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#DamienTalks Episode 15: LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds on Vision Zero

Reynolds speaks at Monday's press conference announcing the City of Los Angeles' commitment to Vision Zero. Photo: LADOT

Reynolds speaks at Monday’s press conference announcing the City of Los Angeles’ commitment to Vision Zero. Photo: LADOT

Today, #DamienTalks with Seleta Reynolds, the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation about the City of Los Angeles’ recent announcement that L.A. will be a Vision Zero City.

In short, that means that all planning, construction and enforcement decisions that impact the transportation grid will be based on whether or not it helps the city reach a goal of zero traffic deaths.

In addition to being one of the city’s leaders and organizers on this issue, Reynolds has some experience with Vision Zero from her time in the Bay area. We ask her about this experience, what L.A.’s plans are, and the uncomfortable question about law enforcement’s role.

If you’re looking for more, here’s some of Joe Linton’s recent coverage of Vision Zero in Streetsblog Los Angeles: City Announces Vision Zero Strategy, Council Passes Mobility Plan Including Vision Zero, Sustainable City PLAn Includes Vision Zero, LADOT Focuses on Vision Zero in 2014 Annual Report.

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 Damien Talks homepage on Libsyn.

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Garcetti Signs Vision Zero Directive to End L.A. Traffic Deaths by 2025

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler speaks on Los Angeles' new Vision Zero policy at today's signing ceremony in Boyle Heights. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler speaks on Los Angeles’ new Vision Zero policy at today’s signing ceremony in Boyle Heights. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a directive [PDF] that commits city departments to Vision Zero. Specifically, the City of Los Angeles is committed to reducing traffic fatalities to zero by the year 2025.

A little over a year ago, it was difficult to find Los Angeles agency staff, elected officials, or even individuals who were conversant on Vision Zero. In case readers are unfamiliar with Vision Zero, here is a description from the newly-formed Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance:

Vision Zero is a worldwide movement, started in Sweden, to eliminate all traffic deaths. While traditional traffic safety campaigns have focused on changing human behavior to reduce accident risks, Vision Zero takes a fundamentally different approach by instead putting the responsibility on government to manage the streets using evidence-based strategies to prevent fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero is data-driven, outcome-focused, and collaborative across agencies and departments.

Today’s directive follows on the heels of, and broadens, other recent L.A. City Vision Zero declarations. Last September, the Department of Transportation (LADOT) adopted Vision Zero as part of its departmental strategic plan. In April, Garcetti released an ambitious Sustainability “pLAn” that included Vision Zero. Earlier this month, the L.A. City Council approved Mobility Plan 2035; that approval made Vision Zero the adopted citywide policy for Los Angeles.

Prior to today, Vision Zero was largely confined to LADOT and City Planning (DCP). With this new directive, Garcetti broadens the city agencies responsible for implementing Vision Zero. In addition to LADOT and DCP, Garcetti explicitly names the Police, Fire, Public Works, and Water & Power departments to participate in an internal city of L.A. Vision Zero Steering Committee. In addition, the city will host a broader Vision Zero Task Force, to include city representatives, plus L.A. Unified School District, L.A. County Department of Public Health, Metro, non-profit advocates, and others.  Read more…

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Highlights From Metro CEO Phil Washington Speaking At Zócalo

Metro CEO Phil Washington speaking in May 2015. Photo: Joe Linton, Streetsblog L.A.

Metro CEO Phil Washington speaking in May 2015. Photo: Joe Linton, Streetsblog L.A.

Last night, Zócalo hosted a conversation with Metro CEO Phil Washington, just over three months into his new post. Washington was interviewed by Conan Nolan of NBC television, and responded to questions from the audience. Video, audio, and a recap of the event are available at Zócalo.

Zócalo is a non-profit that focuses on the humanities and an idea exchange. Metro is a sponsor of Zócalo in Los Angeles.

Washington didn’t make any major surprise announcements last night, but below are some highlights that shed light on some of the CEO’s priorities:

Focus on P3: Washington consistently went to public-private partnerships (P3) as one his favorite tools for delivering projects. Washington explained Denver’s successful Eagle P3 project, where Washington’s RTD partnered with private sector partners to develop, operate and maintain multiple rail lines including an airport connection. Washington stated that the partnership model accelerated the project timeline, and saved $300 million in a $2.2 billion project budget.

Core Infrastructure: Washington spoke strongly on the need to remedy today’s infrastructure crises, claiming that the current generation has “not taken care of our assets.” He stressed the broad range of benefits for both mobility and the economy of investing in transportation expansion and maintenance.

Bucking Conventional Views: Responding to questions, Washington expressed some views that differ from prevailing views at Metro: Read more…

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Scramble Crosswalks Ready for Their Star Turn in Hollywood

Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via ##http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/11/03/40143/los-angeles-ponders-diagonal-crosswalks-what-are-t/##Airtalk/KPCC##

Chicago’s first pedestrian scramble, or “Barnes Dance”, at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via Airtalk/KPCC

Responding to community concerns that the high volume of pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue was creating an unsafe crossing, City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and the Department of Transportation recently announced that a “pedestrian scramble” will be installed by the end of the year.

The pedestrian scramble, aka The Barnes Dance, is basically an intersection which has a “pedestrian only” phase in its signal timing. During this time, pedestrians are not just limited to crossing east-west or north-south, but can actually cross to the opposite corner by cutting straight through the middle of the street.

Los Angeles already has a few pedestrian scramble intersections near the college campuses of USC and UCLA. In addition, Pasadena and Beverly Hills have installed scrambles at high-volume intersections. If you’re not familiar with the scrambles, check out the below video by Streetfilms celebrating Los Angeles’ scrambles that was filmed in 2008.

“Hollywood and Highland is our red carpet entrance for people from around the world who come to experience Los Angeles’ center stage,” said Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager. “The new intersection design will prioritize the safety and comfort of people walking. We plan to implement this change in consultation with the community and will evaluate the before and after effects.”

In addition to residents, workers, and tourists who may arrive by car or are staying in one of the local hotels, Hollywood and Highland is also home to a busy Red Line Metro rail station and a handful of local bus routes.  Read more…

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Garcetti Livable Streets Report Card Open Thread

Last week the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial evaluating Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at two years into his initial term of office. The article includes a report card, with various letter grades, including Leadership: C-, Vision: B+, and an overall grade of C.

The Times’ report card does not focus on livability and transportation, but mentions them only in passing. Early on, the article states “[Garcetti’s] vision of Los Angeles as a more livable, transit-oriented, environmentally- and technologically-friendly city” and then barely mentions transportation and livability. The Times only touches on a lack of funding for resurfacing streets and fixing sidewalks, and credits Garcetti for negotiating the under-construction Metro Crenshaw Line connection to LAX.

Readers - how would you grade L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Livable Streets issues? Photo: Roger Rudick

Readers – how would you grade L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Livable Streets issues? Photo: Roger Rudick

So, we figured we’d do our own livable streets report card.

And, frankly, the Streetsblog Los Angeles team is a bit split on Mayor Garcetti’s record.

We’re enthusiastic about his appointing Seleta Reynolds as the Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager, and leading the team to bring Phil Washington to Metro. His Great Streets initiative is mostly underwhelming, yet, but has resulted in L.A.’s excellent first ever parking-protected bike lanes on Reseda Boulevard, and more coming very soon on Venice Blvd. Garcetti has laid the groundwork for some great things to come, including bike-share and Metro’s LAX connection. Garcetti has continued and expanded important work underway on Mobility Plan 2035, MyFigueroa, People St, CicLAvias, L.A. River revitalization, and continued expansion of Metro rail. Lastly, Garcetti can be credited with some pretty visionary documents, including LADOT’s Strategic Plan, pLAn, and inclusion of Vision Zero in Mobility Plan 2035, but those are not worth much unless they are implemented.

But then there are disappointments, too.

We’re frustrated that during Garcetti’s term, a lot of wrong-headed projects haven’t been curbed. The fault for these may be blamed on recalcitrant city councilmembers, but there’s no indication that Garcetti has taken the initiative to wield his significant power on these. Here are city projects that have gone the wrong way under Garcetti: the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge, the North Figueroa Street road diet, Westwood Blvd bike lanes, and central L.A. pedestrian stings. Transit fares are up, ridership down. Bikeway implementation has slowed; of 40 miles of “Year Two” arterial projects studied and worked on, zero miles have been implemented. Meager sidewalk repair budgets went unspent. It took a lawsuit to force the city to really grapple with, um, planning to repair more sidewalks, someday, somehow.

Here’s our basic report card:  Read more…

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Venice Great Streets Phase 1: Road Diet, Protected Bike Lanes, Mid-Block Crossings

Morning rush on the .8 mile future Great Street in Mar Vista. Check out the map, ##https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Venice+Blvd+%26+Beethoven+St,+Los+Angeles,+CA+90066/Los+Angeles,+CA+90066/@34.0029397,-118.4396395,16z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x80c2baf512e6f497:0x61abf73848f48fd7!2m2!1d-118.4411967!2d33.9997623!1m5!1m1!1s0x80c2ba5ca7797825:0xdace1dd65915342c!2m2!1d-118.4288555!2d34.0061425##here.##

Morning rush on the .8 mile future Great Street in Mar Vista. Check out the map, here.

(Update: While I have the term “phase 1″ in my notes, I was corrected that there are no formal “phases” to the project. Right now there is only a firm plan for the transportation improvements, but will be implemented as opportunities arise, such as partnerships with community groups or businesses. They could happen before, or after, the transportation improvements. – DN)

Last night at the meeting of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Great Streets Working Group, Councilmember Mike Bonin, members of his staff, and members of the Great Streets team discussed the specific plans for phase 1 of the Great Streets proposal for Venice Blvd. in Mar Vista.

For more on the Great Streets Program in Mar Vista, visit yesterday’s story on the outreach process.

Phase 1 is a pilot program that would focus on the transportation elements of the Great Streets program, with plans for murals, parklets, seating, and other improvements. Beautification and other improvements are being worked on and some volunteers are working on designing and creating planters to possibly be included in Phase 1. Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in the “winter/spring of 2016″ with funding coming from the LADOT’s Great Streets fund. There is no timeline for when the non-transportation improvements will be added.

The plan itself is pretty great. Currently, Venice Blvd. is six mixed-use travel lanes (which because of the bike lanes are almost never used for anything except cars), and two of the least-friendly bike lanes in the city. The planned changes for the .8 of a mile Great Street include plenty of plans to slow down car traffic and make the street more enticing for those looking to walk, bicycle, or just be outside.

Phase 1 includes:

1) A road diet between Inglewood Blvd. and Beethoven Street. This Great Streets corridor is home to many of Mar Vista’s small businesses including Earl’s Gourmet Grub (which has been home to Streetsblog fundraisers), the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market on Sundays, and the Bikerowave. Venice Boulevard will go from six mixed-use lanes to four.

2) The awful bike lanes I mentioned above are near-universally despised because of both speeding traffic that runs inches from one’s handlebars and the fact that most of the lane is in the door zone. That leaves a very narrow band in which to safely bicycle.

These lanes will be converted to buffered, protected bike lanes. The bollards will be similar to the ones used on the protected lane on Reseda Boulevard.

3) The city will also be installing four mid-block crosswalks near unsignalized intersections to make street crossings easier. The crossings will have their own traffic signals for cars and bicycles and will both reduce traffic speed and reduce the separation between the communities north and south of Venice Boulevard. Read more…

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With CicLAvia in the Rearview Mirror, Mar Vista Plans for a Pop-Up Great Street

To see the timeline in higher res, click ##https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/ant/pages/743/attachments/original/1438966471/Pilot_Project.png?1438966471##here.##

To see the timeline in higher res, click here.

Despite Great Streets being a signature transportation project of Mayor Eric Garcetti, throughout the city the vision, outreach, and implementation are driven by the enthusiasm of the local City Council offices. Staff in the Mayor’s Office is working closely with each of the fifteen Councilmembers to create a Great Streets program that is locally-driven and Council-approved.

At least that’s the idea.

While local support and local leadership is crucial to any movement that seeks to create major changes, sometimes the Council offices have proven more of a roadblock to change than a partner in creating great streets.

On one hand, Councilmember Mitch Englander, one of the more conservative Councilmembers, has been a surprise, not only for backing the largest protected bike lane in Los Angeles, but for programming that activates Reseda Boulevard as a destination. On the other hand, you have Paul Koretz, considered by many to be a champion environmentalist, and Curren Price, who belatedly got on board with the MyFigueroa! street transformation, working behind the scenes to remove bike facilities from plans for Westwood Boulevard and Central Avenue, respectively.

Nowhere were expectations higher for Great Streets than in the Westside’s CD11 where Councilmember Mike Bonin was the first Councilmember to be elected with a platform for Livable Streets reform. And that’s important, as the Great Streets team in the Mayor’s Office consists of two staffers and a handful of interns and fellows. That’s not per district, that’s for the entire city.

Bonin and a band of neighborhood and business advocates have used the Great Streets Plan for Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista (roughly between the 405 and Lincoln Boulevard) as a sort of Livable Streets master class to educate people about what a street can be if it is reimagined as something new. The presentation of the image boards showing the various Great Street options at both the “usual suspect” locations (Farmers’ Markets, the Mar Vista Community Council, and Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce) and high schools, libraries, coffee shops, and markets allowed a wider range of stakeholders to weigh in on the proposed changes.

The experience in West L.A. with Great Streets is pretty much the opposite of that along Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. There, most residents, business owners, and community advocates only saw plans for a dramatically altered Central Avenue when Sahra Sulaiman showed them printouts while researching a story for Streetsblog. The difference an engaged and enthusiastic Council Office can have is dramatic.

After all of that outreach, Bonin’s office announced last week that a pilot program will be on the ground in the “winter/spring of 2016.” Some of the most popular proposed changes include more mid-block pedestrian crossings, opportunities for public gathering spaces (parklets, plazas, even sidewalk seating), improved bikeways, and more and better street furniture and trash bins.

“Those are some dramatic, exciting improvements, and we’ll need to use some of the space usually reserved for automobile traffic to get it done,” Bonin’s office wrote in an email to participants that was also posted on his website. Read more…

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Phil Washington’s Metro Re-Org Imports Denver Leadership

Metro Interim CEO Stephanie Wiggins urges congress to Stand Up 4 Transportation this morning's rally in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Then-Metro Interim CEO Stephanie Wiggins speaks at a StandUp4Transportation rally last April. CEO Phil Washington appointed Wiggins as Deputy CEO. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In a July 23 memo [PDF] to Metro staff, new CEO Phil Washington outlined his initial foray into Metro restructuring, including leadership changes at many key posts. In May, Washington left his post as head of Denver RTD to lead Metro. Washington now brings former Denver colleagues to staff three high-level Metro leadership positions.

The memo [PDF] details the follow specific changes:

  • Stephanie Wiggins is now Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO.) Wiggins was the interim CEO serving after Art Leahy’s departure until Phil Washington’s arrival. Wiggins has been at Metro for seven years, and was Metro’s lead on implementing its ExpressLanes program.
  • Rick Clarke (Richard F. Clarke) takes over as Executive Director of Engineering and Construction, which Washington is renaming “Program Management.” Since 2010, Clarke worked under Washington as Assistant General Manager of Capital Programs at the Denver RTD.
  • Elba Higueros is Metro’s new Chief Policy Officer. Higueros has been at Metro since 2003, and was a Transportation Planning Manager working in Congestion Reduction for the past 3 years primarily on the ExpressLanes program.
  • Alex Wiggins is Metro’s new Executive Director of Security. Wiggins was Vice President of Security Services for Transit Safety and Security Solutions where he was responsible for security on Denver RTD’s successful public-private partnership (P3) Gold Line light rail project.
  • Pauletta Tonilas is Metro’s new Chief Communications Officer. Tonilas also comes from Denver RTD where she serves as Senior Manager of Public Relations and Public Information. She is credited with shepherding Denver’s passage of a transportation sales tax measure to fund Denver RTD’s FasTracks rail expansion.
  • Washington created a new of Office of Extraordinary Innovation. While that sounds like hoverboards, it actually starts with a new strategic plan and a focus on public-private partnerships. The new Innovation Office is highlighted in this article at The Source.
  • There are a few other miscellaneous internal changes mentioned in the memo. Asset Management (responsible for the agency’s much referenced bus and rail system’s “state of good repair”) moves from the Operations Department to Risk and Safety Management Department. Metro will also increase annual safety training for operators.

As far as SBLA can discern, Metro staffers formerly in these positions, including Bryan Pennington and Ann Kerman, remain at the agency. Deputy Executive Officer for Communications Ann Kerman resumes her actual deputy status, though she was effectively acting head since Noelia Rodriguez’ departure. The outline of Washington’s restructuring was initially summarized via Twitter by Laura Nelson of the L.A. Times.

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Opinion: Climate Change Leaves No Room for Phonies: The Westwood Bike Lane Represents the Future–or Failure–of Los Angeles

Recently, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz joined Mayor Eric Garcetti and others at a preview of the Expo Line Phase II, which extends that light rail line from its current terminus in Culver City, all the way to downtown Santa Monica. Afterwards, a press conference for this long-overdue project was held at the nearly-completed Palms Station, where they gave speeches and celebrated this milestone toward providing better mobility and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards. Image by LACBC via Rancho Park Online

The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards created by LACBC. Proposal would not cost any parking or rush hour Level of Service. Study of the proposal was squashed by Councilmember Koretz before it could be completed by LADOT.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Koretz is sabotaging Expo by killing the bike lane that will connect it to UCLA and Westwood Village. The Westwood Boulevard bike lanes are opposed by his not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) constituents near Westwood, who fear it will aggravate traffic. In an email from his office obtained via a California Public Records Act request, he told them: “I can’t see any way that I wind up supporting the bike lane on Westwood […] I am going to just kill it now, rather than waiting for a study.”

Los Angeles is a dense and clustered city. But in any city, it is rare that someone can take transit from their doorstep all the way to exactly where they want to go. Transit planners call it the “last mile” problem: figuring out how to get people from the train stations to destinations that are sometimes too far to walk.

Shuttles and taxis are part of the solution, but so are bikes. This is clear in the case of the Westwood Boulevard stop, which is a 10-to-15 minute bike ride from UCLA. However, it is perilous: according to a July 21 article in the L.A. Times, there have been 52 bike crashes on the route since 2002. Imagine how high that number will go when the Exposition Line opens and UCLA students start biking to the train. It’s a no-brainer: we simply must build safe, protected bike lanes directly between UCLA and the station.

As the Times pointed out, there’s an 11-foot and an 18-foot car lane in each direction on Westwood. That leaves more than enough room for bike lanes, preferably with a curb or buffer to keep cars from crashing into cyclist. This benefits motorists too: on those rare occasions when traffic is light enough for cars to go faster than bicycle speed, cyclists are out of the way. Read more…

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Reps Pelosi and Lieu Tout ‘Grow America’ Transportation Bill

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi speaking on federal transportation funding at this morning's event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi speaking on federal transportation funding at this morning’s event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Elected officials, labor leaders, and Metro’s CEO assembled this morning to call on Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill. In order to highlight the ways that transportation infrastructure funding benefits communities, the press event showcased the bluff-top construction site of the city of Santa Monica’s California Incline retrofit project.

House Minority Leader Representative Nancy Pelosi, Representative Ted Lieu, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown, AFL CIO Executive Secretary Rusty Hicks, ‎Building and Construction Trades Council President Ron Miller, and Metro CEO Phil Washington all expressed support for the Grow America Act.

Many Americans think that gas taxes cover the costs of transportation infrastructure. In truth, gas taxes have not kept up with inflation. For many years, transportation-dedicated revenue has fallen way short of transportation expenditures.

This has resulted in ongoing debates over how to pay for transportation infrastructure. The Grow America Act is President Obama’s proposal, favored by Democrats. Grow America would pay for six years of federal transportation funding by closing loopholes that allow American corporations to skirt taxes on overseas profits. Republicans are less interested in trimming corporate profits, and more inclined to fund transportation by trimming pensions. Today, Pelosi characterized the plan to trim pension funding as “a non-starter” and, in response to questions, expressed her support for raising the gas tax, though that too is likely a non-starter.

Though Lieu and Pelosi are pressing for the six-year Grow America Act, this week the House of Representatives passed its stopgap five-month measure that would keep federal transportation funds solvent through December 2015. Senate committees are hammering out their likely-longer-term versions.

CEO Washington and Mayor McKeown stressed that short term funding is not enough for local cities and agencies Read more…