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Posts from the "Editorial" Category

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Five Key Tips For Metro Regarding Safe Bus-Bike Interactions

Early last week, Michael MacDonald posted his helmet-camera video showing a Metro bus driver veering rightward into his path, then braking. The incident occurred on Adams Boulevard near Hauser. When MacDonald confronted the driver, he responds dismissively and closes the bus window.

The video bounced around the bike corner of cyberspace. It was picked up by Biking in L.A. who called it “a perfect test case for the city’s cyclist anti-harassment ordinance.” The footage ran on Univision and CBS.

There are other similar videos online. Below is one that took place on Santa Monica Boulevard, from YouTube user Wes + Bikes.

Though it doesn’t get recorded on video often, I can personally confirm that this sort of merge conflict happens to lots of L.A. cyclists very frequently, especially those of us intrepid enough to “take the lane” on L.A.’s busier arterial bus-route streets. Yesterday, I bicycled from Koreatown to Downtown L.A. and had two transit vehicles merge into my path, one a Metro Bus and the other an LADOT DASH Shuttle. Public agency bus merges are frequent, as they get over to the curb to pick up passengers, but I’ve also been cut off by plenty of private vehicles, especially near freeway on-ramps, and  driveways. Read more…

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Just How Great Will Those Great Streets Initiative Sites Become?

Mayor Garcetti announced six Great Streets, including Figueroa pictured here, that will become more accessible to wheelchairs, pedestrians, strollers and bicycles. photo Flying Pigeon L.A.

North Figueroa Street is on Mayor Garcetti’s new Great Streets Initiative list. Photo: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Yesterday and today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the sites for his Great Streets Initiative. The mayor’s Streets initiative now has an initial budget of $800,000. SBLA previewed six of these Great Streets announced during Garcetti’s State of the City address. The full list now includes 15 street segments, one per City Council District. Here is how Garcetti describes Great Streets:

We’ll saturate your street with services. We’ll make your street accessible to pedestrians, wheelchairs, strollers and bicycles–not just cars. We’ll create an environment where new neighborhood businesses can flourish. We’ll pave the streets and make them green streets — clean and lush with plant life, local art, and people-focused plazas.

Below is the list, from yesterday’s L.A. Times article:

District 1: North Figueroa Street between Avenue 50 and Avenue 60
District 2: Lankershim Boulevard between Chandler and Victory boulevards
District 3: Sherman Way between Wilbur and Lindley avenues
District 4: Western Avenue between Melrose Avenue and 3rd Street
District 5: Westwood Boulevard between Le Conte Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard
District 6: Van Nuys Boulevard between Victory Boulevard and Oxnard Street
District 7: Van Nuys Boulevard between Laurel Canyon Boulevard and San Fernando Road
District 8: Crenshaw Boulevard between 78th Street and Florence Avenue
District 9: Central Avenue between MLK Boulevard and Vernon Avenue
District 10: Pico Boulevard between Hauser Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue
District 11: Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard
District 12: Reseda Boulevard between Plummer Street and Parthenia Avenue
District 13: Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue & Gower Street
District 14: Cesar Chavez Avenue between Evergreen Avenue and St. Louis Street
District 15: Gaffey Street between 15th Street & the 110 Freeway


View Great Streets Initiative in a larger map

The street mileage is listed here. The total mileage is 12.4 miles.

I want to be excited about any effort to make streets more livable, more walkable, and more bikeable, but frankly the initiative feels a little timid. One step forward for every dozen-plus steps backward.

Read more…

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Editorial: Five Changes To Make A Better Los Angeles Mobility Plan

Adverse environmental and health impacts of Los Angeles transportation systems. From L.A. City's draft Mobility Plan.

Adverse environmental, health, and economic impacts of Los Angeles transportation systems. The city’s draft plan still has a way to go to address these big problems. Image from L.A. City’s draft Mobility Plan.

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and finalize your comment submissions for Los Angeles City’s draft Mobility Plan. To learn about the plan, read through plenty of SBLA coverage and review source documents at the project website. Perhaps also read Flying Pigeon’s scathing critique of the plan as a “morally bankrupt symbol of a crumbling society.”

Mobility Plan Comments are due next week: Tuesday May 13th, 2014.

Commenting is important, because I expect that L.A.’s car-centric mainstream will be asking to just keep widening roads and adding more parking spaces. To approve a plan that actually embraces L.A.’s livable future, the city needs to hear from lots of people who want to bike, walk and ride transit. Even if you just comment that you’re a cyclist and you want a plan that keeps you safe, please submit a comment! Submit your comments various ways, probably easiest via email to my.la [at] lacity.org.

Here are five changes I’d like to see made to the plan.

1 – Explicitly Prioritize Mobility Equity Investments In Low Income Areas

As emphasized by Multicultural Communities for Mobility’s Betty Avila, the new mobility plan needs some equity. Transportation investments need to improve mobility, health, and quality of life for Los Angeles’ under-served low-income communities of color.

Advocates fought for inclusion of equity in prioritization of bicycle facilities in the 2010 Bike Plan. On Chapter 4, page 97, the Bike Plan includes a “Bicycle Funding Priority Grading System” which prioritizes bicycle transportation investments in low income areas and also, though less fleshed-out, areas with greatest traffic fatalities and injuries. Though this prioritization system hasn’t been front and center in the mostly-opportunistic bike plan implementation, today it is Los Angeles City policy.

With the proposed Mobility Plan overlaying the approved bike plan, lots of bike-specific programs are being lost, including deletion of this policy to prioritize equity. The new draft Mobility Plan appears to attempt to create a seemingly neutral level playing field. All transportation modes, from walking to bicycling to transit to driving, are upheld together. All L.A. neighborhoods are weighted equally. In the past, this one-size-fits-all approach has led to plenty of car-centric investment privileging haves and degrading have-nots.

The draft Mobility Plan maps out investments in improving conditions for walking, riding transit, and bicycling. Though there are needs for safer and better streets in all L.A. neighborhoods, it makes more sense for the city to spend more of its scarce pedestrian safety dollars in pedestrian-oriented areas, such as Boyle Heights and MacArthur Park, and less in car-centric areas, such as Pacific Palisades.

The plan needs to explicitly prioritize transit, bicycle, and pedestrian investment in under-served areas. The plan needs to include some sort of equity lens, at a minimum like the Bicycle Funding Priority Grading System, preferably something even more effective.

L.A.'s City Planning Department thinks that adding more traffic to these streets will be a good idea. The "Vehicle Enhanced Network" mapped on page 29 of the Mobility Atlas component of L.A.'s proposed Transportation Plan.

L.A.’s City Planning Department thinks that adding more traffic to these streets will be a good idea. The “Vehicle Enhanced Network” mapped on page 29 of the Mobility Atlas component of L.A.’s proposed Transportation Plan.

2 – Delete the Vehicle Enhanced Network

On page 66 of the draft Mobility Plan, after a preamble that laments how poor little Los Angeles didn’t quite build enough freeways, there’s an assertion that a handful of Los Angeles streets actually do need even more cars. Really.

The draft plan calls these streets a “Vehicle Enhanced Network” or VEN. These streets would get features including: more turning restriction, more peak-hour parking restricted lanes, and reverse flow lanes.

VEN streets, mapped on page 29 of the plan’s Mobility Atlas, include Sunset Blvd, Gaffey Street, Victory Boulevard, La Cienega and even Alameda Street in downtown L.A.

The VEN, in one form or another, has been a staple of Los Angeles City transportation planning since roughly the 1920s. After a hundred years of death, injury, smog, greenhouse gas emissions, and erosion of the quality of life in our neighborhoods, do L.A.’s city planners still believe the lie that shoehorning a few more cars onto any of our streets will make anything better or healthier?

Los Angeles spent the last century enhancing its vehicle network, and even drivers aren’t so happy with the results. It’s time to set that failed idea aside.

Sadly, even if the Mobility Plan doesn’t call for continuing to upgrade L.A.’s car capacity, momentum from lots of other forces in play will continue L.A.’s century-long more-cars-everywhere project into the foreseeable future. Car-centric priorities remain embedded in plenty of funding, policy, and “technical” specifics at the city, county, region, state, and federal levels. They don’t need to be in this vision plan, too.

3 – Explicitly End Road Widening

On page 111, the draft Mobility Plan states:

[W]ider roads can result in adverse environmental, public health, and fiscal impacts. Wider roads are more expensive to maintain and enable driving at faster speeds in the short term, which leads to more pollution, noise, and higher risks to bicyclists and pedestrians in the long term.

Many cities, including Pasadena, have explicitly abandoned the expensive and deadly practice of continually reflexively widening roadways. The city of Los Angeles has ended widening downtown, but still continues the destructive practice throughout the rest of the city.  Read more…

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If A Tree Falls In A #RoadBond, Do Editorial Writers Hear?

Trees are just one amenity that this RoadBond really needs. photo: Thue via Wikimedia

Trees are just one “amenity” that L.A.’s RoadBond really needs. photo: Thue via Wikimedia

Today’s Los Angeles Times has two editorials that don’t quite go together.

In the editorial South L.A. needs trees, the Times reviews tree removal underway for Metro’s Crenshaw rail line. Almost channeling their inner Lorax, the Times lauds the city and county’s “ambitious post-construction plans” for “planting twice as many trees as they remove, and adding seating, lighting and walkways.” The Times values South L.A.’s trees for “fighting against drought, desert climate, urban blight and concrete streets.”

Indeed, trees are critical for urban livability. Especially for pedestrians and transit riders, trees provide much needed shade. Trees are often an important buffer between pedestrian space and vehicle space. They clean air and water, and lessen noise pollution.  

On the other hand, the editorial Fixing L.A.’s asphalt jungle won’t come cheap isn’t so keen on those same tree, seating, and walkway “amenities.”

(SBLA tries hard not to use that a-word to describe important infrastructure for biking, walking, or transit. When was the last time someone called a parking lot or a freeway an amenity? Who ever heard of a “car amenity”? Just googled it and they do exist – stuff like jeweled hubcaps – but amenity is nearly never used to publicly funded car infrastructure. We digress.)

Here’s what the Times editorial has to say:

Los Angeles’ streets are a potholed mess and its sidewalks are cracked and jagged. Some 35% of the streets have been given a failing grade by the Bureau of Street Services, and a city consultant estimates it will cost nearly $3.9 billion to fix the worst of them. Add to that the cost of repairing the sidewalks and the tab jumps to $4.5 billion.

In the past, City Council members have floated the idea of a bond measure, to be approved by voters and repaid by property owners, to cover the cost of repairs. [...] Community groups have since called for the proposal to also include sidewalk repairs, street trees, streetscapes, “green streets” to absorb storm water, “complete streets” that incorporate bicycle and pedestrian enhancements — all great amenities, but ones that could increase the project’s cost and complexity. City leaders must define their mission. Is it to fix crumbling asphalt? Or remake L.A.’s urban landscape? Can both be done affordably?

Should livability fans be happy that at least there’s sidewalk icing on this asphalt cake? Should those pesky “community groups” be content that bike and walk stuff are at least “great amenities”? The Times could have called them “lousy amenities.”

Read more…

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In a Low Key Piece, the L.A. Times Shows How It’s Done When It Comes to Discussing Traffic Enforcement

Today, the Los Angeles Times published its own opinion piece by Robert Greene of the #roadsharela team discussing the reality that drivers are too often excused for behavior that endangers or even kills cyclists and pedestrians. While Greene’s piece doesn’t offer prescriptions or bash the police and prosecutors for their boredom whenever a person is killed in the street by a vehicle.

spring street

Photo: LACBC

Greene’s piece is a pretty quick read, and the format is easy to follow: some storytelling from attendees at the California Bike Summit, a quick review of some prescriptions, and an even quicker show of support.

The Los Angeles Times’ column won’t attract the attention that the New York Times op/ed did this weekend, and that’s too bad. Greene manages to stay away from inflammatory headlines, victim blaming, silly graphics or the now-obligatory paragraph castigating the rampant law-breaking that apparently the vast majority of cyclists do hundreds of times everyday just to annoy opinion columnists and message board contributors.

Heck, the L.A. Times story even uses an image from a recent Ovarian Psycos ride without commenting on the lack of helmets being worn by the riders.

And that’s a good thing.

The problem with the New York Times piece which doesn’t appear in the L.A. Times piece is there is no false equivalency. As has been pointed out in Streetsblog, Biking in L.A. and Bike Snob, the New York Times, while bravely stating it is not o.k. to intentionally kill a cyclist, still paints the problem of cops not enforcing the law as partially “the cyclists” fault. Read more…

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CEQA Opponents Incorrectly Point to Expo Lawsuit as Reason to Weaken CEQA

Progress continues on the Expo Phase II bridge over Venice Boulevard....or Does It? Photo: Gökhan Esirgen

Over the past week, I’ve been studying CEQA and the politics behind the various reform efforts to better report on what’s happening in Sacramento as Senator Darrell Steinberg’s SB 731 moves through the legislature. I’ve stumbled on some amazing arguments over that time, but none are quite as amazing as the one made by economist John Husing of Economics and Politics Inc. on behalf of the pro-business CEQA Working Group.

To make his case that CEQA lawsuits are bad for business and jobs, Husing goes through the brief history of Expo Phase II’s long environmental process, and the ultimately unsuccessful CEQA lawsuit brought by Neighbors for Smart Rail. Then Husing laments the job creation delayed while the lawsuit played out.

For this group of occupations, the  NIMBY lawsuit led to the equivalent of 679 prevailing wage workers not having jobs for 3½  years. The overall impact has been as follows (Exhibit 1):

  • $51.53 is the weighted average of the median hourly wage & benefit levels of the six  categories of prevailing wage jobs that were delayed.
  • Nearly all of the workers will earn from $50-$60 in wages & benefits except laborers  ($47.39).
  • The “other” category was the average of median hourly wages and benefits ($51.49) of  teamsters, sheet metal workers, plumbers and pipe fitters.
  • 1,358,335 hours of work will eventually be created at the prevailing wage & benefit rates  of the various occupations.
  • 679 full time equivalent jobs have been delayed. That is 1,358,335 hours of work spread = across 40 hours a day or 33,958 full time weeks of work. For a 50 week year, that means  679 full time equivalent jobs have been affected. The most were 281 laborers, 155  operating engineers, 66 carpenters and 62 iron workers The least was the equivalent of 55 
  • full time cement workers.
  • The weighted average wage & benefit earnings of the workers whose jobs were held up  will be $103,067 over the period of construction.

This is a completely compelling argument, or rather it would be if it were true. Somehow, Husing missed that no court ever issued a stay of construction on Expo Phase II and work has continued since design was completed. In other words, all the statistics presented above are completely wrong in every possible way.

While Husing’s mistake is lamentable, it gets even more outrageous when repeated by an editor for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Read more…

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The Los Angeles Times Wonders What Can Be Done About Freeway Pollution

This Freeway in San Diego is part of the problem. Is part of the solution building more freeways in San Diego? Image: San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers

The Los Angeles Times published a remarkable editorial today questioning why so little is done about the public health crisis caused by Southern California’s reliance on freeway travel. However, either because of confusion or lack of will, the editorial stops short of proposing any real solutions to the crisis. It merely note it exists.

The first step, is admitting you have a problem.

The Times reports:

University research over the years has found substantially worse air pollution adjacent to freeways, and worse health among nearby residents as well. A 2005 USC study concluded that children who lived within a quarter of a mile of a freeway were 89% more likely to have asthma than those living a mile away. The closer they lived to freeways, the higher the asthma rates. But these university studies, though they added to our collective knowledge, did not affect government regulations.

While the Times earns kudos for talking about the danger posed to those living near freeways, there are two points left out of the editorial that are crucial to understanding why freeway pollution is ignored in policy settings and informs just how difficult a battle to reign in said pollution will be.

The first is that there are powerful interests that want to see the current transportation system, a system that literally cripples and enfeebles the people that live near it, continued. Oil companies, car manufacturers, construction unions, are just some of the giants that will fight meaningful change in transportation policy unless the new policy involves clean car programs.

For examples, Xcel Energy is looking to pervert the democratic process in Boulder, Colorado because the city wants to convert to clean power. Locally, AAA and car dealerships have eschewed the public process to pull the levers of power behind the scene to attempt to block a road diet and protected bike lanes plan on South Figueroa Street.

The second problem missed by the Times is that the people whose lives are devastated by the pollution creating freeways are not the people creating the pollution. Traditionally, the communities dissected by asphalt scalpels are the poorest and least likely to wield power behind-the-scenes. Not coincidentally, they are also least likely to own cars and travel on a freeway for work/recreation/whatever. Read more…

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The Daily News Does It Again: Editorial Recognizes Dense Areas Need Progressive Planning

The Daily News Editorial Board has been on a role recently.  The paper, which is the second largest daily newspaper in Los Angeles behind the Los Angeles Times but well ahead of the Daily Breeze or The Wave papers, is undergoing a livable streets renaissance in its editorial page.

Today’s editorial, not the one on a certain baseball team and a certain point guard, focuses on the need to plan transportation networks differently for areas that are densely packed with residents.  Especially when residents are growing older, and are less likely to drive, and the younger generation is turning away from having driver’s licenses.

An excerpt:

But most of the region’s cities – including downtown Los Angeles, where 70,000 people now live – are poorly set up for what planners call “the first and last mile” of getting to public transit. The sidewalks are narrow. The streetscapes are entirely designed for automobiles and trucks, not for walkers or bicyclists. They are not at all ready in our infrastructure for the way the future generation says it wants to live.

Southern California has some planning to do.

I don’t know what’s going on in the Daily News newsroom, maybe Dakota Smith is spiking the water, but a paper known for its conservative views may actually be the most progressive when it comes to planning for livable communities.

 

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Daily News: More Measure R Funds for Bikeways

The Daily News, which still appears to be the conservative alternative to the Los Angeles Times in many respects, published an editorial earlier today calling on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to bicycle planning.  The message: it’s not enough just to pass a bike plan, how about spending some of your own transportation dollars to make it a reality.

Click on the image to see the plan.

For too long, those doling out transportation dollars have given preference to projects that benefit motorists, ignoring projects that would encourage use of alternative and environmentally friendly alternatives such as human-powered bikes and scooters…

County officials absolutely should tap Measure R for the bike plan. Voters endorsed the half-cent sales tax in order to build projects that can ease traffic and offer community alternatives. This is one of the few that comes with a small price tag.

Measure R is expected to raise $40 billion over 30 years. Surely there’s a few hundred million for building the region’s first system of bike-riding routes.

Earlier this week, the Supes passed the county’s own surprising-progressive bike plan which includes over 237 miles of bike lanes, 23 miles of bike boulevards (not “bike friendly streets”) and 832 miles of total bikeway improvements in the unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County.

While it’s unlikely that the Metro Board of Directors will make a change to the Measure R funding scheme, the Daily News’ editorial could be an important tool for bike advocates making a case for a portion of the funding pie in any “Measure R+” sales tax measure that goes on the ballot this fall.

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Welcome to L.A. Mr. President, Daily News Offers Mixed, Mostly Positive, Message on Transportation

By now, Air Force One is probably on its way to Los Angeles with President Obama, taking a tough line on transportation, onboard.  As the debate on how

The Mayor and the President share a laugh in 2006. Photo: Los Angeles Times

America should invest in transportation, and the President makes headlines for a ten year $476 billion plan and a threat to veto the “horse and buggy” legislation of the House Republicans, he hits Los Angeles to make some local headlines and raise some cash for re-election.

And the Daily News wasn’t going to miss it’s chance to make a statement.

In a mostly positive editorial on the President’s vision, the News’ editors lay out the stakes of the debate:

The debate on the proper role of government in transportation funding easily could break down along partisan lines. The Obama administration is touting its surface-transportation plan as part of the “blueprint for an America built to last” that the president outlined in his state of the union address; and advocates of nonautomobile transit accuse tightfisted Republicans of waging war on an inevitable future. Republicans are concerned about spending too much.

It’s more complicated than that. It’s about how much the nation and state should spend. But, just as important, also about how to spend it.

As I said, the article is a mixed bag.  It wouldn’t be the Daily News without a shot at High Speed Rail:

The Obama administration’s doubled-down support for the California bullet train should rile those who, rightfully, question the project. Public support for the plan to link Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area at speeds of up to 220 mph has fallen since last year’s new projections of a higher price tag (nearly $100 billion), longer construction schedule and lower ridership. But U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been urging state leaders to push ahead.

However, the most interesting part of the editorial is the end.  Instead of framing the debate as the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party wants, a car versus rail debate, but a high speed rail versus local rail debate:

Should money be spent on the grand plan for a bullet train covering hundreds of miles sometime in the future, or on local transit solutions that will get drivers off the 405 Freeway sooner?

Honk if you look forward to that debate.

Honk.