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Would You Vote for a Measure R2.1 with No Dedicated Walk/Bike Funding?

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

Will Metro’s new sales tax serve people who walk? Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Metro has five rail lines under construction today, with new Gold and Expo Lines set to open this year. Metro’s recent rail infrastructure expansion was fueled by countywide sales taxes. On top of existing Prop A and Prop C sales taxes, in 2008 voters approved the roughly $40 billion Measure R.

Forty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California rail.

Twenty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California freeways.

What percent of Measure R is dedicated to walking and bicycling?

None.

There should probably be a small asterisk on that “none” because a small percentage of Measure R funding has made its way to walk and bike projects. There is a fifteen percent “local return” that goes to cities to fund transportation projects, and some cities, notably Los Angeles, spent a modest percentage of their local return on walk and bike projects. Most local return throughout the county goes to car infrastructure.

Metro is gearing up for Measure R2.1. The new sales tax initiative is expected to be on the November 2016 ballot. Early estimates showed Measure R2.1 raising $120 billion over the next 40 years. Recent estimates anticipate about $100 billion. Metro is still nailing down what will actually be in Measure R2.1, through a complicated trying-to-sound-neutral process of weighing regional project requests, which will ultimately be shaped by politics and polling. To get to the two-thirds majority necessary to pass a new sales tax, Metro needs to strike a number of delicate balances. Projects need to span various regions and appeal based on voters’ current travel modes as well as their future aspirations.

Though Metro has not dedicated sales tax initiative funding to walking and bicycling, other transportation funding measures throughout California have. These include measures in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Marin, Alameda, and San Francisco counties. Measure BB in Oakland’s Alameda County, with twelve percent reserved to walking and bicycling.

In 2015, walk and bike advocates estimated L.A. County’s unmet need for walking and bicycling infrastructure at roughly $20 billion. In a Metro staff report released this week, the agency basically concurred with advocates’ estimates. Metro estimated the countywide annual walk and bike funding needs to be between $550 million and $1.5 billion. Multiplying those estimates times 20 years results in $11 to $30 billion total; this range matches advocates earlier $20 billion estimates.

PrimaryTravelMode

19 percent of county commuters primarily walk or bike. Will Metro’s new sales tax support and expand these active transportation modes? Chart via LADOT Vision Zero

A coalition of active transportation advocates is pushing for ten percent of Measure R2.1 to be dedicated to walk and bike projects.

Move L.A.’s latest straw man proposal dedicates five percent for walk and bike, with more first/last mile funding that could support walk/bike facilities.

Metro has not weighed in yet.

But you can weigh in right now – via comments below.
What would make you support or reject a November 2016 transportation sales tax measure? Would you vote against it if there is less than ten percent set aside for walking and bicycling? Can Measure R2.1 spark the complementary expansion of biking and walking the way that 2008’s Measure R did for rail and freeway expansion?
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New Griffith Park Traffic Plan Promising But Flawed

Concerned stakeholders during last night's public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Concerned stakeholders during last night’s public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks has released a new “Griffith Park Action Plan” [PDF] designed to deal with car congestion primarily from Hollywood Sign visitors. Last night, DRP and City Councilmember David Ryu hosted a community meeting to receive public feedback on the proposal. Nearly 200 people attended the forum, where DRP and Ryu received over an hour of public testimony critical of many aspects of the proposal.

Griffith Park’s car traffic woes have been exacerbated by former Councilmember Tom LaBonge catering to rich Beachwood Canyon homeowners pressure to reroute Hollywood Sign tourist traffic. Last year DRP attempted to resolve traffic problems by temporarily adding free parking on formerly car-free park roads; the trial was soundly criticized by park stakeholders.

DRP went back to the drawing board and came up with a new park traffic plan. The plan [PDF] was recently released in the form of Mitigated Negative Declaration documentation asserting DRP’s right to proceed with plan implementation. The plan was profiled at the Los Feliz Ledger, CiclaValley, and KPCC.

What is in the Griffith Park Action Plan

DCP proposes a free “park wide shuttle” that would mostly take visitors from the Greek Theater parking lot to an official Hollywood Sign vista point about a third of a mile above the Griffith Observatory.

GriffithParkShuttleProposal

Proposed “park wide shuttle” routes in Griffith Park. Image via Los Feliz Ledger

Shuttle operations would be paid for through parking revenue. DCP would add parking meters to East and West Observatory Road. Existing free parallel parking on the two-way Observatory Road would be converted to diagonal paid parking on a one-way loop.

The Good

Overall, DRP is looking in the right direction. The problem is too much car traffic; in the words of Ryu, Griffith Park is “being loved to death.” Griffith Park Superintendent Joe Salaices emphasized that “reducing the amount of cars is the number one goal,” later reiterating “I’d love to see no cars in the park.” Tackling a “too many cars” problem means giving visitors better options to arrive by other means.

The DRP proposal to add parking meters sends the right message. Paid parking helps to disincentivize visitors arriving by car. Revenue from the 150 metered parking spaces, according to Salaices, is estimated to be $500,000 annually. All the revenue would be dedicated to Griffith Park purposes, including operating the shuttle and paying park staff.

Public comment on paid parking was mixed. Cyclist Don Ward testified that “charging for parking is long overdue” while another speaker opposed paid parking asserting the importance of parks being reliant on General Fund revenue.

The Bad

Overall, despite good intentions, DCP fell into a tired bureaucratic pattern of publish and defend. Though their plan was described as an initial phase, DCP staff largely defended decisions they had already been made in advance of public input.

The proposed shuttle shuttle service is unlikely to be sufficient to make a dent in Griffith Park traffic. According to Salaices, 390,000 visitors came to observatory-area viewing during the 2015 spring break. To deal with these visitors, DCP is proposing four or five 21-passenger shuttles. One public speaker opined that the “shuttle plan doesn’t add up” by addressing only “one percent of the problem.”  Read more…

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An Interview with Emilia Crotty, New Manager of Los Angeles Walks

Emilia Crotty, Executive Director of Los Angeles Walks. Photo courtesy Crotty

Emilia Crotty, Policy and Program Manager of Los Angeles Walks. Photo courtesy Emilia Crotty

Los Angeles Walks has been around a while, but only recently hired its first staffer, Policy and Program Manager Emilia Crotty. Keen-eyed readers probably spotted her introductory interview at L.A. Walks’ website last month. In conjunction with L.A. Walks hosting their annual Sidewalk Soirée awards dinner this Saturday, SBLA wants to introduce Crotty to our readership. If you are interested in supporting L.A. Walks, and meeting Emilia Crotty in person, there are still a few tickets available for the Sidewalk Soirée, which honors Los Angeles City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes and walking guide Bob Inman.

Tell our readers about yourself. What’s your background?

Well, like many people here in L.A., I recently fled New York City, where I lived since 1999.

My academic background is in urban public health, but I usually tell people that my professional background is in bikes. In New York, I developed Bike New York’s education program, helped start Bike to School Day with NYCDOT, and launched the city’s bike-sharing system, Citi Bike, where I worked for about three years. I was a voting member of my community board for over five years, and in my spare time I lead bike camping tours for the Adventure Cycling Association.

In 2013, I adopted a dog and started pounding the pavement three times a day, and a lot of my attention turned from bike lanes and sharrows to walking infrastructure – curb cuts, crosswalks, lighting. I’m thrilled now to be focused on walking and accessibility issues with Los Angeles Walks.

Relocating from, was it Brooklyn? What do you miss the most? The least?

Nope, Queens, where I lived for 12 years! I miss the network of people from my block, who were such a constant fixture in my life – those weak ties that create a sense of belonging somewhere. But I do not miss the constant crush of people everywhere you turn in NYC. That place is so crowded all the time! There are many positive aspects to that kind of density, but it can also be pretty exhausting.

What are L.A. Walks’ top priorities for L.A. for 2016?

Our top priority is to reduce the number of people who die or are severely injured while walking in Los Angeles. L.A. Walks is a founding member of the Vision Zero Alliance, a group of community-based and advocacy organizations working to help achieve the City’s goal of zero traffic deaths by 2025. To that end, we are developing campaigns around walkability in Downtown L.A., where construction zones often create hazardous conditions for people walking, and campaigns that address safety for seniors and accessibility for those with physical disabilities.

How can Streetsblog readers get involved with L.A. Walks? Are there opportunities to volunteer?  Read more…

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New Legal Details Emerge on City Sidewalk Repair Settlement

Disabled Angelenos are on the verge of finalizing a historic settlement that will invest heavily in L.A.'s sidewalk network. Photo via CALIF website

Disabled Angelenos are on the verge of finalizing a historic settlement that will invest heavily in repairing L.A.’s sidewalk network. Photo of 2011 rally via CALIF website

New court filings today reveal more details about the settlement in Willits v. City of Los Angeles, a class action lawsuit over L.A.’s failure to make the public pedestrian right-of-way accessible to disabled people. Today’s documents concur with the basic outlines of the settlement revealed in April 2014: the city of Los Angeles will spend $1.4 billion dollars over the next thirty years to repair damaged sidewalks that impede access.

According to Kara Janssen, an attorney for the Disability Rights Legal Center, “[the settlement] is now public because it has been fully executed by all parties and was filed as part of our motion for preliminary approval, which is a necessary step in class-action settlements. It is not yet in effect because the court still has to approve it once class members have received notice and had time to file objections.”

The details are primarily contained in a joint motion [PDF], exhibits [PDF], and a settlement agreement [PDF], all filed today.

Here is the overall summary:

The proposed Settlement requires the City of Los Angeles (“the City”) to expend in excess of $1.367 billion over 30 years to make its public sidewalk and crosswalk system accessible to persons with mobility disabilities. It will require the City to install, repair, and upgrade curb ramps; repair sidewalks and walkways damaged by tree roots; repair broken or uneven pavement; correct non-compliant cross-slopes in sidewalks; install tree gates and missing utility covers; and remediate other inaccessible conditions. The proposed Settlement will also permit Class Members to submit requests for access repairs such as curb ramp installations and tree root fixes at specific locations, which the City will use its best efforts to remediate within 120 days of receiving the request. In addition, the proposed Settlement calls for the hiring of an ADA Coordinator for the Pedestrian Right of Way, and includes effective reporting, monitoring and dispute resolution mechanisms.

The city’s initial commitment will be $31 million annually for five years, gradually ramping up to $63 million annually for the final five years.

There is an extensive list of types of sidewalk repairs the city will perform:  Read more…

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Eyes On the Street: Cars Parking On Sidewalks

Car on sidewalk on 4th Street near Normandie. Photos by Joe Linton

Car on sidewalk on 4th Street near Normandie Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton

The latest reports show that L.A. County has 18.6 million parking spaces, a whopping 14 percent of developed land. But apparently drivers want even more. It may be just anecdotal in my neighborhood – which is Koreatown near East Hollywood – but it seems like I am seeing more and more cars parking on sidewalks and curbs.

When I am walking, sometimes these are blocking the sidewalk, which is especially irritating when pushing a stroller. I don’t remember ever seeing this five to twenty years ago, but just this year it feels like it’s increasing. I don’t see it every day, but I did notice it a half dozen times before I began taking pictures last month with this article in mind. Parking is not easy here and it is somewhat more scarce on street-cleaning days, but it seems like drivers used to make do with the spaces allotted to them.

Car on the curb on First Street near Vermont Avenue.

Car on the curb on First Street near Vermont Avenue.

Are other Angelenos seeing this? What neighborhoods? Can we come up with some kind of shaming process? Maybe just a hashtag?

What should we do to keep it from proliferating? Read more…

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Muddled L.A. Sidewalk Repair Hearing Inconclusive On How To Proceed

Broken sidewalk on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Roger Rudick

Broken sidewalk on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Roger Rudick

As previewed last week, the Los Angeles City Council’s Public Works and Budget Committees held a joint meeting yesterday to discuss and decide on the future of repairing L.A. City sidewalks. In settling the Willits vs. City of Los Angeles lawsuit, the city is committing to spend $1.4 billion – over the next 30 years – to fix tree-damaged sidewalks.

Here are some observations from yesterday’s #LASidewalks hearing:

1. Nothing is happening fast here

Do not expect your local damaged sidewalk to be fixed tomorrow. The outline of the settlement has been decided, but the details are still very much in flux.

After three hours, the only actions to come out of yesterday’s hearing were instructions to city staff to report back – on a number of parameters: a proposed sidewalk prioritization scheme, a possible cap on per-parcel costs, alternate materials, workforce development, and what resources would be needed for environmental review.

Even when the settlement and work plan are finalized, the city will have a one-year period to prepare for the program – but that clock is not even ticking yet.

2. Many Issues Still To Be Decided  Read more…

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Eyes On the Street: Scramble Crosswalks Debut At Hollywood And Highland

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A big X marks the spot: pedestrians scramble yesterday at the newly revamped intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

It may be one of those made-up statistics, but there is a repeated truism that millions of people visit Hollywood Boulevard every year, and they spend an average of about fifteen minutes there. Sure, there are the Walk of Fame, some beautiful historic theaters and other noble buildings, Metro Red Line subway stops, costumed performers, street musicians… but Hollywood Boulevard is mostly tacky souvenir shops, museums in name only, and sad restaurants one would never return to, all along a massive car-choked stroad.

Despite millions of tourists milling around on foot, there is no place to sit, or to hang out. There are hardly even places to shoot respectable selfies.

All that has not changed overnight, but the city implemented a pedestrian upgrade yesterday at Hollywood’s most prominent intersection: Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds, a marching band, and tens of thousands of pedestrians (most of whom just happened to be passing through) opened the city’s latest pedestrian scramble crosswalks.

Similar to intersections in downtown Pasadena, fronting USC and UCLA, and elsewhere, Hollywood pedestrians can now cross diagonally during a phase when all cars are stopped. The upgrade is part of the city’s inter-departmental Vision Zero improvements program, in which L.A. has committed to ending all traffic fatalities over the next ten years.

Hollywood and Highland

Lights. Camera. Scramble.

Read more…

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City Committees To Hear Proposed “Fix And Release” Sidewalk Repair Plan

Next Monday, November 16, two committees of the Los Angeles City Council are scheduled to discuss a proposal that will shape the future of the city’s sidewalks. The joint meeting of the city’s Public Works and Budget Committees will take place at 2 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers. Critics of the proposal argue that the city fails to treat sidewalks as a serious core mobility network.

Readers may recall that the city faces a backlog of sidewalk repair estimated $1.5 billion. In contrast to other transportation networks – streets, freeways, bike paths – responsibility (and liability) for sidewalks is somewhat complicated. Legally, the underlying property owner is responsible for building and maintaining walk access. In the past, the city took some responsibility for repairs, but the sidewalks deteriorated faster than the city was able to fix them. In 2014, the L.A. City Council decided to target limited sidewalk funding only to repair sites in front of city-owned properties. Those repairs are underway.

In 2015 the city committed to $1.4 billion worth of sidewalk repair in order to settle Willits vs. City of Los Angeles – a class action lawsuit over L.A.’s failure to make the public pedestrian right-of-way accessible to disabled people. L.A. will the invest $1.4 billion over the next 30 years.

The city’s proposed sidewalk strategy is being called “fix and release.” City funds would pay to repair sidewalks damaged by tree roots. The city would guarantee the work for five years, then the underlying property owner would be responsible for any future sidewalk repair.

Unfortunately, “fix and release” repairs are limited to specific areas of the city. The city would only fix sidewalks in front of residential properties. Commercial properties are not included in the program. The city would continue to fix sidewalks in front of city facilities, but not at other governmental properties, including schools.

Though “fix and release” would be expected to improve many of L.A.’s failing sidewalks, the policy has numerous drawbacks. Ultimately, it creates an inconsistent patchwork, with little to no assurance of consistent repairs now, nor maintenance in the future.  Read more…

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A Walkability Prescription For Downtown Los Angeles

How could downtown L.A. become more walkable? Image via

How could downtown L.A. become more walkable? Image via Complete Streets Prince Avenue

Transportation has always played a dominant role in shaping our urban environment. Historically, cities were built around the basis of everyday activities on foot; consequently, the prominent urban form was dense, compact, with high concentration of mixed-use development. As transportation technology progressed, the design of cities dramatically changed, in many ways to the detriment of the pedestrian. In Los Angeles, nothing has had a greater impact on the landscape than the car. Widened lanes, expansive freeways, large multi-lane systems, sprawling parking lots, and other amenities built around the needs of the car have resulted in a public realm that is often unsafe, unappealing, and stressful for the public.

These issues have created challenges for L.A. planning professionals who want to enhance and balance our transportation infrastructure. How can we retrofit the existing urban fabric to meet the needs of multi-modal transportation? We have already experienced a response to this with a rise in the number of projects aimed at implementing more progressive transportation planning practices within the last decade. Bike lanes are being installed, sidewalks widened, and public transit lines expanded. The May approval of the Mobility Plan 2035 by the L.A. City Council is a clear sign that a majority of our city’s leadership shares in a vision for creating a more livable city. Before this, the city lacked a cohesive vision or framework to institute these changes. How effective this plan will be remains to be seen, but in the least it is a step forward.

Of all the different forms of transportation to be focused on, walking is one of the most neglected in terms of infrastructure and policy development, but holds the most potential to enhance livability.

Increasing walkability should be a main focus of urban design and policy because it is the solution to many problems that plague our city including pollution, congestion, and obesity. It serves as a catalyst for increased physical activity, commerce, social interaction, and environmental sustainability. This past year, as a senior at Occidental College, I completed a yearlong research project aimed at identifying the best strategies for enhancing walkability in downtown Los Angeles. Within this project I compiled a twelve-step guide with the help of city planners, residents, business owners, architects, walking advocates, and more. Most guides to improve walkability include the big suggestions such as expanding mass transit, reducing parking, widening sidewalks, etc. Below I will list three of my steps that do not receive enough attention despite the fact that they have the power to dramatically improve walkability with minimal time and effort.

Tree-lined street in Amsterdam. Photo by Rob Young via Wikimedia

Tree-lined street in Amsterdam. Photo by Rob Young via Wikimedia

1. Plant More Trees

Planting trees is one of the most simple and cost effective ways of attracting pedestrians. Advantages include shade, reduction of ambient temperature in hot weather, absorption of pollution, reducing car speeds, and the creation of a barrier between people on the sidewalk and traffic. However, perhaps the most important benefit of planting trees is their contribution to aesthetics and creation of street character.

Read more…

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Scramble Crosswalks Ready for Their Star Turn in Hollywood

Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via ##http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/11/03/40143/los-angeles-ponders-diagonal-crosswalks-what-are-t/##Airtalk/KPCC##

Chicago’s first pedestrian scramble, or “Barnes Dance”, at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via Airtalk/KPCC

Responding to community concerns that the high volume of pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue was creating an unsafe crossing, City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and the Department of Transportation recently announced that a “pedestrian scramble” will be installed by the end of the year.

The pedestrian scramble, aka The Barnes Dance, is basically an intersection which has a “pedestrian only” phase in its signal timing. During this time, pedestrians are not just limited to crossing east-west or north-south, but can actually cross to the opposite corner by cutting straight through the middle of the street.

Los Angeles already has a few pedestrian scramble intersections near the college campuses of USC and UCLA. In addition, Pasadena and Beverly Hills have installed scrambles at high-volume intersections. If you’re not familiar with the scrambles, check out the below video by Streetfilms celebrating Los Angeles’ scrambles that was filmed in 2008.

“Hollywood and Highland is our red carpet entrance for people from around the world who come to experience Los Angeles’ center stage,” said Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager. “The new intersection design will prioritize the safety and comfort of people walking. We plan to implement this change in consultation with the community and will evaluate the before and after effects.”

In addition to residents, workers, and tourists who may arrive by car or are staying in one of the local hotels, Hollywood and Highland is also home to a busy Red Line Metro rail station and a handful of local bus routes.  Read more…