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Posts from the Fix-It-First Category


LADOT Announces “Year Three” Bike Lane Projects To Study and Ignore

LADOT is saving money by not even publishing a timeline for the bikeway projects that they will study and ignore in 2015. The above actual 2014 bikeways-to-ignore timeline is presented for informational purposes only.

LADOT is saving money by not even publishing a timeline for the bikeway projects that they will study and ignore in 2015. The above actual 2014 bikeways-to-ignore timeline is presented for informational purposes only.

Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT) engineer Leffel O’Serviss announced that his department has selected 40 new miles of approved bike lane streets that will be part of the department’s “Year Three” bikeway projects. O’Serviss announced that, following on LADOT’s Year One and Year Two projects, these forty miles will be studied vigorously and will not be implemented.

“Having forty miles of approved bike lanes not implemented each year gives motorists, er, people who motor, and businesses, er, men who business, some certainty that these specific streets will not change at all this year. While not resulting in new bikeways, the list will take up a lot of bicycle resources – including funding and, importantly, staff time – but will not be disruptive to the status quo in any way. This project is really about jobs, jobs, jobs – the department’s consultants love it.” said O’Serviss in a closed-to-the-press briefing.

Bicycle facility opponents should be reassured that LADOT will continue to utilize outdated car-centric metrics, including Level of Service, Distance Under-Motorist Burden (DuB), and Ever Increasing Research Even If Safe (EIR/EIS). “These studies will use up bike facility budgets, while arming hostile City Councilmembers with exactly the arguments they need to be effective in delaying implementation,” O’Serviss beamed. Bike facilities not proven outright infeasible will be subject to unapproved and even-more-difficult-to-implement facility escalation, including being awaiting further technical mumbo-jumbo, unnecessary road-widening, shared bus-bike-lanes, or just about whatever it takes to truly delay “the bike stuff.”

“Lest you bikers, er, people on bikers, think that the LADOT is stuck in outdated practices, there are some changes in the Year Three bike lane projects.” O’Serviss went on to explain that for 2014’s Year Two bikeway project list, LADOT held a series of closed meetings, with the bicycling public neither notified, invited, nor welcomed – before failing to implement any of the Year Two list. “In 2015, we’re skipping the unpopular closed-door meetings. In fact, we’re not even going to meet at all. Nor will we release the names of the streets. Be assured, though, that there is a list.”

According to LADOT’s other speaker, Lane DeLay, Acting Assistant Explanager of LADOT’s Project Befuddlement Division, in the interest of maintaining the department’s confidentiality, the list has been hand-written, sealed in an envelope, and hidden below the trash bin where LADOT throws away all of its ATSAC data.

DeLay confirmed that LADOT will continue to undermine any pretense of actual planning, by continuing find and install a few bike lanes in unapproved “out of the way” locations.

Lane DeLay concluded, “By the end of 2015, the bike plan will have squashed by a new Mobility Plan, so the calendar can reset again once more from the beginning. For 2016, we’re already evaluating the feasibility of going back and re-studying those Year One projects, so we can again ignore them, but more rigorously, not just as bike projects, but in a full complete streets framework.”

“We’ve said for years that the the process is sometimes more important than the project,” explains April Feuel, a spokesperson, well, person who speaks, for Tom LaBonge. “We’re excited that the LADOT is embracing this philosophy by canceling the projects altogether, without really saying that they’re doing that. We’ve seen the secret list, and it’s all truck routes anyway, perfect places to not do anything this year.”

Bike advocates, uhm, people advocating who bike, were also equally excited by the news. Josef Bray-Ali and Carlos Morales have already planned a “study-in” in front of Gil Cedillo’s apartment where cyclists will spread out EIR’s and discuss the pros and cons of road diets. Eric Trojans announced that the Los Angeles County Bicycle People Who Ride Bikes Coalition will be giving away bike lights on streets rumored to be on LADOT’s secret list.

The only Councilmember, er…people who council (or something like that), who wasn’t on board was Councillor Paul Koretz who vowed to cancel all studies of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard. As an unanticipated consequence of being removed from the do-nothing list, the Westwood bike lanes will be painted immediately. City crews, carrying large buckets of green and white paint, were spotted there actively towing cars at 5:40 a.m. this morning.


New Report Tells CA How to Get More Bang for its Transportation Bucks

Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 4.01.00 PM

This report from the University of California’s Climate Change and Business Research Initiative tells California how to put its money where its mouth is.

A new report [PDF] offers suggestions for ways that California could better spend the roughly $28 billion it invests in transportation every year, both to be more cost-effective and to better align with the state’s environmental goals.

Authored by researchers at the Climate Change and Business Research Initiative, a partnership between the law schools at UCLA and UC Berkeley, the report stemmed from a day-long workshop last fall with a group of California policy makers, transportation experts, and advocates that included some of the top minds in the industry.

“We could put money towards making roads safe for people who ride bikes, people who want to walk, and people who take transit,” said Ethan Elkind, lead author of the report. “At the same time, that would help manage traffic congestion.”

Other ideas include:

  • Develop state project performance standards to make sure that new transportation projects align with state environmental and energy goals. There are some good models already in existence, including the project performance analysis for Plan Bay Area, which scores projects on things like integrating land use and transportation as well as cost-benefit ratios.
  • Lower the current 2/3 voter threshold for local transportation funding measures, and tying the measures to metrics related to environmental goals.
  • Fix existing infrastructure before building new roads–and make sure that repairs and maintenance include safety for all road users, not just people driving cars.
  • Require local governments to reduce parking requirements in transit-intensive areas to give developers room to meet actual parking demand more cost-effectively while reducing the cost of transit-oriented projects.
  • Develop mileage-based user fees for transportation funding in place of the shrinking gas tax, which decreasingly reflects actual road usage as vehicles become more fuel efficient.
  • Amend Article XIX of the California Constitution, which restricts the use of state gas tax funds for transit operations.

Read more…


The Los Angeles Times Wonders What Can Be Done About Freeway Pollution

This Freeway in San Diego is part of the problem. Is part of the solution building more freeways in San Diego? Image: San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers

The Los Angeles Times published a remarkable editorial today questioning why so little is done about the public health crisis caused by Southern California’s reliance on freeway travel. However, either because of confusion or lack of will, the editorial stops short of proposing any real solutions to the crisis. It merely note it exists.

The first step, is admitting you have a problem.

The Times reports:

University research over the years has found substantially worse air pollution adjacent to freeways, and worse health among nearby residents as well. A 2005 USC study concluded that children who lived within a quarter of a mile of a freeway were 89% more likely to have asthma than those living a mile away. The closer they lived to freeways, the higher the asthma rates. But these university studies, though they added to our collective knowledge, did not affect government regulations.

While the Times earns kudos for talking about the danger posed to those living near freeways, there are two points left out of the editorial that are crucial to understanding why freeway pollution is ignored in policy settings and informs just how difficult a battle to reign in said pollution will be.

The first is that there are powerful interests that want to see the current transportation system, a system that literally cripples and enfeebles the people that live near it, continued. Oil companies, car manufacturers, construction unions, are just some of the giants that will fight meaningful change in transportation policy unless the new policy involves clean car programs.

For examples, Xcel Energy is looking to pervert the democratic process in Boulder, Colorado because the city wants to convert to clean power. Locally, AAA and car dealerships have eschewed the public process to pull the levers of power behind the scene to attempt to block a road diet and protected bike lanes plan on South Figueroa Street.

The second problem missed by the Times is that the people whose lives are devastated by the pollution creating freeways are not the people creating the pollution. Traditionally, the communities dissected by asphalt scalpels are the poorest and least likely to wield power behind-the-scenes. Not coincidentally, they are also least likely to own cars and travel on a freeway for work/recreation/whatever. Read more…


Takin’ It to the Streets: Protestors Gather Over Road Conditions on Venice Blvd.

Linda Jones speaks to the press during the rally for a repaired Venice on Sunday. Photo: James Jones. For more of Jones' pics from Saturday, visit Streetsblog LITE

I was just 100 yards into CicLAvia to the Sea, when I heard the loud “pop.” It wasn’t just a broken tube, but my entire rear tire looked as though it were chewed up by some sort of monster hiding in the asphalt.

Venice Boulevard struck again.

Thanks to Dan Rodman and the wizards at Bikerowave, I was back on the saddle in a half hour. Rodman commented that I was riding on a new wheel, and a good $50 one at that. “You’re the victim of bad luck,” he lamented.

I knew better.

I was the victim of one of the worst maintained roads in the city. Venice Boulevard.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. One week later, dozens of Mar Vista residents and Venice Blvd. commuters took to the streets at Venice and Grand Ave. waving signs from the street corner reading “We Pay Taxes for Usable Streets” and “Honk to Repair Venice.”

While it wasn’t the largest rally ever seen, it might be one of the first times that we’ve seen sign an actual protest over road conditions. And the response from passer-byers was pretty overwhelming.

“Many people approached me during the protest and stated how disgusted they were with the condition of Venice Blvd. Several told me stories of those they know who have been hurt trying to navigate all the potholes and cracks,” writes Linda Jones, the protest organizer.  Read more…


“Operation Pothole” Is Back, Make Sure Our Bike/Bus Streets Get Fixed

Yup, that's a pothole. Photo: SEIU LA/Flickr

Remember back in January when the City of Los Angeles launched “Operation Pothole” to repair 10,000 potholes over one weekend?  Apparently the City had so much fun, they decided to do it all over again, this time with twice as many crews filling twice as many holes on June 4th and 5th.

Without going in to a debate on whether special events to fill potholes in a city with 4,000 square miles of land full full of damaged streets is an effective plan, let’s focus on getting many of those 20,000 potholes filled on bike routes, bike lanes, and bus routes.  Over the next week, take note of where the worst asphalt craters are in your commute and make sure to let the city know where these commuter traps are.  The cynic in me wanted to suggest we only report potholes on Wilshire west of Beverly Hills, but I’m pretty sure the staffers fielding the Operation Pothole calls wouldn’t get the joke.

The LADOT Bike Blog has the details on how to call in a pothole to the city to get it filled. Read more…


L.A. Conservancy: New Spring Street Bridge Plans Are Better, But…

(The above video was prepared by the L.A. City Bureau of Engineering to explain the project. There will be a public meeting on the North Spring Street Bridge Improvement project on Tuesday, May 10, at 6:00 P.M. at the Lincoln Heights Senior Citizen Center at 2323 Workman Avenue.  For more information, click on the advertisement on the right.  Many of the details that have led to this compromise can be found in our first article on this project.)

The L.A. Conservancy, one of the leading voices opposing the North Spring Street Bridge Improvement Project, has broken its silence on its view of the new designs for the project proposed by the City’s Bureau of Engineering (BoE.)  Despite its long-standing opposition to changing the design of the historic structure, it seems the Conservancy is pleased with the efforts the BoE has made to maintain the original design and make needed repairs and upgrades to the bridge.

“We’re encouraged by the direction the Bureau of Engineering is headed,” notes Adrian Scott Fine, the director of advocacy for the L.A. Conservancy.

As we noted last week, the bridge has been a fixture in Downtown Los Angeles since 1927, but in recent years the City has been trying to change the structure by widening it, adding new sidewalks, bike lanes, and extending the mixed-use travel lanes from 9.5 to eleven feet.  The Conservancy has opposed the widening because earlier designs of the bridge would have greatly altered the character of the structure.

After losing a political battle last year, the BoE went back to the drawing board to create two new designs for expanding the bridge.  The first design proposed design widens the south side of the bridge, restripe the lanes to include a bike lane in each direction, widen the sidewalk on the north side of the bridge and add a sidewalk to the south side.  The second design spreads the widening out but has the same basic impact.  The bridge will still have four mixed travel lanes, two new bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. Read more…


City, Caltrans, Seek Feedback on North Spring Street Bridge Widening

Nobody's debating that conditions on the bridge are good for cyclists/pedestrians. The issue is how to improve them. Photo: NSSB/Flickr

(Yesterday, a new advertisement appeared in our sidebar advertising a public meeting on the North Spring Street Bridge Improvement project on Tuesday, May 10, at 6:00 P.M. at the Lincoln Heights Senior Citizen Center at 2323 Workman Avenue.  Below is a summary of the project, most of which was written before the advertisement was placed. – DN)

The North Spring Street Bridge Replacement/Improvement project has been a controversial one for the four years its been under debate.  The City and Caltrans claim the bridge is in poor structural health and has car travel lanes that are too narrow.  Historic preservationists claim that the bridge has local historical significance transportation reformers claim that plans to replace or improve the bridge will increase the amount of cars flowing in to the area.

Last year, the city attempted a rushed process to push through a plan to expand the traversable width of the bridge from 50 feet to 90 feet.   Only a surprise vote by the City Council Transportation Committee prevented the bridge from being widened to nearly double its current size “to make room for cyclists and pedestrians.”  This week, the city and Caltrans announced a new public hearing to vet two possible designs to expand the bridge.

The first design proposed design widens the south side of the bridge, restripe the lanes to include a bike lane in each direction, widen the sidewalk on the north side of the bridge and add a sidewalk to the south side.  The second design spreads the widening out but has the same basic impact.  The bridge will still have four mixed travel lanes, two new bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge.

Even though neither plan would add a mixed-use travel lane, the bridge will be able to accommodate more automobile traffic after the widening.  Currently travel lanes on the bridge are 9.5 feet wide.  After the widening, the lanes will swell to eleven feet, wide enough to accommodate much faster, and higher volumes of traffic. Read more…


Obama Brings Focus Back to Minneapolis Bridge Collapse, Media Blunders the Story

For a brief moment in August of 2007, the country was serious about maintaining its bridge infrastructure. Photo:Construction Law Today

(Marybeth Miceli is the President of Miceli Infrastructure Consulting, LLC.  She is a bridge testing and assessment specialist and materials scientist with a background in Nondestructive Testing/Evaluation.   She has just completed a 3-year term on the Board of Directors for the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT), who named her “Young NDT Professional of the Year” in 2004.  Miceli is married to L.A. Streetsblog Editor Damien Newton.)

We can thank President Obama for calling attention once again to the tragic bridge collapse of the I-35 W Bridge outside Minneapolis in 2007.  In a recent speech , regarding the republican spending bill, he criticizes the GOP’s infrastructure spending cuts, tying together the collapse with aging infrastructure and our lack of spending in the transportation arena.  The critics in the media have decided to jump on this, waving the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report saying the 2007 collapse of the I-35 highway bridge just outside of Minneapolis was caused by a design flaw.

Unsurprisingly, the media continues to not do their homework, particularly when it comes to transportation infrastructure.  How many of them reporting on this story (or even those who reported on the original collapse) actually read the report?

The President is 100% correct to draw this association between lack of funding and the collapse.  Though the “root cause” of the collapse was the gusset plate design flaw, there were many contributing factors to the collapse such as the construction equipment and materials being placed on the exact weak joint.  But there is so much more to the “perfect storm” that caused the collapse.  If any one of the factors had been avoided, the tragic collapse that took the lives of 13 would likely have been averted.

Cutting funding for transportation infrastructure, inspection, and repair only make it more likely that the conditions that caused this “storm” could happen again.

Two of the main contributing factors were: Read more…

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Behind the Numbers: California’s Bridges Might Be Worse Off Than We Think

Earlier this week, Transportation for America released a report on the state of America’s bridges.  Capitol Hill Streetsblog broke down those numbers yesterday, but the numbers for California were even worse.  According to “The Fix We’re In For: The State of California’s Bridges,” 11.8% of California bridges are “structurally deficient” and this figure will continue to rise as an entire generation of bridges approaches their 50-year life expectancy. Additionally the top ten most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges in the nation are in the greater Los Angeles region.

All images via Transportation for America

Transportation for America is using the buzz created by their reports to pressure government leaders to prioritize a “fix-it-first” ethic in to the next federal transportation bill.  Local organizer Ryan Wiggins writes, “In the next federal transportation bill we must make caring for our existing infrastructure a core principle. It is key to our public safety and economic security.”

But just using federal funds won’t be enough for California to address it’s growing bridge crisis on its own.  To its credit, California already uses all of the federal dollars available for bridge repair for bridge repair.  To keep our bridges in a “state of good repair,” the highest mark a structure can receive, California officials will need to spend more local and state dollars on bridge repair, maintenance and evaluation.  In the 1970’s, Governor Brown basically halted highway expansion to support transit.  To make sure funding is secured for a “Fix-It-First” campaign of the needed magnitude, highway expansion might need to go back to the back burner.

In addition to the coming crisis as more and more California bridges hit the end of their original life-expectancy, some engineers question whether we even know how bad our crumbling bridge crisis is today. Read more…

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State Transpo Officials Push to Toll for Maintenance, Not Just Capacity

Last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told state DOT officials gathered at an AASHTO conference in Washington that he was all in favor of tolling – but only to add new capacity.

Iowa DOT Director Nancy Richardson says her state should be putting all of its funds toward stewardship. Photo: Iowa DOT

“We believe in tolling,” LaHood said. “You can raise a lot of money with tolls. If a state comes to us with good plans for tolling, yes, we’ll be responsive to that… as long as you’re building more capacity. That’s really what we’re going to look at.”

As state transportation officials struggle with state of good repair, they are beginning to chafe at the federal restriction that allows tolling only for new capacity – not maintenance or other needs.

“The argument always is, we shouldn’t toll for reconstruction because we’ve already paid for them once,” said Iowa DOT Director Nancy Richardson in an interview with Streetsblog. “But we’ve paid for them and we’ve used that value. Now it’s time to reinvest.”

She says maintenance, or “stewardship”, is a much higher priority for her state than capacity — to the point where she considers spending all of her funds on stewardship.

We probably have about 75 percent of our money going to that now. But our system has taken such a beating in the last five years because the weather has been so dramatic – both winters and flooding – so we’ve seen accelerated deterioration and costs over the past five or six years, without revenues going up significantly. Our bang for the buck is less. So we have to look, like all states, to see if we have to almost completely shift our funds to maintenance, or stewardship, as we call it, rather than capacity.

Secretary LaHood admitted, when asked, that the Federal Highway Administration had rejected tolls for Pennsylvania’s I-80 because the tolls were going to be used for “other things” besides new capacity.

Read more…