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Amendments to Remove Central, Westwood Bike Lanes from Mobility Plan, Add Substitutes Move Through Planning Commission

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Listening to the City Planning Commission vote in favor – albeit somewhat reluctantly – of moving forward on the regressive amendments to the Mobility Plan 2035 this morning, I felt my heart sink.

With recommendations the City Council approve amendments that a) remove Westwood Boulevard (between LeConte and Ohio) and approximately seven miles of Central Avenue from the Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN), b) substitute those routes with less direct and less-likely-to-be-used parallel streets (Gayley and Midvale in Westwood and Avalon and San Pedro in South L.A.), and c) allow for more north-south corridor substitutions in the future, where deemed prudent, the city of Los Angeles officially moved closer to taking a significant step back from its commitment to building a safer and more accessible city for all. [See the CPC agenda and staff report.]

The amendments to the Mobility Plan that the City Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt.

The amendments to the Mobility Plan that the City Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt.

Worse still, it was all happening in the guise of greater “safety” and mobility as defined by people who appeared to care very little about either for people other than themselves or their own narrow interests.

That hypocrisy was perhaps best exemplified by the Westwood contingent of homeowners who now were masquerading as bus huggers. Which was truly bizarre, considering that just last year, when Fix the City and their Westside supporters launched their lawsuit against the Mobility Plan, they were decidedly anti-transit and anti-options in their approach. The group’s president had ranted about how the city “want[ed] to make driving our cars unbearable by stealing traffic lanes from us on major streets and giving those stolen lanes to bike riders and buses.” Laura Lake, the group’s secretary, had told the L.A. Times that safer streets and more transportation options could only lead to greater tailpipe emissions, greater congestion, first responders getting trapped in traffic more often (implying more death and destruction), and greater sacrifices made by people whose schedules would be so disrupted that they would lose untold hours that would otherwise have been spent working or with their families.

Today, Lake had completely changed her tune. Now she was telling the commissioners that she was deeply concerned about the more than 900 buses traveling along Westwood every day. If those buses were to get stuck behind a bicyclist, she posited, thousands of bus riders could be impeded from getting to work or school.

Clearly unencumbered by the idea that the whole point of having separate lanes for bikes and buses is to keep them from having to cross each others’ paths and that the only ones blocking buses in such a scenario would be private vehicles, she declared she only hoped to benefit “the greater good.”

Other Westwood advocates that stood to speak took their lead from the backwards logic regularly deployed by Councilmember Paul Koretz regarding bike lanes, arguing busy streets with no bike infrastructure were dangerous for cyclists and therefore better infrastructure must be avoided at all costs.

“It’s really simple,” declared Stephen Resnick, president of the Westwood Homeowners Association. Substituting the less-busy Gayley and Midvale streets for Westwood on the bicycle network was about nothing more than “safety” and “transportation.”

Barbara Broide, another Westwood HOA president, argued bikes on Westwood would deter people trying to connect to the Expo Line via bus and wondered how people could possibly feel safe riding bikes alongside hundreds of buses anyways (which of course they don’t, which is why they have clamored for the bike lane). Stakeholder Debbie Nussbaum warned against bike lanes on busy streets in general, proclaiming they ran the risk of giving people a false sense of security. Read more…

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Downtown L.A. Celebrates New Protected Bike Lanes On Los Angeles Street

Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero and LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds take a celebratory ride in the Los Angeles Street protected bikeway. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero and LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds take a celebratory ride in the Los Angeles Street protected bikeway. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Downtown L.A. now has protected bike lanes! Woooot! Wooooot!

Not just a block-long tunnel, but full-on grown-up Euro-style protected bike lanes. The newly opened half-mile-long Los Angeles Street protected bike lanes feature bicycle signals, floating bus stop islands, neon-green merge zones and two-phase left turn markings, not to mention freshly resurfaced pavement. All just in time for the launch of Metro bike-share on July 7.

Councilmember Jose Huizar and other city leaders officially opened the new facility yesterday afternoon. Huizar connected the low-stress bikeway with his DTLA Forward campaign, which will include additional protected lanes on Spring and Main Streets. Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds spoke of the symbolic importance of these lanes connecting with early Los Angeles’s focal plaza, plus Union Station, City Hall, and even Caltrans’ Southern California headquarters. The ribbon-cutting event even featured a small fleet of Metro bike-share bikes available to test ride.

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L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar addressing the crowd assembled at El Pueblo

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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.

Advertisement – click image for information

Advertisement – click image for information

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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.

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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.”