Skip to content

Posts from the "Agency Watch" Category

7 Comments

Meet Seleta Reynolds, the Safe Streets Advocate Running LADOT

Seleta Reynolds speaks at the ribbon cutting for the "Dressed Rehearsal" on Broadway. Photo: LADOT

Seleta Reynolds speaks at the ribbon cutting for the “Dress Rehearsal” on Broadway. Photo: LADOT

(If you want to skip the article and the editing and just listen to our half-hour conversation, click here. – DN)

If you spend some time with the newly minted General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, you would think she was an LADOT lifer not a recent transplant from the San Francisco MTA.

She can speak eloquently of the “great heart” that Los Angeles’ people have, belying the image projected by Hollywood.

Dressed in a suit and bike helmet, she points out road hazards on her bike commute to work, weaves around every pothole, manhole, and cracked street with the knowledge of a regular.

She can even recite DOT history going back years, thanks in part to her avid interest in reading Streetsblog.

It’s not until you visit her office that you remember Seleta Reynolds has been on the job at LADOT for roughly a month. The walls are nearly barren. A map of her first project at Fehr and Peers, the Morro Street Bicycle Boulevard in San Luis Obispo, had arrived the day before our interview.

But you don’t need blank walls to tell you that Reynolds is a true breath of fresh air to a department that, in the past, has primarily prioritized a perceived need to drive quickly. Reynolds talked about community and community building in response to questions about the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, equity in transportation funding, relationships with the City Council, and building a bicycle share system that will work in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region.

And it’s these new ideas, and a new commitment to an LADOT that is people-focused, that has advocates, and our political leadership, so excited. When announcing her nomination to head LADOT, Mayor Eric Garcetti referred to her as the “ideal field marshal in our war against traffic.” City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin was just as illustrative in an email response for this story, “Seleta is a rock star – a game-changer – who will lead the charge to get Los Angeles moving again.”

I could write a full story on each of the eight topics we covered last Tuesday, but instead I’ve broken up the audio into more manageable three- or four-minute segments with a short summary. This can all be found after the jump. Read more…

1 Comment

Video: Vigil Calls on D.A. Jackie Lacey for Justice for Slain Cyclist Milt Olin

Watch Nathan Lucero’s excellent short video documenting last week’s ride and vigil for justice for Milt Olin. Streetsblog readers are familiar with the sad story of how, on December 8th, 2014, Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood, while typing on his on-board computer, ran over and killed cyclist Milton Olin.

In late August, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey decided not prosecute Wood. For the time being, L.A.’s streets are a little more dangerous for everyone.

The story is not over yet. See the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition website for details on how you can contact D.A. Lacey and urge her to prosecute Deputy Wood.

2 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Milton Olin Ride and Vigil Demands D.A. Justice

Milton Olin Ride passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday’s Justice for Milt Olin Ride #rideformilt passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Yield to Life, and Ghost Bikes hosted a ride and vigil for Milton Olin. Olin was bicycling in a Calabasas bike lane when County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood drove into the bike lane and ended Olin’s life. The sheriff was distracted, typing a non-emergency message on his on-board computer. Last week, eight months after the crash, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute the killer, stating that Wood’s distracted driving constituted “reasonable behavior.”

Yesterday’s ride started at the crash site in Calabasas, and rode 30 miles to the D.A.’s headquarters in downtown L.A. Roughly 75 riders were on the ride as it entered downtown, and the number swelled to roughly 125 for the vigil at Grand Park.

LACBC submitted this letter (read it – it is excellent and thorough in outlining appropriate measures to prosecute Wood for his deadly behavior) and are encouraging others concerned to write to D.A. Lacey to demand she prosecute Olin’s killer. The D.A. can be reached at webmail@da.lacounty.gov.

For links to media coverage of yesterday’s ride and vigil, check these articles from SBLA headlines: CBS, ABCLA Times, LA Register, and Daily News. See also earlier SBLA coverage of this outrageous killing and the inexcusable lack of prosecution. More photos after the jump.  Read more…

1 Comment

Tonight at 7: Damien Appears on Which Way L.A. Discussing the Milt Olin Crash

wwla

At 7 p.m. this evening, cyclists will be pedaling to the County District Attorney’s Office for a vigil honoring Milt Olin. Olin is the cyclist killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood while cycling legally in a bicycle lane along Mulholland Highway in Calabasas on the afternoon of December 8th.

At roughly the same time, KCRW’s news/talk show Which Way L.A. will air an interview with local public safety officials and myself discussing the crash, the investigation, the D.A.’s decision not to press charges, and where we go from here. There’s no word on who else will be joining Warren Olney and myself, but I’m sure we will have a lively discussion.

(UPDATE: I just completed the interview. I was joined by LADOT Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery and David Teater of the National Safety Council.)

The interview will be broadcast at 89.9 on the F.M. dial and at the KCRW website. We will provide a direct link to the interview in tomorrow’s “Today’s Headlines” post.

11 Comments

Law Enforcement and Bike Safety: Top Cops Must Innovate, not Prevaricate

LAPD protects the bike lane in front of headquarters from sun and rain elements that could damage the paint job. Police cars parked in the bike lane, First Street between Spring and Main in downtown L.A.

LAPD protects the then-buffered bike lane in front of headquarters from sun and rain elements that could damage the paint job. LAPD cars parked in the bike lane on First Street between Spring and Main in downtown L.A.

If you approach LAPD headquarters from First Street, City Hall is reflected in the windows. This was designed into the building intentionally, to remind cops that they’re not there to serve the police department itself; they’re to serve the people of Los Angeles.

When I first moved to downtown from Los Feliz in 2009, I was thrilled to find a new bike lane on First Street between the Civic Center subway station and my new home in the Arts District. The portion between Spring and Main Street, in front of LAPD, was curbside with a wide buffer on the left to put space between moving cars and cyclists.

But it was always blocked by parked police cars.

It seemed outrageous to me that cops, out of laziness or contempt, could get away with sabotaging the bike lane on a stretch of street that runs between LAPD headquarters and City Hall, right in front of their bosses. So I started taking pictures of the cars. I went to an LAPD bike meeting. I met some sympathetic cops who suggested, among other things, that LADOT should put in bollards to keep all cars, including police cruisers, off the lane. One had warning notes put on the police cars. My photos were bounced up the chain of command. And we started a real, bona fide internal-affairs complaint. And, after many months, it seems I succeeded in embarrassing the police brass.

The result.

Instead of letting officers know that parking on bike lanes would not be tolerated, police leadership worked quietly with then LADOT chief Jaime de la Vega to remove the buffered lane. I knew about this in advance, because a city official leaked it to me with the hope that Streetsblog and other bike-advocacy groups could shame the LAPD.

It didn’t work. Read more…

4 Comments

Metro Board Will Discuss Sheriff Audit Reports and Shortcomings on Thursday

Thursday at noon the Metro Board is holding a workshop on the recent audit of the security contract it has with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The unit of the LASD that handles the contract is known as Metro Transit Services which has an online presence on Facebook, Twitter and nixle.

To read the report, click ##http://www.scribd.com/doc/238287478/Los-Angeles-County-Sheriff-s-Department-Contract-Audit-Report-May-2014##here.##

To read the report, click here.

In 1997 Metro’s Police Department was replaced by a partnership of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Then in 2003 when it was due to be renewed LASD was able to freeze out the LADP and take over the entire contract, which they have held since that time via periodic renewals. For the period of July 2013-June 2014 LASD received $83,855,638 for the contract.

Earlier this year, I was elated to learn (via this comment made by taipan85 to my piece on the Metro fare restructuring proposal) that an audit was underway in response to a motion (#21) made in June 2013 by then Metro Board member Mel Wilson. At that time, Wilson was chair of the Metro Finance, Budget and Audit Committee. Wilson stated that in the prior year various troubling Sheriff’s Department items came before his committee, so he decided that a thorough audit was called for to see if other aspects of the LASD’s performance were similarly inadequate.

The establishment of the partnership and then the LASD getting the entire contract were during the years I attended Metro Board meetings. As I watched this unfold, it became clear that the entire process was extremely political and had little to do with providing the best policing services for Metro patrons. The audit and the follow-up peer review, facilitated at the request of Metro CEO Art Leahy, by the American Public Transportation Association (a trade group), confirm my long-held suspicions of how poorly the LASD has been fulfilling the contract.

It is dismaying that the staff report for the meeting Thursday glosses over the depth of the problems with claims of recent improvements and opportunities. This begs the question: would these recent improvements have occurred if Wilson had not requested the audit? Read more…

41 Comments

Protected Bike Lane Bill Approved By Legislature, Awaiting Governor

With Governor Brown’s approval, protected bike lanes like these ones on San Francisco’s Market Street could become easier for cities to build. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A bill that would make it easier for California cities to build protected bike lanes was passed by both houses of the state legislature this week and only awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

The bill, A.B. 1193, was authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition.

The bill serves several purposes. First and foremost, it requires Caltrans to establish engineering standards for protected bike lanes or “cycletracks,” a new category of bike lanes for cities to use.

At the same time, it removes a provision in the law that requires that any bike lane built in California adhere to Caltrans specifications, even if it is built on a local street that is not under Caltrans’ jurisdiction. This frees up local jurisdictions to choose other guidelines, such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, if the Caltrans standards do not adequately address local conditions.

Caltrans endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide earlier this year but has not adopted it, meaning that cities that want to build separated bike lanes must still go through a process to get an exemption.

Last-minute negotiations on the bill addressed concerns about liability by adding several conditions that have to be met before non-Caltrans criteria can be used. A “qualified engineer” must review and sign off on a protected bike lane project, the public must be duly notified, and alternative criteria must “adhere to guidelines established by a national association of public agency transportation official,” which means the NACTO guidelines could be used whether Caltrans has officially adopted them or not.

And unfortunately for lay people, Caltrans balked at removing its convention of naming bike lane types by “class” and numeral, saying it is just too embedded in its documents. So the new protected bike lanes category would be officially named “Class IV Bikeways,” adding to Class I Bikeways (bike paths or shared use paths), Class II bikeways (bike lanes), and Class III bikeways (bike routes). Memorize that.

“We’re very excited to have gotten to this point after months of harder-than-expected negotiations and stalwart support from Phil Ting,” said Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition. ”He really wants to see protected bikeways get more popular.”

10 Comments

Five Things I Learned at This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee

Here are the top five things I learned listening in to this week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting. The public meeting took place Wednesday, August 27, at Los Angeles City Hall. If you’re nimble and/or having trouble sleeping, catch the full audio here.

1. Seleta Reynolds Hearts Car Share

In discussion of the city’s anemic car share program, new Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds described herself as a “long-time fan of car share and a frequent user of it.” Reynolds bemoaned the lack of a viable car share option in her new Silver Lake neighborhood.

Hertz car share didn't work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

Hertz car share didn’t work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

The GM announced an “immediate expansion” of the city’s provisions to enable basic car sharing planned for this September, with a more robust expansion, likely including point-to-point options, coming at some unspecified later date. Reynolds stated that she favors a system that would include multiple providers. This should prevent issues like those associated with the failures like the city’s selected vendor Hertz becoming unresponsive.

To be continued. I too dig car share, and am happy Reynolds is on it.

2. Protected Bike Lanes This Year – Or Probably Not

In public testimony (audio at 01:05 here) about Los Angeles some day maybe perhaps one day you know possibly getting around to implementing those newfangled protected bike lanes that are all the rage in other cities, LADOT Bikeways’ Michelle Mowery stated:

MyFig is certainly one of these [protected bike lanes]. We’re also looking at Los Angeles Street right now. We believe we will have that on the ground within this next fiscal year.

When SBLA tweeted the good news, LADOT Bike Program took to the Twittersphere to let folks know that no protected bike lanes are coming this year, but that My Figueroa construction will happen soon. SBLA will dig more into this story. Did Mowery mean “a Los Angeles street” or “Los Angeles Street?” Could it be part of longer-term plans for Union Station? In any case, I am looking forward to protected bike lanes arriving on these shores. Ones not inside tunnels, that is.

3. Streetsblog Hearts Great New Traffic Metrics

Spoiler alert: wonky acronyms ahead. I knew that changes in California’s traffic modeling was big news, with the state ditching its car-centric car-only car-always Level of Service (LOS) measures for evaluating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental impacts, and instead using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

It was great to hear it from LADOT Assistant General Manager Jay Kim.

Read more…

20 Comments

Milton Olin’s Killer Escapes Charges. A Broken System Cries for Change.

Last night, Brenda Gazaar broke the story in the Daily News that the District Attorney will not be pressing charges against Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood, who struck and killed Milt Olin from behind with his car while Olin was riding his bicycle in the bike lane. Olin, a former Napster executive and lawyer, was riding legally and safely in the bicycle lane on the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway in Calabasas.

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Reaction from safety advocates, critics of the scandal-plagued Sheriff’s Department and bicyclists was swift on social media. The department’s internal investigation showed that Wood was typing non-emergency messages on his on-board computer when his car veered into the bicycle lane at high enough speed to strike Olin and send him flying over his handlebars.

I share their outrage, and the investigation into Wood’s killing of Olin has been under fire from the moment the Sheriff’s Department declined to pass the investigation off to the California Highway Patrol, but the burden of proof to convict a peace officer who kills someone with a vehicle is so high that even a well-ordered investigation may have yielded the same results.

The system is broken.

Maybe a review of the D.A. will overturn the initial ruling and a criminal trial will occur. Even if that’s the case, there’s going to be a high standard for Wood to face justice.

The system is broken.

Gazaar explains: Read more…

3 Comments

LADOT Seeking Input on Plan to Offer Discount to TAP Users

Are reduced fares on the way for users of LADOT’s TAP on DASH bus service?

The LADOT recently held public hearings seeking comments on proposed new Electronic Payment Incentive Fares along with sharing new Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden Fare Policies that it says “are supportive of the incentive fares, and also establish criteria for how fares would be raised in the future”.

New TAP Cards

New TAP Cards

Here is a summary of the main proposals per the announcement on the LADOT website:

The implementation of the Los Angeles Region’s TAP smart card system has enabled LADOT to offer new pricing options to riders that were not available with LADOT’s existing passes and tickets. LADOT’s demonstration of mobile ticketing, through the use of smart phones, will also support these proposed fare options. That mobile ticketing demonstration, called LA Mobile, will take place in Fall 2014.

LADOT is proposing to reduce its DASH single-ride fare from 50 cents to 35 cents if a rider uses a TAP card to pay the fare. The 30% discount is intended to lure riders to using the TAP card that provides multiple benefits including the ability to protect the card balance from loss or theft. Read more…