Vroom! Three New Speed Limit Increases Come to City Council

3_22_10_hollywood.jpgPhoto: -db-/Flickr

The move to speed up Los Angeles’ streets continues unabated.  Less than a week after hundreds of people gathered at the L.A. StreetSummit to discuss how to tame traffic and make Los Angeles’ streets more livable, the City Council Transportation Committee is expected to hear, debate, and pass three speed limit increases in the San Fernando Valley at 2:00 p.M. this Wednesday in City Hall.  In a way, its kind of a sobering crash back to reality.  After a week of being reminded of what could be, activists are back to where we are…fighting speed limit increases that represent the exact opposite kind of thinking to what we talked about all weekend.

So what streets are up for a change? 

First up is Arleta
Avenue, in the Arleta community.  In the stretch
between Devonshire Street and Roscoe Boulevard, a cool
three and a quarter miles, the speed limit will be increased from
thirty-five to forty miles per hour so that radar enforcement of the
limit can be maintained. LADOT documented their efforts to
contact the local Neighborhood Council without getting much in return. 
It would have been nice if they had made the effort with other groups
that operate in that area, but this is where we are.  The Arleta Community is represented by Paul Krekorian in City Hall, who in the past has insisted that the neighborhood be involved in this process.  Whether the Neighborhood Council being asleep at the switch changes his view remains to be seen.   You can read all about the Arleta Avenue increase, here.

Next are two streets in Sun Valley, which is in the sixth Councilmanic District represented by Tony Cardenas.  The first is the world
famous "Hollywood Way" between Burbank city limits and Glen Oaks
Boulevard; which would also see an increase from thirty five to forty
miles per hour.  The local LAPD first signed off on the increase in
March of 2007, three years ago.  There’s some irony with this
particular increase, because just last week, Burbank implemented a road
diet on some of its local streets…which is the exact opposite of
increasing the speed limits as Los Angeles plans to do right up to Burbank’s doorstep.  You can read more about this proposal, here.

Last up is another increase from thirty five to forty miles per hour on Sheldon Street between Glen Oaks Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard.  This time, residents expressed concern that the area included a school zone, but LADOT assured them that the zone could and would remain at twenty-five miles per hour and signs would warn drivers as they approached.  How having drivers drop their speed limit fifteen miles per hour in a short period of time is safer than the way the street is now is beyond me, but that has never been taken into account in the state law.  You can read more about this proposal, here.

At least this time nobody can say they were caught off-guard by the increases.  After the strong push back against increases by the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council last year; this time it appears that LADOT did contact the local neighborhood council’s BEFORE coming to the City Council.  It doesn’t appear to have changed the results, but at least the City didn’t skip a step in its outreach process.  Unlike the Arleta Neighborhood Council, the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council did hear about the increases at a meeting and expressed their concerns.  Whether they’re willing to take the fight all the way to City Hall, as the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council and others before them have, remains to be seen.

For anyone reading about increases for the first time, the state has a law requiring that local speed limits be set at the eighty-fifth percentile of drivers or the local police cannot enforce speed limit increases.  In other words, the faster drivers go, the higher the limit goes.  Considering that it’s a rule of thumb that most drivers consider five to ten miles per hour over the limit "not speeding" the limits could well go up forever.  Efforts to modify this law were beaten back by traffic engineers, the California Highway Patrol and AAA.  It’s an insidious system, because in addition to encouraging drivers to speed, after all they can always just raise the limit in a couple of years, it also turns local police departments into cheerleaders for increasing speed limits because they don’t want to lose their ability to use radar for traffic enforcement.

  • Has anyone requested information as to how often the LAPD has enforced the speed limits? We all know how overstretched the LAPD is, so if traffic enforcement must compete with burglary, rape and murder for attention, we all know which is going to lose out.

    Under this logic, It’s a fallacy to say that LAPD needs the limits increased to be able to enforce the law, when they don’t have the resources to enforce the law in the first place.

    Just my personal opinion. Maybe I’m wrong.

  • The sloughing off of responsibility onto the LAPD for traffic safety is one of the most Evil ™ things the LADOT has ever done. This department has sole control over transportation decisions in LA – it is at their discretion that the streets are designed as they are. The excuses they give about state law, liability, CEQA, etc. have some truth to them, but the base equation is the LADOT’s culture and the lack of leadership from the mayor’s office (which has a huge amount of control over the LADOT).

  • joe

    Has anyone ever spent time up in Landcaster?

    As a kid my grandparents lived up there. One thing stood out more then anything else. Seeing a a family of 4 get t-bones by someone running a red light was just horrific. See up there the speed limits are far higher then here in the more urban areas of LA county. When cars collide at 40mph, they get thrown all over the street, when they collide at 60 and 65 the go up onto curbs and across sidewalks.

    ya, none of these streets are going to be 60 but everyone knows people in LA driver about 10-20 mph faster then the posted speed limits.

    A question I have is that LAPD has said nothing about new tactics to enforce these new speed limits. They have failed in recent history to keep speeds down, who thinks they can do enforce the new speeds?

  • The LAPD cannot enforce speed limits, that is precisely the point of the LADOT’s policy. Their department strives o speed up automobile traffic at all costs, even families of four getting T-boned at intersections.

    Their road designs use highway standards, thus they are designed for 15mph above the posted speed limit. When the LADOT does their MUTCD measurements … suprise! Everyone is driving 15 mph faster than the posted speed limit.

    The LAPD cannot possibly monitor the streets enough to compensate for poor roadway design. Thus, the road designers (the LADOT) are truly responsible for what is happening in the streets!

  • Joseph

    Why do people get their panties in a bunch over speed limits?
    The ”85th Percentile Rule” is the de facto Golden Rule for traffic engineers- that is to say: The SAFEST speed is the speed that 85 percent of the traffic travels on a given stretch of road. Does this make ALL the travelers ”speed demons?”

    No- but it may appear that way on a stretch of road where the speed limit is set ARTIFICIALLY low, often times much of a financial boon to towns and cities that rely on this source of revenue from ”speeders,” as well as a constant source of aggravation to those following behind those driving the ‘posted’ limit whereby ”reasonable and prudent” goes out the window.

    Having been driving for 28+ years, I can tell you that I’ve come across MANY a road (ie; a divided, flat, 4-lane boulevard) where a 25mph or 30mph posted speed limit is grossly low- where 40 or even 45 mph is appropriate, just the same, I’ve come across some rural, 2-lane roads with a posted 55mph limit where driving that speed is very treacherous.

    Line of sight, width of lanes, number of lanes, terrain, business and residential zones, pedestrian and bike traffic, these are all taken into account in determining posted speed limits. Frankly- I’m appalled that stretches of our Interstate system (especially out west) that were designed for SAFE travel in speeds of excess of 90mph are posted *ONLY* 65-75mph!
    Don’t we pay TAXES out the wazoo to drive on these roads?

  • Joseph, we are not talking about the bloody Interstate Highway System!

    The are urban streets! This is a totally different context than a rural highway (the design standards you cite are developed for passive safety on a rural highway).

    Hicksville, where the worst that can happen is a drunken spill into an irrigation ditch or an extree helpin’ of possum pie, is not Los Angeles, where thousands of collisions occur every year and hundreds are injured or killed driving, cycling, or walking to work, home, school, etc.

  • Spokker

    “Don’t we pay TAXES out the wazoo to drive on these roads?”

    Don’t we pay taxes out the wazoo to bike on these roads, and walk alongside them? Why pave sidewalks if it was all about driving? Why pave a sidewalk if high speeds are scaring the shit out of people on the sidewalk?

  • Erik G.

    Urban roads are not funded by the gasoline tax. They do get some special grants from the funds generated, but for the most part those roads are maintained by General Fund monies.

  • Increase speed limit in a city is always a though subject. I have no problem with increasing speed outise of the city, because really sometimes there’s nothing that could be a real danger.


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