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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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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.

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LADOT Has Completed More Than 50 Miles of Road Diet Bike Lanes

LADOT recently installed road diet bike lanes on First Street in Koreatown. This is one of 53 road diet projects that LADOT has implemented since 1999. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LADOT recently installed road diet bike lanes on First Street in Koreatown. This is one of 54 road diet projects that LADOT has implemented since 1999. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier in 2014, the national Streetsblog Network website highlighted BikeSD’s coverage of the city of San Diego’s first road diet bike lanes. Streetsblog Los Angeles has covered quite a few city of Los Angeles road diets over the past few years; most of them non-controversial, including 7th Street, Grand Avenue, Hoover Street, and Myra Avenue. A few of these projects have encountered criticism; examples include Motor Avenue and Wilbur Avenue.

Speaking at yesterday’s Bicycle Plan Implementation Team (BPIT) meeting, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) Bikeways engineer Tim Fremaux remarked that LADOT had implemented 53 road diet bike lane projects. Fremaux clarified that these road diets are generally “safety projects,” reducing speeding, making it easier for pedestrians to cross, and that adding bike lanes tended to be almost incidental to the overall purpose. Fremaux smiled stating that he has been happy to add a lot of new left turn lanes where they had not been before.

Fremaux provided Streetsblog the list of projects [PDF] which shows over 50 miles of road diet bike lanes. Fremaux revised the list after yesterday’s meeting, increasing the total to 54 road diets. The projects listed were completed from 1999 to 2014, with the vast majority completed since 2011, after approval of the 2010 Bike Plan and Mayor Villaraigosa’s subsequent 40-new-miles-per-year bikeway directive.

For readers unfamiliar with road diets, this Streetfilm provides a good guide. Generally road diets remove one car lane and replace it with two bike lanes, though there are variations. Road diets have been shown to improve safety for all road users, especially by removing blind spots for turning drivers.

The list of LADOT road diet streets follows the jump. Read more…

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Council Approves Garcetti Nominee Seleta Reynolds to Head LADOT

Seleta Reynolds, at table in foreground, responds to Los Angeles City Council questioning during her confirmation hearing earlier today. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Seleta Reynolds, at table in foreground, responds to Los Angeles City Council questioning during her confirmation hearing earlier today. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In a unanimous vote 13-0 this morning, the Los Angeles City Council approved Seleta Reynolds, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nominee to head the Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT). The approval means that Reynolds will take the General Manager reins of LADOT starting August 11th, 2014. Reynolds replaces Jon Kirk Mukri, who became DOT’s head after former GM Jaime De La Vega resigned following widespread employee discontent.

City council questioning was brief. The council’s Transportation Committee chair, Mike Bonin, was visibly enthusiastic about Reynolds, at one point stating that he was “stoked” about the nomination. As at Reynolds’ committee appearance last week, Councilmember Bernard Parks was the only somewhat skeptical voice. Parks questioned how Reynolds’ San Francisco livable streets experience had prepared her to handle LADOT’s 1800 employees and complicated budget.

Reynolds was upbeat and articulate in addressing the council. She opened with the importance of LADOT and L.A.’s streets as “a face to the city.” She repeatedly emphasized the need to make LADOT a great place to work, saying that she would keep “employee morale front and center.” Reynolds touted her prior experience as having prepared her for the current fiscally constrained environment. She stated that she will do more with less, and will make sure that LADOT partners with communities, businesses, and “as many partners as will have me.”

Reynolds intends to meet with what she considers to be “the strong leadership team at LADOT already” to finalize a strategic plan, expected around Labor Day.

This will be a new chapter for LADOT. The department has never had a general manager whose top priorities included safety or multi-modal transportation, much less walking and bicycling. Reynolds has a proven track record on all of these. Using actual data-driven processes, she has been making San Francisco streets safer for all users, including drivers, transit riders, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Time will tell how her leadership will shape her new department. Today, though, it is clear that, by nominating Seleta Reynolds and shepherding her approval, Mayor Garcetti signaled that Los Angeles’ DOT and, by extension, Los Angeles’ streets great and small, will move toward a safer, more shared, and more community-friendly future.

Of course, nominating and approving are the easy parts. Reynolds will need Garcetti’s and the City Council’s continued support as she leads her new department.

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Eyes on the Street: Dangerous Expo Bikeway Intersection Now Fixed

As cyclists eagerly await completion of the Expo Bikeway from Culver City to Santa Monica, some fixes are ongoing to the maligned-but-improving Phase I bike path.

All images:  Jon Weiss

LADOT has improved safety markings where the Expo bikeway crosses the railroad tracks, at the intersection of Exposition Blvd., Gramercy Pl., and Rodeo Rd. All images: Jonathan Weiss

Via Jonathan Weiss, a member of the city’s official Bicycle Advisory Committee, comes some pictures of an improved section of the Expo Phase I bike route at the dangerous intersection of Exposition Boulevard, Gramercy Place and Rodeo Road.

In 2012, before the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee was even formed, L.A.’s Bicycle Advisory Committee noted major safety issues where the  Expo bikeway crosses the railroad tracks at the intersection of Exposition Boulevard, Gramercy Place, and Rodeo Road. Expo’s Phase 1 included signals and bicycle markings that were confusing to motorists and cyclists. The Bicycle Advisory Committee warned that it was only a matter of time until there was a tragic crash.

The Advisory Committee, pushed the City Council and Expo Construction Authority to make changes to the intersection. The city council passed a resolution, the LADOT got to work and two years later the intersection was improved. The new intersection includes clearly marked places for bicycles to wait for the signal, better signage, and, yes, bright green paint.

Weiss asked that we credit LADOT Bikeways, and the offices of Councilmember Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti for their work on this project.

The Expo/Grammercy/Rodeo intersection has new markings, some green paint and better signage. For more images from Jon Weiss’ cell phone. click on after the jump.

Read more…

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People St Plans Plazas and Parklets for the Fall, Next Project Round Could Be Pushed to 2015

Yesterday, the People St program unveiled its project list for 2014 at the City Council Transportation Committee. People St is the new program by LADOT that encourages communities to plan and pay for their own parklets, plazas, and bike corrals. LADOT will help with the permitting and final planning for the projects. The project list included three plazas and four parklets spread out throughout the city.

Linsay Rosales, 6, helps paint a electric box during a pop-up plaza event in Pacoima on April 19.

Linsay Rosales, 6, helps paint a electric box during a pop-up plaza event in Pacoima on April 19. Photo: Kris Fortin

“We had very diverse geographical representation,” explained LADOT Pedestrian Coordinator Valerie Watson before ticking off a list of communities in the San Fernando Valley, Westside, South L.A., and more.

The three plazas include the 43rd Street Plaza in Leimert Park and Bradley Street Plaza. Advocates for these two projects held open street parties demonstrating how they could appear in the future. Watson testified that future programming in the plazas was a key factor in approving the proposals.

The third plaza will be just off Lankershim Boulevard in an alley at 5225 Lankershim Boulevard in Council District 2, represented by City Council Transportation Committee member Paul Krekorian.

“I’m very excited about the Lankershim Boulevard Plaza,” Krekorian stated. His office supported the efforts of local advocates to work with LADOT.

The three plazas will resemble the existing “polka dot plaza” in Silver Lake, without the polka dots. These plazas will have seating, planters, and other dividers to make the areas safe and pleasant for people to be outdoors. There will also be four more parklets placed on the street: one on Hope Street, Downtown, and three in West Los Angeles — two on Motor Avenue and another on La Cruz Drive.

For more information on the seven new People St Programs, read the staff report. Read more…

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Council Transportation Committee Gives Enthusiastic Thumbs Up to Seleta Reynolds

When I covered the Transportation Committee Hearing for Rita Robinson to take the helm at LADOT in 2008, there were 10 people in the room who were not City Council staff, Council members, or Robinson herself.

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Margot Ocanas, LADOT Pedestrian Coordinator, and Seleta Reynolds chat before today’s hearing. Photo: Damien Newton

At today’s confirmation hearing for Seleta Reynolds, there was standing room only.

Reynolds, flanked in the audience seating by Nat Gale with the Mayor’s Office and transportation planning rock star Janette Sadik-Khan, was affable and open, while chatting with well-wishers, future staff, and advocates.

There was a feeling of optimism in the room that had been noticeably absent in previous LADOT general manager confirmation hearings.

“Streets are really the keys to so many issues that city’s face in the 21st century. They must be organized, they must be safe. But they can also be huge assets to the community,” Reynolds opened her testimony. “That’s really needed to be a great, world-class city.”

“One of the things that frustrates people here is that people feel that a lot of development projects don’t get evaluated properly when it comes to traffic,” challenged Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin before launching into a discussion of the current transportation evaluation metric: level of service (LOS) as compared to the proposed change to vehicle miles traveled (VMT). ”What are your thoughts about LOS vs VMT?”

While Reynolds is not a fan of measuring the impact of a project based on its impact on car traffic, as both LOS and VMT do, she didn’t take the bait.

“The fundamental issue with Level of Service is that the only thing it tells about a project is the negative impacts,” she responded. “It’s a disincentive to providing ways for people to have options on ways to get around.”

But the debate over measuring transportation impacts happening in Sacramento in the governor’s office, provides opportunities for Los Angeles.

“There is a chance for L.A. to develop its own metrics,” Reynolds continued. Then she gave a list of other metrics that should be considered, like public health, economy, and safety.

“Imagine how different things will be if we’re evaluating the benefits of projects,” she concluded.

The answer seemed to please Bonin. ”It would be improper for me to give you a standing ovation,” he joked before moving into the next series of questions.

Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge were not present at the hearing and Councilmember Paul Krekorian offered little more than a warm welcome to Reynolds. This left Councilmember Bernard Parks with the role of inquisitor.

“The last thing people want to hear in a car is about slowing traffic,” pushed Councilmember Bernard Parks. “How do you implement these (safety) changes without getting rid of the space for vehicles?”

Reynolds responded that there isn’t a magic bullet that will fix every problem, but noted that safety and access need to be the top issues for every road user.

“We need to make sure people can get where they go to get access to jobs, to school, to home,” she countered. “They need to have a way to get there, and that needs to be an important part of every redesign of a street.” Read more…

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Some Los Angeles Road Diet Projects Can Add More On-Street Parking

7th Street looking east from Union Avenue. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

7th Street looking east just east of Union Avenue, current conditions. 7th Street received a road diet in 2011. The space to the left of the bicyclists no longer needs a red curb because the road diet freed up space for additional on-street parking. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Most of the city of Los Angeles’ bike lane mileage has been implemented without removing any car lanes or any parking spaces. The city Transportation Department (LADOT) merely narrows existing overly-wide lanes, and adds bike lanes. In recent years, the city of Los Angeles has also done a number of bike lane projects called “road diets.” These road diets do remove a travel lane.

For a road diet, LADOT generally removes one roughly-10-foot-wide travel lane and replaces it with two 5-foot-wide bike lanes. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has extensively studied road diets and found that they make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and people in cars

Here are some recent LADOT road diet examples – not an exhaustive list:

On many streets with excess capacity relative to current traffic volumes, these projects can be non-controversial. Sometimes, especially in commercial areas with many driveways, they are welcomed, because they facilitate easier turning. Sometimes lane removal can be controversial, when it is perceived as reducing capacity for cars.

But what about parking? Do Los Angeles road diets remove parking?

Well, by definition, a road diet is reducing a travel lane. So, no, road diets don’t remove parking, they remove a travel lane.

In many cases, L.A.’s road diets have actually freed up space for additional parking–although sometimes LADOT doesn’t take advantage of this.

LADOT has been under pressure from the 2011 mayoral directive to build more bike lanes. This urgency has resulted in some projects overlooking possibilities for reworking curb parking in light of the new road configuration. Not maximizing available curb parking can make it a little more difficult for drivers to park, and, in areas with parking meters (including the south side of 7th Street in the example below,) this means that the city could potentially be foregoing some revenue.

Basic 4-to-3 lane road diet schematic. Source: Federal Hightways Administration

Basic 4-to-3 lane road diet schematic. Source: Federal Highways Administration

The most common road diet, diagrammed above, starts with a four-lane street (with two travel lanes in each direction.) The diet removes one of those lanes, resulting in a three-lane street, with one travel lane in each direction, and one center turn lane.

7th Street at Union Street in Pico Union, shown in the photo at the top of the post, is an example of where a road diet frees up space for additional parking.  Read more…

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Speaking With Seleta Reynolds, Garcetti’s New LADOT GM Nominee

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Seleta Reynolds (center, blue scarf) speaking about pedestrian safety improvements planned for San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, during a 2014 Walk to Work Day event. Photo courtesy of Walk San Francisco

Earlier today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Seleta Reynolds to be the new general manager for LADOT. Streetsblog announced the nomination earlier today via this brief article, which includes the mayor’s press release.

Reynolds currently works for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), where she leads three teams in the Livable Streets subdivision responsible for innovation, policy, and coordination for complete streets projects citywide. Reynolds also serves on the Transportation Research Board’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Committees, and the WalkScore Advisory Board. She is a past president of Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. Prior to joining the SFMTA, Seleta managed the San Francisco and Seattle offices of Fehr & Peers, and worked for the City of Oakland Public Works Agency.

Streetsblog caught up with Reynolds on the phone this afternoon. Reynolds described herself as a “long time reader of Streetsblog L.A. and the Streetsblog family” and “really excited” to be coming to Los Angeles.

We asked her to name some of the accomplishments she’s most proud of from her work at SFMTA: Read more…