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March Transpo Committee Recap: SRTS, Counts, Parking and Commish Bayne

Yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting featured a number of livability issues that deserve more in-depth attention: Safe Routes to School, bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts, parking privatization, and more. SBLA will do a brief re-cap, and will track and report on these issues more in the future.

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Map of the Top 50 LAUSD Schools with most need for safer routes to school. From LADOT SRTS Fact Sheet. Click to view entire fact sheet.

The Top 50 List You Don’t Really Want Your School On: Department of Transportation (LADOT) staff reported on progress made in the city’s Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program. In the past, for a number of reasons, the city of L.A. has been unsuccessful at receiving its fair share of SRTS grant funding. LADOT’s two new pedestrian coordinators have done a lot of work to begin to remedy this: building relationships with LAUSD and using actual data to determine which schools make sense to prioritize. This Transportation Committee meeting was the first broad public vetting of the city’s new data-driven list of 50 schools with “greatest need.” The 50-school list will be used to target some city applications for the upcoming state Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant cycle.

Advocates from about a half-dozen non-profits commented on this item, urging two main requests: more LADOT resources be directed toward SRTS, and SRTS efforts be more open and collaborative.

Committee members expressed some concerns (see below) over the criteria behind the 50 school ranking, but accepted it, pending full council approval. They requested that LADOT return to the committee in 60 days (after this ATP cycle submission) to further examine the criteria.

Most Likely to be Undercounted and Undervalued: City councilmembers requested that LADOT review their traffic count methodology to include bicycle and pedestrian data. LADOT staff responded with a draft policy, including an annual count, which moves forward to a vote of the full city council. It’s unclear whether city counts will augment or replace those currently conducted by L.A. County Bicycle Coalition volunteers, though the Bike Coalition’s Eric Bruins voiced support for city counts, stating that the Coalition “wants to get out of this business.” Read more…

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Two New Bike Corrals Installed on Abbot Kinney Blvd.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Takeaway on Abbot Kinney.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Take Away on Abbot Kinney.

Fabled Abbot Kinney Boulevard, on Los Angeles’ Westside, is the first street in the city to have two bike corrals installed. Councilmember Mike Bonin alerted Streetsblog to their installation this morning and I was able to bike over and catch one of the installations as it was being finished and another corral in action.

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The new street front for Local 1205.

These are the third and fourth corrals in the entire city. Bike corrals are dedicated bicycle parking areas created with the removal of one or two parking spaces. As shown above, a city can create safe and attractive parking for twelve bicycles in the space that used to park one car.

If you’re interested in seeing some bike corrals added to your neighborhood, the People St program at LADOT is accepting applications through April 30, with a second project submission period coming up in October. While People St will be working with community-based organizations for future corrals, parklets and plazas, these two corrals were already in the project pipeline.

The first corral is in front of Gjelina Take Away (1427 Abbot Kinney). When I arrived the corral was partly in-use with a handful of bicycles already tethered in the twelve bike parking spaces. Of course, the three bicycles are an improvement over the one car that would have fit into the same space last night. As I shot the pictures, a happy cyclist was handed a sandwich in a bag, hopped on his bike and was on his way.

Bike corrals: good for bikes, good for business. Read more…

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On Bike/Ped. Count Day, Bonin Introduces Motion Demanding Better Bike/Ped Data from the City

Mike Bonin hangs out with Santa Monica Next advisory committee member Joni Yung at a bicycle and pedestrian count in LACBC's 11th District. Photo: David Graham Cano/CD11

During last year’s Park(ing) Day, City Council Members Jose Huizar and Jan Perry announced a city-wide parklet initiative. Following that lead, current Council Member Mike Bonin announced a new motion requiring better data collection after spending the morning volunteering with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition/Los Angeles Walks counting bikes and walkers.

“For too long, our city’s focus has been on cars, and not on communities – despite the evidence that walking and cycling promote healthy lifestyles and reduce pollution and traffic congestion,” said Bonin. “We have, from various sources, an abundance of data on auto trips; yet very little is known about the rates of people walking or bicycling in Los Angeles. The Bike and Ped. Count volunteers are helping to change that and I am very grateful for their work.”

Bonin submitted a motion to the Council today, which seeks to update the method used by LADOT to gather data about pedestrian and bicyclists in Los Angeles, in order to allow that data to be incorporated with a Bicycle Data Clearinghouse – a standardized way bicycle data is collected in cities throughout Los Angeles County.

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) recently established the Bicycle Data Clearinghouse and invited local municipalities to both share the data they collect. The information compiled through the Clearinghouse provides an essential metric for policymakers to make informed choices about future transportation priorities and is also made available to the general public. Read more…

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Did City Admit Culpability in Boardwalk Hit and Run by Calling for Traffic Bollards?

For the most part, Council Member Mike Bonin and the City of Los Angeles have received high marks for their response to Saturday evening’s vehicular attack on the Venice Boardwalk. However, following Tuesday’s vote to install temporary bollards to physically block vehicular access to the Boardwalk, a rumble began that the city may have erred.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin places a flower at a memorial for Venice hit-and-run victim Alice Gruppioni Monday on the Venice Boardwalk. Credit: John Schreiber/Patch

The new argument, voiced yesterday by KFI 640′s Bill Handel, is that by calling for safety improvements to quickly and forcefully, Bonin and the entire City Council are admitting guilt and basically paving the way for the family of victims to sue the city.

Not surprisingly, this argument is rejected by Bonin and other city officials.

“Hindsight is always 20/20, but this tragedy also affords us a rare opportunity to allow foresight to come into focus,” Bonin wrote in a statement. “This horrible incident showed vulnerabilities at the boardwalk and we have an obligation to do everything in our power to ensure this sort of tragedy cannot happen again.”

Bonin’s office went on to describe the act of Nathan Campbell, the man who drove onto the boardwalk and literally swerved to run-down pedestrians, killing one, as something that is unavoidable. Cameras show Campbell scouting the boardwalk immediately before getting in his car and attacking the pedestrians. If he hadn’t chose a car as his weapon, Campbell would likely have chosen something else.

Suing the city over not having bollards in place at Venice, when it is pretty clear that Campbell didn’t “accidentally” drift on to the crosswalk, would be akin to suing the owner of a building if a gunman managed access to their roof before going on a rampage. A lawsuit against the city could have a chilling impact on traffic safety in the city. If the city suddenly becomes scared to make road improvements after the crash because of a fear that it makes the city more vulnerable to legal attacks.

Even if a lawyer sees a potential payday for suing the city, it appears unlikely that the Los Angeles would be found liable if Campbell is found guilty of murder. A scan of lawsuits against cities for negligence when the attacker is guilty of murder seem limited to cases involving response time of ambulances or the police or when a police officer is actually being accused of the crime.

However, the legal record becomes more complicated if Campbell is found not-guilty of murder. The number of cases where cities are found negligent for not having the best safety features on the road is higher. I wasn’t able to find one where bollards were involved. Usually lawsuits stem from a lack of crosswalks or appropriate traffic signals.

Of course, the best thing Los Angeles or any city can do is create a road system that prioritizes safety over speed for all road users. The city can, and should, be held accountable when negligence is a cause in a traffic crash. However, lawsuits that scare officials from making safety improvements in the end will make Los Angeles a more dangerous place to use our streets.

Earlier this week, Streetsblog implored the city to learn a lesson from Saturday’s crash. Let’s hope they don’t learn the wrong one.

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Response to Venice Boardwalk Crash Should Be Model, Not Outlier

Screen grab of the top picture of Alice Gruppioni and her husband Christian Casadei from Leggo, a newspaper in Italy.

Saturday in the late afternoona, Nathan Lewis Campbell got in his car and created carnage on the Venice Boardwalk. The 38-year-old native of Colorado drove on to the boardwalk and swerved through the area injuring dozens and killing Italian Alice Gruppioni, a 32 year old newly waling barefoot on the beach next to her husband. They were on their honeymoon.

Later, Campbell abandoned his car and sauntered into a Santa Monica Police Station to turn himself in. The psychopath’s bail is set at $1 million and he is being held on “suspicion of murder.” Unlike a recent high-profile hit and run in Gardena, Campbell is unlikely to be released on his own recognizance.

There are literally hundreds of stories covering this crash circulating the Internet, from CNN to the L.A. Times, from ABC to Yo Venice!, from CBS to Leggo in Italy.

All of the major power players are giving an appropriate response. Local Council Member Mike Bonin and Mayor Eric Garcetti are promising an infrastructure improvement, the media is treating the case with the solemness it deserves, the LAPD is talking about murder and not “accidents.”

The reaction to this devastating crash should become the template for how the city and those in power react to a crash of any sort, but especially a hit and run crash. Whether it be state law, a culture of lawlessness on the streets, a lack of serious investigation  by the LAPD, a lack of urgency by the City Attorney or District Attorney, poor road design, or any of another thousand reasons, the City of Los Angeles is not a safe place to walk and ride a bicycle. At least, it’s not as safe as it could and should be.

If the city truly wants to honor the memory of Alice Gruppioni, it should make a point that the response to this weekend’s tragedy becomes the standard response, and not an outlier. Read more…

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Public Safety Committee Acknowledges the Hit and Run Crisis, LAPD Not So Much.

Council Members Mitch O'Farrell, Joe Buscaino, Mitch Englander and Mike Bonin listen to testimony from last week's hearing. Photo: Don Ward

In Los Angeles, according to LAPD crime statistics for 2011, 1273 cyclists and pedestrians were victims of hit and run crimes. In other words every single day, 3 or 4 cyclists and pedestrians become hit and run victims within Los Angeles city limits. Of these, 26 people walking or biking died as a result of the collision in which a motorist fled the scene. Another 10 victims were killed while in cars.

Mind numbing.

Because LAPD traffic division response time can typically take an hour or more to respond to collisions and with LAPD officers known to actively discourage filing reports for minor or no injury hit and runs, there is no telling what the true extent of the crisis is. Years of public comments and protests by cycling and pedestrian advocates including a focused Police Commission public comment action last year have only begun to garner the kind of attention needed to begin to solve this.

Last Friday, members of the LAPD came before the Public Safety Committee to present their report on the extent of LA’s hit and run crisis. The hearing followed a request by Councilman Buscaino in the wake of an LA Weekly exposé last December that brought light to this staggering reality on our streets. Based on the language of that report… the LAPD leadership does not yet appear ready to tackle the issue.

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Several members of the “all powerful bicycle lobby,” including myself, made the early morning trip to City Hall thanks to a special LA Bike Trains group ride. Having released the report to the police commission weeks before we already knew the report was a disappointment in many ways. But this was a chance to hear what the Council Members thought and to deliver another round of public comment.

Having attended many disappointing City Council meetings over the years I had no reason to feel optimistic about this one. The formula usually goes something like… livable streets advocates show up with pitch forks, LAPD / LADOT make excuses / naysay / not feasible, politicians feign interest / read their Blackberrys and / or Tom LaBonge talks about critical mass and outlaw bike riders.

But this meeting was different – stacked with freshmen councilmembers – it struck me as a bit of a sea change.

Not only were these Council Members engaged, they were speaking nuanced livable streets language. At one point Council Member Bonin corrected LAPD Deputy Chief Downing for invoking Critical Mass as a causation for hit and run crimes stating: “The typical hit and run victim is not riding on Critical Mass.” This was immediately received with applause from the audience. Given the chance, I would have politely whispered to Chief Downing that the LAPD has been escorting a very peaceful amicable Critical Mass now for years… but I digress. Read more…

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Streetscast: Audio from the Streetsblog Interview with Mike Bonin

Mike Bonin and his fiancé Sean Arian celebrate Bonin's swearing in earlier this month. Photo: Mike Bonin/Facebook

At long last, you can listen to (nearly) the entire interview with City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin. Sorry it took so long to get together, my attempts to edit out some of the background noise and make Bonin’s voice louder than my own took some time. You can read the two stories generated by the interview, “Mike Bonin Focuses on Listening to Build New Transportation Coalition in Los Angeles” and “Bonin Ready to Work on Transportation Problems Throughout L.A.’s Westside.”

Part I

In this portion of the interview, we discuss what projects are on tap in the district and what ones ought to move forward. It’s not the most information packed piece, the Council Member is holding his fire on local projects until he has a chance to do some more listening. However, you can tell he’s serious about road diets, he half-joked that we need to put one on every north-south street on the Westside.

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Part II

The easiest way for a politician to earn my love is to fight projects that I really hate that waste a lot of money. Sadly, there’s no time to fight the 405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, if the project were completed on time it would already be done. It’s still nice to hear a politician say it was a waste of time and money.

But better than that, Bonin has a better solution. Metro should push for a North-South connector from the San Fernando Valley to LAX. It’s a plan on the books and ought to be completed by my retirement party. 

At the 1:37 mark you can hear Mike bad mouth the I-405 project. About a minute later you can hear us compare having children to doing a cleanse.

At 5:28 you can hear me describe an aggressive schedule to publish the interviews that I clearly didn’t make.

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Part III 

First, we talk about how to mitigate major developments’ impact on the transportation network. This part on mitigation is probably of interest to our planners and transportation wonks. This is the first time I’ve heard a major political player talk about changing our traffic mitigation fees.

But I loved hearing his obvious real-life enthusiasm for Expo. Bonin talked about the project as though he were a long-time advocate of the project, talking about the aesthetics of construction as well as the benefits to the community. It wasn’t something you would hear from a lot of Metro Directors when talking about a transit line.

The Expo conversation starts at about the 5:20 part.

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Part IV

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Bill Rosendahl, but I was always puzzled about his animosity against the City of Santa Monica. I’m guessing the fight over the Santa Monica Airport is part of it.  Bonin is starting to mend those relationship with his work on Expo and the Expo Bike Path.

For those of you looking to scroll ahead, just before the four minute mark, we joke about Antonio Villaraigosa moving to the district and whether or not he’s already getting constituent complaints. Following a short vacation, Villaraigosa moved to Venice

But then we take a serious talk about how to use constituents, “especially those in the north part of the district” to lobby their “friends” from other states for whom they write big checks. Some of those friends should be supporting more transportation funding for projects in Los Angeles.

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Part V

At this point, we’re getting into a larger discussion of style, and less one of substance. But for the leader of an important City Council Committee, style is important. Bonin really emphasizes both his focus on listening and hearing what people have to say and his ability to mend fences. The true story of Fred Sutton, one of Bonin’s rivals for the election, joining his campaign team shows a City Council Member that is more about the big picture than just his career aspirations.

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 Outtakes 

Because what audio interview would be complete without some meta-commentary.

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Bonin Ready to Work on Transportation Problems Throughout L.A.’s Westside

(Editor’s note: We’re breaking out interview with new Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin into three parts. Yesterday focused on his role as Chair. Today focuses on local issues on the Westside’s CD 11. Monday we will post the unedited audio from the interview. Also, since we discuss the Expo Bikeway, we should note that I am the CD 11 representative to the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee.)

Despite being intensely proud of the Council District he represents, Mike Bonin has no illusions that the Westside’s CD11 is a Livable Streets paradise.

Image: Mike Bonin/Facebook

“Every single North-South street,” he half-joked to me when I asked if there were any streets in the district that could use a road diet.

Following the success of the Main Street Road Diet in Venice, there is some excitement of possibly putting other streets on a diet, i.e. removing a mixed use travel lane and replacing it with dedicated bike lanes. While Bonin is enthusiastic about the possibility of bringing more road diets home, he also recognizes that on the Westside, there need to be more ways to move a lot of people north and south.

And he doesn’t mean massive highway projects.

“I’m not a big fan of the 405 project,” Bonin flatly states of the late, over-budget, 405 widening project that spawned two Carmaggedons and lost the support of even it’s largest backers.

“I wish we hadn’t done the 405 project. The line I’ve continued to use is that it seems to be a tremendous amount of pain for not a lot of gain.”

Instead?

“What we should have done was work on the LAX rail connection into the valley.”

In Bonin’s vision, such a rail line wouldn’t just get people over the mountain from the Westside to the Valley or vice-versa, it would also create a rail mass transit option for people within the Westside.

When we sat down on the 733 Rapid last week, we didn’t know that Bonin and San Fernando Valley Council Member Paul Krekorian would be appointed to the Metro Board of Directors by Eric Garcetti. Putting a Valley and Westisde Council Member on the powerful board is a clear sign from the Mayor’s Office that advancing the “LAX to the Valley” transit project is high on his priority list.

But while a connector between LAX and the Valley is still years in the future, the Expo Line Phase II is being built right through of Bonin’s 11th Council District today. When we spoke last week on the bus, he was on his way to a meeting of the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors. At that meeting he was voted Vice-Chair of the Board.

Vice Chair of the Expo Construction Authority, Member of the Metro Board of Directors, Chair of the City Council Transportation Committee. Mike Bonin has been in office for less than three weeks, and he’s basically positioned himself in the center of the Greater Los Angeles transportation world.

So getting the design fixed for the future bicycle crossing at Exposition and Centinella ought to be a piece of cake, right?

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Bonin remarked. Read more…

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Meet Garcetti’s New Team on the Metro Board of Directors: Bonin, Krekorian and Dupont-Walker

Then Council Member Wendy Greuel, Jackie Dupont-Walker, then Council Member Jan Perry, and Eric Garcetti Photo: CD 13

Earlier today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his three appointees to the Metro Board of Directors. The Mayor’s Office controls four of the thirteen appointments to the body (Garcetti being the first himself.) The appointments include two City Council Members: Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian, as well as Jackie Dupont-Walker, a community activist from the West Adams Neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

Some critics are complaining that Garcetti violated state law by appointing two Council Members to the Board. We are currently researching that claim, first made by John Walsh in an email to journalists and editors, but for now we’re assuming that this list of Garcetti’s appointments will stand.

(Update 7:45 pm – It is now confirmed, the Mayor can appoint to the Metro Board anywhere from 1-3 City Council Members.)

Here’s a quick look at the Mayor’s team on the Metro Board:

Jackie Dupont-Walker:

Dupont-Walker is the freshest face for most Streetsblog readers.  She is the founding president of Ward Economic Development Corporation, a faith-based community development. She also chairs the USC Master Plan Advisory Committee where she represents the residents of the West Adams district.  

Dupont-Walker’s appointment may also represent an olive branch to the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, a group of community groups and advocates advocating for a grade-separated Crenshaw Light Rail Line for the twelve blocks that the line will run through the Crenshaw Business District. In addition to advocacy, the group has sued Metro over the environmental documents for the light rail.

Dupont-Walker, in addition to being a resident and activist in South L.A., was part of a delegation that met with then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to push for a station at Leimert Park. Villaraigosa eventually backed the station and it was added to the project plan literally days before the Mayor left office.

Dupont-Walker will join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as Board Members dedicated to making sure that jobs created by the construction of the Crenshaw Line stay in the South L.A. Community.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with Mayor Garcetti to create an L.A. transportation system that will help bring our city’s diverse neighborhoods closer together in every way,” Dupont-Walker said. “A world-class system should be accessible to every L.A. neighborhood, and new transportation hubs and corridors are opportunities to spark
much-needed job creation and neighborhood revitalization by spurring local economies.”

Mike Bonin:

Bonin is certainly the easiest for Streetsblog to write about since we’re in the middle of publishing a two-part interview with Bonin conducted because he is also the Chair of the Transportation Committee for the City Council. For a man who took office less than three weeks ago, Bonin is now one of the most important people on transportation policy in the region. Read more…

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Mike Bonin Focuses on Listening to Build New Transportation Consensus in Los Angeles

Step One, Get on the Bus. Photo: David Graham-Caso/Office of Mike Bonin

(Editor’s note: We’re breaking out interview with new Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin into three parts. Today will focus on his role as Chair. Tomorrow will focus on local issues on the Westside’s CD 11. Monday we will post the unedited audio from the interview.)

“Hello, my name is Mike and I want to listen to you. And I mean genuinely listen to you.”

When I asked City Council Member, and newly minted Transportation Committee Chair, Mike Bonin what his opening line to transportation advocates, he responded with this simple line.

Whether the city has turned a corner to embracing a truly multi-modal transportation network, or whether the victories of the last couple of years are hiccups and Los Angeles will return to its car-centric history depends a lot on the decisions that Bonin and the Transportation Committee make over the next four years. So when we sat down last week, it was the little things that we looked for. We already knew he could talk the Livable Streets talk. We also know what really matters is if he can walk the Livable Streets walk.

The early returns are good.

Not only did he and his staff insist that we do the interview on the 733 Metro Rapid Line that connects the Westside and Downtown Los Angeles on Venice Boulevard, the choice of the bus wasn’t just for show. The 733 was how he was going to work that day, to meetings in his office before walking to a meeting for the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors. To top it off, he walked to the bus stop from the Mar Vista home he shares with his partner, Sean Arian.

“I want to hit a reset button,” Bonin responded to my very first question. “I don’t want this to just be Bill’s third term, but a fresh look at stuff.”

For a man who has spent the last eight years working as the Chief of Staff for a popular City Council Member, Bonin is emphasizing that now is the perfect time for both the West Los Angeles Council District he represents and the city as a whole to take a fresh look at the problems and opportunities that face their communities. In fact, one of Bonin’s first acts as Council Member-Elect was to meet with planners and leaders in neighboring Santa Monica to start talking about ways the neighboring cities can work together on transportation issues.

But while building, or re-building, relationships with neighboring city leaders is important; Bonin recognizes that the sharpest challenge in changing the way Angelenos think about transportation is changing the way make their choices. Read more…