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Eyes on the Street: Some L.A. City Sidewalk Repairs On the Way

Sidewalk repair markings in front of Shatto Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Sidewalk repair markings in front of Shatto Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles has a $27 million set aside for sidewalk repair during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. This is only the proverbial drop-in-the-bucket for L.A.’s estimated $1.5 billion in overall unmet sidewalk repair needs. Based on liability and property concerns, the city is only spending its $27 million repairing tree-root-damaged sidewalks along city facilities, such as parks and libraries.

Last month, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian strongly criticized city bureaucracy for delays in spending even the relatively meager sidewalk repair monies budgeted.

Walking around my Koreatown neighborhood a few days ago, I spotted white markings on the slightly damaged sidewalks in front of Shatto Park. It looks like the city forces are at least getting some sidewalk repair work under way. I inquired to the city’s Public Works Bureau to find out where and when sidewalk repair is happening, and will do a follow-up article when I hear back from them.

Readers: is anyone else seeing these sidewalk repair markings in front of city facilities in your neighborhoods? Where? Are there other tree-root-damaged sidewalks (in front of city facilities) that the city should be repairing? Let us know in the comments below.

Update April 2: The list of city facility sidewalk repairs underway is in this March 2015 Bureau of Engineering Report [PDF]. It’s part of the sidewalk repair city council file 14-0163-S4

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Investing in Place – Streetsblog Interviews Jessica Meaney

Jessica Meaney, image via Investing in Place

Jessica Meaney, photo via Investing in Place

Jessica Meaney probably needs no introduction for many Streetsblog L.A. readers. She was awarded a 2013 Streetsie for her advocacy work. She’s a former boardmember of SBLA’s parent non-profit, an occasional SBLA author, and a steadfast voice for people who walk and bike in Southern California. She backs up her statements with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of convincing statistics that quantify exactly how many people walk, and just how little our municipalities invest in their facilities. Until recently she worked for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, where she was one of the leaders behind the L.A. County Active Transportation Collaborative. She recently started an exciting new endeavor, called Investing in Place, which she explains below. 

Tell SBLA readers about your new endeavor Investing In Place – what is it?

It’s a new new non-profit effort to support a constituency for equitable planning and support and relationships with agencies and efforts that invest in the built environment in Los Angeles County.

As Investing in Place maps out its 2015 work plan, the focus will largely be on transportation finance and policy work at the County level [through] Metro. Over the past several years working with Metro, again and again decisions have come back to, “Is it in the long range transportation plan?” Updating the LRTP (last one done in 2009) is an amazing opportunity to help shape the update of the region’s transportation priorities and processes for funding programs and projects. With close to 70% of Los Angeles County’s transportation funds being generated through our local county sales taxes working with Metro is critical for many outcomes people are hungry to see in our built environment.

And I also hope to support a Transportation Finance Strategic Plan at the city of Los Angeles. [The city] represents 40% of of the County, and without a comprehensive and easy-to-access transportation finance plan for L.A. City, it’s been hard to understand priorities and opportunities. It’s crazy to me that…we can say the sidewalks in the city of Los Angeles have, at minimum, a $1 billion price tag to address [issues] but no intentional policies, plans, staffing, or finance goals in place to do this. If the city of Los Angeles was able to articulate transportation funding needs and goals, this would enhance the regional decision making processes – especially regarding sales taxes.

And one great opportunity I welcome help [in] getting the word out on is Investing in Place is partnering with LA n Sync (a project of the Annenberg Foundation) and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) to provide grant writing assistance to jurisdictions applying for the Active Transportation Program cycle 2 this spring. If people are interested in being considered for this opportunity, they need to apply by March 18th. We’ve posted the details and online application for this here.

How can interested folks get involved in Investing In Place?

Reach out to me at jessica@investinginplace.org or sign up for our email list, read our blog, or find us on social media (Twitter and Facebook). It’s looking like the April Metro Board meetings will be important opportunities to review the agency’s draft idea for what would be in the potential 2016 Ballot measure. As of now, there is no expenditure plan for this tax from Metro.

Investing in Place has an open partner meeting this week on March 5th (filled to capacity!), and then we’re working on more meetings in May, June, and September to help provide information on how to engage in these opportunities.

One of the key ways Investing in Place is working to get at a regional reach is by our Advisor team. The advisory team is [comprised of] over 10 members from leaders from organizations all over Los Angeles County, and some doing State and National work. They provide Investing in Place [with] strategic advice on organizational growth, strategy, and collaboration. It’s my version of the dream team. I’d encourage people to reach out to me or any members of our Advisor teamRead more…

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L.A. vs. S.F.: How Does Transportation Really Compare?

Recent San Francisco survey results show less than half of trips are made by private car. Image via SBSF.

Recent San Francisco survey results shows that driving has made up a minority of trips for at least three years. Image via SBSF.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled, “San Francisco residents relying less on private automobiles.” It is summarized at today’s Metro transportation headlines. The Times highlighted recent good news, reported in early February at Streetsblog SF, that 52 percent of San Francisco trips are taken by means other than a private car: walk, bike, transit, taxi, etc. The data are from a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) survey examining all trips, not just commuting. The time frame is from 2012 through 2014.

First, let’s celebrate! This is great news. In California’s second-largest city one of California’s largest cities, sustainable healthy transportation holds a majority.

The Times briefly mentions similarities between S.F. and L.A. in terms of transit investment, but mostly frames the good news by drawing sharp distinctions between L.A. and S.F. The Times article states:

  • “In stark contrast to car-dependent Los Angeles, studies show that most trips in the burgeoning tech metropolis [S.F.] are now made by modes of transportation other than the private automobile.”
  • “At 47 square miles, San Francisco is relatively small and densely populated. There are more than 17,000 residents per square mile — twice that of Los Angeles [City].”
  • “Los Angeles has an entrenched car culture and the city alone is spread out over nearly 10 times the area of San Francisco. Its population density of 8,100 people per square mile is less than half that of the Bay Area city.”
  • “Countywide, the [L.A. County] land area is an enormous 4,752 square miles, and the density drops to about 2,100 people per square mile.”

Just how stark is this contrast between Los Angeles and San Francisco?

The way I see it, the Times isn’t really comparing apples to apples. Read more…

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Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Political Contortions Forcing Unsafe Compromise Design

Los Angeles' latest "Option 1A" propsal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks. Detail - click for full page.

Los Angeles’ latest “Option 1A” proposal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks but not include the planned bike lanes. Detail – click for full page.

Last night, the Citizens Advisory Committee for the design of the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge met to discuss the city’s latest proposal.

L.A.’s historic Glendale-Hyperion Bridge opened in 1927. It connects the Los Angeles communities of Silver Lake and Atwater Village. About ten years ago, city plans to renovate the bridge got underway. In 2013, the city proposed a dangerously high-speed highway-scale bridge design. Communities objected to the proposal. The city went back to the drawing board, and formed an Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing various possible configurations, and coming up with a better plan for the new bridge.

In August, the committee voted to move forward with Option 3 which includes bike lanes and sidewalks, and a road diet. Four existing car lanes would be reduced down to three lanes.  L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the area on one side of the bridge, rejected the committee’s selection in favor of one that preserved four traffic lanes.

Given the width of the bridge, there is not quite enough room for two sidewalks, two bike lanes, and four car lanes. LaBonge’s insistence on preserving four car lanes meant that either bike lanes or a sidewalk would be eliminated.

The project stewed internally for a few months.

At last night’s meeting, attended by LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and City Engineer Gary Moore, LADOT presented a new design – called Option 1A. The new option is an attempt to preserve both sidewalks while meeting LaBonge’s insistence on four car lanes. This eliminates the bike lanes. Preserving both sidewalks (via either Option 1A or Option 3) is important. As it would be prohibitively costly to go back and add sidewalks at a later date. Lanes, whether for bicycles or cars, can be reconfigured relatively inexpensively.

The city’s Option 1A cross section labels the bridge sidewalks as “shared use path[s].” Advisory Committee members Deborah Murphy (L.A. Walks), Don Ward (Los Feliz Neighborhood Council), and Eric Bruins (L.A. County Bicycle Coalition) all commented that these are just sidewalks, not designed for shared use. For most of the bridge, Option 1A shows an 8-foot sidewalk. Under Waverly Drive, the sidewalk narrows to 5.5 feet. The bridge is sloped, which means most cyclists will travel at fairly high speeds downhill. With limited width, limited sight lines, and significant speed differences between people walking and bicycling, Bruins characterized Option 1A as a “recipe for disaster.” Read more…

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Where Should ‘Barnes Dance’ Diagonal Scramble Crosswalks Go?

LA Gets Diagonal Crosswalks (again) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Last week, the L.A. Times ran this article announcing that the city of Los Angeles Transportation Department (LADOT) is planning to add new diagonal “scramble” or “Barnes Dance” crosswalks at three pedestrian-heavy Metro-rail adjacent intersections:

  • 7th Street and Flower Street, Downtown Los Angeles
  • Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Hollywood
  • Aliso Street and Alameda Street, at Union Station, Downtown Los Angeles

Though scramble intersections are working just fine thank you in Pasadena, at USC, and at UCLA, the Times trotted out an unnamed L.A. transportation engineer who, in 1995, said they wouldn’t work here.

This got SBLA thinking: This is a great idea, but LADOT just isn’t going far enough! What other pedestrian-heavy intersections would be great for scramble treatments? Why not MacArthur Park? Wilshire and Vermont? in front of L.A. Trade Tech? And why not go further? Can we close some streets around our rail stations, maybe even around our schools, too – make them only for walking and bicycling? At certain hours? or all the time – like plazas or mini-CicLAvias?

Comment away, dear readers! Where would you put pedestrian scrambles? In L.A. or elsewhere? Where could we go further?

 

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I’ll Be on the Larry Mantle Show at 11:27

Following on the L.A. Times’ piece today about a possible expansion of the city’s Scramble Crosswalk program, I’ll be on Air Talk with Larry Mantle at KPCC talking about how Scramble Crosswalks can fit into L.A.’s transportation landscape.

You can find KPCC at 89.3 on your FM dial, or listen online by clicking here.

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Trick or Treat: LADOT Gets It Right on Halloween

This year the LADOT released its annual safety guide for Halloween, a tradition that dates back to 2008.

Uhm, ok. Image:##http://followpics.co/walking-down-the-street-on-halloween-i-happen-upon-the-greatest-group-costume-ever-imgur-okay-who-will-do-this-with-me-next-year-we-could-dress-up-our-kids-as-banana-peels-super-stars-and-tu/##Follow Pics##

Uhm, ok. Image:Follow Pics

And honestly, it makes me kind of proud.

You see, Streetsblog has a history with LADOT on Halloween. Back at the Streetsblog L.A. predecessor site, Street Heat, we needled LADOT for not providing safety tips as is common with agencies around the country. With some families exploring their neighborhoods at night for the first time, the world’s unofficial pedestrian holiday provides a good time to get some free press around safety issues.

The next year, LADOT did publish…but the guidelines were kind of weak. They focused on how to keep your kids from getting run over (good!) but didn’t mention anything to the people that might be doing the running over (bad).

A couple of years later, the agency finally added tips for drivers, much to our delight. Even more exciting, the tips started to be picked up by local TV stations.

So now, as parents are picking up their kids and getting ready for a big night out, we are happy to republish the LADOT safety tips.

Be safe out there kids, parents, and drivers. Have a good night.

Read more…

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LADOT Pilots “Pedestrian First” Timing on Broadway

Pedestrians crossing at Broadway and 4th. Photo via LADOT.

Pedestrians crossing at Broadway and 4th. Photo via LADOT.

It seems like a simple concept. If you give pedestrians a walk signal before giving cars the go-ahead, pedestrians crossing at intersections will be more visible and crashes and injuries will be reduced. But in a city where too much of the infrastructure is still designed to encourage cars to move quickly, even a small change that benefits people who aren’t in cars will be noticed.

In this case, some Streetsbloggers have noticed that some of the traffic signals along Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles are out of sync with the rest of the city. Even if Broadway is home to the pedestrian friendly “dress rehearsal” and has its own pedestrian master plan, people are still cautiously optimistic when they see change at the street level.

“On Sunday morning, I was riding eastbound on 4th Street when I came to a red light as I reached Broadway,” wrote Patrick Pascal. “I was shocked to notice that (like Chicago and a few other progressive places) the walk signal permitted pedestrians to begin to cross at least four seconds before the traffic signal turned green.  Was this due to an error by the DOT or is the agency finally joining the 21st century?”

Good news! It’s the latter.

“At Broadway and 4th/3rd Streets, we are piloting a ‘pedestrian priority phase’ signalized intersection that provides a three-second head start for people walking/bicycling/skateboarding across the street,” responded Bruce Gillman, a spokesperson with LADOT. “We implemented this in conjunction with the Broadway Dress Rehearsal ribbon cutting ceremony last August.  Vehicles wait those extra seconds, making people more visible to drivers as they step off the curb.” Read more…

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Report: “Multi-Modal Level of Service” Metrics Not Quite Up to the Challenge

UCLA researchers found that new Multi-Modal Level of Service metrics are not so great for measuring what's helpful for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

UCLA researchers found that Multi-Modal Level of Service methodologies are not so great for evaluating what’s good for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Livability proponents celebrate that car-centric Level of Service (LOS) is finally on its way out, at least in California.Wouldn’t it be great if there was a similar bike- or walk-centric metric that could be used instead? UCLA Lewis Center and Institute for Transportation Studies researchers have studied some of the published metrics for evaluating how well streets serve pedestrians and cyclists. The researchers’ conclusion: in all of the bike and ped metrics they reviewed, there is no silver bullet. Moreover, adapting LOS doesn’t look like a fruitful approach.

Level of Service is a standard, simplistic engineering measure that uses car throughput to assign streets a letter grade from A to F. For nearly 60 years, LOS has been the predominant way that planners and engineers quantify streets. LOS guides policy and investment, justifying making streets wider and more car-centric. Because LOS only considers cars, LOS justifies widening roadways, adding turn lanes, and other so-called improvements that degrade conditions for people using bikes, their feet, or transit. To remedy this, transportation professionals have created new metrics designed to grade other modes. These include Pedestrian Level of Service (PLOS) and Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS), both of which are components of Multi-Modal Level of Service (MMLOS.)

There are some inherent problems with adapting a car-centric measure like LOS to bicycling and walking. Where people driving tend to see other cars as obstacles, pedestrians often prefer to walk where other people are out walking. Cyclists experience a safety in numbers effect, where LOS tends to just find congestion in numbers.

Though there are now many metrics from various parts of the world, UCLA researchers Madeline Brozen and Herbie Huff focused primarily on the following three metrics:

  • Multi-Modal Level of Service, included in the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual (HCM), the official federal evaluation tool developed by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (BEQI and PEQI), developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Urban Street Design Guidelines performance measures, developed by the city of Charlotte, North Carolina

Huff and Brozen used these tools to score sections of streets in the city of Santa Monica. They subsequently evaluated the sensitivity of the tools by comparing scores for existing condition to scores for potential improvements, including bike lanes, road diets, medians, etc.

In comparing existing sites to multiple potential improvements, the models showed “little variation,” with none of the improvements appearing ideal or raising the score to an “A.” Therefore, the models were ineffective for deciding between potential designs.  Read more…

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Councilmember Cedillo Adds Stop Sign In Response To Fatal Hit-and-Run

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On September 14, a hit-and-run driver killed 57-year-old Gloria Ortiz. Ms. Ortiz was walking in a crosswalk in the Northeast Los Angeles community of Highland Park. The hit-and-run crime took place at the intersection of Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place, adjacent to Aldama Street Elementary School. According to KTLA5, witnesses stated that the driver “just ran her over, didn’t even turn back.”

Local residents joke darkly that speeding drivers think Avenue 50 is the name of the speed limit, not the street.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Less than a month later, yesterday, community leaders joined Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Transportation Department (LADOT) head Seleta Reynolds to highlight city efforts to make Avenue 50 safer. New stop signs were added to the intersection where Ortiz was killed. The existing somewhat-worn continental crosswalk was freshly re-painted, actually freshly re-thermoplastic-ed. @HLP90042 posted before and after photos at Twitter.

Councilmember Cedillo, who has dragged his heels on safety improvements approved for nearby North Figueroa, spoke on his commitment to “street safety, particularly around schools and where people gather.”

General Manager Reynolds emphasized that “the biggest predictor of fatalities on a street is speed, and the biggest factor in speed on your street is design” and reiterated her department’s commitment to making “safety our number one priority.”

Local resident Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, praised the city’s quick response in adding the stop sign. She described walking to Aldama School as being safe when she was younger. Today, walking her daughter to the school, she fears for their safety. Alcaraz stated that Avenue 50 is dangerous when parents are making illegal U-turns and double-parking at school drop-off and pick-up times, and, then, when the students aren’t around, Avenue 50 is dangerous because so many drivers speed. Alcaraz urged LAPD to spend more time on traffic enforcement there to prevent future tragedies.