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Posts from the "Traffic Calming" Category

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CRA Unveils Draft Plans for South Figueroa, Public Mostly Positive

The South Figueroa Corridor Plan proposes changes for more than just Figueroa Street.

The South Figueroa Corridor Plan proposes changes for more than just Figueroa Street.

A standing room only audience descended on the Fashion Institute of Design on South Grand Street to listen to a presentation from the embattled Community Redevelopment Agency for a ground breaking and popular proposal to transform the South Figueroa Corridor.  When people discuss Los Angeles’ streets, they usually use terms such as “car-oriented” or “ugly.”  The new South Figueroa, aka My Figueroa, would be a truly beautiful street designed for people to walk, bike wait for transit or just enjoy life outside as well as a way to shuffle cars from one area to another.

The South Figueroa Corridor Project covers three miles of South Figueroa from 41st Street to Seventh Street as well as a half mile of 11st Street between Figueroa and Broadway, a half mile of Martin Luther King (MLK) Boulevard just south of Exposition Park, and a half mile of Bill Robertson Boulevard from into Exposition Park starting at MLK Boulevard.  While there are different proposals being studied for each part of the corridor, Oliver Schultze, from the world-renowned Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, promised that every part of the corridor would see some sort of improvement.

Good.

The project team offered three proposals for different sections of Figueroa, a “good,” “better,” and “best” options.  Whether a segment qualifies for good, better, or best depends on the amount of funding available and the current level of street life in the segment.  The good option consisted of an eight foot separated bike lane traveling the length of the corridor in each direction, an eighteen inch separator, car parking and bus bump outs, and a transit only lane for buses and streetcars.  In addition to creating a safe place for cyclists, removing them from car traffic and the sidewalk, it also created a 22 foot buffer between the sidewalk and the first regular vehicle travel lane.

As Joe Linton noted from the audience, “I love that protected bike lanes are the base proposal.”  Figueroa street would be the first street in Los Angeles to feature protected bike lanes.  In fact, no city in Los Angeles County has these special bike lanes, although Long Beach is adding some as we speak. Read more…

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The Wilbur Avenue Road Diet Controversy Goes Mainstream

Let the backlash against sustainable transportation practices begin!

Throughout the summer Streetsblog has reported on the Road Diet the LADOT has placed on Wilbur Avenue in the Valley community of Northridge and the backlash the Diet has caused.  City Councilman Greig Smith was so incensed that the Diet was placed without community input that he’s proposing legislation that would require local Neighborhood Council approval before any transportation project moves forward.  Recently, the project has attracted more high-profile coverage in the Los Angeles Times, on KNBC (above) and in City Watch.

Throughout 2009, one of the hottest topics amongst transportation reformers and neighborhood groups was the disturbing trend of speed limits being increased on local and arterial streets throughout the Valley.  Then Assemblyman Paul Krekorian tried to change the state law which was causing the speed limits to increase, but many reformers argued that a better remedy would be to change the design and striping of streets to encourage slower, safer driving.

Of course, now that the LADOT is actually redesigning and striping streets to encourage safer driving, the backlash has begun.

Unfortunately, the debate is being presented in the media as a “car v bicyclist” debate as Wilbur Avenue received two bike lanes after the street was narrowed from four lanes of car traffic to two lanes with a turn lane.  However, there’s a lot of other, more accurate ways, to view the conflict caused by the Diet.  After the jump, we’ll take a look at the framing of the debate, and how it will effect the way people will react to the debate. Read more…

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Happy Endings: Judge Rules Traffic Calming Measures Put Back in Holmby-Westwood

7_8_10_selby.jpgThese humps appeared on Selby Avenue.  For more images of the removed traffic calming, visit our Flickr page.

Yesterday, Judge Robert O'Brien of the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a tentative ruling that traffic calming measures in the Holmby-Westood community that were removed by the LADOT and City Council in the summer of 2009 be returned.  The traffic calming was first put in as part of a Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) when the Palazzo development was constructed on the west side of the community.  The measures were "only temporary" pending a vote of the neighborhood six months after installation.  However, when LADOT surveyed the community, they surveyed a different and larger area than the one agreed to in the plan.  The vote to keep the traffic calming was approved by "only" 60% of residents who responded to the survey, which was short of the two-thirds needed to keep the calming in place.

O'Brien was as confused by the city's rationale for changing the survey area as project supporters and chided the LADOT and the City for utterly failing to live up to the Neighborhood Protection Plan. Because the agreement between community, developers and city was a condition for the construction of Palazzo, the NPP has the force of law.  By distributing a ballot to areas that were not deemed "effected areas" in the NPP, the City broke the law:

Screen_shot_2010_07_07_at_9.20.51_PM.png

The result?  The city has to put the traffic calming back, and put it in permanently.  No lobbying by the City Council office, or maneuvering by the LADOT can change that simple fact.

Read more...

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Council Moves to Slow Down Traffic in Two Well Off Residential Areas

Screen_shot_2010_05_26_at_6.21.07_PM.pngOverhead shot of the calmed streets in Pacific Palisades.  No, those aren't apartment buildings.

It's a common complaint of community groups that they are powerless to slow down speeding traffic in their neighborhoods.  While there are many barriers to reducing average traffic speeds in L.A., state law and the LADOT to name a few, two relatively well-off communities may be on their way to slower cars on their local streets.

In a well-to-do section of Pacific Palisades, residents on two streets, Corona Del Mar and Alma Real Drive thought the speed limit of thirty miles per hour was too high.  After discussing the issue with their Councilman, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl, a motion was created to lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour.  The Calfironia Vehicle Code allows for residential streets to have 25 m.p.h. limits, but if an engineering survey determines that more than fifteen percent of drivers drive faster than that limit, then police can't use radar to enforce the limit.

The survey for this street shows that the speed should be 30 m.p.h.  The residents didn't care about radar enforcement.  After all, this is hardly a street that sees a lot of traffic cops.  The motion passed Committee unanimously, and can be read here.

Read more...

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Speed Humps Installed Surrounding Nine Valley Schools

4_23_10_alarcon.jpgMiranda Chavez, Student Body Vice President for Langdon Elementary, speaks as some other politicians and students look on. Photo: Office of Richard Alarcon

City Councilman Richard Alarcon has always been a vocal supporter for traffic calming and safe streets around schools and other places that children congregate. In 2007, he introduced legislation calling for the LADOT to report on how it prioritizes traffic calming devices around schools, parks and recreation centers. Last year, he introduced the resolution which created the "set-aside" for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the city's Measure R Local Return funds.

We all know that the battle to slow traffic is a hard one, so yesterday must have been a good one for the Councilman. Surrounded by students from Langdon Elementary, Alarcon celebrated the installation of speed humps and curb cuts around eight schools in the 7th Councilmanic District, paid for with Safe Routes to Schools funds. At Langdon Elementary School, where the press conference was held, there have been 28 collisions on that block between 2003-2008, including 2 pedestrian related and 4 bicycle related accidents, as reported by LADOT.

"It is always fantastic to hear of leaders and communities addressing and prioritizing the needs of children and their families to safely and enjoyably access their schools," says Jessica Meaney, California Policy Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Streetsblog had been highly critical of the city's grant writing efforts when it comes to "Safe Routes to Schools," the projects and proposals coming out of Alarcon's district have always been superior to the fare offered by LADOT for the rest of the city. That the LADOT complains about the city not receiving its "fare share" of SRTS funding while eight schools in one district have traffic calming installed with SRTS funds over the course of one week tells the story. If anyone is interested in seeing these kinds of projects for their local schools, there is a Safe Routes to School's training session at the Caltrans building Downtown at 9:00 A.M. If you're interested, email Caltrans' local SRTS Direcyor at dale_benson@dot.ca.gov. The meeting occurs in advance of a July 15 deadline to apply for $24 million in California SRTS grants.

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DIY Goes Legit: Hills Community Wants to Pay for Its Traffic Calming

3_17_10_elektra.jpgNot exactly the same situation as Northeast L.A.

Fed up with speeding traffic zooming through their local street, residents of the well-to-do Mt. Olympus Homeowner’s Association have approached the city with a plan to pay for the speed humps and speed feedback signs that would make a difference in protecting their street from speeding drivers of all stripes.  A motion to allow them to do just that was heard at last week’s City Council Transportation Committee Hearing, with a resolution expected at next weeks.

Because of the wide nature of Electra and Mt. Olympus roads compared to other roads through the Hills, commuters are using the route as an alternative to the arterial street, Laurel Canyon Road, to the west.  Jerry Lynette, a homeowner near that curve at the bottom-right of the google image, complained specifically that teenagers "playing in their father’s cars" take the turn at excessive speeds.  Just counting his experiences and that of his family, he counted six crashes that occurred getting into and out of his driveway because of excessive speeds.  Meanwhile, Homeowner’s Association President Mel Rumba complains that residents can’t let their children out in the streets.

After years of complaining, the Homeowners approached their Council Member, Tom LaBonge, about paying for speed humps and speed feedback signs on their roads themselves.  They expressed willingness to go through whatever procedural hoops the LADOT required, but just wanted some action done before, in one resident’s words, "this ends in blood."

But not so fast.  LADOT Assistant General Manager John Fisher warned that speed humps wouldn’t be appropriate, because of the grade of the hill, at the places the residents wanted.  Instead he proposed the LADOT complete a study on the best place to place the speed bumps, causing LaBonge and Council Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl to give them a two week deadline to report to the Transportation Committee with their findings.  That deadline expires one week from today.

Streetsblog has written a lot about the challenges communities in Los Angeles have in reducing cut-through traffic in their local streets; but if this effort goes nowhere, it would be a truly sad statement.  The community has the support of their Councilman, the Committee Chair for Transportation is thrilled about using this as a precedence throughout the city, and their own pot of money to complete the project.  If this project gets stymied, what hope is there for the rest of us?

To read more about this issue, LaBonge’s motion authorizing the community to pay for their own street care can be read here.

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West Hollywood Shows Us How to Use Stimulus Funds to Make a Difference

1_5_09_sunset.jpgFirst up for improvements: a before shot of Sunset Plaza. Photo: LA Streetsblog/Flickr

Not every transportation reform project needs to bring visionary change to a city to be a good project.  Case in point, the beutficiation project recently started on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.  Instead of just repaving the road, as is done so often on the streets of Los Angeles, West Hollywood is taking the extra step to also plant trees, fix the sidewalks and improve the crosswalks.  In West Hollywood, a repaving is a reason to re-examine whether or not to re-imagine a street.

So what are West Hollwood's plans for Sunset Boulevard?  According to the project's website:

Despite the length of time since the Sunset Strip has received any serious roadway improvement, the road is basically in good structural condition. Construction will start on January 4, 2010. The Sunset Strip Beautification Project will include the following improvements:

  • Pavement resurfacing;
  • Replacing damaged sidewalks;
  • Improving roadway and crosswalk markings;
  • Upgrading traffic signal equipment; and
  • Planting street trees.

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Santa Monicans React to Controversy Over Narrowed Ocean Park Blvd.

Alert Reader Johnathon Weiss pointed me to a story in the Santa Monica Daily Press, and posted on the Times' LA Now Blog, about the impact the narrowing of Ocean Park Boulevard on traffic and safety in Santa Monica. In 2007, after a series of crashes involving cars and pedestrians, the city of Santa Monica decided to narrow the four lane.  The Daily Press explains:

Responding to concerns over safety on a 12-block stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard after several pedestrians were struck over the past few years, City Hall launched a pilot project in which they condensed the busy corridor from Lincoln to Cloverfield boulevards from two lanes in each direction to one, hoping to calm the speed of traffic and eliminate some of the dangers posed in the previous configuration.

Nearly two years and several community workshops later, the project is still in its pilot phase, partly the result of an understaffed Transportation Management Division that lost two planners whose positions have yet to be filled. 

The Daily Press takes a neutral view on the controversy between motorists who complain about the traffic congestion and residents who view the 2007 narrowing of Ocean Park as a needed safety improvement.  If you read the article you'll see a rather dispassionate article examining both sides of the issue.  Given that, you might expect a rather even-handed evaluation from the Times.  You'd be wrong.

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There Are Opponents to Highway Crash Memorials?

8_10_09_memorial.jpgPhoto: salon.com

The California State Assembly recently passed legislation that will allow the family of victims of highway crashes to pay Caltrans to erect signs memorializing the fallen and reminding drivers to drive safely.  However, thanks to opposition from a group of what the Times terms "environmentalists," the legislation is actually watered down so that our state's highways aren't littered with signs ruining the view.

No, really.

"Our highways are not intended to be repositories for memorials," said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America, a group that advocates against unnecessary signage. "A clutter of signs is the last thing we need along our roadways."

Critics of the bill also note that California already has dozens of signs that name freeway interchanges and bridges in honor of CHP officers and state engineers who have died. The state also has posted hundreds of "Adopt-A-Freeway" signs advertising that an individual or company is sponsoring cleanup of a stretch of freeway.

I'm not actually sure where to go with this story.  Should I point out the traffic calming value of crash memorials, or just wonder how many of these signs Scenic America thinks are going to be on the highways?  I know California's highways aren't exactly "safe" but "a clutter of signs?"

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Council Transportation Committee Moves to Remove Traffic Calming

5_6_09_holmby.jpgEndangered in Westwood.

At an early morning meeting, scheduled for 8:30 A.M. but not starting until close to 9:00, of the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee, both sides in the contentious debate over the fate of temporary traffic calming measures placed in near the Palazzo development in Westwood.

The battle between the Holmby-Westwood community and the extended Westwood Village communities.  The result?  The Committee decided to back Councilman Weiss, the extended community and the LADOT and voted to remove the traffic calming so that the field will be clear for a new round of negotiations. For more on the politics of the struggle, click over to Streetsblog stories from yesterday and last month.

Yes, from the people that claim the best way to slow down traffic is to increase the speed limit and that the best way to protect pedestrians in unsignalized crosswalks is to remove the crosswalk comes the new theory that the best way to improve an imperfect traffic calming plan is to rip up the traffic calming and start from scratch.

While the 60% of the residential community that voted to support the current traffic calming measures when it went to a vote were represented by a majority of the speakers, they received a less sympathetic response than last time.  The representative from the City Attorney’s office rejected the resident’s claim that the neighborhood protection plan agreed to by the community didn’t rise to the level of a binding contract, and even if it did that LADOT has the authority to change the boundaries of the agreement.

As for the LADOT, they seemed content to rip out the current measures and start the public process over after a "cooling off period" so that the angry sides from the current disagreement can become friends again.  Once the kumbaya period is over the community can begin to put together a new traffic calming plan.

Probably the lowlight of the hearing came at the end when Councilman Tom LaBonge compared car traffic and traffic calming to damming a river.  Under his analogy, you can damm a river, but the water will flow somewhere else.  Of course, the goal of creating Livable Streets isn’t just to damm that water, but damm it and reduce it.