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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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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.

SRTSmap

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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Bike Advisory Committee: Stop Wasting Time and Money Stalling on Bike Projects

Gil Cedillo campaigned in the Flying Pigeon bike shop and used a picture with the owner in his campaign billboards. Now, Josef Bray-Ali is campaigning hard for Cedillo to fulfill a campaign promise to see bike lanes on North Figueroa Boulevard as the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee calls new studies a waste of time and money. Image: Flying Pigeon

Gil Cedillo campaigned in the Flying Pigeon bike shop and used a picture with the owner in his campaign billboards. Now, Josef Bray-Ali is campaigning hard for Cedillo to fulfill a campaign promise to see bike lanes on North Figueroa Street as the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee calls new studies a waste of time and money. Image: Flying Pigeon

In March of 2011, then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed into law the city’s Bicycle Plan, a list of some 1,600 miles of bicycle lanes, routes, friendly streets and paths scheduled for the next 30 years. In some ways, implementation is going exceedingly well. The pace at which new bicycle lanes are being added exceeds even that of New York City. In other ways, the plan seems stalled as many of the projects that make up the “Backbone Bicycling Network” connecting neighborhoods, are being delayed or canceled as nervous City Councilmembers put up roadblocks to bicycle progress.

And bicyclists aren’t going to stand for it much longer.

On Tuesday night, the city’s official Bicycle Advisory Committee, a body of advocates appointed by individual City Councilmembers and the Mayor’s Office, passed two resolutions (text not available) basically telling the city it’s wasting time and resources by studying and stopping bicycle projects that are already studied and funded.

“In some cases, the City has identified key corridors for bicycle infrastructure and pursued funding for improvements on those corridors, such as the $20 million Proposition 1C grant for the My Figueroa project or Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds,” writes Jeff Jacobberger, a lawyer who chairs the Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“Often, those funds must be spent on that specific street, and cannot be transferred to other projects. When funded projects do not go forward, the money spent on planning and design has been wasted. Moreover, the City’s poor track record of seeing projects through to completion means that it has a harder time competing for future funds.”

The two motions single out proposed bicycle lanes on North Figueroa Street and on Westwood Boulevard, but they could easily apply to projects on Lankershim Boulevard or South Figueroa. Read more…

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Koretz Pushes Expo for a Little Collaboration on the Expo Greenway

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Tomorrow, the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors will hear a motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz requiring “the CEO and staff to work collaboratively with the City of Los Angeles to ensure that the landscaping of the two projects (the Expo Greenway and the landscaping for the Expo Line) compliment each other…”

The Expo Greenway project would transform the area between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue adjacent to the future bikeway and rail project into a sustainable urban greenway that would provide a corridor of native species, a stretch of open space, and a place where rainwater is sustainably moved back to the ground. Original plans called for a large parking lot in the area now slated for a greenway and botanical garden.

For those following the progress of the Expo Greenway for the past six years, this might seem a ho-hum motion. But for those working on the project, it’s big news. For the first time, Expo staff will be compelled to truly work with the City of Los Angeles on this project. While the two projects are still separate, coordination between the City and Expo hasn’t always been smooth. Advocates for the fully-funded bicycle path and other projects have long-complained that staff seems concerned with building a railroad and nothing else.

Koretz’s motion makes it clear that the Greenway is a part of the greater Expo vision, even if it’s not officially part of the Expo Line.

“Our office wants to make sure there is a seamless transition between the two projects,” says Jay Greenstein, the transportation deputy for Paul Koretz. “One day in the future people will visit these projects when they’re completed. Other than the sound wall, we don’t want them to be able to tell the difference between the Los Angeles project and the Expo Line project.”

Jonathan Weiss, a Cheviot Hills resident and long-time advocate for Expo rail and bicycle projects, is considered by many the driving force behind the Greenway.

“Expo was envisioned as multimodal green corridor promoting sustainability of natural resources;  it adapted for the 21st Century a 1930s plan to use parkways to connect recreational open spaces to the beaches.  Paul Koretz motion seeks to create the context for that to happen,”writes Weiss, who represents Koretz on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“We will now have a multi-benefit greenway to provide urban runoff treatment, a simulated stream, green space, native landscaping, a tree-lined vegetative buffer, a bikeway, access to public transit, and educational and recreational opportunities.” Read more…

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Portraits in Courage: Paul Koretz Edition

Still from a ##https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir1faPsFRzE&feature=youtube_gdata_player##Question and Answer## session with the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association.

Paul Koretz isn’t known for always making good decisions. Here he grabs a sombrero and bandana to answer questions because he was in a Mexican restaurant. Still from a Question and Answer session with the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association.

There’s been a lot of controversy about Paul Koretz’ decision to pull the plug on a study of a floating bike lane for Westwood Boulevard, even though he had previously promised a full study before making a decision. Now, via the Daily Bruin we have an explanation for his decision.

“I looked at the issue and heard a firestorm of opposition from the community,” Koretz said. “I decided at the end of the day that regardless of what the study reported, it would be unlikely that I would support it.”

I can’t help but wonder what other decisions the Councilmember might make if there were enough community opposition before having all of the facts. Selling out the safety of cyclists along a particularly dangerous stretch of road was easy enough. If you have any ideas on where the ceiling is for Koretz caving, please let us know in the comments section.

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Bicycle supporters storm City Hall to demand a fair and honest study of bike lanes on Westwood Blvd

CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz was there, but was he listening?

CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz was at today’s council session, but was he listening? Photo by Eric Bruins.

Amid calls for more Americans to arm themselves and not to miss Ender’s Game, a handful of concerned citizens fought for safer streets for Westside bike riders.

Acting on less than 24 hours notice, 10 bike lane supporters managed to free their morning to speak to the LA City Council, and take CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz to task for publicly coming out against any form of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, despite earlier promises to keep an open mind while a study — since halted at his request — was underway.

In fact, half of the speakers at today’s council session were there to support a resumption of that study, punctuated by calls from other speakers in support of getting drunk, arming private citizens and pimping Hollywood productions.

Many made a point of reminding Koretz of his previous support for bicycling, as well as the council’s unanimous vote in approving the 2010 bike plan, which included bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard as a key part of the citizen-inspired Backbone Network.

Jonathon Weiss, Koretz’ representative on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and chair of the BAC’s Advocacy and Education Committee, urged the council not to “break the Backbone on Westwood, which would inevitably lead to broken bones on the boulevard.”

Meanwhile, BAC chair Jeff Jacobberger urged the council to complete the study of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard that Koretz had halted before it could be completed. “If there’s anyplace we should be exploring for bike lanes, Westwood Blvd is it.”

Long-time LA bike advocate George Wolfberg reminded the council that improving bike safety and transportation on the Westside — particularly on Westwood itself — has been a focus of the committee since he was a member 30 years ago.

UCLA student Lee pointed out that hundreds of cyclists ride Westwood every day, with over 800 riders injured in collisions on the street in the past decade. Meanwhile, fellow student Megan Kavanagh, who is working on her Masters degree in nursing at the university, framed it as a public health issue. And said that, even as a Licensed Cycling Instructor, she’s afraid to ride on Westwood because she gets harassed the entire way — including drivers who threatened to kill her simply for being in their way. Read more…

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Homeowners Kill Study of Westwood Blvd Bike Lanes, as Councilmember Koretz Caves in

Westwood Blvd 1

There’s no room for bikes on Westwood Blvd, but many bicyclists are forced to ride there anyway.

Last week, CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz announced that he was opposed to any efforts to install a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard, despite earlier promises to study the issue.

Westwood resident Calla Weimer has been an insightful and outspoken dissenter to the local Homeowner Association’s opposition to the bike lanes. Today she voices her reaction to Koretz’ backpedalling, as bike lane supporters prepare to storm today’s city council meeting in protest of the decision.

An urban transportation system must function as a network.  What are the implications for that network when the leadership of a neighborhood homeowners group can influence their city councilmember to dictate to LADOT that a six block stretch of roadway should not even be the object of study for bike lanes?  That is exactly what has happened with the segment of Westwood Blvd that runs between Santa Monica and Pico.  In response to pressure from the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners’ Association (WSSM HOA), Councilmember Koretz declared in a letter dated November 13, 2013 that he “will not be supporting the exploration of the floating bike lane concept nor other options for bike lanes along this crucial commercial corridor.”  This reverses his previous authorization for LADOT to proceed with study of the floating bike lane design, as announced to the WSSM HOA at its annual meeting in June.

Westwood Blvd 2

Bike riders forced to take the lane at rush hour.

As dangerous as this segment of Westwood Blvd is for cyclists, you would think transportation planners would give serious consideration to any proposal that could improve safety.  In 2011, six cyclists were involved in collisions with motor vehicles along this 0.8 mile stretch.  Westwood Blvd is already a major cycling corridor leading to a terminus at UCLA, and its importance for cycling will soon get a boost with the opening of an Expo Line station right on Westwood Blvd little more than two miles from the university campus.  The station will offer no car parking, so the bicycle connection is fundamental to its purpose.  All the more reason, you would think, that planners should focus on this stretch of roadway now, with an eye to how it integrates into transit upgrades.

In halting the study, Councilmember Koretz gave reasons that echoed concerns voiced by the WSSM HOA leadership.  He worries that the floating bike lane design is “far too confusing”.  The design has in fact already been implemented and judged successful in San Francisco.  I hope we can reject any suggestion that Angelenos are more prone to confusion than our neighbors to the north.  The Councilmember further cited his “realization that even this concept would have substantial negative impacts on the movement of traffic, and would cause significant changes for parking conditions along this corridor.”  The impact on parking is clear enough – the only change is that parking during the evening peak shifts from the west side of the street to the east side.  While east side businesses may appreciate this parking windfall, they have long managed without it, and their west side counterparts should be presumed no less adaptive.  Many businesses on the street close by 5pm anyway.  As for “substantial negative impacts on the movement of traffic”, this is precisely the kind of assessment that should be taken on by the professionals at LADOT, not left to the “realization” of a casual observer eyeballing the street (even if that observer is a councilmember).

The problem here is one of process.  Rightfully, the Councilmember at the outset promised community members a study to be followed by informed discussion.  His deputy for transportation urged members of the WSSM HOA bike committee to refrain from outreach activity until the study was completed.  The Deputy’s e-mail of June 18, 2013 reads as follows: Read more…

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Westwood Boulevard: We Have To Stop Doing Bike Planning for Cars

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he's posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:##http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/07/16/27755/405-shutdown-carmageddon-live-updates/##KPCC##

Though a sometimes cyclist himself, CD5 CM Paul Koretz angeres a lot of riders by vetoing bike lanes on Westwood Blvd. Photo:KPCC

Yesterday, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton broke the news that plans for bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard between National and Santa Monica, were, in effect, dead in the water.

According to the story, CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz had unexpectedly come out in opposition to the lanes. And given the exceptional power LA councilmembers have over what does or doesn’t get built in their districts, his opposition alone is probably enough to kill the plans.

Last night, Koretz’ office released a statement confirming his stand against the lanes, which was forwarded in an email from the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners’ Association, most of whose members have strongly opposed the project. While the statement came through a third party, a representative from Koretz’ office has confirmed its accuracy and authenticity.

November 13, 2013

As I announced early this year, I support exploring the option of bike lanes along Sepulveda Blvd. north from National Blvd.

At that time, I also stated my opposition to a proposal for bike lanes on Westwood Blvd.

I was subsequently approached by representatives of the cycling community, who requested that the City investigate a second and possibly less intrusive floating bike lane concept, to be employed on Westwood Blvd.

I appreciate that the cycling community has been contemplative and creative in arriving at such a suggested
option, but I have come to the realization that even this concept would have substantial negative impacts on the movement of traffic, and would cause significant changes for parking conditions along this corridor. I have also received critical input from many in the community who are certain that a floating bike lane along

Westwood Blvd. would prove far too confusing and disruptive for motorists and cyclists alike, and is therefore untenable.

Consequently, I will not be supporting the exploration of the floating bike lane concept nor other options for bike lanes along this crucial commercial corridor.

I will support further investigation of the viability of Sepulveda as a corridor for bicycle infrastructure, 
and/or the exploration of other north/south residential corridors if they can be made viable.

………

However, many supporters of the Westwood bike lanes have questioned parts of that statement, particularly the conclusion that the lanes would be disruptive to traffic.

Which traffic, he does not say, since bike lanes would only enhance bicycle traffic on the boulevard.

Read more…

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Major Blowback from City Council Members Over Leimert Park Funding Plan

Sometimes when things sound too good to be true... Image: Fix Expo

A new Metro Board report released to the public on Monday details where Metro found the $120 million needed to build the Leimert Park Station for the Crenshaw Line, and many people aren’t happy. In fact, Los Angeles City Council Members Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl are so unhappy, they introduced a motion yesterday that could force a new showdown over the oddly controversial light rail station. (The full motion is available on our Sribd account and available after the jump.)

The staff report recommends funding the station by moving Measure R funds from the Metro Call for Projects ($62 million), LAX airport connector ($48 million) and Wilshire Bus Only Lanes ($10 million) to pay for the station. The Call for Projects has traditionally been a place where “traffic reduction” projects including local bicycle and pedestrian projects are funded, as well as some less useful projects such as left-hand turn lane widening and other stealth capacity enhancements.

According to City Council staff, the report hit like a lightning bolt. They were never given a heads up from Metro that projects inside their districts could lose a large portion of their Measure R funds.

“I was totally blindsided by this, and we discovered this proposal not by a phone call from Metro but rather by reading the staff report,” writes Bill Rosendahl, the Council Member representing the LAX airport area and a portion of the Wilshire Bus Only Lane Corridor.

“The City of Los Angeles and Metro are here to serve the public and the public is not being served when a unilateral decision is made to deobligate $118 million in City of LA projects without so much as a phone call.  It’s my hope that Metro will step up and open a dialogue with my office and the rest of my Council colleagues so we can reach an agreeable solution.”

Last month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced that funding had been “found” to build a train station in Leimert Park as part of the soon-to-be-constructed Crenshaw Line. The community and many transit advocates rejoiced. Two years earlier, the dream of a Leimert Park Station seemed denied when the Metro Board of Directors surprisingly passed a budget for the project that did not include the station.

For many transit and community advocates, the report raises new questions about whether the new station is worth the trade-off. The harshest condemnation of the report comes from someone who might, at first, seem an unlikely source.

“The Crenshaw Subway Coalition does not support the staff’s proposed financial plan,” writes Damien Goodmon, the executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. “It has become clear over the past few weeks that Art Leahy and staff have made several illogical and indefensible decisions that have gotten the project to this point, and the financial plan is just the latest. We do not think our friends in the South Bay or Wilshire bus riders should be forced to compensate for the professional incompetence of Art Leahy and his staff.”

But not every transit advocate agrees. Read more…

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Quiet Election in Council District 5 as Koretz Faces Off with Mark Matthew Herd

(Over the next couple of weeks, Streetsblog L.A. will strive to cover all of the City Council elections that are not part of the Streetsblog TV schedule. Our next piece of election coverage will be Live Streaming the LACBC/Occidental College CD 1 Candidate Forum on Streetsblog TV this Sunday.)

Just a couple of years ago, the election to replace Jack Weiss in City Council District 5, which includes Westwood, Fairfax, Bel Air, and more was a hot one for Livable Streets advocates. On one hand,  you had former West Hollywood Mayor and AIDS Life Cycle participant Paul Koretz against David Vahedi, a lawyer who succesfully sued the City of Los Angeles for dangerous non-maintenance of bike paths. The race came down to a runoff and was close until the end. Koretz won.

A rare shot of the former Life Cycle rider and his bike. Photo:KPCC

This time, Koretz faces Mark Herd, a little known opponent who it appears designed his website in 1998. Since this race will mostly be about the incumbent, Streetsblog presents a brief look at his record.

Over the last four years, Koretz has been a dependable vote on Livability Issues, usually voting for safer streets, better pedestrian design and more bike lanes. In 2010, he was one of the Council Members who pushed the Planning Department to do more than the bare minimum when drafting the Bike Plan. His letter to City Planning earned high marks from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition who called it “Outstanding.”

More recently, Koretz backed the new Motor Avenue bike lanes that are already providing safer commutes through the western part of his district for hundreds of cyclists a day. While some in the surrounding community grumbled that the lanes created a choke point for car traffic, Koretz stood his ground.

Not only is his apointee to the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee one of the most active and engaged members, his chief transportation deputy Jay Greenstein attends nearly every meeting, the only member of L.A. City government to do so.

Koretz’s record on transit projects is perhaps more mixed. Read more…