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Welcome Streetsblog L.A.’s New Intern Doug Lewis

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Streetsblog Intern Doug Lewis

There is a new face at Streetsblog Los Angeles this summer. Readers will soon begin seeing the byline of Streetsblog L.A. Summer Intern Doug Lewis who started last week and will be with us through early August.

Below Doug introduces himself in his own words:

My name is Doug Lewis and I’m a rising senior at Pitzer College studying Public Policy and Sociology. My interest in transportation has come rather recently over the past few years.

For my first 18 years I was tethered to cars in a Massachusetts suburb. Driving wasn’t so much a choice but a necessity for the demands of everyday life and unpredictability of New England weather. (The walkability of my home according to Walkscore.com is a dismal 8.) At 16, a driver’s license and car promised an unprecedented level of autonomy and freedom unreachable by any alternatives. To me, a license felt like a ritual stepping stone towards achieving adulthood. Without it, I was caged within a few square miles. Transportation alternatives were either non-existent or incredibly inconvenient.

It wasn’t until I moved to the edge of L.A. County in Claremont, CA for school that I saw driving as a choice rather than a requirement.

After a semester in Kathmandu, Nepal navigating a cartel-esque private shuttle system in ancient, pedestrian-based cities I came to see public transportation as the heart of city life. I found the daily rituals of transportation shaped rich traditions that mold cities’ character and community.  In the diversity and heterogeneity of Kathmandu urban life, shuttle transportation exposed my worldview to communities, ideas, and people outside my own pre-subscribed assumptions. The diversity of urban areas, I feel, is one of the great riches of urban life and is made possible by an equally diverse transportation system that confers accessibility and independence. To borrow from Jane Jacobs, “By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange.”

I look forward to working with Streetsblog L.A. to cover local and regional efforts to challenge the notion of what Reyner Banham famously coined Los Angeles’s “Autopia.” Of my ever-changing future aspirations, one is to improve cities transportation systems to allow for multi-modal alternatives. Ultimately, I see transportation as a tool to ameliorate the inequities and restrictions of car-dependent regions.

Since arriving in California, Streetsblog L.A. has been one of my go-to sources for transportation news in L.A. County, providing a window to the often-overlooked local and regional efforts that are incrementally transforming Los Angeles from a car-dependent city to an interconnected multi-modal transportation system. I look forward to contributing to SBLA’s passionate community and provide discussions about Los Angeles’s transportation development.

As a SBLA writer, I see it as my responsibility to expand public awareness of Los Angeles’s public transportation developments. I’m optimistic about the future of Los Angeles’s transportation to provide healthy, sustainable, and congestion-free alternatives for everyday life’s demands. With the recent completion of the Gold Line and Expo line extensions in addition to the upcoming R2 ballot measure, it’s hard to look at Los Angeles’s transportation system and not have a sense of optimism about our cities’ future as an interconnected, multi-modal city.

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Bike Lanes Planned for Fletcher Drive, Meeting Tonight

Bike lanes and landscape median improvements planned for Fletcher Drive and Avenue 35. Source: GPIA

Bike lanes (mislabeled as bike path) and landscape median improvements planned for Fletcher Drive. Source: GPIA

At tonight’s meeting of the Glassell Park Improvement Association, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell will be presenting the Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) planned Fletcher Drive Streetscape Project. Project plans are posted at the GPIA website. The project includes a road diet with bike lanes, plus new landscaped median islands. The bike lanes extend 0.8 miles from Fletcher and San Fernando Road to Avenue 35 and Eagle Rock Boulevard. Fletcher turns into Avenue 36 just north of the 2 Freeway.

This safety project would make Fletcher Drive safer for students at the adjacent Irving Middle School and Fletcher Drive Elementary School. Fletcher also serves as an important connection from Northeast L.A. to the L.A. River, Silver Lake, and Hollywood, though those connections will need to see the road diet extended below San Fernando Road. Hopefully some day.

Tonight’s meeting place at 7 p.m. at the Glassell Park Senior Center at 3750 Verdugo Road, next to the Glassell Park Rec Center and Pool.  Read more…

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Garcetti Sustainability ‘pLAn’ One Year Update Shows Environmental Progress

Mayor Garcetti recently released the first year report card on accomplishing his environmental goals outlined in his Sustainable City pLAn [PDF]

Mayor Garcetti recently released the first year report card [PDF] on accomplishing environmental goals outlined in his Sustainable City pLAn [PDF]

For last week’s Earth Day 2016, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti presented a one-year update on his April 2015 Sustainable City pLAn.

The mayor’s ambitious “pLAn” [PDF] serves as a mechanism to keep the city committed to and on track towards various sustainability goals: reducing vehicle miles traveled, reducing traffic fatalities, increasing walk/bike/transit mode share, fostering transit-oriented development, etc. Each policy is accompanied by a specific quantifiable deliverable, including “reduce daily vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 5 percent by 2025.”

Like pLAn, the mayor’s new report “pLAn First Annual Report 2015-2016” [PDF] is handsomely designed and far-ranging. And there is a lot to like in this first annual report, though some of it still feels more like the setting of the table than having great programs up and running.

Overall, as one might expect, Garcetti showcases a lot of city progress – “early wins” – on environmental goals. Some “accomplishments” are portrayed as completed when they are actually coming soon. Many of these projects, like Expo Line phase 2, are essentially complete. Other projects and programs are still at very early stages, such as the successful securing of grant funding. A few projects, listed as “Partner Wins,” are located outside the city of L.A. Projects like the Gold Line Foothill Extension are not within the direct purview of L.A.’s Mayor, but they positively impact the environment and quality of life for Angelenos.

Readers, what do you think of Garcetti’s environmental record? Are his goals the right ones? Is he doing enough to meet them? Where would you like to see more progress?

After the jump are a sampling of year-one accomplishments under the headings from the original pLAn. Most pertinent to SBLA issues are Chapter 7 – Mobility and Transit, and Chapter 13 – Livable Neighborhoods.

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Read more…

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Farewell to a Friend, Councilmember Rosendahl Who Declared “Era of L.A. Car Culture Has Come to an End”

Earlier today, we learned of the passing of former Westside L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. While I personally have a great deal of respect and admiration for my friend Bill, I’m not writing another personal ode to a pal. I’m writing to remember one of the most important political figures that helped change the conversation about transportation policies and priorities in Los Angeles.

Bill Rosehdahl. Image via KCET

Bill Rosendahl. Image via KCET

When I first met and covered Rosendahl, it was at a community meeting for the Expo Line in the fall of 2007, I knew he was different than the politicians I was used to. I was accustomed to politicians in New Jersey, where I cut my teeth in advocacy, that cowered at the words “gas tax.” Rosendahl argued that it needed to be raised to pay for projects such as Expo.

While it was clear that he did not have the planning background to broadly embrace and understand all the principles of smart growth and progressive transportation planning; he was ready to fight for his communities and stand up to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when the city proposed speeding up traffic on Pico and Olympic Boulevards. Later, he pushed Metro to raise the sales tax by double what was proposed in Measure R, although that suggestion never made it past the public testimony podium.

While these were undoubtedly good things, Rosendahl’s livability bona fides shone brightly in two key arenas: his dedication to making the streets safe for bicyclists and the leadership he showed as the head of the City Council Transportation Committee from 2009-2013.

Before ascending to the committee chair, Rosendahl was shaken by the infamous July 4th road rage crash in Mandeville Canyon. Briefly, a driver doctor slammed on his brakes after cutting off two cyclists, intentionally causing a crash. After calling 911, and bragging about teaching the cyclists a lesson to the operator, ambulances and police arrived to help the two cyclists who were left bleeding and lying in the roadway.

From that tragedy, the bicycle movement in Los Angeles rallied and at the same time Rosendahl found his voice on transportation issues. All of a sudden, the silver-tongued Councilmember started to sounds more like Jennifer Klausner and Don Ward than he did his fellow elected officials… even the ones who purported or tried to be bicycle-friendly. Read more…

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A Review of Streetfight by Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow

Janette Sadik-Khan’s new book Streetfight comes out next Tuesday March 8. Sadik-Khan will be in L.A. speaking and signing books on March 16 at the Hammer Museum and March 17 at Gensler in downtown Los Angeles. Congratulations to Erik Griswold who won Streetfight during SBLA’s pledge drive last week, and to Luke Klipp who won Gabe Klein’s Start-Up City.

Street Fight by Sadik-Khan and Solomonow

Street Fight by Sadik-Khan and Solomonow

“If you can remake it here, you can remake it anywhere.” So concludes former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in Streetfight — Handbook for an Urban Revolution (Viking 2016), co-written with Seth Solomonow. Sadik-Khan should know. As one of the world’s leading placemakers, under former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she helped make New York the go to city for innovations in public space, ground transportation, bike infrastructure and connectivity. In Streetfight, Sadik-Khan and Solomonow tell the story of how New York was transformed into a city known for its public plazas, bike lanes, bus rapid transit (BRT) lines and new methods of street paving and service delivery.

Streetfight is an inspiring read. The sort of book that should be read by every officeholder wondering how they will advance their agenda in the rough and tumble world of contemporary urban politics. But it is also a read for the rest of us. Anyone whose memory is longer than a New York minute who can remember when New York wasn’t the pedestrian and bike friendly envy of cities the world over.

The book which chronicles the hard fought battles Sadik-Khan and her allies largely won in bare knuckles New York is also a paean to data, preparation, collaboration and leadership. As Sadik-Khan details throughout, and writes near the end of the book, “In God we trust. Everyone else bring data.” Such was the way things were done in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration and thanks to the care with which things were done, the changes that were implemented on Bloomberg’s watch are more likely to be permanent than they otherwise might have been.

In Streetfight, the authors generously acknowledges that Sadik-Khan didn’t do it alone, crediting everyone from Jane Jacobs to Robert Moses, Mayor Bloomberg, transportation planners like Sam Schwartz and New York’s active transportation advocates at Transportation Alternatives, Streetsblog and Streetfilms. Cities like Bogotá and Medellín as well as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Paris get their due while even Los Angeles gets a nod as a place that is slowly getting remade.

The beauty of smart planning is how free one is to borrow from the best practices one observes around the world. And no one is a better observer and borrower than Sadik-Khan. In her new role at Bloomberg Associates she continues the important work of remaking cities advising lucky mayors the world over on how it is done.  Read more…

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Garcetti, LADOT and Xerox Announce New GoLA Multi-Modal App

Mayor Garcetti announcing the GoLA app this morning. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Mayor Garcetti announcing the GoLA app this morning. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Los Angeles has a new transportation app that helps Angelenos choose ways to get around. The GoLA “Mobility Marketplace” App shows various transportation modes, including bicycling, transit, taxi, ride-hailing, driving, and parking and allows users to compare modes to see what is fastest, cheapest, or greenest. The app is a collaboration between Xerox and the city of Los Angeles, shepherded by the Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Chief Innovation Technology Officer, Peter Marx.

Mayor Garcetti demonstrated the new app this morning at a press event in the city’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) bunker, four floors below City Hall East. City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield described the app as a “magic blender” combining transit schedules, Thomas Guide maps, traffic, and more.

 

Xerox Senior Vice President David Cummins stated that the app includes a broader spread of multimodal options than typical transportation apps, such as Google Maps. Cummins expressed enthusiasm about future features planned, including not just viewing multi-modal trips, but booking and paying for them via GoLA. Cummins also announced anticipated future features including gamification, “comparing your carbon footprint with your Facebook friends,” and possible Vision Zero features.

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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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#Damien Talks SGV 1: Ara Najarian, Bike SGV, and a Look Ahead

Welcome to the first #DamienTalks of 2016, a public affairs podcast focused on interviewing the people that create and advocate for sustainable transportation in the San Gabriel Valley. For those of you just joining us, #DamienTalks has been broadcast on Streetsblog California for over a year, but we’ve received advertising support to do a bi-weekly podcast focused on the San Gabriel Valley right here on Streetsblog L.A.

Damien presents Ara Najarian with the 2012 Elected Official of the Year Streetsie at our April 2013 fundraiser at Deborah Murphy's House.

Damien presents Ara Najarian with the 2012 Elected Official of the Year Streetsie at our April 2013 fundraiser at Deborah Murphy’s House.

See an archive of past #DamienTalks from Streetsblog California by clicking here.

This week, we’re talking with Glendale Mayor and Metro Board Member Ara Najarian about the big stories that will change transportation in the San Gabriel Valley. Najarian points to two stories that will dominate 2016: the opening of Phase I of the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the debate around and campaign for a new transportation sales tax in L.A. County.

Every episode of #DamienTalks – SGV will also feature regular check-ins with Bike SGV, the super group that is pushing the boundaries of bike advocacy and planning throughout the San Gabriel Valley. This week we talked with program manager Andrew Yip. Yip is excited about a lot of programs and changes coming in 2016, especially the 20 mile open streets event “626“.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the #DamienTalks homepage on Libsyn.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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Closing the Exposition Bikeway Northvale Gap, Meeting Next Week

LADOT is responsible for bike lanes and other road markings for this area connecting the Expo Bike Paths in Phase 1 and Phase 2. Recently, the city announced it has no timeline on when this bikeway will be completed.

The Expo Line bike path will soon extend east and west of this 0.7-mile “Northvale Gap.”

When Metro’s 6.6-mile Expo Line opens in mid-2016, the parallel Expo bikeway will open too.

Except where it won’t.

Two stretches of Expo bike path under construction are nearing completion. Unfortunately there is a 0.7-mile gap between them. Next week the city of L.A. will host a meeting to receive input on plans to close the gap, which parallels Northvale Road. Meeting details after the jump.

Here are the two sections of Expo Line bikeway nearing completion:

  1. Venice Boulevard to Motor Avenue: This 1.2-mile stretch includes two components. On the east end, located just south of the 10 Freeway, there will be a 0.7-mile bike path extending from Venice Boulevard (across the street from Culver City Station) to Palms Boulevard/National Boulevard (across from Palms Station). West of Palms Station, the bikeway is on the streets for a half mile. This includes National Boulevard (with a very short stretch of bike lanes) and Motor Avenue.
  2. Overland Avenue to Colorado Avenue: This 3.5-mile stretch is all off-street bike path, extending from Cheviot Hills to downtown Santa Monica. Like the Orange Line and other bike paths, there are a handful of places where cyclists cross perpendicular streets, but both bikes and trains run in the old rail right-of-way. The eastern terminus of the path is at Overland Avenue, near the Westwood Station. The western terminus is at 17th Street Station in Santa Monica, where cyclists can connect with the city of Santa Monica’s bike networks, including bike lanes on 17th Street, Broadway, and Arizona Avenue, and the Michigan Avenue Greenway.

Between those two segments – about 0.7 miles from Motor Avenue to Overland Avenue – is the Northvale Gap.  Read more…

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Andres Perez Death Shows Need for North Figueroa Safety Improvements

Signs at last night's vigil for Andres Perez. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Signs at last night’s vigil for Andres Perez. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Tragedy has struck again on North Figueroa Street.

Yesterday, traffic violence claimed the life of 17-year-old Andres Perez. Perez was walking to school, apparently not aware that local schools had been closed on account of a terror threat. He was in the crosswalk, crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 60 in Highland Park, when a large Los Angeles City Public Works Bureau of Street Services truck made a left turn and ran into him. Perez died on the spot.

Last night, locals hosted a vigil to remember Perez, and to call for safer streets to prevent future deaths.

Sadly, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) had a plan to make this portion of North Figueroa safer, but in mid-2014 the planned safety improvements were blocked by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

This is already the third traffic death on North Figueroa in 2015. On June 26, cyclist Jose Luna was killed by a speeding driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Marmion Way. Then on September 18, pedestrian Yolanda Lugo was killed by driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Avenue 55.

Councilmember Cedillo and broader Los Angeles leadership take the threat of terrorism seriously, while turning a blind eye to everyday traffic violence. LAUSD shut down 900 schools on the threat of terrorism. Metro, LAPD, LAFD, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others mobilized to support LAUSD efforts. While it is probably important to respond to the threat of terror, the threat of traffic violence is all too real. And deserves a similarly serious mobilization.

Every year roughly 200 Angelenos lose their lives to traffic violence. Compare this to pretty much none lost to terrorism. Can L.A. respond to traffic violence the way it mobilizes against terrorism? Isn’t any loss of life a tragedy worth taking seriously?

Garcetti’s agency-wide Vision Zero initiative seems like a productive first step, but it needs to translate to safer street design if the city is prioritizing preventing future tragedies. LADOT seems to be taking Vision Zero seriously, but on-the-ground safety improvements are not happening quickly enough. Vision Zero’s safety targets needs to be prioritized by reluctant councilmembers like Gil Cedillo, and also across the board in city agencies – from Public Works Bureau of Street Services to the LAPD.

For additional coverage of this story, see KTLA5, L.A. Times or Daily News. Contribute to Perez funeral expenses at GoFundMe.