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Krekorian and Garcetti Tout Metro’s New 405 Freeway Express Bus Service

Cutting the ribbon on new Valley-Westside bus service. Left to right: Metro CEO Art Leahy, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and SFV Metro Service Council Chair Michael Cano. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Cutting the ribbon on new Valley-Westside bus service. Left to right: Metro CEO Art Leahy, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and SFV Metro Service Council Chair Michael Cano. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Starting this Sunday, Metro is introducing its new Valley-Westside Express bus line that takes advantage of the recently-widened 405 Freeway’s new high-occupancy vehicle lanes. The new line runs from Pacoima to Westwood, with stops at the Van Nuys Metrolink Station and the Metro Orange Line’s Van Nuys and Sepulveda stations. The full map of the new service is after the jump below.

Metro Board members celebrated the new service at a press event this morning at the Metro Orange Line Sepulveda station.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian proclaimed that the new service will make it “easier, faster, and more convenient” to travel between Los Angeles communities. Krekorian also pledged that this is “just one step of many for the Valley” and that he is committed to making the Metro Orange Line run faster and adding to its capacity, and “increas[ing] rail in the San Fernando Valley.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recalled riding the RTD bus to West L.A. when he was growing up in the Valley. Garcetti touted the time savings on the new line, which is anticipated to save 20 minutes compared to current Metro bus service.  Read more…

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New Chamber of Commerce Excited About Great Streets on Venice Blvd.

Bonin bus stop

Mike Bonin hops on the Venice Rapid for his morning commute. This uncharacteristically damp morning isn’t the best background, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before Venice can truly be considered a Great Street. Photo: Damien Newton

Mike Bonin is not someone who is known for thinking small.

“There’s a universe of opportunities,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin, of the proposed “Great Street” on Venice Boulevard. “But it’s important that this not be ‘Mike’s project,’ or the ‘Mayor’s project,’ or the ‘DOT’s Project,’ but the people’s project.”

Bonin was speaking excitedly about the “Great Streets” designation granted to Venice Boulevard between Inglewood Boulevard on the east and Beethoven Street on the west. Great Streets is an initiative to take a section of street in each of the fifteen City Council Districts and turn them into great places to walk, bike, sit outside, or just be…just exist.

While Bonin prefers the phrase “universe of opportunities” to describe everything that can be done, Mayor Eric Garcetti uses the term “urban-acupuncture” to illustrate the idea that these streets will be slimmed down to car traffic and opened up for other uses. Think of streets with trees for shade, modern crosswalks, clean and wide sidewalks, even just appropriately placed park benches and trash cans.

“A small burst of energy can transform a community,” Garcetti is fond of saying.

“One small change, especially if the community is behind it, can get things rolling,” Bonin echoes.

So what will Venice Boulevard look like after it has been changed to a Great Street? And when will Venice, or any of the other 14 Great Streets, actually start to see improvements?

There is not a good answer to the second question. Nobody seems to know when street improvements are going to come.

As for the first one…

“I have some ideas, but it’s really up to the community,” Bonin promises.

During the 2013 election, Bonin offered a vision of a Venice Boulevard teeming with small businesses and a walkable community during our candidates’ forum. But when pressed in our Great Streets interview, he kept going back to the idea that this was the community’s decision.

Not his.

Not Garcetti’s.

The community’s. Read more…

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Two New Bike Corrals Installed on Abbot Kinney Blvd.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Takeaway on Abbot Kinney.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Take Away on Abbot Kinney.

Fabled Abbot Kinney Boulevard, on Los Angeles’ Westside, is the first street in the city to have two bike corrals installed. Councilmember Mike Bonin alerted Streetsblog to their installation this morning and I was able to bike over and catch one of the installations as it was being finished and another corral in action.

1205

The new street front for Local 1205.

These are the third and fourth corrals in the entire city. Bike corrals are dedicated bicycle parking areas created with the removal of one or two parking spaces. As shown above, a city can create safe and attractive parking for twelve bicycles in the space that used to park one car.

If you’re interested in seeing some bike corrals added to your neighborhood, the People St program at LADOT is accepting applications through April 30, with a second project submission period coming up in October. While People St will be working with community-based organizations for future corrals, parklets and plazas, these two corrals were already in the project pipeline.

The first corral is in front of Gjelina Take Away (1427 Abbot Kinney). When I arrived the corral was partly in-use with a handful of bicycles already tethered in the twelve bike parking spaces. Of course, the three bicycles are an improvement over the one car that would have fit into the same space last night. As I shot the pictures, a happy cyclist was handed a sandwich in a bag, hopped on his bike and was on his way.

Bike corrals: good for bikes, good for business. Read more…

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A Photo Essay of a Tour of Expo Phase II

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

When Stephen Villavaso, known to many Streetsblog readers as the volunteer traffic engineer who makes CicLAvia possible, asked me if I would like to ride along on a tour of Expo Phase II construction, I jumped at the chance. Villavaso is also one of the engineers working for Skanska-Rados Joint Venture – the design-build contractor of the Expo Line Phase II. Villavaso manages the design for the construction project which involves regularly driving up and down the future light rail and bike path talking to workers, monitoring construction, and just keeping abreast of everything that’s happening on site.

For those just joining us, the Expo Line is a 15.2 mile, $2.4 billion Exposition Light Rail Line that will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica via Culver City. Construction on Phase I of the line, from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, began in 2006 and opened to the public in 2012. Phase II of the project, which will extend the line out to Santa Monica, is now underway. Construction is expected to be completed by 2015 with revenue operations beginning the following year. The Expo Line is and will be run by Metro.

While I’ve been covering the Expo Line since before Streetbslog launched in 2008, it seems there is always something new to learn about it. On this day, I learned something that should seem obvious…building a light rail line is hard. I mean really hard.

I unexpectedly ended up discussing how to move power lines, how to protect existing underground utilities, how many different types of concrete are needed, how to protect workers during excavation, that maybe some federal safety requirements are a little over board, and a lot of other things.

But the good news is that progress is definitely happening. Even if it’s sometimes hard to see.

Where the Expo Line runs under an existing bridge just west of Motor Avenue, Villavaso explained that the last time he was there, a large trench was in the ground. This time, the trench had been filled and there was no sign that a lot of work had happened in the area.  ”This is really exciting,” he said gesturing to what now appeared to be just a dirt road. The last time he had done one of these tours was about a month and a half earlier, when he had been accompanied by Nat Gale from the Mayor’s Office.

We made six stops on our tour, starting at the Cloverfield/Olympic Bridge, going back to the start of Phase II at Venice Blvd., and stops at Palms and Motor before heading back into Santa Monica. In Santa Monica, we stopped at the Bundy/Centinela Station and the terminus (or beginning pending your point of view) at Downtown Santa Monica.

Our thanks to Stephen Villavaso for leading me around and answering my questions. My wife, who is also an engineer, was laughing at me while I was listening to the audio to write this story, so it must have taken some real self-control for Stephen to keep a straight face.

A full essay, with more of photographs from the project sites, is available after the jump. Read more…

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Westwood Bike Lanes Connecting National and Wilshire Killed by Council Office

The participants in a February 2013 Ride Westwood ride showed support for the proposed bike lane. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lacbc/sets/72157632742418720/with/8464401136/##LACBC/Flickr##

The participants in a February 2013 Ride Westwood ride showed support for the proposed bike lane. Photo: LACBC/Flickr

Streetsblog received word last night from Jonathan Weiss that the proposed bicycle lanes on Westwood Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard are opposed by local City Councilmember, Paul Koretz. Weiss serves as Koretz’ appointee to the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee.

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he's posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:##http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/07/16/27755/405-shutdown-carmageddon-live-updates/##KPCC##

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he’s posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:KPCC

This news comes as a blow to cyclists that use Westwood Blvd. every day to commute to and from UCLA and other destinations. Bicycle lanes already exist south of National Boulevard and north of Santa Monica Boulevard, making this an obvious connection in the city’s Bicycle Plan. The UCLA Bicycle Coalition and LACBC organized “Ride Westwood” to support the connection.  However, after the Los Angeles Department of Transportation held a public information session that turned senselessly raucous, the future of the lanes seemed uncertain.

Our coverage of the meeting even led to a lively segment on the local conservative political talk radio show John and Ken on KFI 640 AM.

Local opposition to the lane publicly centered around an LADOT study of a bus lane (bikes allowed) which would have removed travel lanes and parking.  That plan was DOA.  Instead, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition proposed a “floating” bicycle lane where the parked-car adjacent bike lane would be moved to the curb during rush hour so that the road could continue to have a peak hour lane.  After the public meeting, the LADOT began a study of the floating bike lane (which they had only briefly introduced as an “idea” at the public hearing), but that was put on hold by the Councilmember.

Now, the floating bike lane plan has been rejected by the Councilmember before he has allowed the formal study to be was completed.  In response, today, the LACBC released an action alert calling on Koretz to move forward with a full study of the lanes that includes all stakeholders.

Weiss argues that the road width is actually wide enough to put in lanes without removing parking or mixed-use lanes if lanes are narrowed.

“There is ample room for bike lanes without losing car lanes or parking,” Weiss writes in a letter to Koretz. “Providing bike lanes would actually free up traffic by separating bikes from cars.  And safety concerns will continue to keep risk-averse people from riding – exacerbating, rather than relieving, automobile traffic to UCLA and keeping buses stuck in traffic.  (Biking is actually faster than the bus during the evening commute.)  UCLA has done a great job in cutting its carbon footprint, but this bottleneck on its doorstep hinders its ongoing efforts in that regard.”

It is wildly unlikely that the city will move forward with a bicycle lane project without at least tacit support from the Council office, which is bowing to pressure from homeowner groups that have been hostile to transportation options outside of the automobile. One homeowner group, the “Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd.” homeowners, even formed a “bicycle committee” which met three times, received a long and well-researched report on why the Bicycle Lanes should be put on Westwood Blvd., and then circulated a letter opposing even studying of a design proposal to make lanes less obtrusive.

While the timing of such news is never good, it does provide a call for action for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, whose Neighborhood Bicycle Ambassador Committee for the Westside has its regularly scheduled meeting tonight (details at the bottom of the post.)

NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan likes to remark that projects that are aimed to improve mobility for all road users should be first explained as safety projects. After all, who can argue against safety?

Apparently, the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners Group can.

In her eloquent and well researched series (part I, part II) on bicycle safety on Westwood Boulevard, Calla Weimer shows that the stretch of Westwood Boulevard where the lanes are proposed are among the most dangerous blocks to bicycle in the city. Read more…

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Will the Next Expo Battle Be About Access to the Bike Path in Cheviot Hills?

Executed Settlement Agreement – Samuels v. FHWA

With all of the legal challenges to the Expo Line Phase II finally resolved, those interested in the multi-modal Expo Rail and Bike Path can focus their full attention on the path. Council Member Mike Bonin’s office is promising good news on the controversial crossing at Exposition and Centinella in the next week. However some bicycle advocates are now worrying about a new issue involving access to the future bike trail in, you guessed it, Cheviot Hills.

Some background.

In 2010, a group of seven homeowners living on Northvale Blvd. in Cheviot Hills sued the LADOT and a host of federal oversight boards for the city’s environmental review of the Expo Bike Path. LADOT re-completed the “Categorical Exclusion” but the homeowners were unhappy with the result and filed suit again. The two parties came to a settlement out-of-court in November of last year.

Recently, that settlement has become public. Most of the agreement between LADOT and the “Northvale 7″ are pretty standard. The bike path will now have a sound wall in the area through most of Cheviot Hills. The Westside Neighborhood Council and Council District 5, currently represented by Paul Koretz, will be provided with a presentation and a chance to weigh in on whether or not there should be an entrance to the bike path at Northvale and Dunleer Drive and whether or not the access should be 24 hours.

It’s this last clause that has some cyclists worried. The Westside Neighborhood Council isn’t exactly known for it’s support for transportation options. While two members of the Council sit on the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee, another appeared on radio railing against any bike lane plan for Westwood Boulevard. A writer for Rancho Park Online described the Council as unreceptive to even studying a floating bike lane program for Westwood.

Unmentioned in the agreement is the aforementioned Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee. When asked, the Expo Staff that controls the agenda of the committee commented that it wouldn’t be within the Committee’s scope to comment on the “ingress-egress” issues in this area because this is the part of the bikeway is being designed by LADOT and not the Expo Construction Authority.

Another reason for concern is that the Cheviot Hills has a 20-year history of blocking access to public rights-of-way.  In the same area as a potential bike path gate, there is a gate across the Dunleer Footbridge, connecting Cheviot Hills to the Palms Park (at Overland and National).

Read more…

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Is the California Public Utilities Commission Foreshadowing the Supreme Court on Expo Phase II

Expo wins every round in the legal match so far, but NFSR could still score a TKO at the Supreme Court.

Last Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) tentatively closed the books on one of the last remaining avenues for opponents of the Expo Line in West L.A. to stop construction in its tracks. CPUC posted a “Proposed Decision” on its second hearing of the rail crossings for Phase II of the Expo Line. The ruling unequivocally states that the 16 at-grade and 11 above-grade crossings fall within state guidelines.

Expo Phase II is an eight mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

CPUC is a state board that reviews, among other things, rail projects that impact “public utilities.” In this case the impact would be on the city’s road network. When CPUC reviewed Phase I of the Expo Line, the board found several items for concern and ordered additional safety mitigation at one crossing and the construction of a new station at where the Expo Line crossed Farmdale Street near Dorsey High School. When CPUC unexpectedly re-opened its review of Expo Phase II, despite the fact that the line is already well under construction, rail fans fretted.

However, the Proposed Decision seems to close one of the two remaining battleground for Neighbors For Smart Rail, the coalition of neighborhood groups fighting the line. The remaining battle is at the California State Supreme Court, where they hope justices will rule that using a “future baseline” as the basis for a traffic study is contrary to state environmental laws.

But CPUC’s Proposed Decision hints at a Supreme Court Ruling in Expo’s favor. Read more…

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Streetsblog TV: Westwood Neighborhood Greenway Groundbreaking

Tomorrow morning at 11 am, the Westwood Neighborhood Greenway Steering Committee will celebrate the ground breaking for the Westwood Neighborhood Greenway. Streetsblog TV will be there to Live Stream the event, and you are welcome to join us at 11 a.m. by clicking here.

Join us by clicking here.

Jonathan Weiss, who has led the efforts for the greenway for years, explains:

Through the enthusiastic support of Councilmember Koretz, the Department of Sanitation Watershed Protection Division, and the Mayor’s office, culverts are being placed under Expo Light Rail so that, when final funding is found, a vestige of Brown Canyon Creek can be reestablished and redirected along both sides of Expo Light Rail line near the Westwood-Rancho Park station.  Part of Mayor Villaraigosa’s 50 Parks Initiative, the Westwood Neighborhood Greenway will be uniquely accessible by rail, bikeway, and walkway to educate the public and students about ocean-friendly water conservation and native gardens.

You can read our full coverage of the efforts to create the greenway, formerly known as the Expo Greenway, by clicking here.

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A questioning look back at Bike to Work Day

A typical pit stop on the Westside

Don’t get me wrong.

I love Bike to Work Day. I had a blast yesterday trying to hit as many Westside pit stops as I could before making my way back to my home office to get down to work.

Which isn’t exactly the point, I know.

The idea is to encourage people who would otherwise drive to their places of employment to try bicycling by providing incentives and information, in the hope that once they try it, they’ll like it. And hopefully, keep doing it.

I get that.

And I enjoyed the opportunity to partake in a free rolling breakfast and gather up mini-Clif Bars and other assorted bike swag, while talking with other riders I might not otherwise meet on the roadway. As well as offering my insights to anyone looking for a little advice on bike commuting while, sadly, finding no takers.

Everyone I met seemed to know as much about the subject as I do.

Which is part of the problem.

As with many bike advocacy efforts, we too often find ourselves preaching to the choir; rewarding those who already ride rather than getting more people to leave their cars behind, if only for one day.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Bicycling, and bicyclists, should be celebrated.

Whether or not some impatient drivers, or even the wider community at large chooses to acknowledge it at times — particularly when it involves removing a traffic lane in order to carve out a little space for those of us on two wheels. Read more…

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Bundy Triangle Park Open for Business (with a permit…)

Mike Bonin, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, and Joel Epstein (center, left to right) celebrate the re-opening of Bundy Triangle Park with the West LA School of Martial Arts.

Sitting at the corner of Bundy and Santa Monica Boulevards in West Los Angeles is a small piece of open space known locally as the Bundy Triangle Park. Ever since a homeless person was found dead in the park in the 1990′s the park has been surrounded by bars, literally caging open space in the park poor city.

While the bars are still there, residents can now access the park for events through a permit from Council Member Bill Rosendahl’s office. Currently, the West LA School of Martial Arts has permits for a weekly class. The school, Rosendahl, his chief of staff Mike Bonin and Streetsblog Los Angeles Board Member Joel Epstein celebrated the park opening on Saturday. If you’re interested in getting a permit to use the park, contact the Council Member’s West Los Angeles office at 310-575-8461.

Epstein crusaded for the park’s opening for the last two years, rallying local businesses to the challenge. Rosendahl gave full credit to Epstein’s advocacy for the park’s partial re-opening. Read more…