L.A. Approves Cycle Tracks, But Council Motion Could Derail South Fig. Plans
At long last, it looks like the City of Los Angeles is ready to build some cycle tracks. Earlier this week, the City of Los Angeles certified the environmental documents for the South Figueroa Streetscape Project, known to social media buffs as MyFigueroa! The plan calls for reducing South Figueroa from five mixed-use travel lanes to four and adding cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes, improved sidewalks, better transit access and Continental Crosswalks.
The project proved somewhat controversial with the local business improvement district bemoaning the loss of some 38 parking spaces along the four and a half mile stretch of road that will be improved with bike lanes. Local businesses, which includes the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) and a slew of car dealerships argued that reducing car access was bad for their business model.
The environmental documents swept aside those concerns. While the city did not try to claim there were no economic impacts for the plan, especially in Level of Service, i.e. how many cars can use the street at a given moment, it did argue those issues were not as important as they might appear.
For example, the city points out that most of the “lost” parking spaces will be at the southern end of the corridor, near USC. The added bicycle access, plus the addition of free and low-cost off street parking in the surrounding buildings will more than make up for any lost parking spaces. In fact, the increased access for bicycles will be a boon for businesses up and down the corridor.
Others raised concerns about traffic on South Figueroa during special events at Staples Center or the Coliseum. LADOT has agreed to create new traffic plans for events in either of those arenas to insure that access to the parking lots is not hindered unduly.
As we’ve seen before, the city is justifying the project not just as the right one for the immediate community, but also in terms of completing a bicycle network for the city. With new bike lanes coming online over the next year on 7th Street, 16th Street, Vermont Ave. and Grand Ave., the city needs the bicycle infrastructure planned for South Figueroa to complete a network to make bicycling safe, comfortable and attractive between Downtown Los Angeles and South Los Angeles.
While the certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report is a good sign that the project is moving forward, it faces one opponent larger than AAA and car dealerships: time. The project is funded through funds from State Proposition 1C, and funding is default if the project has not completed construction by the end of December, 2014. LADOT and the project team are confident it remains on track to completion, but any significant delay could prove fatal.
And the attempt to delay could come from the South Figueroa Corridor’s own City Council Member. The MyFigueroa! project area rests in the 9th City Council District, represented by Curren Price. His predecessor, Jan Perry, was a strong supporter of the project, but Price seems lukewarm at best. This week, he introduced legislation requiring more study of the traffic impacts of the proposal specifically of alternatives to a road diet on Figueroa, more details on impacts after a trolley line is added, the impact on emergency vehicles, and how LADOT will mitigate increased traffic from the I-110 as a result of the ExpressLanes Program.
The motion was assigned to the Transportation Committee which has not scheduled a hearing for Prices’s motion yet. Their next hearing is September 11. Committee Chair Mike Bonin seconded the motion, but staff for Bonin point out that just means he believes the legislation is worthy of discussion, not that he supports it.
The motion does not call for LADOT to stop work on the project, and word out of the Mayor’s Office is that the agency will continue planning for construction if/when this motion moves forward. At this point, we don’t know if Price plans on waging a campaign against the project or if he just wasn’t satisfied with the information provided in the Environmental Impact Report.