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Motion to Move Forward on Rail-to-River Bikeway Project up for Vote Thursday

The tracks at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

The ROW which would form part of the Western Segment of the proposed Rail-to-River bikeway. Photo taken at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

In a motion before the Metro Executive Management Committee last Thursday morning, County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas cited the successful “transformation of unused or abandoned rail right-of-ways into pedestrian access and bicycle routes” around the country and here in L.A. as support for his call that the Board direct Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy to move forward on the recommendations found in the 212-page feasibility study on the proposed Rail-to-River Bikeway.

Sited along an 8.3 mile section of the Harbor Subdivision Transit Corridor right-of-way (ROW), the project would connect the Crenshaw/LAX rail line to multiple bus lines (including the Silver Line), the Blue Line, the river, Huntington Park, Maywood, and/or Vernon via a bike and pedestrian path anchored along Slauson Ave.

Screenshot of proposed bikeway corridor. Phase 1 (at left) represents section that Metro could move on immediately. Phase 2 would proceed more slowly, as Metro would need to negotiate with BNSF to purchase the ROW.

The proposed bikeway corridor. Phase 1 (at left) represents the section of the corridor that Metro could move on planning for immediately. Phase 2 (at right) would proceed more slowly, as Metro would need to determine which routes were most appropriate and negotiate with BNSF to purchase a section of the ROW. (Source: Feasibility Study)

The active transportation corridor (ATC) project, first proposed by Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina in 2012, has the potential to effect a significant transformation in a deeply blighted and long-neglected section of South L.A.

So, it was not surprising to see Ridley-Thomas ask that, when the full Board meets this Thursday, October 23, at 9 a.m., it approve his motion directing Leahy to identify and seek funds from Measure R, Cap and Trade, and other sources to facilitate the environmental, design, and outreach efforts recommended by the Feasibility Report.

Even though Ridley-Thomas’ strong support for the project was expected, the motion to move it forward still made me sit up a little straighter.

When I attended the two public meetings held on the corridor project, representatives from both Metro and Alta Planning + Design (consultants on the project) were firm in their suggestions that we not get our hopes up too high. There was no funding attached to the project, they said, and they were only looking at questions of feasibility. These were also the reasons, I was told, for the limited outreach and engagement of the neighbors that live along the corridor.

Not to mention that including the community might have brought other problems with it. Read more…

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Councilmember Cedillo Adds Stop Sign In Response To Fatal Hit-and-Run

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On September 14, a hit-and-run driver killed 57-year-old Gloria Ortiz. Ms. Ortiz was walking in a crosswalk in the Northeast Los Angeles community of Highland Park. The hit-and-run crime took place at the intersection of Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place, adjacent to Aldama Street Elementary School. According to KTLA5, witnesses stated that the driver “just ran her over, didn’t even turn back.”

Local residents joke darkly that speeding drivers think Avenue 50 is the name of the speed limit, not the street.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Less than a month later, yesterday, community leaders joined Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Transportation Department (LADOT) head Seleta Reynolds to highlight city efforts to make Avenue 50 safer. New stop signs were added to the intersection where Ortiz was killed. The existing somewhat-worn continental crosswalk was freshly re-painted, actually freshly re-thermoplastic-ed. @HLP90042 posted before and after photos at Twitter.

Councilmember Cedillo, who has dragged his heels on safety improvements approved for nearby North Figueroa, spoke on his commitment to “street safety, particularly around schools and where people gather.”

General Manager Reynolds emphasized that “the biggest predictor of fatalities on a street is speed, and the biggest factor in speed on your street is design” and reiterated her department’s commitment to making “safety our number one priority.”

Local resident Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, praised the city’s quick response in adding the stop sign. She described walking to Aldama School as being safe when she was younger. Today, walking her daughter to the school, she fears for their safety. Alcaraz stated that Avenue 50 is dangerous when parents are making illegal U-turns and double-parking at school drop-off and pick-up times, and, then, when the students aren’t around, Avenue 50 is dangerous because so many drivers speed. Alcaraz urged LAPD to spend more time on traffic enforcement there to prevent future tragedies.

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Cartoon Tuesday: Neighborhood Council Meeting Bike Lane Bingo

Bike Lane Bingo card by Nathan Lucero

Bike Lane Bingo card by Nathan Lucero

It’s not quite a cartoon, but it is a clever, sad, ironic laugh. Friend of the blog Nathan Lucero posted his Bike Lane meeting bingo card at the Figueroa for All Facebook group.

Not all neighborhood councils are the same; many have been very supportive of facilities for bicycling and walking. It does seem like there is, more often than not, a few complainers who trot out tired excuses for opposing these safety projects. Lucero’s card specifically references the sad, ironic struggle to make North Figueroa safer, in the face of Councilmember Cedillo’s flip-flop, a story you can read here, here, and here. The meetings are still happening as Cedillo’s staff are still pressing for crappy alternative bike routes to keep North Figueroa car-centric and dangerous.

So far, there is only one bingo card, so everyone will be calling bingo at the same moment. Read more…

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LADOT’s Bold New Strategic Vision: Eliminate L.A. Traffic Deaths By 2025

Cover of LADOT's bold new strategic plan. View full document here.

Cover of LADOT’s bold new strategic plan. View full document here.

Today, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) released its new strategic plan, entitled Great Streets for Los Angeles.

First, we’ll editorialize enthusiastically: this plan is excellent.

And very much needed in Los Angeles.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds characterizes it as a “plan [that] requires us to do our jobs in a fundamentally different way.”

There have long been holistic thinkers at LADOT, but they’ve been in the minority, squeezing in opportunistic improvements in the midst of a departmental culture that prioritized car convenience. In the past half-dozen years, under the leadership of previous General Manager Jaime de la Vega and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LADOT has warmed up to a broader mission that balances the needs of all road users.

But today’s plan is a quantum leap forward.

Front and center in the new plan is Vision Zero.

For the uninitiated, Vision Zero is a transportation planning, law enforcement, and planning project started in Sweden in 1997. The goal is simple: eradicate traffic fatalities. Any traffic fatality is one too many. Every decision involving transportation, from how wide a road should be to how to target traffic enforcement efforts, must meet the goal of making the streets safer for all road users.

From LADOT's plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025

From LADOT’s plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025

LADOT is thinking big — the departmental plan is to “eliminate traffic fatalities in Los Angeles by 2025.”

Under Vision Zero, L.A. joins San Francisco, New York City, and many other great cities around the world in the push to eliminate traffic fatalities. By embracing Vision Zero as its first and most prominent goal, LADOT is finally saying “enough is enough.” Safety will now be the first priority in transportation decisions going forward.

“There’s a reason it’s the first thing you see when you get into the meat of the plan,” says Reynolds of Vision Zero. “Changing the way we talk about [safety in transportation], and changing the way we think about it, and changing the way that we approach our everyday work to refocus around this — that’s the thing that really is most inspiring and exciting to me.”

“To see LADOT commit to ending traffic deaths in our lifetime is a dream come true,” writes Deborah Murphy, the founder and president of Los Angeles Walks. “L.A. Walks is determined that the Vision Zero campaign will engage more city departments, including LAPD, public works, city planning and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to ensure the successful implementation of the campaign and assure the improved safety of our streets.”

While it is great to see LADOT take a lead on Vision Zero, it is doubly encouraging to see the department heeding Murphy’s advice — the plan identifies city agencies as partners. Reynolds further states that “external partners are also implicit in our success.” That means you, Streetsblog readers.

There’s plenty more in the plan that Streetsblog readers will love. Read more…

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Thanks For a Great Reception for LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds Last Night!

Happy Birthday Seleta Reynolds (left)! Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Candles on Big Man Bakes cupcakes to wish a warm happy birthday to Seleta Reynolds (right.) Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night’s capacity crowd reception honored the city of Los Angeles Transportation Department’s new General Manager Seleta Reynolds. Not only is Reynolds a champion for safety and for great places, but she even committed to scheduling this reception though it coincided with her birthday.

A big thanks to all the folks responsible for making last night’s reception a big success:

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Meet Seleta Reynolds, the Safe Streets Advocate Running LADOT

Seleta Reynolds speaks at the ribbon cutting for the "Dressed Rehearsal" on Broadway. Photo: LADOT

Seleta Reynolds speaks at the ribbon cutting for the “Dress Rehearsal” on Broadway. Photo: LADOT

(If you want to skip the article and the editing and just listen to our half-hour conversation, click here. – DN)

If you spend some time with the newly minted General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, you would think she was an LADOT lifer not a recent transplant from the San Francisco MTA.

She can speak eloquently of the “great heart” that Los Angeles’ people have, belying the image projected by Hollywood.

Dressed in a suit and bike helmet, she points out road hazards on her bike commute to work, weaves around every pothole, manhole, and cracked street with the knowledge of a regular.

She can even recite DOT history going back years, thanks in part to her avid interest in reading Streetsblog.

It’s not until you visit her office that you remember Seleta Reynolds has been on the job at LADOT for roughly a month. The walls are nearly barren. A map of her first project at Fehr and Peers, the Morro Street Bicycle Boulevard in San Luis Obispo, had arrived the day before our interview.

But you don’t need blank walls to tell you that Reynolds is a true breath of fresh air to a department that, in the past, has primarily prioritized a perceived need to drive quickly. Reynolds talked about community and community building in response to questions about the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, equity in transportation funding, relationships with the City Council, and building a bicycle share system that will work in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region.

And it’s these new ideas, and a new commitment to an LADOT that is people-focused, that has advocates, and our political leadership, so excited. When announcing her nomination to head LADOT, Mayor Eric Garcetti referred to her as the “ideal field marshal in our war against traffic.” City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin was just as illustrative in an email response for this story, “Seleta is a rock star – a game-changer – who will lead the charge to get Los Angeles moving again.”

I could write a full story on each of the eight topics we covered last Tuesday, but instead I’ve broken up the audio into more manageable three- or four-minute segments with a short summary. This can all be found after the jump. Read more…

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Five Things I Learned at This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee

Here are the top five things I learned listening in to this week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting. The public meeting took place Wednesday, August 27, at Los Angeles City Hall. If you’re nimble and/or having trouble sleeping, catch the full audio here.

1. Seleta Reynolds Hearts Car Share

In discussion of the city’s anemic car share program, new Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds described herself as a “long-time fan of car share and a frequent user of it.” Reynolds bemoaned the lack of a viable car share option in her new Silver Lake neighborhood.

Hertz car share didn't work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

Hertz car share didn’t work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

The GM announced an “immediate expansion” of the city’s provisions to enable basic car sharing planned for this September, with a more robust expansion, likely including point-to-point options, coming at some unspecified later date. Reynolds stated that she favors a system that would include multiple providers. This should prevent issues like those associated with the failures like the city’s selected vendor Hertz becoming unresponsive.

To be continued. I too dig car share, and am happy Reynolds is on it.

2. Protected Bike Lanes This Year – Or Probably Not

In public testimony (audio at 01:05 here) about Los Angeles some day maybe perhaps one day you know possibly getting around to implementing those newfangled protected bike lanes that are all the rage in other cities, LADOT Bikeways’ Michelle Mowery stated:

MyFig is certainly one of these [protected bike lanes]. We’re also looking at Los Angeles Street right now. We believe we will have that on the ground within this next fiscal year.

When SBLA tweeted the good news, LADOT Bike Program took to the Twittersphere to let folks know that no protected bike lanes are coming this year, but that My Figueroa construction will happen soon. SBLA will dig more into this story. Did Mowery mean “a Los Angeles street” or “Los Angeles Street?” Could it be part of longer-term plans for Union Station? In any case, I am looking forward to protected bike lanes arriving on these shores. Ones not inside tunnels, that is.

3. Streetsblog Hearts Great New Traffic Metrics

Spoiler alert: wonky acronyms ahead. I knew that changes in California’s traffic modeling was big news, with the state ditching its car-centric car-only car-always Level of Service (LOS) measures for evaluating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental impacts, and instead using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

It was great to hear it from LADOT Assistant General Manager Jay Kim.

Read more…

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City Nears Purchase of Key Parcel for L.A. River Revitalization

Map of Taylor Yard parcel G2.

Map of the 41-acre Taylor Yard parcel G2, which the city of Los Angeles is purchasing to restore and revitalize the adjacent Los Angeles River. Image from City of Los Angeles MND notice. [PDF]

A big property acquisition is underway that will set the stage for planned large-scale revitalization of the Los Angeles River. The City of Los Angeles is expecting to complete the purchase of a former railyard site that Mayor Eric Garcetti and others describe as the “crown jewel” of any large-scale restoration of the river.

While there’s a long lineage of leaders who pressed for this purchase, credit will go to Garcetti and City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for marshaling the present push.

In a statement to SBLA, Mayor Garcetti emphasized:

This parcel is a crown jewel in our plans to restore the Los Angeles River, and I’m proud to have made acquisition of it a top priority for the city.  This site represents a large amount of open space that will help us free the river from its concrete straight jacket and connect local communities to its natural beauty.

In May, Mayor Garcetti celebrated the federal government’s selection of an extensive $1 billion, 11-mile habitat restoration project. Though that is great news, there are still a lot of hurdles before that federal money washes up on L.A. shores–not the least of which is getting the feds to begin setting aside initial portions of that $1 billion.

Another hurdle is ownership of river land. Though the city has approved an ambitious river master plan, some parts of the plan would take shape on river sites that are currently privately owned. For the most part, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the main federal agency involved in L.A. River work, does not proceed with project design and implementation on privately owned sites.

So, to tap into federal funding, the city needs to buy land.

Read more…

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Cedillo’s Folly: Council Adjourns in Memory of Veteran Killed Crossing North Fig.

On August 20, at the ironic request of Councilmember Gil Cedillo, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned in memory of 84 year-old Korean War Veteran, William Matelyan. Matelyan was crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 26 last month when he was struck and killed by a car. This area of North Figueroa was approved for a road diet in the 2010 City of Los Angeles Bike Plan. Road diets are proven safety measures that make streets safer for all.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 8.11.53 AM

A google map of the area for the proposed North Figueroa road diet. The white dot near the bottom left shows where North Figueroa intersects with Avenue 26.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was prepared by city staff and released in January of 2013. The report showed a series of road diets and bike lanes throughout Los Angeles would have “no significant impact” on through-traffic time. The EIR traffic studies included the North Figueroa Project between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard.

After the extensive EIR work, the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) was on the verge of implementing the North Figueroa road diet, until it was delayed last year by newly-elected Councilmember Cedillo. Cedillo later indefinitely delayed the safety project, citing safety concerns. Cedillo’s supposed safety justification appears to be based on the unsubstantiated testimony of selected police and fire officers. Officers cited possible emergency response vehicle delays, though their statements are at odds with actual LADOT traffic studies.

Before Cedillo blocked the project, construction had appeared imminent. Based on similar projects throughout the city, it is clear that construction would have been completed by now without Cedillo’s interference.

The diet would have reduced the number of through-traffic lanes for much of North Figueroa, and would have added buffered bike lanes for 5.1 miles between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard. The city’s traffic studies showed this would lead to slightly reduced average traffic speeds, making the street safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. LADOT calculated that the peak delay along the road diet would be less than a minute of delay for motorists.

When asked to comment on the street’s safety on Facebook, Cedillo spokesperson Louis Reyes answered that “Having researched the issue with our staff, that corner has not been slated with any type of prior planning. We are in the process of having LA DOT look at this dangerous intersection. “

Whether Reyes is unaware of LADOT’s EIR, or forgetting the highly-publicized battle to improve North Figueroa safety, or whether the office is just stating that slowing down traffic to make streets safer for all road users isn’t a safety improvement is not known.

On Twitter, Cedillo remains defiant, stating that “…there are no comprehensive LADOT studies on Figueroa that exist. We are doing them now.” Read more…

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The Debate Over CA’s Cap-and-Trade Funds Is Not Over

From left to right: California Mayors Robert Garcia (Long Beach), Chuck Reed (San Jose), Jean Quan (Oakland), Miguel Pulido (Santa Ana), and Ed Lee (San Francisco) at a press conference in Sacramento, yesterday. Photo: Melanie Curry

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti led a group of California mayors on a trip to Sacramento to push for legislation on a number of issues that impact cities before the final, frantic weeks of August that mark the end of the legislative session. On their agenda was getting assurance that cap-and-trade funds would be available to help cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

While the fate of cap-and-trade funds has been decided for this budget year, the mayors said they want to be certain that the program operates as intended and that funds are allocated fairly to urban areas down the line. With hundreds of millions in cap-and-trade funds generated this year, and tens of billions in the years to come, it is hard to blame them.

Garcetti said cap-and-trade funds should support new construction as well as operations of existing mass transit and affordable housing in California’s cities, “and not just in the coastal, wealthy areas of the state.” Of the $850 million in cap-and-trade funds allocated in this year’s budget, only $50 million go towards transit, including capital improvements, intercity rail, and operations.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said 10,000 potential residents could be housed along transit corridors in Oakland, adding that investment in transit and affordable transit-oriented development could address issues of wage equality and diversity.

The current state budget allocates $130 million from cap-and-trade funds to a new program, Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC), aimed at concentrating affordable housing in transit-rich areas to encourage new residents to make more trips by transit rather than driving. Read more…