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Dangerous Intersection of Venice and Robertson Gets a Flashing Yellow Signal

Last November, David Lindley was walking across the street at the five point intersection of Venice and South Robertson Boulevard when he was struck and killed. Lindley, an autistic teen who attended nearby Hamilton High School, was mourned by friends and family who vowed to see the intersection fixed.

Three months later, with the construction and reconfigurations complete, a video by longtime Expo Line supporter/watcher Gökhan Esirgen showed that cars turning on to Robertson Boulevard were routinely turning left into the pedestrian path well after receiving a red light. Esirgen noted this wasn’t an unusual occurrence, but a decision to place expediency over the safety of pedestrians that was made with nearly every crossing.

Over six months after Lindley’s tragic death, LADOT recently unveiled its answer to the safety issues created by what one Hamilton High School student described as a “busy, confusing and dangerous” intersection, a flashing yellow arrow warning drivers to be aware of pedestrians. This is the first time the City of Los Angeles has used this traffic control device, but they are common in other parts of the country. Motorists have shown greater likelihood to yield during a flashing yellow arrow than a red one.

A good start, to be sure. Now if only the city would prioritize ticketing cars that turn against the light over pedestrians who are crossing the street safely and efficiently.

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Leimert Park People St Plaza Opens; Stakeholders Debate Building a Cultural Center

Leimert Park Village's People St Plaza officially opened for business this past weekend. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Leimert Park Village’s People St Plaza officially opened for business this past weekend. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Don’t tell anybody I’m using these,” Councilmember Herb Wesson said of the blue art scissors he wielded as the moment came to cut the ribbon on Leimert Park Village’s People St Plaza project this past Saturday.

The enormous pair of wooden scissors held by Institute for Maximum Human Potential President/CEO Delores Brown — the fiscal sponsor of the plaza project — were only ceremonial.

The cutting of the ribbon on the People St Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The cutting of the ribbon on the People St Plaza. Councilmember Wesson is flanked by (l-r) Johnnie Raines, Empowerment Congress West (ECWA) member-at-large, ECWA Chair Danielle Lafayette, Institute for Maximum Human Potential President/CEO Delores Brown, Leimert Park Art Walk co-founder Ben Caldwell, LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds, Director of Special Projects for the Dept. of Cultural Affairs James Burks, Urban Design Center founder Sherri Franklin, Manager/Program Director of Great Streets, Nat Gale, and Metro Boardmember Jackie Dupont-Walker. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The ribbon-cutting marked the end of the first stage in a long process for Leimert Park Village stakeholders.

A year and a half prior, at the first community-wide design charette, they had talked about the possibility of converting part of 43rd Pl. into a plaza space.

With the Leimert Park Metro station due to be finished in the next few years, they had felt the time for deciding what face they wanted to present to the world was now.

Situated directly in front of the beautiful Vision Theater, the KAOS Network, and part of Mark Bradford’s Art + Practice campus, the site looked to be the perfect anchor for the rebranding of the community as a hub for black creatives and the celebration of the African diaspora. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Downtown L.A. Has Three Great Bike Corrals

Downtown Los Angeles' first bike corral - in front of Blue Bottle Coffee. Really. Photos by Joe Linton

Downtown Los Angeles’ first bike corral (really) in front of Blue Bottle Coffee. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

A couple weeks ago, I reported that the great new bike corral on Main Street at 5th was the first in downtown Los Angeles. Commenter Steven White correctly pointed out that there are indeed two other on-street bike corrals in the Downtown Arts District. So although it is the first in the historic core, the Main Street corral wasn’t the first downtown L.A. bike corral, nor was that my first or or likely to my last error to appear in writing.

I checked in with Elizabeth Gallardo, L.A. City Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) assistant bicycle coordinator, and the brains behind LADOT’s bicycle-friendly business programs. According to Gallardo, the the bike corral on Willow Street at Mateo Street was the first in downtown L.A., having been installed in October 2014. That corral serves and is sponsored by Blue Bottle Coffee‘s cafe at 582 Mateo Street.

Downtown L.A.'s third great bike corral in front of Pie Hole.

Downtown L.A.’s third great bike corral in front of Pie Hole.

 

On June 15th, LADOT installed both the Main Street corral, sponsored by Peddler’s Creamery, and a third corral on Traction Avenue at Hewitt Street, sponsored by The Pie Hole. The Main Street corral edged the Traction Avenue one out by a couple hours to claim the vaunted second-corral silver medal.  Read more…

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Photo Essay: Expo Phase 2 Construction 90+Percent Done, Open Early 2016

Metro Expo Line test train at Palms Station this morning. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro Expo Line test train at Palms Station this morning. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, and others hosted a press event this morning to showcase progress on the Metro Expo Line Phase 2. The event took place at the under-construction Palms Station, and featured a test train pulling into the station under its own electrical catenary power. Leaders enthused that construction is more than 90 percent complete, and the project is on-time and on-budget.

It has been a while since trains ran on these tracks. Passenger service last ran in the 1950s, though freight trains continued through the 1980s. On June 15th, photos surfaced on social media showing a test train traveling the line.

The opening date isn’t set yet, but the most recent Metro estimates show a completion date of April 2016, one month after the also under-construction Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line, projected to open March 2016. There’s still quite a bit of work to do, so if you’re adding these dates to your calendar, use a pencil.

One anticipated wrinkle, reported earlier at Santa Monica Next, is a possible longer-than-usual headway when Expo Phase 2 first opens. According to a Metro staff report, if all these construction schedules remain on track, Metro anticipates a “temporary shortage of light rail vehicles.” Metro anticipates initially operating Expo trains every 12 minutes at peak hours. The poor headways shouldn’t last long, though; as more trains become available, the Expo Line headways reduce to every six minutes.  And it gets better in the near future. The six-minute wait time goes down to a five-minute wait time when Metro opens its Regional Connector subway, currently anticipated in 2020.

Below is a photo essay of the Expo train, station, and parallel bikeway under construction today.  Read more…

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Saturday! Leimert Park Celebrates 2nd Annual 20|20 Vision Charette with People St Plaza Launch

Adinkra symbols for Unity and Human Relations (Nkonsonkonson -- "chain link" -- at bottom right) and "Except for God" (Gye Nyame), intended as a nod to the spirituality of the Ghanaian people (the symbol is prevalent there) have already been painted on a few dots in the Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Adinkra symbols for Unity and Human Relations (Nkonsonkonson — “chain link” — at bottom right) and “Except for God” (Gye Nyame), intended as a nod to the spirituality of the Ghanaian people (the symbol is prevalent there) have already been painted on a few dots in the Plaza. The Plaza officially opens this Saturday. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

It is noon on a Monday.

The weekly Leimert Park Village (LPV) stakeholders meeting has just finished, and Sherri Franklin, founder of the Urban Design Center, and Romerol Malveaux, former Field Director for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, are leading a small group of people on a walk around the village streets.

Map in hand, Franklin is taking note of existing issues with the sidewalks, trees (or lack of), pedestrian lighting, planters, and street furniture. The notes will be used to help determine how the Prop 1C dollars Leimert Park received should be deployed to improve the streetscape.

It’s not an altogether uncommon scene.

Since the launch of the Leimert Park Village Stakeholders 20|20 Vision Initiative in January 2014, it seems there is always work to be done.

The 20|20 Vision Initiative was born out of the LPV stakeholders’ desire to harness the change the Leimert Park station will bring to the area when the Crenshaw/LAX rail line is completed in 2020. The nearly 200 stakeholders in attendance focused on developing an overarching vision for the area and what they would need to do to make that vision a reality. Participants debated how to make Leimert Park a destination, deepen relationships with sister cities or communities, attract investors looking to build partnerships with local artists and cultural caretakers, support black creatives and foster development from within the community, and the possibility of turning the space in front of the Vision Theater into a car-free plaza.

Since that initial charette, LPV stakeholders have been meeting every Monday morning to hone those plans and move forward on their implementation.

A year and a half later, their People St Plaza project is set to open in a ceremony this Saturday, June 27, at 2 p.m.

But instead of the Plaza symbolizing the end of the journey and cause to take a breath, it seems more like a beginning. Or maybe a benchmark. But definitely not an end. To wit, the ceremony will be taking place during a break for those attending tomorrow’s Second Annual LPV 20|20 Vision Initiative Charette, “Harnessing Our Cultural Economy.” Read more…

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After Contentious Discussion, Metro Board Approves Bike-Share Contract

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego bike-share. Image via Streetfilms

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego bike-share, which is operated by Bicycle Transit Systems. Today the Metro board approved its bike-share contract, bring a 1,000-bike system to DTLA in 2016.  Image via Streetfilms

This morning, the Metro Board of Directors approved its $11 million contract with Bicycle Transit Systems to install and operate a pilot downtown L.A. bike-share system. The downtown system is expected to debut in 2016 with 60+stations and 1,000+bicycles.

The road getting this far has been a bit messy. The cities of Santa Monica and Long Beach got out ahead of Metro, with Santa Monica’s 500-bike “Breeze” bike-share system opening this summer. When Metro got up to speed, it pushed new rules that isolate the Santa Monica system, and discourage its expansion into nearby jurisdictions. This triggered a rift between Westside leaders and Metro, evident in this editorial.

Today’s discussion was the longest and most contentious of any bicycle-related items ever before the Metro board, with four different directors offering amendments. A few of the amendments were relatively tame, including directing consideration of additional docking stations at Mariachi Plaza and the Expo/Vermont Station, moved by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, respectively. However,Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who was elected to the Board by government leaders in the Westside and South Bay, introduced a multi-part amendment that included delaying bike-share contract approval for five months. In addition, Butts’ motion directed Metro to meet and work closely with other cities, mainly Santa Monica and Long Beach, each of which is moving forward with separate bike-share systems.

Discussion ensued, with directors expressing concerns over multiple bike-share systems being quicksand, cannibalized, and balkanized. Electeds from in and near Santa Monica and Long Beach expressed strong concerns. County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Long Beach, portrayed Metro’s approach as “my way or the highway.”

Ultimately, L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti negotiated an amended motion accepting portions of Butts’ proposal, but not delaying contract approval. Even with the negotiated solution, Knabe continued to press to delay bike-share approval for one month to work out final language. Read more…

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Opinion: Let Bike-Share Flourish in DTLA, Santa Monica, and Long Beach

The city of Santa Monica's bike-share system "Breeze" is expected to go live this fall.

The city of Santa Monica’s “Breeze” bike-share system “Breeze” expected to go live this summer. Photo: Santa Monica Next

Earlier this week, we ran an editorial by Assemblymember Richard Bloom with other Westside elected officials calling on Metro to “delay its decision” on a 1,000-bike bike-share system slated to open in downtown Los Angeles in early 2016. Metro has the bike-share contract on its board meeting agenda for today; it was approved by Metro’s planning committee approved last week.

It’s my hope that my editorial today might be able to play a small role in bridging the rift between Metro and these Westside leaders – allowing multiple bike-share systems to thrive. I urge the Metro Board to approve its bike-share system today. I fully expect that a year from now, we’ll have flourishing bike-share systems running in Long Beach, Santa Monica, and downtown L.A.

Bike-share is great. It works in hundreds of cities all over the planet. As Metro Boardmember and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin stated, it’s “long overdue” for L.A. County. There is a broad consensus on this. Elected officials, cities, agencies, and the public all want it.

Early poorly-planned attempts failed to bring bike-share to the city of L.A. By fall of 2013, Santa Monica had already approved moving forward with bike-share. Soon after, Mayor Eric Garcetti and others directed Metro to lead efforts toward a regional bike-share system. Despite Metro pressure to delay, Santa Monica moved forward with its 500-bike system, debuting next month. Santa Monica’s “Breeze” system is largely funded via Metro’s Call for Projects. Long after Santa Monica got things underway, and probably partially in reaction to Santa Monica’s initiative, Metro pulled together its plans and initial funding. In late 2014, Metro initiated its vendor selection process for a downtown L.A. pilot. Last week’s committee meeting included not only the Metro DTLA pilot but also new “Interoperability Objectives” guidelines [PDF] that would, in effect, force all new L.A. County bike-share under a one-size-fits-all Metro umbrella.

Santa Monica and Long Beach bike-shares selected vendor CycleHop, a “smart bike” system. Metro selected Bicycle Transit Systems, a “smart dock” system. These systems are not compatible, not “interoperable.” No rider will be able to check out a bike in Santa Monica, and ride it ten miles to downtown L.A. and dock the bike there. But then again, bike-share bikes are for short hops; they’re bulky and not really suited to 10-mile trips anyway. In the event that the service areas expand over time, which they will, some day there will be a need for interoperability – whatever form that takes – but the need now is to get these systems implemented and get on-the-ground experience.

Bloom’s editorial states that Metro’s smart docks are “old technology” and Santa Monica’s smart bikes are “cutting edge.” In her testimony last week, L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds emphasized that all bike-share systems are “very much a start-up.” Start-ups are risky. If other cities’ bike-share implementation experience is telling, it’s possible that one or both of these these companies will experience hiccups. This could mean delays, supply issues, or worse. At this early stage, I think it will be beneficial to have multiple systems would operate within L.A. County, just in case one system has problems. There may even be new technology right around the corner, too, so it just doesn’t make sense to put all our eggs in one countywide basket today.

Here’s what I’d like to see in bike-share’s near future:

  • The DTLA, Long Beach, and Santa Monica systems all get underway, with bikes on the ground in the year ahead.
  • Each of these systems gradually expands to contiguous and nearby areas. (Councilmember Bonin and LADOT are supportive of expanding Santa Monica’s Breeze system into Venice; an initial roll-out plan includes three stations in the city of Los Angeles and more Breeze stations throughout L.A.’s Westside makes sense. Metro’s DTLA system expands into Pasadena and Hollywood.)
  • Metro supports all bike-share systems that meet a minimum standard, but not set up restrictive one-size-fits-all rules.
  • Service coverage grows over the next 5-10 years to the point where we have the “problem” of further integrating a small handful of excellent local bike-share systems.

The scenario I most fear is that the Westside electeds get their way, delaying Metro bike-share today. Then Metro could retaliate, isolating Santa Monica’s fledgling system. Instead of having two or three or more functional bike-share systems, we could end up with none.

I urge the Metro Board to approve Metro bike-share, and urge all parties to work together respectfully to continue to expand bike-share coverage throughout the county.

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Transportation Committee Questions LAPD’s 8,000+ Annual Ped Tickets

Don't assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

Don’t assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

This afternoon the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee discussed a motion questioning the effectiveness of LAPD’s “jaywalking” enforcement. The pedestrian enforcement motion, 15-0546, was authored by City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who chairs the committee.

LAPD reported that there was no way to provide the analysis requested in the motion, but did provide some pedestrian enforcement statistics. In 2014 LAPD issued 8,068 citations for pedestrians who entered the crosswalk after the walk signal had ended, typically during the countdown. LAPD reported a recent increase in “in-crosswalk” fatalities, which numbered 27, 26, 34, and 35 in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. When questioned by Councilmember Bonin, the police representative did not have information regarding who was determined to be at fault for these fatalities.

Councilmember Bonin pursued a number of lines of inquiry about LAPD’s pedestrian safety priorities, strategies, and effectiveness, but repeatedly came up against limited LAPD data.

Fellow committee members Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian expressed support for pedestrian safety, but generally focused their comments and questions on drivers’ ability to make turns at intersections.

Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds also testified, stating that there is a near-universal lack of understanding on crosswalk laws, which have not kept pace with the recent technology, especially countdown signals. Reynolds reported on recent timing changes at the federal level, dangers to seniors and other slower moving people, and stressed that LADOT and LAPD were partnering on a city Vision Zero steering committee, which is in the process of crunching data to inform enforcement strategies.

Committee chair Bonin concluded the hearing directing LAPD and LADOT to return to the Transportation Committee in 60 days. LAPD was directed to return with additional data on fatality causes, areas targeted, and impacts of current practices. LADOT was directed to report back on possible legislative changes and adjustments to signal timing.

With change needed in state law, and no clear consensus yet on an effective enforcement strategy, it doesn’t look like there’s any quick fix to, as Bonin characterized, L.A.’s countdown signals “literally giving a mixed signal.”

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A Look at Downtown L.A. Parking Enforcement Riding with LADOT

Officer Guerra and Sgt. Smith ticketing a parking violation on Spring Street. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Officer Guerra and Sgt. Smith ticketing a parking violation on Spring Street. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier this week, I accepted an invitation to do a downtown Los Angeles bike-along with City of L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) parking enforcement officers. LADOT also uses bicycle officers to do parking enforcement in the Valley, West L.A., and Hollywood. The parking enforcement staff downtown is 30 strong, all on bicycle.

Traffic Officer Michael Guerra has been doing parking enforcement in downtown Los Angeles for 17 years. Also accompanying us was his supervisor Sergeant Rodney Smith.

Officer Guerra rode Los Angeles City bike number 75

Officer Guerra rode Los Angeles City bike number 75

The officers rode on Giant brand bicycles, complete with the city seal and vehicle numbers. This got me thinking that there’s a system in place for managing a city bicycle fleet, perhaps other city staff could use a city bike fleet for short trips.

My first question to them was about handicapped placards. Is handicapped placard abuse really as prevalent as I’ve read? Parking expert Don Shoup has asserted that widespread abuse of handicapped placards is a serious barrier to making variable pricing work in downtown L.A. The officers responded that handicap placards were typically on 75 to 80 percent of cars parked in the Little Tokyo and Historic Core, where we were going. And they said it’s worse in the Financial District.

This was confirmed during our ride. Many blocks on streets we rode, including on First Street and Third Street, had all but one or two cars displaying a handicap placard. It’s difficult to tell if some or all of these are legitimate. Other LADOT officers have been involved in placard enforcement sting operations typically headed by the DMV. Based on the headlines, both media and law enforcement have little trouble finding widespread abuse. Sgt. Smith mentioned that, in the past, LADOT had tried to push for placard reform via the state legislature, but that it had not yielded any results, and it was no longer a top priority.

I also asked about how the city’s L.A. Express Park variable pricing program has affected their work. Though they were aware that prices were sometimes changing, the program had not really made things perceptibly different from an enforcement end. I thought to myself, perhaps the placards do impact managing pricing; with so much placard use, most drivers pay nothing and it doesn’t matter how much the going rates are.

It didn’t take long for the officers to find and ticket illegally parked vehicles. Guerra said that it varies a lot, but that he writes 20-30 tickets on a typical day, though typically a lot fewer when it’s raining, and sometimes more around the holidays when drivers frequently park illegally to run in to get last-minute shopping done. On weekends, he writes more tickets, typically 40-50 per day, but that is because there are fewer officers deployed than on weekdays.  Read more…

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Metro Celebrates National Dump the Pump Day

Phil Washington (left) and Shawn Nelson encouraging driving commuters to dump the pump. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Phil Washington (left) and Shawn Nelson encouraging driving commuters to dump the pump. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning, Metro CEO Phil Washington and Metrolink Board Chair and Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson welcomed Southern California commuters to “dump the pump.” The press event featured a motorcycle officer serving ceremonial divorce papers to a car. The divorcing a car theme is reminiscent of the title of a recommended 2000 book by Katie Alvord. Divorcing one’s car, according to American Public Transit Association (APTA) figures for Los Angeles, will save a car commuter nearly $13,000 each year in “auto-mony.”

Washington emphasized that while driving is promoted as being associated with freedom, the reality differs from the image. Nelson emphasized that riding transit avoids the “white knuckle” stress of driving, and instead gives commuters time to read, text, or just spend pleasant time alone. Read more…