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Metro Moving Forward With Flawed Complete Streets Policy

Cover of proposed Metro Complete Streets Policy, approved by Metro's Sustainability Committee today. Image via Metro, full report here.

Cover of proposed Metro Complete Streets Policy, approved by Metro’s Sustainability Committee today. Image via Metro, full report [PDF]

At today’s meeting, the Metro board of directors Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee approved the agency’s proposed Complete Streets Policy [PDF]. The committee approval sends the policy to the full board for anticipated approval at its meeting next Thursday, October 23.

Complete streets policies, broadly, mandate that all streets need to accommodate people using all modes of travel, including walking, bicycling, transit, and driving.

Metro staff in giving their presentation [PDF], expressed that the bulk of regional complete streets implementation occurs outside Metro’s jurisdiction. For the most part, street configurations are the jurisdiction of individual cities.

Metro staff identified two key areas where they assert that Metro has its greatest influence over complete streets implementation:

  • Corridor Planning: Metro is a lead agency in building various projects, most prominently rail, but also highways and other facilities.
  • Transportation Funding: Metro passes funding along to cities (and others) to build projects – including via the Call for Projects.

Seven public speakers, including L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s Eric Bruins and Safe Routes To School National Partnership’s Jessica Meaney, expressed support for complete streets goals, and criticism of the draft policy. Comments focused on lack of enforceability, equity, performance metrics, as well as overall vagueness. For more details on criticisms expressed, read the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative comment letter at SRTS.

Sustainability committee members including Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin’s Transportation Deputy Paul Backstrom portrayed the new policy as “a step in the right direction,” while suggesting that some improvements will need to be made to it over time. The committee approved the policy, and requested that staff return later with proposed metrics.

In recent years, Metro has incorporated commendable complete streets facilities as part of some of its projects; examples include multi-use bike/walk paths along portions of the Metro Orange and Expo Lines. Though these bike and walk facilities are well-used, Metro does not include them in all projects, and tends to invest much greater funding in providing free parking for cars than it does in ensuring safe and convenient walking and bicycling access to its stations.

Metro recently adopted its First Last Mile Strategic Plan. Many Metro projects, though, continue to be rail- and car-focused, with first/last mile bike and pedestrian facilities being poorly-funded afterthoughts unevenly tacked on much later.

What’s in Metro’s proposed Complete Streets policy?  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: DIY Painting Between the Cracks in Silver Lake

Undisclosed Silver Lake intersection. Photo by Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Public pavement art at an undisclosed Silver Lake intersection. Photo by Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A.’s Department of Do-It-Yourself has been busy piloting some non-Highway-Design-Manual-approved pavement treatments at an undisclosed intersection somewhere in Silver Lake. We’re not going to name the streets for fear that it would make it marginally easier for official city forces to overlay their gray-heavy official design motifs there.

Streetsblog Communities Editor Sahra Sulaiman reports: “By highlighting the many, many cracks in the intersection’s cement, the paint actually makes it easier to see the uneven sections. I think it also helps alert drivers to the fact that the intersection is in terrible condition and someone walking or on a bike might need to navigate it more slowly… so you could make the argument that it is a safety mechanism.”

Readers: What do you think of this intersection? Can anybody tell us who is responsible for the paint work above? What D.I.Y. work have we missed in your neighborhood? If you want, tip SBLA anonymously here.

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Councilmember Cedillo Adds Stop Sign In Response To Fatal Hit-and-Run

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On September 14, a hit-and-run driver killed 57-year-old Gloria Ortiz. Ms. Ortiz was walking in a crosswalk in the Northeast Los Angeles community of Highland Park. The hit-and-run crime took place at the intersection of Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place, adjacent to Aldama Street Elementary School. According to KTLA5, witnesses stated that the driver “just ran her over, didn’t even turn back.”

Local residents joke darkly that speeding drivers think Avenue 50 is the name of the speed limit, not the street.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Less than a month later, yesterday, community leaders joined Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Transportation Department (LADOT) head Seleta Reynolds to highlight city efforts to make Avenue 50 safer. New stop signs were added to the intersection where Ortiz was killed. The existing somewhat-worn continental crosswalk was freshly re-painted, actually freshly re-thermoplastic-ed. @HLP90042 posted before and after photos at Twitter.

Councilmember Cedillo, who has dragged his heels on safety improvements approved for nearby North Figueroa, spoke on his commitment to “street safety, particularly around schools and where people gather.”

General Manager Reynolds emphasized that “the biggest predictor of fatalities on a street is speed, and the biggest factor in speed on your street is design” and reiterated her department’s commitment to making “safety our number one priority.”

Local resident Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, praised the city’s quick response in adding the stop sign. She described walking to Aldama School as being safe when she was younger. Today, walking her daughter to the school, she fears for their safety. Alcaraz stated that Avenue 50 is dangerous when parents are making illegal U-turns and double-parking at school drop-off and pick-up times, and, then, when the students aren’t around, Avenue 50 is dangerous because so many drivers speed. Alcaraz urged LAPD to spend more time on traffic enforcement there to prevent future tragedies.

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Thoughts at a Workshop On Replacing CA’s Gas Tax With a Mileage Fee

In 2017, California plans to pilot a new mileage-based Road User Charge designed to potentially replace the current state gas tax. Photo Wikimedia

Earlier this week, I attended a California Sustainable Transportation Funding Workshop, hosted by Caltrans, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the California Transportation Commission (CTC), and the Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance (MBUFA). The half-day program focused on how the state of California could shift from our current gas tax funding stream to one based on a per-mile fee.

Let me first say that I usually mostly hang out with a bunch of left-of-center city people like me; we get around mostly by bicycling and walking. My friends and colleagues tend to support the idea of a per-mile fee, because we expect that it could help motivate people to drive less, and use other modes more.

This workshop wasn’t populated by a bunch of people like me. I don’t think anyone else arrived there by bicycle. As far as I could tell, it was primarily people who are more mainstream: people who drive and who, for the foreseeable future, expect our car-centric transportation system to look more or less like it does now. Among the program’s sponsors was the libertarian Reason Foundation.

What was interesting about the workshop was where the left and the right agreed: gas tax revenues aren’t enough to cover transportation infrastructure costs, and per-mile fees could work better. Similar right-left agreements occur with some Shoup-inspired parking reforms and Express Lane toll programs.

California's Gas Tax

In 1994, California’s Gas Tax was set at 18 cents per gallon. It remains unchanged today, but, due to inflation, that 18 cents is now worth about 11 cents. Graph via Caltrans

Speakers at the conference set the stage by describing the situation, which they described as “The Federal & California Financial Cliff.” The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. The California gas tax is an additional 18 cents per gallon. These amounts were set in the early 1990s. Unlike percentage-based sales taxes, which fluctuate with price changes, the gas tax remains at a flat rate. Since the ’90s, inflation has effectively reduced California’s gas tax to its lowest inflation-adjusted level since California gas taxes began in 1923.

Gas taxes are dedicated to be spent on transportation only. As the gas taxes lose value over time, governmental transportation budgets are increasingly subsidized by other taxes paid by everyone, including sales taxes, property taxes, etc. Recent estimates show that only about half of overall transportation funding is paid for by dedicated gas tax revenues. To some extent, this is fair: even non-drivers derive some benefits from highways, because everyone buys goods shipped by truck. The unfair aspect of this system is that non-drivers’ taxes go, in part, to freeways that non-drivers do not use.

Transportation leaders are generally aware that general funds subsidize transportation expenditures, but many drivers assume that driving-based taxes are what pays for roads. Many drivers, though already subsidized by non-drivers, still think they’re paying too much.

There are at least three more factors that influence the gas-tax-income vs. transportation-expenditures mismatch.  Read more…

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Construction Updates, the Naming of Stations, and More at Tonight’s Meeting on the Crenshaw Line

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.53.06 AMThe Crenshaw Leadership Council (CLC) will be holding their quarterly meeting on the progress of the Crenshaw/LAX line tonight from 6 – 8 p.m. at Dulan’s on Crenshaw (4859 Crenshaw Boulevard).

The meeting will provide updates from the work of the small groups, or PODs (Project Oriented Discussions), the CLC supports — Small Business Resources, Economic Development, Transit-Oriented Development, and Safety.

You will also have the opportunity to learn about Metro’s station naming policy and offer feedback on the station names currently under consideration. Should the stations be named after a neighborhood? A landmark structure? A historic figure? A living one (don’t laugh — Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky might just get their own stops)? Drop by the meeting to offer your thoughts and get some soul food while you’re at it.

Finally, the meeting will provide updates on construction, including the upcoming 2-week closure at Crenshaw Bl. and Rodeo Rd. Read more…

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Heads Up: No Added Bicycle Capacity on Metrolink For Sunday’s CicLAvia

Metrolink has these great trains to carry lots of bikes... But don't look for them this Sunday. Image via The Source

Metrolink has these great trains to carry lots of bikes… Just don’t look for them this Sunday. Image via The Source

(Editor’s Note: Sorry to run this disappointing news announced by Metrolink, when we’re otherwise really excited about CicLAvia this Sunday. Don’t forget, though, bicycles are not required equipment. There are lots of great CicLAvia attractions located within easy walking distance from Union Station! Including a pedestrian zone in the Broadway Historic Theater area. Also, don’t forget that there are plenty of Metro rail and bus connections to the route – see this article at The Source for details. What’s the solution, readers? Should cyclists press Metrolink for better service? Should Metro press Metrolink? Can we get bike share? Host more CicLAvias? Should far-flung CicLAvia participants just drive? Let us know in the comments below.) 

Anyone who thought they will be able to take their bicycle to CicLAvia with them on Metrolink’s trains this upcoming Sunday will likely be in for an unwelcome surprise.

Metrolink has decided that they will no longer be adding bicycle cars to their trains, nor will they be adding any extra trains to their pared-down Sunday schedules despite the common knowledge that CicLAvia is a very popular event, with lots of cyclists riding Metrolink trains to attend:

The reason given is that it takes 6 weeks for trains to be reconfigured to remove the bike cars and return the sets (or “consists” in American Railroad-ese) to their normal state: Read more…

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Metro Celebrates Downtown L.A. Regional Connector Subway Groundbreaking

RegionalConnectorFoxx

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx addresses attendees at yesterday’s groundbreaking celebrations for construction of the Regional Connector subway. Photo: Streetsblog L.A.

Electeds, agency representatives, and other leaders gathered  in Little Tokyo yesterday to commemorate the groundbreaking for construction of Metro’s Regional Connector subway. Metro boardmembers were joined by federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and even activist-actor George Takei.

Preliminary construction has been underway for over a year, since before February’s full-funding announcement for the project.

Read more…

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LADOT’s Bold New Strategic Vision: Eliminate L.A. Traffic Deaths By 2025

Cover of LADOT's bold new strategic plan. View full document here.

Cover of LADOT’s bold new strategic plan. View full document here.

Today, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) released its new strategic plan, entitled Great Streets for Los Angeles.

First, we’ll editorialize enthusiastically: this plan is excellent.

And very much needed in Los Angeles.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds characterizes it as a “plan [that] requires us to do our jobs in a fundamentally different way.”

There have long been holistic thinkers at LADOT, but they’ve been in the minority, squeezing in opportunistic improvements in the midst of a departmental culture that prioritized car convenience. In the past half-dozen years, under the leadership of previous General Manager Jaime de la Vega and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LADOT has warmed up to a broader mission that balances the needs of all road users.

But today’s plan is a quantum leap forward.

Front and center in the new plan is Vision Zero.

For the uninitiated, Vision Zero is a transportation planning, law enforcement, and planning project started in Sweden in 1997. The goal is simple: eradicate traffic fatalities. Any traffic fatality is one too many. Every decision involving transportation, from how wide a road should be to how to target traffic enforcement efforts, must meet the goal of making the streets safer for all road users.

From LADOT's plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025

From LADOT’s plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025

LADOT is thinking big — the departmental plan is to “eliminate traffic fatalities in Los Angeles by 2025.”

Under Vision Zero, L.A. joins San Francisco, New York City, and many other great cities around the world in the push to eliminate traffic fatalities. By embracing Vision Zero as its first and most prominent goal, LADOT is finally saying “enough is enough.” Safety will now be the first priority in transportation decisions going forward.

“There’s a reason it’s the first thing you see when you get into the meat of the plan,” says Reynolds of Vision Zero. “Changing the way we talk about [safety in transportation], and changing the way we think about it, and changing the way that we approach our everyday work to refocus around this — that’s the thing that really is most inspiring and exciting to me.”

“To see LADOT commit to ending traffic deaths in our lifetime is a dream come true,” writes Deborah Murphy, the founder and president of Los Angeles Walks. “L.A. Walks is determined that the Vision Zero campaign will engage more city departments, including LAPD, public works, city planning and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to ensure the successful implementation of the campaign and assure the improved safety of our streets.”

While it is great to see LADOT take a lead on Vision Zero, it is doubly encouraging to see the department heeding Murphy’s advice — the plan identifies city agencies as partners. Reynolds further states that “external partners are also implicit in our success.” That means you, Streetsblog readers.

There’s plenty more in the plan that Streetsblog readers will love. Read more…

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SCAG Staff Release ATP Bike/Ped Project Funding Recommendations

Rendering of one of the ascend-able arches and the soccer field Councilmember Huizar is pushing for below. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement.

Recommendations have been released for the latest round of Active Transportation Program funding. Included in the recommendations are pedestrian and bicycle components of the Sixth Street Bridge replacement project, rendered here. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement.

The first year of the state’s new Active Transportation Funding (ATP) program is drawing to a close. ATP is the main source of funding for walking and bicycling projects and programs in L.A. County.

In the past, L.A. County bike and ped projects were primarily funded by Metro’s Call for Projects. Changes at the federal level reduced this funding, and gave control over it mostly to the state, but also partially to regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). For the 6-county Los Angeles metropolitan region, the MPO is the Southern California Association of Governments, known as “SCAG.”

Projects vying for the statewide competitive ATP grants were announced and approved in August. Those that did not succeed at the state level would have one last chance at the regional level.

This week SCAG staff released its recommendations. The final set of projects is expected to be approved by the agency’s Transportation Committee when it meets this Thursday. View the agenda [PDF].

There are no big surprises in the recommendations. SCAG appears to have adhered the state ranking, so the next few projects in line are recommended to receive funding. See the full SCAG list [PDF], some highlighted L.A. County projects appear after the jump.  Read more…

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Thanks For a Great Reception for LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds Last Night!

Happy Birthday Seleta Reynolds (left)! Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Candles on Big Man Bakes cupcakes to wish a warm happy birthday to Seleta Reynolds (right.) Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night’s capacity crowd reception honored the city of Los Angeles Transportation Department’s new General Manager Seleta Reynolds. Not only is Reynolds a champion for safety and for great places, but she even committed to scheduling this reception though it coincided with her birthday.

A big thanks to all the folks responsible for making last night’s reception a big success: