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City of Los Angeles Call for Projects Review: Car Capacity Enhancements

LADOT's application sprinkles car capacity expansion projects throughout the city.
LADOT's application sprinkles car capacity expansion projects throughout the city.

Following yesterday's article announcing a review of the LADOT's application to Metro's Call for Projects program, I got a few comments (although none in the comments section.)  People commented that not every project submitted was an LADOT one so I should give full credit, and full blame, across the spectrum.  People also noted that I was including projects reviewed but not submitted when I counted the projects from year to year.  Fair point.  From now on we'll focus just on what cleared the LADOT's review and we'll give credit and blame across the board. - DN

One of the great ironies of the Metro Call for Projects, especially in the era of SB 375 and anti-sprawl is that while the agency claims that the Call is all about "Sustainability" most of the funds available will go towards projects designed to move more cars and trucks.  Today we'll look at two project categories, "Regional Surface Transportation Improvements" (RSTI) and "Signal Synchronization and Bus Speed Improvements." (SS&BS)

Before reading about the highway widening portion of the program, consider that the Call application actually states:

Sustainability is a core value at MTA. The agency is committed to reducing, re-using and recycling internal resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This Call awards points to projects that support efforts to create a more sustainable transportation system as well as contribute to GHG emission reduction goals and targets as established by state law. While the strategies and impacts associated with incorporating sustainability into projects will differacross modes, the Call for Projects recognizes that sustainability should be an element of every project and assigns an equal amount of points to this goal across modes.

It's hard to do a comparison between the 2009 and 2011 when it comes to the RSTI projects, because the project category is basically the road widening category.  Of the seven projects submitted, down from nine in 2009, there's no massive projects, just a series of small widening projects scattered throughout the region.

There were two in this year's application pool that stood out as much for where they are as what they are: a road widening along the USC campus and another that will dump more traffic on Sunset Boulevard.

Screen shot 2011-01-11 at 11.22.41 AM

The first is a widening of Mission Road on the Northwest portion of the would be at the USC Health Sciences Campus in East Los Angeles.  For a campus that's working to make things safer for pedestrians, sometimes with the questionable tactic of making cycling more difficult, it seems odd to be worried about doubling the car capacity on any street that runs adjacent to and through a tip of the campus, even it's only for a quarter of a mile.

Sunset Boulevard and Van Nuys Blvd., looking South from Van Nuys
Sunset Boulevard and Van Nuys Blvd., looking South from Van Nuys

The second project that was doubly questionable was a widening Van Ness Boulevard heading South from the 101 exit/entrance to Sunset Boulevard.  The project would double the car capacity from this short stretch of road and would send a lot of new traffic to Sunset Boulevard and points South.

The LADOT application for SS&BS has greatly since 2009.  A quick look at the two projects submitted in 2009 showed questionable benefit for bus riders, vague wording about improving the system countywide and fixing timing.  This year, the agency is tying efforts in re-signalization to Metro's Measure R plan.  This prioritizes Bus Rapid Transit and other rapid bus improvements over signalization that will do more for cars than for buses.

Tomorrow we'll look at the freight categories and LADOT's applications.

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