When Santa Monica Takes Traffic Surveys, They Slow Streets Down

8_18_09_olympic.jpgPhoto of Olympic Blvd. in Santa Monica via Friends 4 Expo

Recently, the City of Santa Monica completed a series of speed surveys on it’s streets, as required by state law.  The result might be a surprise to people that have followed the inability of the City of Los Angeles to maintain lower speed limits when these surveys are done.  In Santa Monica, fourteen street locations are seeing their speed limits lowered while speeds will be increased in only two areas: on
Colorado Avenue between Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard and on
Second Street between Wilshire and Colorado.

So what’s the difference between Santa Monica and the Valley?  The main difference is that the road design is almost completely different.  When I’m traveling down streets such as Ocean or Main, I can’t help but notice that almost every intersection has a marked crosswalk.  Several of the streets that are being slowed down have bike lanes, or at least signage encouraging cyclists to use the road. 

It’s true that some streets are seeing an increase in some areas, but that’s not a bad sign when one looks at the entire picture.  Santa Monica is controlling traffic flow by the way they design their streets.  They slow down traffic in many places and speed it up in a few others which will encourage automobile traffic away from the more pedestrian friendly areas.

That’s a process that will lead to slower traffic speeds and slower speed limits when the time comes to do a state-mandated traffic survey.

In the Valley, we’ve seen almost no efforts to control traffic speeds and then a helpless shrug of the shoulder when the community is outraged that they’re local streets are being made less safe by faster speeding cars.  The community may succeed in stalling the increases, but when the LADOT enlists the aid of the local division of the LAPD, who can’t use radar to enforce limits unless they comply with the survey, eventually the City Council approves the speed limit increases.  Over a dozen Valley Streets have had their limits increased, with more on the way.

While the efforts of Assemblyman Krekorian to change the laws regarding speed limits are laudable, what would be better would be a culture change at LADOT to commit to designing roads that are built for all users.  A road designed for commuters, visitors and the local community will naturally see its speed limits maintained or lowered, even under the state’s somewhat inflexible law that allows speeders to set the speed limit.

As much as we can appreciate what the City of Santa Monica is doing, it’s not exactly a secret how to design safe streets.  Why just earlier today I read an op/ed in the Boston Globe that outlines such designs.  Maybe we should buy LADOT a subscription?

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