Janette Sadik-Khan addresses the UCLA Complete Streets Conference. Photo by Juan Matute.
Last Thursday UCLA hosted its third annual Complete Streets Conference in Downtown Los Angeles. I was excited to have had the opportunity to attend with such a packed line up for the all day event, with a few big names in the mix including the esteemed Janette Sadik-Khan.
During the opening presentation UCLA professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris walked the crowd through UCLA’s new document and tool kit for parklet planning entitled Reclaiming The Right of Way, incorporating some of the best practices for cities that have been doing them. She remarked that s0metimes “to think big you have to start small.” and pointed to the new Spring St. parklet in DTLA as a model for creating low cost an easily accessible opportunities for physical activity.
I had my first opportunity to listen to the LADOT’s new pedestrian coordinator Margot Ocañas in a panel discussion on implemented. There is a lot of work to be done in the ped arena for LA, an understatement, but Ocañas was a refreshing voice from the agency, and her appointment has clearly been a step in the right direction. You could hear the exasperation with dealing with LA’s bureaucracy in her voice at times, but she appeared determined to foster change. During the presentation, she showed off plans for quick modular conversion of underutilized auto space to parklets and ped plazas, among the more basic work of better crosswalk striping that began recently.
Westlake Streetcar Plaza in Seattle. (Source: SDOT)
On the same implementation panel with Ocañas were urban planner Darby Watson, an Associate at Arup, who presented on complete streets projects in Seattle and Fred Dock, Director of the Pasadena Department of Transportation. Watson discussed that in Seattle they had a successful streetcar project in their downtown that was followed by a reduction in vehicle volume on a section of street at an irregular area of intersections. Planners wanted to appropriate some of the overbuilt car space into forming a large public plaza area around the streetcar stop. They were primed to go cheap and fast for a pilot first pass, but the business community there wanted something more substantial, and contributed toward more permanent infrastructure on the first go (project details).
Watson also spoke to the issue of transit & bicycling being at odds with each other, commenting that unfortunately “sometimes your most sustainable modes hate each other.” Although touching this issue only briefly she mentioned more careful consideration in street car design and transit islands for buses and streetcars with bike lanes behind, something more common in European bikeways, and reduces leap frogging and merging conflicts at loading points. I really wish that there were more planners in the active transport world and transit planning in the US talking more closely to each other instead of being off in separate worlds.
I had a little trouble keeping up with the adjectives & acronyms per minute of Fred Dock of the Pasadena DOT, but a few points stuck with me. He emphasized that we should focus on measuring travel times, not speeds and look at trips, not just intersections. The city of Pasadena is currently in the process of rethinking it’s LOS (level of service) standards, which are typically auto-centric, to incorporate other street users and uses. This is an area where I admittedly don’t have a lot of background on the specifics, but is of significant importance to how things are planned, designed, approved and built in California. Read more…