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City Council Votes to Rescind/Re-Adopt Mobility Plan 2035; Substantive Amendments to Be Discussed in 2016

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Midway through a rather uneventful City Council meeting — minus the dude pacing the aisle in what looked like a Klu Klux Klan hood made out of a pillowcase — the council took the next steps forward on Mobility Plan 2035.

You will recall that Fix the City — tireless crusaders against “lane-stealing” transit users and cyclists — launched a lawsuit against the city for not following proper procedure in adopting the plan to bring Los Angeles into compliance with Complete Streets principles via safe, accessible, and “world class” infrastructure. The council had adopted amendments to the plan and approved it without first sending it back to the City Planning Commission for review.

To remedy this problem, the council essentially went the route of a do-over. They would rescind their vote to adopt the amended plan, and then vote to adopt the original draft plan, as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor last spring. The proposed amendments — now detached from the plan — would be sent to committee for review and discussion.

Using this approach, the Plan successfully made it through a joint committee meeting on November 10 and was sent back up for a full council vote.

Today’s vote, Councilmember Jose Huizar said as he introduced the rescind/re-adopt motion, would be more procedural than anything (given that the council had previously approved the original Plan in August). And the amendments which were more technical in nature (seeking changes in wording, for example) could be heard in December, while amendments seeking more substantive changes — greater community engagement or voice on implementation, the removal of bike lanes from the plan, etc. — could be heard in February, when there would also be discussion of the environmental impact of potential changes.

When Councilmember Mike Bonin stood to second the rescind/re-adopt motion, he said he was doing so to ensure that the Mobility Plan was on the soundest of legal footing going forward.

“But I also want to take a moment to remind us all of what this plan is about,” he continued. “This plan is about mobility in Los Angeles. This plan is about giving people an opportunity to get out of the increasing, soul-sucking gridlock we have in this city. It is about stopping the process we have now which forces people into their cars and [offering] them an alternative.”

It “doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city that has 300 days of sunshine and is relatively flat,” he said, that 84 per cent of the trips Angelenos make under three miles are made by car.

It also doesn’t make sense, he continued, that Los Angeles has such a “horrible, horrible track record…of pedestrian deaths.” The emphasis on safety, improved infrastructure, environmental protection, and improved access to transit would fundamentally change the way residents interacted with the city and each other. And “this plan, if fully implemented,” he concluded, “would put 90 per cent of people in Los Angeles within one mile of a transit stop. 90 per cent. That is a game-changing thing.”

Only two other councilmembers stood to speak. Read more…


Winning Arguments with Your Family: Don’t Fall for the Traffic Trap


Last week, the Los Angeles Times published a disastrously titled piece entitled “L.A. Expo Line hasn’t reduced congestion as promised, a study finds.” The article is based on a study by the University of Southern California that used traffic monitors to gauge how many cars are driving on the freeway and arterial streets parallel to the Expo Line between Culver City and Downtown Los Angeles.

The central premise of both the article and the report it is based on is that government agencies should not base their arguments in favor of transit investment on the impact such investment will have on car traffic. I couldn’t agree more; Streetsblog has published articles and opinion pieces on the same theme.

However, the Times article has framed the debate on Expo’s effectiveness on the impact the line has on car traffic and that’s how the other media have covered the coverage. From mainstream outlets such as KPCC to conservative media columnists such as the Santa Monica Daily Press’ Bill Bauer; the coverage of the study has been reduced to: Expo Line hasn’t reduced car congestion.

Perhaps realizing its error, or perhaps just to create conflict, the Times tried to correct its error the next day with an opinion piece entitled, “The Expo Line hasn’t reduced traffic, so what?” In this piece, writer Kerry Cavanagh pretty much writes about the many benefits of investing in transit and the many dividends that Expo is paying.

Here at Streetsblog, we’ve run an irregular series helping our readers prepare for arguments soon to be had with relatives over the dinner table during holiday feasting. Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on how to prepare for “transit doesn’t reduce congestion.” Read more…

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Metro Committee Approves $132M Regional Connector Construction Increase

Metro's Regional Connector subway is already over-budget. Image via Metro

Metro’s Regional Connector subway is already over-budget

This morning, the Metro board’s Construction Committee approved an additional $131.8M for construction of the downtown Los Angeles Regional Connector subway. This increase ups the budget from $1.42 billion to 1.55 billion – a 9 percent increase.

The line had been expected to open in 2020, but has already experienced delays pushing it back ten months, likely to at least 2021.

The Regional Connector will be a 1.9-mile light rail subway. Its alignment follows Second Street (Alameda to Flower) and Flower Street (2nd to 7th.) The connector ties together the Metro Blue, Gold, and Expo Lines, making for transfer-free travel from Long Beach to Azusa, and from Santa Monica to East L.A.

What is perhaps disconcerting is that the current cost overruns occur so early into construction. If the agency is just getting construction underway, and the budget has already overshot its ten percent contingency, what kinds of additional cost overruns might reveal themselves when major construction really gets underway?  Read more…


Metro Planning Committee Approves Bike-Share Fare Structure

Metro's proposed bike-share fare strucutre. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

Metro’s proposed bike-share fare structure. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved the proposed bike-share fare structure. Three payment options would be offered: a $20 monthly pass, a $40 annual “flex pass,” or $3.50 per half-hour for walk-up single use. For further Metro bike-share fare details see earlier SBLA coverage on the proposal.

Metro boardmembers Mike Bonin and Hilda Solis expressed “sticker shock” at the $3.50 cost for single-ride walk-up use. Metro staff explained that hourly rentals are anticipated to be largely tourists, and that revenue from these users would be important for the system’s financial stability. Bonin was concerned that hourly users would also include Angelenos interested in trying out the system for the first time. At the suggestion of Metro Planning head Martha Wellborne, boardmembers directed staff to look into some kind of reduced-price initial trial period to allow more Angelenos to get acquainted with the new system.

Boardmembers Bonin and Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker also pushed staff to allow for free transfers from bus or rail to bike-share. While this will not be available during the initial mid-2016 downtown Los Angeles roll-out, staff suggested it could be part of a phase of TAP integration due in late 2016. Staff cautioned that it might not be cost-effective. Further details of of the TAP payment linkages are expected to come back to the board in March 2016.

The proposal goes to the full Metro board for approval on December 3.


Eyes On the Street: Scramble Crosswalks Debut At Hollywood And Highland


A big X marks the spot: pedestrians scramble yesterday at the newly revamped intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

It may be one of those made-up statistics, but there is a repeated truism that millions of people visit Hollywood Boulevard every year, and they spend an average of about fifteen minutes there. Sure, there are the Walk of Fame, some beautiful historic theaters and other noble buildings, Metro Red Line subway stops, costumed performers, street musicians… but Hollywood Boulevard is mostly tacky souvenir shops, museums in name only, and sad restaurants one would never return to, all along a massive car-choked stroad.

Despite millions of tourists milling around on foot, there is no place to sit, or to hang out. There are hardly even places to shoot respectable selfies.

All that has not changed overnight, but the city implemented a pedestrian upgrade yesterday at Hollywood’s most prominent intersection: Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds, a marching band, and tens of thousands of pedestrians (most of whom just happened to be passing through) opened the city’s latest pedestrian scramble crosswalks.

Similar to intersections in downtown Pasadena, fronting USC and UCLA, and elsewhere, Hollywood pedestrians can now cross diagonally during a phase when all cars are stopped. The upgrade is part of the city’s inter-departmental Vision Zero improvements program, in which L.A. has committed to ending all traffic fatalities over the next ten years.

Hollywood and Highland

Lights. Camera. Scramble.

Read more…


Mobility Plan Re-Approval Passes Joint Council Committee Meeting

John London talks about the importance of a bike lane to the safety of the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

John London speaking at a pro-Mobility Plan ride and rally last week. Photo by Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles’ progressive Mobility Plan 2035 was re-affirmed yesterday at a joint meeting of the City Council Transportation and Planning Committees.

In August, the plan was approved on a 12-2 vote of the L.A. City Council. Under the scrutiny of a lawsuit challenge, the city is in the process of removing some allegedly improper amendments and re-approving the plan. The plan’s critics have opined against the “luxury” of “lane-stealing” bus and bike riders. Supporters have rallied to keep the plan intact and to see planned bike lanes implemented on Central Avenue.

The committees heard nearly sixty public speakers commenting on Mobility Plan 2035, with sentiment split roughly 50-50 for and against.

Plan opponents, many mobilized by Fix the City – the group suing to undo the plan, criticized the plan for various reasons, including for “forc[ing] people to bike,” and for not prioritizing safety (which it very seriously does via its Vision Zero policy.) Opponents made dubious assertions that “bikes belong in the parks and are not a way of transportation in L.A.,” that “people over 65 cannot ride bikes,” and that bike lanes “are driving everybody crazy” and will “kill people.” One critic urged the council to overturn the plan on the basis of “overwhelming opposition” in the comments section of the L.A. Times website. A block of plan opponents, representing organizations in Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s First District, uniformly urged against plan approval on the basis that outreach had been insufficient.

Plan proponents testifying in favor included T.R.U.S.T. South L.A., Pacoima Beautiful, L.A. County Business Federation, L.A. Walks, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, FAST, AARP, and others. Supporters emphasized the plan’s commitment to a “balanced network” with numerous mobility choices, plus improved safety, health, and equity.

Some councilmembers spoke against aspects of the plan, including Paul Koretz who dubbed it “for some areas an ‘immobility’ plan.” Committee chairs Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin held off calls for delays. When the votes were taken, the rescind and re-approve motion was approved.

The vote broke down by committee as follows:  Read more…


A Peek Into Metro Bike-Share’s Proposed Fare Structure

Metro's proposed bike-share fare strucutre. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

Metro’s proposed bike-share fare strucutre. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

A Metro staff report available this week gives a peek into the proposed fare structure for the transit agency’s bike-share system, coming to downtown Los Angeles in 2016. Metro has contracted with Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS) to open a 60+ station, 1000+ bicycle system extending from Union Station to USC. The new report [PDF] recommends that the Metro board approve bike-share fees and an interoperability plan, both detailed below.

The proposal will be heard at the Metro board’s Planning and Programming Committee on November 18th, then at the full board meeting scheduled on December 3.

Initial Interoperability Plan

As alluded to at the Metro board’s September discussion, the latest documents confirm that interoperability will initially just mean that multiple bike-share systems will use Metro’s TAP card. When the system first opens in mid-2016, monthly pass or annual pass bike-share users will receive a “uniquely branded TAP card” to unlock bicycles at docking stations. Bike-share TAP cards will be issued by BTS, with the TAP card only linked to the user’s bike-share account, separate from any TAP card’s stored transit fare account.

By the end of 2016, “all TAP cards will function as bike-share passes to unlock a bicycle at a station.” Users will enter their TAP card number when purchasing of a Bike share pass, though the bike-share and stored transit fare accounts still remain separate.

Additional interoperability features continue to be discussed, and will come back to Metro’s board in Spring 2016.

Fare Structure

Metro’s proposed bike-share fare structure (shown at top of post) includes three payment options:  Read more…

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Variable-Priced L.A. Express Park Expands to Westwood

Express Park xxx

Map of the L.A. Express Park system for Westwood. Image via L.A. Express Park

At a press event yesterday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilmember Paul Koretz celebrated the expansion of L.A. Express Park to Westwood.

Westwood has long had a reputation for being a difficult area to park. Express Park should, over time, make finding a parking space there easier. This is good for number of reasons, including reducing traffic congestion exacerbated by drivers “cruising” for a parking space. A study that appears in Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking found that, during peak hours, 68 percent of Westwood drivers were cruising for parking.

For readers unfamiliar with L.A. Express Park, it is a “performance-based parking” pricing program. These programs are also sometimes called “variable-price parking” or “demand-based parking.” The way it works is that the city monitors how full on-street parking spaces are, then adjusts parking meter prices with a goal of keeping between 70 and 90 percent of spaces occupied. On blocks where less than 70 percent of meters are occupied, hourly rates are made cheaper. On blocks where it is very difficult to find an open space, hourly rates are made more expensive. Meter rates also vary by the time of day and the day of the week.

Express Park was initially implemented in downtown Los Angeles in 2012. The program manages about 6,300 curb parking spaces there. Initial expansions include this week’s roughly 500 spaces in Westwood and about 900 spaces in Hollywood, expected around 2017. The Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee recently directed L.A.’s Transportation Department (LADOT) to look into accelerating Express Park implementation in Hollywood, Venice, the USC area, and eventually to all parking meters citywide.  Read more…


Video: Fly Through the Future Of Union Station



For rainy Tuesday night viewing, watch Metro’s updated Union Station explainer video.

Ridership expected to xxx by xxxx. Chart via Metro staff report

L.A. Union Station ridership expected to double from 2012 to 2040. Chart via Metro staff report [PDF]

There are plenty of big changes coming to Union Station in next few years. In October, Metro’s Board of Directors approved $15,000,000 for preliminary engineering and environmental work on the long-discussed cut-through tracks (officially called the SCRIP – Southern California Regional Interconnector Project.) During the SCRIP presentation, Metro staff presented the above bar graph showing forecasted growth in Union Station ridership. From 2012 to 2040, people using Union Station will double from current totals around 110,000 to an estimated 220,000 – with increases in people riding the bus, subway, and Metrolink/Amtrak, plus new high speed rail.  Read more…

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L.A. City Council Plans Re-Vote on Mobility Plan 2035

The latest cover of the city of Los Angeles draft Mobility Plan 2035. Image via DCP [PDF]

Under a procedural motion filed today, the Los Angeles City Council plans to rescind and reaffirm Mobility Plan 2035.

Earlier today, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Jose Huizar, Felipe Fuentes, and Joe Buscaino put forth the procedural motion 15-0719-s11 [PDF] to rescind and re-approve L.A.’s Mobility Plan 2035. The motion comes in response to a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that plan amendments violated City Council procedures.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, a proponent of Mobility Plan 2035 who chairs the council’s Transportation Commitee, explained today’s motion as follows:

When the City Council adopted the Mobility Plan in August, we made it clear that we wanted to give people convenient and safe options other than single-passenger cars so we could reduce traffic in our neighborhoods and protect the environment. That commitment remains firm today, and the action we proposed is a simple procedural step that was recommended by the City Attorney out of an abundance of caution. Nothing has changed in our commitment to multi-modal transportation in Los Angeles, and we will adopt the exact same Mobility Plan that was approved by the Planning Commission and championed by mobility advocates as soon as possible.

Readers will recall that during the committee and council approval processes, councilmembers proposed multiple amendments to the plan that had already been approved by the Planning Commission. Many proposed amendments were deemed to require additional deliberation and were held for future meetings.

Three fairly straightforward friendly amendments were added to the plan during the approval process. Amendments adopted by council included Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s push for equity and Councilmember David Ryu’s push for community input. An additional amendment explicitly made the City Council a part of plan implementation. Arguably, each of these amendments drew attention to things already implicitly in the plan.

Soon after the Mobility plan was approved, the non-profit Fix the City challenged it in court. The lawsuit asserts that the City Council was not permitted to amend the plan during the approval processes. Today, in order to respond to the legal challenge and to re-affirm the vision outlined in the plan, city councilmembers started the process for removing the disallowed amendments.

Initial notice of the re-do sparked some questioning on Twitter, but livability advocates are affirming that the process is necessary. L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler told SBLA, “When implemented, Mobility Plan 2035 will give everyone better options for getting around Los Angeles whether biking, walking, using transit, or driving. Making this procedural correction reaffirms the City Council’s commitment to providing safe and dignified transportation for all residents, whether or not they have access to a car.”

Theoretically, with no amendments to debate, the rescind and re-vote process should be straightforward. More likely, it will be an opportunity for plan opponents and proponents to communicate their views to a City Council that already approved the plan on a 12-2 vote.

From today’s Bonin/Huizar/Fuentes/Buscaino motion [PDF]:

As part of Council deliberations, Council approved three amendments to the plan. On September 9, 2015, a lawsuit was filed challenging the Mobility Plan, and, among other things, specifically contending that the Council’s approval of the amendments did not comply with the procedures prescribed in Los Angeles City Charter Code Section 555. In order to cure the alleged procedural defect, Council would first need to rescind the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended.

It is equally important for the Council to reaffirm its commitment to the Mobility Plan 2035 and to continue to build multi-modal transportation options for Angelenos.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the Council take the following actions:

1. Rescind the August 11, 2015 resolution adopting the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended by the City Council; and

2. Adopt a resolution adopting the draft Mobility Plan 2035 as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor on May 28, 2015, and June 5, 2015, respectively

Also today, a notice [PDF] was emailed informing interested parties that the rescind-adopt motion will be heard at a special joint meeting of the Planning and Land Use Management and Transportation Committees to be held on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 2:30 p.m.

(Article modified 6 p.m. October 30 to include statement from Councilmember Bonin.)