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A Wonky Debate Over Metro Regional vs. Sub-Regional Funding

Metro's map of subregions and regional facilities. Source: Metro handout [PDF]

Metro’s map of subregions and regional facilities. Source: Metro handout [PDF]

There is an item that was bounced around at the Metro Board last month regarding freeway projects and whether they are “regional” or “subregional” facilities. Lakewood City Councilmember and Metro Boardmember Diane DuBois is pushing for L.A. freeway-widening projects to be classified as “regional” rather than “subregional” projects. Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin raised some issues over this re-classification. The final decision is likely to come back to the Metro Board for a showdown in April. 

All of this is pretty wonky. It does have implications on transportation funding priorities, including how transit projects compete with highway projects over scarce flexible Metro dollars.

In Metro’s 2001 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Metro divided L.A. County nine sub-regions (map above):

  1. Arroyo Verdugo (Glendale, Burbank, and adjacent areas)
  2. Central Los Angeles
  3. Gateway Cities (Long Beach, and most of South East L.A. County)
  4. Las Virgenes / Malibu
  5. North Los Angeles County
  6. San Fernando Valley
  7. San Gabriel Valley
  8. South Bay
  9. Westside Cities

These sub-regions were mainly used for long term planning, but, since the 2008 Measure R transportation sales tax, the sub-regions have also been woven into the way Metro funds projects.

After Measure R passed, Metro adopted what’s called its Measure R Cost Containment Policy (the full formal name is the Unified Cost Management Process and Policy for Measure R Projects.) That policy bills itself as a “new step-by-step cost management process will require the MTA Board to review and consider approval of project cost estimates against funding resources at key milestone points throughout the environmental, design, and construction phases of the Measure R transit and highway projects.” These transit and highway projects, are, of course, often multi-billion dollar projects. Examples include $2.8 billion to extend the Purple Line subway four miles, and $3.3 billion to widen about 70 miles of the 5 Freeway. Multi-billion dollar projects are prone to massive cost overruns.

So, according to the cost containment policy, when a Metro Measure R project’s costs increase above what has been approved, the agency looks to take specific measures to either lower the costs or get money to cover the overruns. The policy specifies that cost overruns will be met through the following sources in the following order:

  1. Value Engineering and or scope reductions;
  2. New local agency funding resources;
  3. Shorter segmentation;
  4. Other cost reductions within the same transit or highway corridor;
  5. Other cost reductions within the same sub-region;
  6. Countywide transit cost reductions or other funds will be sought using pre-established priorities.

These are jargony. The crux of the matter is that item 5 (and, to an extent, items 2 and 4) means that when projects exceed their budgets, costs will be covered within the sub-region. One project’s overruns will reduce the budget for other projects in the same sub-region where the project is located.

In January, the Metro board established a special set of regional projects immune to the sub-regional cost overrun procedure. All airports, sea-ports, and Union Station are classified as “regional” projects (see map above), because theoretically everyone in the county benefits from, for example, LAX and Port of Long Beach improvements. For these regional projects “cost increases to Measure R funded projects… are exempt from the corridor and subregional cost reduction requirements. Cost increases regarding these projects will be addressed from the regional programs share.”

Metro boardmember, and Lakewood City Councilmember, Diane Dubois, along with boardmembers Don Knabe and Ara Najarian, introduced a motion [PDF] that would essentially classify “[i]nterstates, freeways or highways” as regional projects, hence “highway sub-regional funding will not be subject to the Unified Cost Management Process and Policy.” Though the motion requested that Metro staff analyze and report back, it clearly specified that highways would become exempt from the cost containment process in the meantime.  Read more…

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LA City Council Gets Tough on Hit-and-Run Crimes: New Rewards and Alerts

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander (center, at podium) touts the city's efforts to stem hit-and-run crimes at this morning's press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander (at podium) touts the city’s efforts to stem hit-and-run crimes at this morning’s press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve two new city programs that aim to stem the tide of hit-and-run crimes. According to Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander, hit-and-run crashes killed 27 people in Los Angeles in 2014, and 80 percent of recent hit-and-run crimes remain unsolved.

The city’s hit-and-run efforts were previewed at a press event this morning hosted by Councilmembers Englander and Joe Buscaino, with representatives of the police (LAPD) and transportation (LADOT) departments, and Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt.

Jose Vasquez leaves a candle at the ghost bike memorial for Andy Garcia, killed in a vicious hit-and-run last year.  Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Jose Vazquez leaves a candle at the ghost bike memorial for Andy Garcia, killed in a vicious hit-and-run in 2013. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The two new programs approved today include:

1 – New Public Alert System “Yellow Alerts” for Hit-and-Run Crimes

Established via council motion 14-0444, the LAPD will now publicize hit-and-run crimes via a new alert system. The alerts will be distributed via LAPD social media, including Nixle, Twitter, and Facebook, to enlist the public’s help in apprehending suspects who flee the scene of hit-and-run crimes.

Alerts will be dependent on the severity of the crime, and will be targeted to areas in and near the LAPD division where the crime took place. They will, of course, be limited by the information available, such as the license plate, vehicle, and description of perpetrator.

A similar alert system in Denver, Colorado, has improved conviction rates for hit-and-run crimes there. From the text of the motion [PDF]:

Medina [Hit-and-Run] Alerts have been in place in the City of Denver for two years and in the City of Aurora for one, and are issued in severe or fatal hit-and-run collisions when a description of the vehicle involved is available. Medina Alerts enable authorities to quickly broadcast information about a hit-and-run collision to the public on highway signs and through the media. In Denver, the city has also partnered with cab drivers and others who spend their working hours on the road, and alerts them when a collision occurs. Denver has issued 17 Medina Alerts since enacting their program; 13 of these cases have been solved.

2 – Standing Rewards for Information Leading to Hit-and-Run Convictions

Established via council motion 13-0025-S1, the city will now offer rewards to individuals who come forward with information that leads to the conviction of hit-and-run crimes. Councilmember Buscaino describes this as an attempt to “change the culture of driving away” from a crash.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Cars Running the Red at Venice and Robertson

Expo super-fan Gökhan Esirgen sends along the above video of cars running the red light at the newly-reconstructed intersection of Venice Blvd. and Robertson Blvd. Esirgen writes, “Note that this is not a seldom event — it happens for about five seconds in almost every cycle during rush hour and it’s typical of this intersection now. A pedestrian who looks at the signal but not the cars would be hit.”

Streetsblog editorial board member Jonathan Weiss forwarded the message to staff at LADOT. Before the afternoon was out, Jay Greenstein with Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office responded that engineers with LADOT are re-examining the intersection and LAPD’s enforcement division was notified.

We’ll keep an eye of our own on the intersection to see if there are any new, more positive, changes in the coming weeks and months.

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ULI FutureBuild2015 Recap: Peeks at Future Transportation and Parking

Streetsblog L.A. was a media sponsor of yesterday’s Future Build Los Angeles 2015 conference which showcased “trends, people and forces remaking the built environment.” The event was hosted by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) L.A. in partnership with VerdeXchange.

Many individual speakers and panelists touched on topics pertinent to Streetsblog. City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Rick Cole (currently tied for second in SBLA’s reader poll to pick Art Leahy’s successor - voting ends January 31) touched on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to become a more “livable, walkable” place, and touted Metro’s ambitious five new rail projects under construction. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia touched on complete streets’ ability to accomplish multiple city goals.

Most streetsbloggy, though were panel discussions on transportation and parking.

ULI FutureBuild 2015 panel on transportation. Left to right: Carter Rubin, Seleta Reynolds, Gabe Klein, and Gail Goldberg. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

ULI FutureBuild 2015 panel on transportation. Left to right: Carter Rubin, Seleta Reynolds, Gabe Klein, and Gail Goldberg. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Transformation of Ground Transportation and Streets: Trends Driving Tomorrow’s Cities 

This panel featured:

  • Gail Goldberg – head of ULI L.A., and former head of L.A. Department of City Planning (DCP)
  • Gabe Klein - entrepreneurial livability rock star, ULI fellow, currently with Bridj
  • Seleta Reynolds – General Manager, L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT)
  • Carter Rubin, moderator – L.A. mayoral Great Streets program manager and former Streetsblog L.A. intern

Seleta Reynolds prescribed three important tasks to move cities toward more streets as great public spaces:

  1. Get a “new cookbook.” U.S., CA, and L.A. all currently design streets based on what Reynolds called “insane” standards from American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO.) Reynolds urged cities not to use a cookie-cutter approach, and to put more credence in forward-thinking design guidance, including National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO.)
  2. Measure the outcomes that count. Reynolds decried the past decades when pretty much the only metric that mattered was car capacity. She’s happy that car-centric Level of Service (LOS) is on its way out, but urged that we need to count all people using our streets, and to measure outcomes related to economics, health, and the environment. Reynolds told the story of how L.A.’s CicLAvia events were studied and showed to not only dramatically improve air quality on the CicLAvia route streets, but also overall, including nearby streets not on the route.
  3. Become better storytellers. Reynolds spoke about how the public quickly gets lost in the jargon of transportation discussions, mentioning that even seemingly simple concepts like a “left-turn pocket” will often be misunderstood. She stated that lots of transportation professionals have “totally lost the plot” and need to develop skills in communicating with the general public

Gabe Klein focused on how smart technologies are disrupting transportation’s “legacy assets.” Klein told how Uber has exploited the inefficiencies of old-school taxi systems, but that ultimately “the disruptors will quickly be disrupted” with proprietary “sharing” ultimately giving way to peer-to-peer sharing. Klein envisions a future where driverless cars in shared fleets could be active 95 percent of the time, instead of parked 95 percent of the time like current private cars. Klein stressed that Google’s driverless car is a “25 mph urban vehicle” expected to be deployed primarily in shared-use fleets, not individually-owned. Klein speculates that it could result in 85 percent fewer cars on our streets, and could dramatically decrease the need for parking.

During question and answer, both Klein and Reynolds expressed caution in giving too much private sector control of public space. Instead, they stressed that the public needs to incentivize outcomes that improve the quality of life for inhabitants. Partnerships should serve public good, with bike share systems as a worthwhile example of a successful public-private partnership.

Goldberg professed that she loves L.A.’s residential streets, but finds commercial corridors “embarassing.” She announced an exciting new national ULI initiative that will re-think a key street in L.A., though the formal announcement will be coming soon.  Read more…

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No Pitchforks as LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds Addresses West SFV Forum

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaking at yesterday's forum. All photos Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaking at yesterday’s forum. All photos Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

I was a little worried that there might be pitchforks at last night’s transportation town hall. The event was hosted by L.A. City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and held at the Tarzana Recreation Center.

The main speaker was Seleta Reynolds, the new General Manager of the Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT). I know that Seleta Reynolds has received a lot of praise from us here at SBLA, and from others who are excited about a walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented future… but how would she play in the suburban West San Fernando Valley?

I took the Metro Red Line subway, transferred to the Metro Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit, and bicycled the first and last mile. I locked my bike up against a playground fence, no bike parking in evidence.

While I was waiting for the event to begin, I overheard attendees talking about parking problems, and how a planned two-story school seemed too tall. When Councilmember Blumenfield touted the success of the Orange Line, the man next to me, under his breath, proclaimed it to be “a waste of money.” I responded, whispering, that “I rode it to get here.”

Councilmember Blumenfield was refreshingly multimodal in his opening remarks. He decried the West Valley’s transportation challenges, from being stuck on the 101 Freeway to too many buildings surrounded by “a sea of parking” that makes it difficult to walk or bike. His vision for the future would include grade separation for the Metro Orange Line, making the West Valley a place where millenials can “live-work-play,” and following a “more pedestrian-friendly way of planning.”

Reynolds was applauded and started in on a somewhat stock presentation, mostly focused on LADOT’s recently released strategic plan. She spoke of how previous well-intentioned strategies have drained the life out of our streets, and that now we’re thinking creatively about each street and the purpose it needs to serve.

In summarizing her department’s priorities, the GM cited two critical points: “provide choices” and “lead.”

Providing choices is, of course, a multimodal approach. DOT needs to not just move cars, but also to make walking, transit, and bicycling viable and safe.

Her second point, “lead,” is a bit more complicated. Reynolds explains that LADOT doesn’t do freeways — that’s Caltrans. LADOT doesn’t do buses and trains — that’s Metro. LADOT doesn’t even build bridges or curbs, fix potholes, or re-surface streets — that’s the city’s Public Works bureaus. LADOT does, as she puts it, “hold the bag on all these things,” so DOT needs to be a leader in partnering with these agencies to work together to make mobility seamless for people moving through the city.

Reynolds deprecated L.A.’s notoriously confusing parking signs, mentioning that she had heard from an actual rocket scientist who couldn’t figure them out. She also related that even she had already received two parking tickets since arriving in L.A. last August. She didn’t pull any strings; she paid them both. It is in her strategic plan to re-vamp these signs.

I was a little worried that Reynolds’ photos of Downtown L.A.’s Broadway Dress Rehearsal might not resonate with a suburban Tarzana audience. I was wrong. Among the audience questions were two different ones about how the Valley’s Sherman Way could be made more walkable. One asked if Sherman Way could be closed and become a “walk street like in Santa Monica.”

This man asked Seleta Reynolds if DASH service could work more like really effective circulators at Yosemite.

This man asked Seleta Reynolds if DASH service could work more like really effective circulators in Yosemite.

Also among the audience questions were concerns over improving Valley DASH service and providing places to sit at bus stops. Her response to the latter: “I want to make transit reliable, comfortable, and fun – to thank people for making that choice.”  Read more…

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A Positive End in the Conflict Between Councilman Cedillo and #Fig4All?

The most closely-watched story of 2014 for Livable Streets advocates was the ongoing battle between Councilman Gil Cedillo and the advocates themselves over the future design of North Figueroa Street. However, 2015 is a new year and the hot debate may be cooling off with the groundwork for future collaboration being laid.

Gil Cedillo campaigned in the Flying Pigeon bike shop and used a picture with the owner in his campaign billboards. Now, Josef Bray-Ali is campaigning hard for Cedillo to fulfill a campaign promise to see bike lanes on North Figueroa Boulevard as the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee calls new studies a waste of time and money. Image: Flying Pigeon

During the campaign two years ago, Cedillo (center) campaigned in the Flying Pigeon Bike Shop, owned by Josef Bray-Ali (right). Many bike advocates were disappointed in a decision to delay bicycle lanes on North Figueroa Street. A team of advocates, partially led by Bray-Ali, adopted the banner #Fig4All to rally behind. Recently, Cedillo’s office has reached out to end the bad feelings. Cedillo and the Mayor’s Office are promising progressive transportation planning for North Figueroa.

The first sign came last week.

One day after advocates rallied outside of the Councilman’s apartment building to protest comments delivered at a December City Council Meeting, the Council office met quietly with staff from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. At the meeting, staff presented some draft concepts of road improvements for the five blocks being considered for Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Great Streets” proposal for North Figueroa.

The Mayor’s Office has long-stated that Great Streets improvements will become templates for larger improvements along L.A.’s iconic corridors.

Following the meeting, the LACBC sent a message to its Northeast Los Angeles advocacy arm, “Ride Figueroa,” that stated:

After years of outreach, stakeholder education, meetings, rides and rallies, we are delighted to report that Councilman Gil Cedillo is seriously considering project options that are true to this inclusive vision for North Figueroa. Focusing on the historic core of Highland Park from Avenue 55 to Avenue 60, Cedillo’s staff worked with LADOT to produce a series of options that included essential safety elements, such as a road diet, better sidewalks and crosswalks, transit enhancements, and physically protected or buffered bike lanes.

Later in the week, at a meeting of the Highland Park Neighborhood Council, Cedillo’s staff announced it was working with the city to remove an application for parallel parking the city was including in an application to Metro. The batch of applications had been approved by the City Council in a December meeting, where local advocates and Cedillo sparred during the public comment period. The new application to Metro, now excluding the parking changes along North Figueroa, will be heard by Council soon.

In an email to Streetsblog, Cedillo spokesperson Louis Reyes explains the reasoning behind the change. Read more…

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Pick Who You Think Will Replace Metro CEO Art Leahy

Earlier this week Metro CEO Art Leahy tendered his resignation as of April, 2015. Today, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way, we invite you, our readers, to pick Leahy’s successor.

The Twitter and Facebook buzz, soon after picking Senator Barbara Boxer’s successor, bubbled up a few potential candidates for Leahy’s spot. We asked a few of our friends and some seedy informants, too, and generated a list of over a dozen people who just might be able to fill his empty shoes… or something like that. Readers can vote for your favorites through the end of January.

Who will be the next head of Metro?

  • Alex Clifford (30%, 102 Votes)
  • Phil Washington (14%, 47 Votes)
  • Rick Cole (13%, 45 Votes)
  • Janette Sadik-Khan (9%, 31 Votes)
  • Carolyn Flowers (6%, 20 Votes)
  • Pam O'Connor (5%, 18 Votes)
  • Keith Parker (4%, 15 Votes)
  • Tim Papandreou (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Jaime de la Vega (4%, 12 Votes)
  • Will Kempton (3%, 11 Votes)
  • Gabe Klein (3%, 9 Votes)
  • Elon Musk (3%, 9 Votes)
  • Nat Ford (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Jay Walder (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Michael DePallo (0%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 339

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No guarantee that the Metro board of directors will agree with our winner, or if these folks actually want the job, but, you never know. And we might all learn something about the next head of Metro.

Some Serious Contenders

Alex Clifford

Alex Clifford. Photo via St. Charles Reporter

Alex Clifford - Clifford is a former executive at Metro, where his portfolio at times included oversight of bus, rail, Metrolink, and more. In 2011, he left Metro to head Chicago’s transit agency Metra, where, it was hoped he would clean up a troubled agency. He didn’t quite completely clean house, so, in June 2013, Clifford resigned from Metra. Our rumor mill suggests he was “too honest” for Metra. He is currently back in California, heading Santa Cruz Metro.

Carolyn Flowers. Photo via CATS

Carolyn Flowers. Photo via CATS

Carolyn Flowers –  Another Metro alum, Flowers was a long time administrator at Metro, rising to the rank of Chief Operating Officer. She left Metro in 2009, to served as former head of Charlotte, North Carolina, transit agency CATS. She spearheaded the charge for Charlotte’s new Blue Line light rail extension. A month ago, she departed CATS to join the Federal Transit Agency.

Nathaniel P. Ford. Photo via SF Park flickr

Nathaniel P. Ford. Photo via SF Park flickr

Nathaniel P. “Nat” Ford – Ford headed Atlanta’s MARTA transit agency from 2000 to 2006. Ford then served as head of San Francisco SFMTA from 2006 to 2011, where he was honored by the S.F. Bicycle Coalition, but, overall, received mixed reviews. He currently serves as the head of Jacksonville, FL, JTA.

Keith Parker. Photo via Eyes on Atlanta

Keith Parker. Photo via Eyes on Atlanta

Keith Parker – Parker made Streetsblog USA’s 2012 list of 12 transportation visionaries, where he was described as someone who “knows what it takes to make transit work in a car-centric city.” Parker headed Charlotte’s CATS, before moving on to San Antonio, where he re-directed funding from sprawl to streetcar. In December, 2012, he became the head of Atlanta transit agency MARTA.

Jay Walder

Jay Walder. Photo via Fortunelivemedia Flickr

Jay Walder - Walder was the head of NYC MTA from 2009 to 2011. It may be too soon for him to jump ship, as he just became head of national Alta Bike Share in October 2014

Phillip A. Washington. Photo via Eno Ctr for Transportation

Phillip A. Washington. Photo via Eno Ctr for Transportation

Phillip A. “Phil” Washington – Washington is from Chicago, and had a distinguished military career before moving up the ranks to head Denver’s RTD. In Denver, Washington has overseen system expansion and public-private partnerships.

And Some Long Shots  Read more…

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Metro CEO Art Leahy Steps Down, Effective April 2015

Art Leahy riding the Metro Red Line in December 2014. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Art Leahy riding the Metro Red Line in December 2014. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

CEO Art Leahy is leaving Metro as of April 2015.

The news broke late yesterday, via a press statement at Metro’s the Source:

Leahy, 65, who started his transportation career as a bus operator and became one of the nation’s leading transit officials, has headed Metro for six years. During that time he guided implementation of one of the largest public works programs in United States history and helped secure billions of dollars in federal and state funding to match local transit sales taxes to finance construction of dozens of transit and highway projects.

Laura Nelson’s subsequent Los Angeles Times article passes along some insider contentions that Leahy had lost the backing of the Metro Board of Directors. From the Times:

Arthur T. Leahy’s performance as chief executive has been under confidential review by the Metro board of directors for more than six months, and a majority of members were ready to let his contract expire in April, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

After managing transit agencies in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Orange County, Leahy became head of Metro in 2009.

With his experience as a former Los Angeles bus driver (for RTD, the Southern California Rapid Transit District which later became Metro), Leahy has a reputation for focusing on the rider experience. He made sure Metro buses and trains were in good repair, running on time to the greatest extent possible, and had working wheelchair lifts.

His legacy, though, will likely be the unprecedented transportation construction boom Metro has spearheaded in recent years. Leahy became head of Metro less than a year after the 2008 passage of Measure R, a countywide transportation sales tax. Measure R kept Metro relatively flush through lean economic times that caused austerity measures elsewhere.

Measure R funding enabled Leahy’s Metro to embark on an ambitious expansion of rail lines, with five new major rail projects under construction today. There is a lot more to Measure R, too: billions in freeway projects, Bus Rapid Transit, transit capital, and much more. All this capital construction squeezed Metro operations budgets, meaning Leahy also oversaw fare increases and oversaw the passage of a Long Range Plan that promises more, regularly scheduled, fare hikes.

Read more…

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Continental Crosswalks Appear at Barrington and National

Nearly two months ago, on November 12, Mayor Eric Garcetti stood with Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino and Controller Ron Galerpin at the road repaving project at Barrington Avenue and National Boulevard. The Mayor announced that, thanks to new revenue, the city would now be repaving 200 additional miles of roadway, above and beyond its regular repaving budget every year.

Photo: Damien Newton

Photo: Damien Newton

Garcetti also promised, in response to a question posed by me on behalf of Streetsblog, that the city would look at ways to streamline the process on getting paint on the ground after a road is repaved. Earlier in the same press conference, Buscaino told horror stories of how it could take weeks to get the road repainted leading to confused travelers and unsafe conditions.

This might not sound like the most difficult goal, but it requires coordination both between city departments, including Transportation (LADOT) and Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services (BSS), and outside agencies such as Big Blue Bus and Metro.

Sadly, even by the most generous of estimates, the poster-project for the new way of doing things took a slow route to repainting. The intersection of Barrington and National was repaved in mid-November 2014. It was repainted in 2015.

In mid-December I inquired to the Mayor’s office on why the intersection had not been repainted yet. They responded that even though the intersection at National and Barrington had been begun to be repaved in mid-November, the repaving phase of the project hadn’t been completed until early December.

Even if we accept that rationale, it still took a month to get the street repainted.  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…