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LAPD: No Public Record Evidence That Bike Lanes Delay Emergency Response

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at Councilmember Cedillo's Bike Lane Community Meeting on May 8, 2014

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at a May 8, 2014, community meeting. Based on LAPD’s response to a public records request, Captain Bert’s anti-bike lane assertions were not based on any LAPD analysis regarding bike lanes. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

There is new evidence that the testimony given by a Los Angeles Police Department captain against a road diet on North Figueroa Street was, similar to Metro and LAFD testimony: not based on any actual LAPD evidence.

LAPD Captain Jeff Bert appeared in uniform at the May 8th public meeting hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Captain Bert stated that the planned North Figueroa road diet bike lanes would impair police emergency response times. Recently the L.A. Times reported that Cedillo had stated that “local fire and police officials told him it [N. Figueroa bike lanes] could pose a safety problem for emergency response vehicles.”

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Jacobberger submitted a public records request letter [pdf] asking the LAPD for any documentation Captain Bert had referred to and, indeed, “[a]ll documents referring or relating to any analysis or evaluation by LAPD of whether bike lanes impair emergency response times.”

It will come as no surprise that LAPD’s response [pdf, and embedded after the jump below], similar to LAFD’s, cites no documents that make any connections between emergency response times and bike facilities.

While the LAFD response was a one-page letter basically saying “no records found,” the LAPD response was five pages. LAPD included past data backing up Captain Bert’s statement that LAPD’s Northeast Division already has longer emergency response times when compared to other divisions throughout Los Angeles. For April-May 2014, Northeast Division averaged 8.2 minutes, slightly higher than West Los Angeles Division’s average of 8.1 minutes, and just over a minute worse than the citywide average of 6.9 minutes.

LAPD’s letter further stated that “no other information was located” pertinent to Jacobberger’s records request.

Now that Gil Cedillo has made his full North Figueroa flip-flop official, the latest emergency response time revelations are perhaps not so timely. Maybe by showing agency representatives’ anti-bike-lane testimonies as unfounded, uninformed, and misleading, these representatives might show some reluctance to get in the way of public safety projects in the future. Time will tell. Read more…

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Metro July Meeting Re-Cap: Subway, SRTP, Active Transpo, and More

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads San Fernando Valley rail supporters rally this morning for Orange Line upgrades. Yesterday the Metro Board approved a motion that directs the agency to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads a San Fernando Valley rail supporters press event this morning. Yesterday, Metro approved a motion to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s July Board of Directors meeting took place yesterday. As usual, it was four-plus hours long, with plenty of implications for the future of livability and transportation for the region. SBLA re-caps the meeting below.

Mayor Garcetti Assumes Board Chair

Yesterday’s meeting was Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first as the new chair of Metro’s Board of Directors. Garcetti opened with some remarks outlining his priorities for his Metro chair tenure. After giving the obligatory nod to disliking L.A. traffic, Garcetti assured that his transportation priorities are regional, not ending at L.A. City borders. His greatest enthusiasm is for innovation, especially using technology to make our transportation systems smarter. He affirmed that Los Angeles’ transportation future will be multi-modal.

More on Garcetti’s Metro vision: The Source, Daily News

Contract Approved for Purple Line Subway Construction

The biggest and most contentious item on the agenda was approval of the $1.6 billion contract for 3.9 miles of Purple Line subway construction under Wilshire Boulevard from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard. As recommended by Metro staff, the board awarded the contract to the “STS” contractor team of Skanska, Traylor and Shea. The STS bid was nearly $200 million more expensive than a competing bid by Dragados, leading some board members to question the selection process. Construction will likely begin this year, and the line is anticipated to open in 2023.

More on the Subway Contract: L.A. Times, The Source

Short Range Transportation Plan Approved

Metro approved its 10-year, $88 billion Short Range Transportation Plan more-or-less as initially proposed. Metro staff asserted that the SRTP is less a new plan and more a sort of progress report on the agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan. The perception is, though, that the SRTP is a sort of early casting call for projects to get in line for a possible 2016 transportation funding ballot measure. Speakers before the board urged more funding for active transportation, building the 710 Freeway tunnel, converting the Orange Line from BRT to rail, and extending the Gold Line eastward.

Read more…

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Gatto and Englander Stump State Legislation for Hit-and-Run Alert System

Assemblymember Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes. Behind Gatto are, left to right, LACBC’s Eric Bruins, two LAPD representatives, L.A. Councilmember Mitch Englander, and Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a press conference on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall yesterday, state and local legislators joined forces with local non-profits to draw attention to efforts to stem the tide of hit-and-run crimes. The press conference focused on A.B. 47 – a proposal to create a new emergency alert system to notify the public to help apprehend hit-and-run suspects. The alert system would use existing state-controlled sign boards on state-controlled freeways, so it will require state legislation.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto enumerated the gruesome hit-and-run statistics: 20,000 hit-and-run collisions take place in L.A. County each year; 4,000 of these result in death or serious bodily injury; only 20 percent of fatal hit-and-run perpetrators are arrested. Gatto relayed the story of a similar alert system in Colorado which resulted in the city of Denver increasing their apprehension rate from 20 percent to 75 percent.

Gatto is the author of A.B. 47 and also A.B. 1532 which would suspend drivers licenses of perpetrators of hit-and-runs. Both of these bills passed the State Assembly in June, and now await State Senate approval. If A.B. 47 passes the Senate by the end of August, and is approved by the Governor, then hit-and-run alerts could begin in January 2015.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander called L.A. hit-and-run crimes “an epidemic of biblical proportions.” Englander emphasized that fleeing a crash scene should never be called an “accident.”  Englander was one of the proponents of official L.A. City support for hit-and-run alerts in concept (approved), and for A.B. 47 specifically (introduced, pending council approval.)

Hit-and-run survivor Damian Kevitt emphasized that Gatto’s bills may not end these crimes, but fear of apprehension and penalties could create “a moment of thought where drivers think about what they’re doing.” Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Eric Bruins emphasized that these hit-and-run proposals key to creating a culture of greater street safety for everyone.

With gruesome hit-and-runs taking lives daily on L.A. streets and sidewalks, passage of these proposals is urgently needed.

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Is Reynolds the Antidote to L.A.’s Defeatist Attitude on Transportation?

Seleta Reynolds (left) goes for a walk in DTLA with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo:##http://www.gjel.com/blog/los-angeles-hires-seleta-reynolds-what-it-means-for-walking-and-biking-in-socal.html##GJEL Accident Attorneys##

Incoming LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds (right) goes for a walk in downtown L.A. with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo: @JSadikKhan Twitter

Should Mayor Eric Garcetti have hired someone with more Los Angeles experience to run Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation? With San Francisco’s Seleta Reynolds chosen as the incoming department head, there’s been a small buzz that only someone with direct experience with our region can handle making L.A. a better place to live. It has to be someone with local experience, they say.

As someone who is not from the area originally, and was only an Angeleno for six months when I became the first editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles, allow me to say that idea is complete hogwash.

For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon.  They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”

It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.

Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.

Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.

By reaching outside of LADOT and Metro staff to find a new department head, Eric Garcetti is signaling the end of the pessimism and reverse exceptionalism that have marked our transportation discussions over the past years, decades, and even generations.

It is a new day, and Seleta Reynolds is a new leader. Read more…

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Metro Committee OKs Dismal Walk/Bike Plan Now, Funding Report Later

Active transportation supporters at Metro's Planning and Programming Committee on

Active transportation supporters hold up #metrofundwalkbike messages at this week’s Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee. Metro’s board did not increase funding for active transportation in its Short Range Transportation Plan, but director Mike Bonin introduced a motion which, if passed, would direct Metro to develop an Active Transportation Finance Strategy. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

More than fifty people showed up at this week’s Metro Planning and Programming Committee to urge the Metro board to support active transportation. Metro’s proposed $88.2 billion, ten-year Short Range Transportation Plan (SRTP) includes only $500 million for active transportation funding. Though walking and bicycling make up nearly 20 percent of L.A. County trips, Metro allocates less than one percent of its budget to those modes.

Aware of active transportation advocates’ mobilization, Metro staff’s slide show [pdf] attempted to make active transportation funding sound more plentiful than it actually is. Metro staff’s presentation suggests that the agency is supporting walking and bicycling through agency funding for categories including Signal Synchronization and Transit Capital. By totaling Metro’s committed $500 million, plus a hodgepodge of eligible Metro, state, and local funds, the staff presentation showed “up to $1.17 billion” in potential funding for bicycling and walking.

Though it is unlikely that the actual funding total will end up anything near this “up to” potential, the asserted $1.17 billion still would represent only 1.3 percent of the overall $88.2 billion plan. This is nowhere near the roughly $18 billion that active transportation would receive if Metro’s allocations were based on the current 20 percent modal share. Ideally, funding shouldn’t be limited to the existing mode share, but could be aspirational. Metro values expanding its rail infrastructure, presumably aspiring that more rail investment will create more rail ridership. Metro’s fiscal commitment shouldn’t necessarily be to maintain the existing 20 percent active transportation mode share, but to fund expansion of safe walking and bicycling facilities in order to increase levels of active transportation.

The committee did respond to active transportation demands, but not by increasing the dismal amount of funding in its SRTP. Instead, Metro board member Mike Bonin put forth a motion [PDF] (full text after the jump) that directs Metro to study active transportation and come up with a funding strategy. Safe Routes to School praised the board’s leadership embodied in the Bonin motion; Santa Monica Spoke called it a “good start.” The motion directs Metro to complete its Active Transportation Funding Strategy and report back to the board in October 2014.

Hopefully that funding strategy will not be chock full of “up to” dollars, but will actually represent an acknowledgement by Metro that safe and convenient places to walk and bike are integral to the agency’s regional transportation system.

As expected, the committee approved the agency’s SRTP, without approving any additional dollars for active transportation. The SRTP is expected to be approved by the full board next week.

Metro is considering a possible future transportation funding ballot measure. Past measures have primarily drawn from projects and budgets already approved in the agency’s Short- and Long-Range Plans. Though active transportation has been repeatedly shortchanged in Metro’s past plans and past ballot measures, if advocates keep up this timely pressure, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian funding could be a significant part of a future ballot measure.

County ballot measure funding or not, active transportation continues to grow. Will Metro’s October report address pedestrians’ and cyclists’ concerns?

Read more…

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40% of Proceeds from ExpressLanes Going to Active Transportation

Thanks to funds collected by Metro's ExpressLanes, funding to convert this bridge and other parts of the Dominguez Channel will be converted into a bicycle and pedestrian path.and the service road that has now been funded to be converted into a similar path. This portion along the channel is currently closed. Carson and County Flood Control will work together to open it to the public for bicyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Lauren Grabowski

Thanks to funds collected by Metro’s ExpressLanes, funding to convert this bridge and other parts of the Dominguez Channel will be converted into a bicycle and pedestrian path.and the service road that has now been funded to be converted into a similar path. This portion along the channel is currently closed. Carson and County Flood Control will work together to open it to the public. Photo: Lauren Grabowski

While much of the attention on yesterday’s Metro Board committee hearings was on the showdown over active transportation in the Short Range Transportation Plan, some good news emerged in the Congestion Reduction Committee tasked with overseeing Metro’s ExpressLanes Program.

Over $26 million in funds collected by variable toll lanes on the I-10 and I-110 were programmed, pending Board approval, for projects that include a Downtown Los Angeles Bike Share program, a Union Station Bike Hub, MyFigueroa outreach/marketing, and active transportation projects in El Monte, Carson, Monterey Park, Baldwin Park, and other parts of the county. The rest of the programmed funds will go towards improvements in station access to the express bus services, improvements to the ExpressLanes themselves, and even a Dodger Stadium Express bus service for the South Bay area.

The Metro staff report, including a two-page table breaking down the funded and un-funded applications, can be found here.

At yesterday’s committee meeting, there was some questioning of the funded program list. John Fasana, Duarte City Councilmember and long-time Metro Board Member, questioned the staff recommendation to fund new ticketing machines for Metrolink trains. The project scored a 75, higher than some of the active transportation projects and all of the highway projects, yet the committee ruled that it did not meet corridor-connection funding criteria.

In the end, the final funded project list won the committee’s full backing — a big win for active transportation advocates. While only 0.6% of the Metro’s multi-billion-dollar Short Range Transportation Plan funding will go towards supporting active transportation, roughly 40% of this much smaller pot will.

There are two other takeaways from this report and the Metro action: Read more…

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Showdown Over Bike/Walk Funds Missing from Metro Short Range Plan

Metro's Every Day is a Bike Day campaign appartently doesn't apply to the agency's funding planning days.

Does Metro’s EVERY DAY IS A BIKE DAY campaign apply to days when Metro is planning their future funding priorities? Find out this Wednesday as the agency considers its Short Range Transportation Plan. Image: Metro

Metro’s Short Term Transportation Plan is on the agenda for this Wednesday’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee. The SRTP is the agency’s $88 billion plan for the next 10 years.

Though concerns have been raised about technology, articulated buses, and extending the Gold Line east of Azusa, the main point of contention appears to be over funding for active transportation: walking and bicycling. Overall, the 10-year plan includes $500 million worth of active transportation funding, just 0.6 percent of the overall $88 billion budget.

The Safe Routes To School National Partnership (SRTS) and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) have been at the forefront of a broad coalition urging greater Metro investment in  active transportation. They are mobilizing organizations and individuals to attend the Metro committee meeting on Wednesday, July 16 at 2:30 p.m.

From the  SRTS website:

In Metro’s view, walking and biking are the purview of cities, not a regional transportation priority. As a result, Metro has a fragmented approach to walking and biking that does not ensure that all of the parts add up to a region that is in fact multimodal, safe and serves the needs of all travelers and all trips. [...] As Metro prepares for a possible new transportation sales tax in 2016, now is a critical time to reevaluate the region’s policy vision and investment strategy to support a transportation system that works for all.

More than 60 organizations signed on to this L.A. County Active Transportation Collaborative comment letter. Other non-profits urging greater funding for walking and bicycling include NRDC-Climate Plan-Coalition for Clean Air, Move L.A., and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee.

It’s not only non-profit community organizations echoing the call to support walking and bicycling. Also submitting comments to Metro were the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the L.A. Unified School District, and Jon Kirk Mukri’s city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT.)  Here is an excerpt from LADOT’s refreshingly livability-minded comment letterRead more…

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City Planners Listen to Stakeholders Regarding Potential for Bike Lanes Along Boyle and Soto

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

As I pedaled my way up the hill towards Mariachi Plaza, I had to dodge a skateboarder coming straight at me at a rather significant clip.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a skateboarder in the middle of the road there.

The eastbound stretch of 1st between Boyle Ave. and Pecan St. is quite wide, and the skaters usually turn onto Pecan or hop back onto the sidewalk and out of traffic at the Pecan/1st intersection. The thrill of an unfettered downhill is brief, in other words, but apparently worth the risk of skating against traffic.

That’s who needs special lanes, I thought as I crossed Boyle and picked up the 1st St. bike lane. There are more skaters than bikers, and they need to be able to get around easily, too. 

I was thinking about the possibilities for community-specific road reconfigurations because I was on my way to a roundtable meeting to discuss the possible implementation of bike lanes on Soto St. and Boyle Ave., two of the 19 streets on the 2010 Bike Plan’s Second Year slate of projects. The roundtable, run largely by David Somers of City Planning and LADOT Bikeways Engineer Tim Fremaux, was the city’s first stab at connecting with a few Boyle Heights stakeholders and gathering specific feedback regarding mobility and other issues along those streets.

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan's lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th).

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan’s lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th). Click to enlarge.

I was looking forward to hearing other stakeholders’ thoughts on the lanes. Although I didn’t expect any of the participants to offer push-back, I knew they would be aware of the concerns that others in the community might raise when the city looked for support for the project from the wider public.

First among those concerns is the view that bike lanes can act as a gateway drug for gentrification.

When the city comes a-calling in a long-marginalized community and only offers the one thing that is at the bottom of that community’s lengthy list of needs, it’s not unusual for some to be suspicious of the city’s intentions.

The popular “bikes mean business” mantra doesn’t help allay fears, either, as it doesn’t necessarily hold up in lower-income communities. There, bicycles can signify of a lack of resources, and long-standing businesses catering to hyper-local needs are not the ones well-heeled cyclists are likely to favor (see the discussion of the gentri-flyer debacle for more on this).

Another key concern is that Boyle Heights is a largely (bus) transit- and pedestrian-heavy community and that it needs upgrades to its pedestrian and bus infrastructure much more than it needs bike lanes that facilitate connections to rail.

This is not to say there aren’t a lot of cyclists in the area — there are. There is a sizable number of commuters, as well as a growing contingent of youth that regularly ride for both transport and recreation.

But they aren’t as visible a presence as the pedestrians. And it is often economics and community mobility patterns (i.e. moms needing to run errands with a few kids in tow) that keep many reliant on walking, skateboarding, and/or transit, not the lack of bike infrastructure–meaning that the community may be unsure that it would reap any benefits from the presence of the lanes. Read more…

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Guest Editorial: Don’t Destroy the Orange Line, Improve It

Line 4 of the Metrobús BRT in Mexico City. The full system with five lines moves 850,000 people a day. Photo: Adam Wiseman/ITDP

Line 4 of the Metrobús BRT in Mexico City. The full system with five lines moves 850,000 people a day. Photo: Adam Wiseman/ITDP

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a high-quality bus based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities, has enjoyed rapid growth over the past few decades in major cities internationally, and is gaining momentum in the United States. Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle are set to join L.A. and the handful of U.S. cities with true BRT.

Today, L.A.’s Orange Line is one of only eight true BRT corridors in the US. It is not only an international best practice and a leader in surface mass transit; it is a cost-effective and valuable asset for the city. But since construction began on the corridor in 2002, the Orange Line has been derided by some in the community who, not understanding the potential of true BRT, would prefer light rail (LRT) transit.

On Tuesday, Governor Brown signed California Legislative Bill AB 577, removing the prohibition against surface rail-based mass transportation in the San Fernando Valley. The intent of the bill, and those advocating for it, is clearly stated: convert the Metro Orange Line BRT into a light rail.

Light rail, its proponents argue, would better meet growing transit demand in the greater San Fernando Valley. The bill states that the area has “outgrown” BRT, and would be better served by rail. A conversion would signal to other US cities that BRT’s benefits are limited when measured against LRT. This is typical of the misinformation about BRT, which, despite the massive gains that this transport mode has made internationally, is still common thinking in the U.S.

Last year the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP,) in partnership with the foremost international experts on BRT, released The BRT Standard, a definition and scoring designation for systems around the world. The Standard is a recognition scheme which scores corridors as Gold, Silver, Bronze, Basic BRT; any corridor falling below that basic is not true BRT. By laying out the essential elements of this transit mode, it provides a framework for system designers, decision makers, and the transport community to identify and build top-quality BRT systems. The Orange Line scores bronze – a notable achievement placing it among the ranks of Pittsburgh, Cape Town, Jakarta, and Nantes – but its bronze ranking also proves that there is plenty of room to grow.

Comparing true BRT systems to light rail shows that LRT has no operational advantage: speed is comparable and the daily ridership of BRT can even surpass that of LRT. Innovations in BRT have increased the maximum daily ridership of a BRT system to nearly two million passengers (or 35,000 passengers per hour per direction), which is the current ridership of Bogotá’s gold-standard TransMilenio BRT. This far outstrips the capacity of any light rail system. Upgrading the Orange Line to silver- or gold-standard would grow the ridership and answer the criticism that BRT cannot meet the growing needs of the region. With a current daily ridership of almost 30,000, increasing capacity on the Orange Line two or three-fold is entirely workable with some minor changes.

First, simply increasing bus frequency would be an obvious improvement. While there have been concerns that increasing frequency will cause bunching at intersections, this appears to be due to a signal timing issue which favors cross street traffic over public transportation on the Orange Line corridor. Timing traffic signals to favor automobiles shows an outdated mode of thinking. It would take some political will on the part of the city to change the signal timings, but it is a simple solution, far cheaper and faster than upgrading to light rail which would still be faced with signal timing problems.

Read more…

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S.F. Supervisors Commend Pedestrian Safety Champion Seleta Reynolds

Soon-to-be LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaks before the S.F. County Supervisors on July 8th 2014. Watch full video here, Reynolds' item begins at 00:43.

Soon-to-be LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaks before the S.F. Board of Supervisors on July 8th 2014. Watch full video here, Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

For a quick preview of what Seleta Reynolds has to offer Los Angeles, watch this video of her commendation appearance before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors two days ago. Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, in a glowing speech, praised the departing San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency manager. Kim states, in part:

We will really miss your leadership, but mostly your passion advocating for residents here in San Francisco. And, we want to honor you today for the incredible groundwork that you have done that we will continue to push on to effect a culture change at the city level. Thank you for putting us on the map for pedestrian and bike safety.

Reynolds’ response includes:

I’ve been working on safety for pedestrians for 16 years. It’s really hard to compete with some of the cool, glamorous things that we have in transportation, things like bike share and cycletracks and SFPark and smart signals, but I am so so thankful that pedestrian safety is finally getting its day.

Watch and listen to the full exchange starting at 00:43 here.

Seleta Reynolds was nominated by Mayor Garcetti to become General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. She was recently confirmed by the City Council’s Transportation Committee and by the full Los Angeles City Council. She is expected to begin her tenure at LADOT on August 11th, 2014.