Remember the great Colorado Boulevard bike lane debate of 2013? It is now five years later, and people are still divided on whether the reduction in lanes on Colorado Boulevard saved, or ruined, the neighborhood. Empirical data show that the street is safer and more people are out bicycling, but was the loss in traffic lanes worth gaining a safer street? That remains an open question among some Eagle Rockers.
As the bike lane bickering continues on local social media, there is another debate emerging about the future of Colorado Boulevard– should Metro’s proposed North Hollywood to Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line run down Colorado? Or should it skip service to Eagle Rock by running along the 134 Freeway? We believe it should go along Colorado Boulevard for the following reasons:
- Improved Public Transit Connections To and From Eagle Rock: This one may seem obvious but if the BRT line serves Eagle Rock it will improve connectivity to and from neighboring jurisdictions of Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank,and North Hollywood. People always complain about a lack of quality public transportation and here we are being offered an opportunity to get some that would help connect us with our neighbors. And the BRT won’t just improve connections along the line, it will also improve transfers. Let’s say you need to take the Gold Line to Azusa; with the BRT you could hop on a stop at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard, and be whisked away to the Del Mar station in Pasadena to catch the Gold Line far faster than you could today relying on the local 180 line to get there.
- Reap Benefit of Sales Tax: In 2016, Angelenos overwhelmingly voted for Measure M, a sales tax that we all pay for. The proposed NoHo to Pasadena BRT line will be funded using Measure M dollars and Eagle Rockers will pay for it either way. So to those wishing to get their money’s worth, the only way to truly do so is by having the BRT line operate on Colorado Boulevard and providing stops in the neighborhood.
- Gateway to Better Bike Network: If the BRT line ends up serving Eagle Rock, it will unlock grant funding potential for better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Typically bike and pedestrian infrastructure grants favor concepts that can help people connect to high quality transit, often referred to as the “first/last mile” connections. Transportation grants such as the State’s Active Transportation Program (ATP) will often give applications extra points if a proposed bike or pedestrian improvement can be demonstrated to enhance connectivity to major transit lines. Suppose there’s a desire for bike and pedestrian friendly transformation of Townsend Avenue, Ellenwood Drive, North Figueroa Street, or Hill Drive. Such improvements have a better chance of being funded through grants if they can list the benefit of improving access to a BRT stop.
- Accommodating Growth Without Adding Traffic: Most Eagle Rockers are sympathetic to the need for additional housing in the neighborhood in order to keep some degree of affordability and maintaining diversity. However, the most common knee-jerk reaction to proposals that add housing is that it will result in more traffic because new residents will need to drive for daily routines. Well, people only drive when they feel there is no other viable option. BRT provides a real viable alternative to driving, especially for commuting purposes to nearby job centers such as Old Town Pasadena, Glendale, and various studios in Burbank. Eagle Rock can add more housing along Colorado Boulevard without the consequence of more cars if there are more transit options like BRT.
- Bring Back Rail to Colorado Boulevard: Some people oppose the BRT line stating that they will only support a rail line. The good news is that the long-term plan is to upgrade the BRT line to rail. If we shut out BRT from the neighborhood, we may never see the rail so many yearn for.
- An Investment in Sustainable Transportation: Everybody wants environmentally sustainable transportation to be more widely used but can we fault people for driving when we fail to accommodate other more sustainable alternatives? BRT is not just an investment in public transit, it’s an investment in a more sustainable mode of travel.
- Street Route Endorsed by Transit Expert: People should not blindly support something just because someone else tells them to. However, we feel it is worth highlighting a particularly notable endorsement of the BRT’s street route. Ethan Elkind is the Director of the Climate Program at CLEE and leads the Climate Change and Business Research Initiative on behalf of the UC Berkeley and UCLA Schools of Law. That’s one heck of a respectable title. Elkind also is the author of Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles metro Rail and the Future of the City. In an op-ed published last year Elkind chimed in on the issue of the freeway vs street route for the NoHo-Pasadena BRT line and had this to say: “A street-level line offers more promise. It would be slower, but it would attract more riders than the freeway route by serving more neighborhoods. This option, too, is more expensive, but planning compact new development around transit stops could help defray costs and guarantee wider ridership.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement but a pragmatic assessment by a respected professional in the field of sustainability.
So there you have it, 7 reasons to support the street level BRT route. Care to speak up on the issue? There’s a public meeting on Saturday, October 13 from 1pm to 3pm at the Eagle Rock Plaza (Suite 248) where you can provide input, ideas, and feedback. While there are valid concerns about BRT running along Colorado Boulevard, the overall positives of BRT outweigh the negatives, and most potential issues can be mitigated or avoided altogether. We urge readers to support Metro’s Colorado Boulevard BRT route alternative.