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Posts from the "Mike Eng" Category

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Vroom! It’s Time to Talk Speed Limit Increases at City Council

When we last checked in with the City Council Transportation Committee, they decided to table a motion to increase the speed limit on Chandler Boulevard, where the limit would increase from 35 MPH to 45 MPH along the Orange Line, and Riverside Drive which would change the limit from 35 MPH to 40 MPH for its entire length between the Burbank border and Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. The Councilman for the area, Paul Krekorian, wanted a chance for the community to give input on the increases before the proposal went through, and now the increases are back on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting.

So what was the community's feedback? Unsurprisingly, they are concerned that faster speeds for cars will lead to roads that are less safe for pedestrians and cyclists, especially those observing a religious holiday, senior citizens, and school students. Last year, we saw the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council voice similar concerns but that didn't stop speed limits from being increased near schools, places of worship and shopping malls.

Those fighting the limit increases are in for a long haul. As we've seen before, the scapegoat for speed limit increases used by the LADOT and Council is a state law that mandates that a speed survey be completed every five to seven years and that the new limit be set within five miles per hour of the 85th percentile of drivers. Last year, Assemblyman Paul Krekorian sponsored legislation that would have changed the way limits are calculated across the state; but with Krekorian moving his offices from Sacramento to 200 Spring Street, a new leader on this issue has yet to emerge.

I've been corresponding on this issue with staff from Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Mike Eng, who have been nothing but polite and helpful despite the pounding Eng took on this blog after Krekorian's legislation was bottled in his committee last year. When I asked them if any new legislation had been submitted on this issue, they pointed me to committee staff who basically said, "not that we know of." Last week, over 400 pieces of legislation were filed before a 2/16 deadline, but to the best knowledge of both the Chairman's staff and Committee staff, none of them dealt with reforming the way the state looks at speed limit increases.

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Times Covers Coming Metro Cuts, Avoids Mentioning Pols By Name

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times took a look at the coming budget crisis at Metro.  The article just scratches the surface of the issue, correctly noting that there are a lot of reasons for the quarter of a billion dollar operating deficit including the state’s budget grabs, lower than projected sales tax revenue and an 8% decline in ridership from Metro’s record setting year in 2008.

However, while the article is very clear that over $150 million of the $250 million deficit comes from the state’s grab of a fund dedicated to transit operations, it doesn’t name names for who it to blame for that raid.  The word "Schwarzenegger" doesn’t appear.  And, to be fair, while Los Angeles County is home to the last two Assembly Speakers, the current Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, and Chair of a Transportation sub-committee that deals with funding issues; none of these leaders are mentioned or quoted.  Assembly Members Fabian Nunez, Karen Bass, Mike Eng, and Michale Feuer, take a bow.

As has been noted several times, one of the reasons the debate on the Governor’s current transit raid is receiving such a frosty reception compared to previous years is because the press is covering the impact transit cuts state wide are having on riders, especially those that are transit-dependent.  The next step is for the press to start naming names, so that you don’t have to read transportation blogs to be able to pin the blame on the Donkeys and the Governor.

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State Legislative Committees Hold Trio of Hearings Downtown

11_30_09_metrolink.jpgToday the Assembly Select Committee on Rail will discuss transit safety downtown. Wonder how much of the hearing will be on Metrolink? Photo: Gary Se7en/Flickr
So, we are finally past that near relentless series of community meetings for corridors, bullet trains, etc. of the past few months. But don't think you can catch your breathe! We are about to have three legislative hearings on transportation topics, all being held at the Metro Board Room:

Monday, Nov. 30, 1-4 p.m.
An Assessment of Rail Safety and Transportation in L.A. County
Assembly Select Committee on Rail
Assemblymember Mike Davis, Chair

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 1-4 p.m.
High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes II: The Next Generation
Senate Transportation & Housing Committee
Senator Alan Lowenthal, Chair

Friday, Dec. 4, 9:30 a.m.-Noon
Status of Transit in California
Assembly Transportation Committee
Assemblymember Mike Eng, Chair

For those of you who haven't attended one of these before, a few pointers:

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Is It Time for California to Adopt the “3-Feet-Law?”

More and more states are adopting laws that  protect cyclists from passing cars by requiring that cyclists receive a three foot buffer on their left before any vehicle can pass them.  According to a recent USA Today article, fourteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted the three-foot-law and it has already passed one legislative body in New Jersey.

Often times the "Three-Feet-Law" is included in a package of safety laws for .  In Colorado it was accompanied with a law making it illegal to throw bottles at cyclists.  In Wisconsin, it was accompanied by a law spelling out the illegality of "dooring" cyclists, even if it is done "accidently."

Needless to say, California is not one of the states that has the 3-foot-law on the books.  There was an effort in 2006 to pass legislation authored by Assemblyman Nava (D-Santa Barbara) that would have changed state law that currently requires drivers to give cyclists a "safe distance" when passing to one requiring a hard three feet.  However, that legislation died in committee after a lobbying effort from members of the trucking industry and the California Highway Patrol.  The CHP’s opposition should come as no surprise after the group charged with keeping our highways safe lobbied against legislation that would help keep speed limits from being raised by speeders and trips over itself to distribute misinformation about cyclists’ rights.

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Caltrans Working Hard to Speed Up Local Streets

6_30_09_zelzah_ave.jpgZelzah Avenue had it's speed limits raised last month, despite an intense lobbying effort by the Neighborhood Council and cyclists. Photo: Daily News

Tomorrow, new rules governing how municipalities evaluate speed limits on local roads will go into effect.  Unfortunately, these rules allow municipalities even less room than before to resist speed limit changes.  The new rules maintain the backbone of the bad law, speed limits are set based on how fast the "eighty-fifth" percentile of drivers are speeding but still manage to make it harder for municipalities to resist faster streets for pesky reasons like pedestrians or cyclists want to use the street.

Why does Caltrans continue to push rules that sacrifice the safety and livability of communities to speeding cars?  In short, state law directs them to encourage roads efficient only when they are moving as many cars as possible.  A road with a slower than "necessary" speed limit is considered inefficient.  Those people walking or biking aren't considered at all in these engineering surveys, mistakenly referred to as science by car-loving politicians.

The new language requires that speed limits be set at the closest five mile interval to the "eighty-fifth percentile."  Thus, if fifteen percent of all drivers are speeding by 6 miles per hour over the speed limit, the new limit would be ten miles per hour higher than the current one.  Thus, unsafe driving is it's own reward.  The faster and more unsafe people drive, the higher the speed limit will be on their local streets. 

When the "eighty-fifth percentile" rule was first put in place in the 1996 Manual, the rule asked municipalities to set the limit at the first speed limit below the "eighty-fifth percentile."  Thus, even if a driver were going thirty-nine miles per hour, they could set the limit at thirty-five.  Today, that would not be the case.

There is still flexibility for local DOT's to repress the speed limit by five miles per hour off the new speed; but under the new rules there is a new series of hoops that local officials will have to jump through to keep the speed limits lower.  So if the LADOT is willing to do the work, these new rules will have little impact on our streets as speed limit raises roll through the city in the coming years.

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Caltrans on the 710 Tunnel Project: Trust Us, We Know What We’re Doing

Last week, community forums were held in Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge on the proposed project that would construct a tunnel connecting the I-710 and I-210 freeways in Pasadena.  The Glendale News Press reported, in two separate stories, that opposition to the project is as strong as ever and that Caltrans isn't happy that the opposition is speaking up now.

Joining residents in voicing his displeasure was Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who claims that the project would cause "tremendous damage" to his constituent's quality of life.  Najarian also sits on the Metro Board and is scheduled to Chair the Metro Board for the 2010 Fiscal year, beginning in 29 days.  Nearly 250 people attended the two hearings, and most of those in who spoke raised questions about the project's impacts on their lives or opposed it altogether.

The main concern voiced was that completing a connection between the two highways will not only increase traffic on the roads, but also push some of that traffic onto local streets.  In other words, while it may temporarily provide some relief on the highway, it would do so by permanently congesting their local streets.

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How Mike Eng and the Auto Lobby Stalled on Safe Streets

5_12_09_eng.jpgAuto Club spokesman, Asm. Mike Eng
So what happened?

Despite the support of just about everyone in Los Angeles, A.B. 766 didn't muster the support to even come to a vote at the Assembly Transportation Committee Hearing yesterday.  How could such a slam dunk piece of legislation, a bill that would protect cyclists and pedestrians from the increased speeding of drivers, be such a non-starter with the State Legislature?

Unfortunately, the largest slice of the blame can be served to L.A. County Assemblyman and Transportation Committee Chair Mike "the 710 Tunnel Project Is Going to Happen Whether You Like It or Not" Eng and the Los Angeles City Government.  Eng allowed and encouraged the California Highway Patrol to act as an "expert witness" despite their clear disdain for the legislation and accepted their criticisms of "Safer Streets" as fact.  This luxury was not granted to the local police that testified concerning how current law is making their roads inhospitable to everyone, especially those of us that don't use a motor to get around, but including automobile drivers.

As for why the city is to blame, they managed to produce someone from LADOT to advocate concerning legislation that really only effects contractors and the summoned the city's official state lobbyist to stump for Assemblyman Blumenfield's parking legislation; but left the table empty for A.B. 766.  Where was Wendy Greuel, who announced at last week's press conference her intent to travel to Sacrameno and why weren't city lobbyists who were in the room ordered by Villaraigosa to the table?  That left the Enci and Stephen Box and Lieutenant Carl Povilaitis of the Glendale P.D. to do the bulk of the rhetorical lifting against the better recognized "expert" lobbyists from AAA and the Teamsters.  The lack of lobbying power demonstrated by the city has many of us wondering again, does the City really want to see this law changed?

However, none of this would have mattered if it weren't for the clear urban v rural v suburban divide that exists in Sacramento.

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