transit mall with bike lanes? Something to consider if the DTLA Streetcar ever happens.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    I definitely think that 7th St, and Broadway, ought to be converted into transit malls with bike lanes. There are so many buses on both streets that they’ll be weaving across bike lanes unless there is coherent design for integrating the two, which may well make car lanes difficult to include. It will also be very useful for things like the FlyAway bus and the Silver Line that get freeway express lanes for most of their journey, but then sit in traffic through two miles of downtown.

  • 7th St Resident

    Skepticism is healthy, here’s your proof.

    Riding on the bus before there was only minor delay even as the buses have to maneuver in and out of the lanes make the local stops. Now because of the restriction in lane space due to this road diet buses are stuck at bus stops for a minute or two at multiple bus stops before that bus can merge on to the single lane because it is so congested.

    If you don’t believe me go out and ask any bus operator who has to operate along 7th Street through Downtown and they will tell you how much added time the trip takes and because of the congestion delay they have to pick up more passengers at bus stops which further increases the delay, this is where 10-15 minutes can sneak up very quickly.

    Another example, is the 760 Rapid bus. Before the road diet the 760 Rapid bus would operate without any stops between Broadway and Flower in about 4- 5 minutes at rush hour, now it takes 10-15 minutes to go the distance of 1/2 mile on a Rapid bus! That is a 6-10 minute increase!

    Because of the congestion in February and the increase in added trip time, Metro had to adjust the rapid to now pick up local stops from Main Street all the way to Figueroa because the congestion of the other local lines got so bad. Because the design didn’t account for the demands of this very busy bus corridor through Downtown LA all because of this poorly executed road diet. So yes this is only part of the day but is a key part of the day that transit users count on and I would add that these delays continue even into the weekend afternoons where its not as bad as 10-15 minutes but 5-6 minute delays are common.

    The best empirical data to prove this point is that it takes me 11-12 minutes to walk from Main to Flower at rush hour. Before the road diet, I would see a 51 or 60 or 760 and these buses would beat me by a solid 3-4 blocks. Now with the road diet I’ve consistently beaten the buses by 2-3 blocks in length or approximately 6 to upwards of 10 minutes of travel time.

  • calwatch

    On the other hand, maybe some of the buses need to go off 7th and onto 5th/6th or 8th/9th. While the 51 runs through and can’t be moved, the 760 might be better on 5th/6th, using 720 stops.

  • 7th St Resident

    60/760 needs to stay on 7th Street to pick up those heading towards Greyhound and American Apparel.

    So again by the suggestion that transit users will have to walk farther and in some cases have to make an additional transfer to connect to the Blue and Expo Lines at 7th Street Metro Center if these lines go to 5th/6th Streets.

    Am I missing something here?

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