Subtle Media Bias on BRT

Remember when we wrote about a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project back in January 2017 and in October 2018? In the June 2019 issue of the Boulevard Sentinel (BS), the local Northeast LA newspaper, ran the following headline for an article, “The Battle over Buses on Colorado Boulevard.” The piece is about Metro’s planned “NoHo–Pasadena BRT,” which we previously covered and which proposes to develop a rapid bus line from North Hollywood to Pasadena by way of Burbank, Glendale, and Eagle Rock. The article published in the BS is misleading and one-sided in several ways, seemingly aimed at generating community opposition to the project.

Let’s begin with the headline– “The Battle over Buses on Colorado Boulevard.” While there are some differing views on the project, the combative war-like language certainly stirs emotions more than a phrase like “Local Debate.” The phrase “Battle” is advantageous to the author because it allows them to paint a ‘Metro vs Eagle Rock’ narrative that conveniently excludes mention of any local support for the project.

The opening line of the article states: “The Metro Board of Directors advanced a plan that would put bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock”. A more accurate description would be the Metro Board advanced a plan that could put BRT lanes on Colorado Boulevard, nothing is set in stone.

The BS proceeds to quote a spokesperson from Metro that clearly states “Although the Metro staff has made an initial recommendation to put the bus on Colorado Boulevard, this is far from being a done deal. Community feedback is a huge part of this, we want to make sure that what we do makes sense”. The BS follows the Metro quote by stating: “That flexibility will come in handy, because judging from the reaction on social media, Eagle Rockers don’t see much sense in putting a BRT line on Colorado Boulevard.”

The reference to social media is a reference a facebook group called the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Group. In the exchanges on that group, opinions are more split, and some of the opposition stems from outright lies being spread about BRT from ill-informed people. A more accurate statement would be that some Eagle Rockers don’t see much sense. However, even such framing gives airtime to opposition when it would be just as easy to frame the project as having some supporters, or that the community is divided rather than implying wholesale opposition from the community.

Further, a facebook group dominated by homeowners that don’t rely on transit isn’t exactly an objective indicator of public opinion. Taking a poll of Eagle Rockers waiting at the bus would likely paint a very different picture on the issue. Of course, the author did not look for opinions of actual transit dependent people. Instead the author was content observing social media which is notoriously divisive and non-representative.

Then the article dives into a subheading called “Here are some of the concerns”. In this sub-section, the author states a BRT line on Colorado Boulevard would require reconfigurations to allow for dedicated bus lanes. This is not true. Theoretically the BRT line could operate in mixed traffic but the author never once admits this. The author states that something has got to give to accommodate dedicated lanes for buses, whether it be modification to medians, travel lanes, bike lanes, parking or some combination. This is true, if the project proposes dedicated bus lanes which is not a certain thing yet.

The author then asks, somewhat rhetorically, ‘what is gained from sacrificing road space for BRT?’ The author states: “The vast majority of BRT riders would not be coming or going from Eagle Rock. The vast majority would just be passing through. Looked at that way, the disruption form the BRT in terms of driving, traffic, and parking on Colorado Boulevard seems far greater than the benefits to the town.”

The word “sacrifice” focuses on loss and assumes the perspective of motorists, who currently dominate the street. We do not know at this stage what, if anything, will be “sacrificed”. The project may be designed with very minimal “sacrifice”. The open ended question, however, allows one to conjure the worst before Metro has even studied specific options.

Also, so what if the vast majority of riders would not be coming and going from Eagle Rock? The vast majority of riders on the Metro Gold Line do not come or go to Highland Park, yet the neighborhood has still benefited from having a Gold Line station. Strictly speaking, it would be difficult for the “vast majority” of riders to come or go from any single station or neighborhood on any public transit line. The author then states that unspecified impacts to driving outweigh the benefits without ever sharing any facts about the benefits of public transit or benefits to non-drivers (pedestrians, bicyclists).

Next the author states that people opposed to the project are concerned that it would change zoning in the neighborhood. This is speculation and fear-mongering. Colorado Boulevard is protected by the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan, which regulates development along the boulevard. Any changes to the Specific Plan or to zoning more generally is a very open, transparent, and serious process that the neighborhood would most certainly have the opportunity to weigh in on. Nothing about the BRT proposal requires any zoning changes and the two can be approved independently. Also, should a zone change even occur, it doesn’t result in overnight development. For better or for worse, most existing light rail stops have had little impact on the built form of the communities they serve and seldom do such changes spill over to areas zoned for single family homes.

The author cites, seemingly to support claims of impending zoning changes, one of the goals of the project which is to “support…transit-oriented community goals” and transitions to explaining a City program, Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) that allows for greater housing density near transit. TOC was enacted after 64% of voters voted yes on Measure JJJ.  The author writes: “With proposed BRT stops at Eagle Rock Boulevard and Townsend Avenue, a swath of Eagle Rock would fall under TOC rules. More housing to east the housing shortage is badly needed. But putting a BRT line on Colorado Boulevard seems like an opaque and convoluted way to go about getting it.”

The author assumes that BRT on Colorado Boulevard will result in increased development. While this might occur, it isn’t a given. Nearby Highland Park and South Pasadena have been served by the Metro Gold Line for almost two decades with no significant changes to their neighborhood character. Further, as stated earlier, Colorado Boulevard is protected by the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan. The BRT isn’t a backdoor housing project, yet the author implies this and criticizes it for being an “opaque and convoluted way” of adding housing when this simply is not the case. Building housing near transit isn’t convoluted or opaque, it’s a fairly straight forward way of promoting transit and accommodating growth, and it is largely how Eagle Rock’s main street historically developed a hundred years ago. Also, 64% of Angelenos voted to support housing near transit in 2016. Clearly, this is not a far out or controversial idea.

The author states that Metro has made some good arguments for the BRT, including that the route is part of a heavily traveled corridor, but still displays bias by stating the majority of trips are by car and “only a tiny fraction by public transit, despite having Metro rail connections at both ends.”

Well, how does one get from one end to the other when there is no equivalent service in between? If anything, the current situation perfectly explains why so few trips are made by transit. The author eventually arrives at the conclusion that BRT would “provide an alternative to driving and connect Metro’s regional transit network to residential areas along the route.”

Of course, the author finds a way to spin this benefit of BRT into a negative– “But Metro has yet to make a good case for why the proposed BRT has to run the length of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock instead of catching the 134 freeway.” Actually, Metro has made a case for Colorado Boulevard– it would provide greater access and generate more riders than the freeway option. There is a whole Alternatives Analysis report that Metro compiled that goes completely unmentioned or referenced in the article.

The author then pivots to this sentence “One community meeting on the topic, at the Eagle Rock Plaza on October 18, 2018 was only sparsely attended.”

Sparsely attended? Relative to what? The meeting at the Plaza was just one of several attempts by Metro to engage the community. They also had a table at the Eagle Rock Music Festival, which is far from “sparsely attended” and Metro attended neighborhood council meetings as well. And this has all occurred prior to the official environmental review process begins, which will ensure additional opportunities for input. The author admits the scoping process has yet to even begin, so it’s puzzling to think how much outreach Metro was expected to provide to this point. Metro also hosted outreach opportunities in the neighboring communities affected by the proposed route– Eagle Rock is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

It should come as no surprise that a meeting hosted by the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council a couple weeks after the article was published resulted in dozens of angry people showing up claiming that Metro’s plans were rushed, ill-conceived, and developed without local input. People attended the meeting having just read a misleading and biased article that was presented as being impartial. Unfortunately, a fair amount of damage has been done as a result of this misrepresentation of the project. If you want Eagle Rock to get high-quality transit with Bus Rapid Transit running on Colorado Boulevard, here are 3 ways you can help:

1) Send an email:

To: nohopasbrt@metro.net, firstdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov

Bcc: walkeaglerock@gmail.com (optional)

Subject: I support NoHo-Pas BRT for Eagle Rock

Dear Metro and Supervisor Solis,

I support BRT on Colorado Boulevard through Eagle Rock because we need better public transit and running the BRT on the freeway provides zero stops in 90041. BRT will make Colorado Boulevard more accessible, more transit friendly.

Thank you,

2) Sign the petition Support a More Sustainable Colorado Boulevard for Eagle Rock!. While online petitions should not steer public transit planning efforts, the petition is a way to display visible support for a more sustainable future and to stay updated with opportunities for public input on the project.

3) Spread the word to family and friends. Did you already send an email and sign the petition? Then share them with your networks on social media and by word of mouth. The success of this project depends on you, dear reader, being a champion for positive change and sustainable transportation.

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – September/October/November Mash Up 2018

SEPTEMBER:

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

Phew! There you have it, some of the best livability news to hit our neck of the woods these past 3 months.

Eagle Rock Should Support BRT on Colorado Boulevard

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Proposed Bus Rapid Transit Line between North Hollywood and Pasadena. Image via: Metro

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – August 2018

TERA Urges Yosemite Drive Safety Improvements

In July, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) issued its second letter to the City asking for traffic safety improvements to Yosemite Drive. In August, The Eagle Rock Association (TERA) too issued a second letter to the City urging safety improvements to Yosemite. Will the City listen? (As an added bonus, TERA this month also received confirmation that it had successfully negotiated aesthetic and safety improvements that will be incorporated into the Taco Bell currently being remodeled.)

Improvements Aplenty Across Council District 14

The Alhambra Avenue safety improvements covered in last month’s roundup finally had a ribbon cutting in August and Streetsblog LA provided a brief review. Council District 14 hosted two separate meetings regarding pedestrian improvements planned in Boyle Heights and in the Arts District. A new mural was unveiled overlooking the hugely popular York Park in Highland Park and Boyle Heights residents came out a meeting to learn about $5.2 million upgrades slated for Cesar Chavez Avenue.

Councilmembers Ryu and O’Farrell Call for Crosswalk

Prompted by a letter from the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, which straddles council districts 4 and 13, Councilmembers David Ryu and Mitch O’Farrell have teamed up to get a crosswalk installed at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Rodney Drive. According to the Beverly Press, the crosswalk will be complemented by “a pedestrian activated rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon, coupled with a median island.”

News From San Gabriel Valley

Out in the San Gabriel Valley, BikeSGV alerted folks to an effort to bring a “bike park” to Altadena under the banner of “ADENA Bike Park Collective.” Meanwhile Foothill Transit announced plans to pilot double decker, electric buses. Lastly, Pomona applied for $10 million in State grants to improve conditions for walking and bicycling.

Livability in Burbank and Beyond

  • Burbank upgrades existing Riverside Drive bike lanes to buffered bike lanes: The street had enough room so that bike lanes could be widened and denote a “door zone” to steer clear from when bicycling. Of course, the bike lanes are still subject to be blocked by trash bins on a weekly basis.
  • Assemblymember Laura Friedman is on a Roll: Friedman, who represents our neighbors in Glendale on the State level, has been on a bit of a roll with several forward-thinking assembly bills moving ahead. Below are her bills that advanced, in her own words…
    • AB 2263: Will incentivize the preservation and reuse of registered historic structures by eliminating additional parking requirements for residential use when located within half a mile of a major transit corridor, or allowing for a 25% reduction in required parking for nonresidential commercial uses.
    • AB 2363: A giant leap forward on the path to reducing traffic-related fatalities by establishing a task force to examine the arcane way California sets speed limits
    • AB 2548: Authorizes County of LA to adopt a commuter benefits program that would encourage employers to incentivize employees to use alternative ways to commute such as biking, mass-transit, vanpooling, was signed into law by Governor Brown!
    • AB 2955: Bill would prioritize the concerns of horse safety as a factor when setting vehicular speed limits.

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – July 2018

Now one month into the second half of 2018, and there is little to show in the way of physical livability improvements in Northeast LA. Minor improvements were either announced or underway in neighboring communities but overall progress remains slow at best. (Note: Due to technical difficulties no photos accompany this month’s post)

Local Neighborhood Councils Speak Up for Safer Streets

Back in December 2017, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) submitted a letter to Council District 14 asking for safety improvements to Yosemite Drive in the wake of a driver striking three students as they left a Homecoming Eagle Rock High School football game. Now in July 2018, the ERNC sent a follow-up letter specifying common-sense safety improvements, including:

  • Immediately updating existing standard crosswalks to high-visibility continental crosswalks
  • Installing 2 RRFBs at the worst crosswalks as determined by the Department of Transportation
  • Installing “State Law Yield to Pedestrians” signs at crosswalks
  • Improving current street signage, some of which is hidden by trees
  • Incorporating curb extensions, bioswales, and/or bike lanes where appropriate

Improvements are sorely needed, though this isn’t necessarily news. Eagle Rock resident Jack Burnette-Stuart was calling for a safer Yosemite back in 2011. And similar calls go back decades (though largely in non digital format).

Further south in NELA, the Cypress Park Neighborhood Council had a presentation about dire need for safety improvements on Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28. Well over a dozen residents showed up to listen to proposed solutions or share anecdotes about countless crashes they’ve observed over the years. A Metro representative announced that buses would slow to 15MPH in along the two streets – a nice gesture – but it is not buses that are barreling into homes and cars. At least the Neighborhood Council is on the record as wanting to do something, now it is up to the City to take action.

From Autoshops to Pedestrian Storefronts on Figueroa

The EastsiderLA observed this month that a growing number of autoshops along North Figueroa are being converted into other, more pedestrian-friendly uses. This shift reflects a combination of planning guidelines for the street and the interests of private, commercial investment along the street. One would hope that with more pedestrian scaled businesses that the next sensible step would be to convert the actual roadway along Figueroa to be more pedestrian-friendly.

Guerilla Bus Benches Pop Up in El Sereno

Former Flying Pigeon LA bike shop owner and Cypress Park resident Josef Bray-Ali submitted photos to The EastsiderLA of several do-it-yourself bus benches throughout El Sereno. Nobody has stepped forward to claim credit for the act, but the unsanctioned civic improvement will make waiting for the bus a little less painful. Thank you to whoever made this intervention!

Glendale Proposes Mid-Block Crosswalk, Curb Extensions

In the small convivial “Kenneth Village” commercial corridor along Kenneth Road, the City of Glendale posted notifications of a proposal to install a mid-block crosswalk, curb extensions, flashing pedestrian lights and other improvements to enhance the village feel along Kenneth Road and promote safe pedestrian passage. A meeting is set for August 2, 6:30PM at Balboa Elementary. If you’re in the area, consider showing support for the proposal on the August 2nd meeting!

Pasadena Officially Quits Metro Bike Share

The City of Pasadena had been sending signals to Metro that the City intended to leave the County bike-share system due to poor usage and in July it became official. Unable to finance bike-share on its own, Metro started removing bike share stations. While this isn’t usually the type of “good news” shared in these roundups, it hopefully serves as a wake-up call to the City and County. A shortage of bikes isn’t what is holding back bicycling in the region, it’s a lack of quality infrastructure. Now if only Pasadena and Metro were willing to invest as much into proven bike infrastructure as it invested in unproven bike-share.

Livability in Pasadena and Beyond

 

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – June 2018

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Pic of the month: Arguably the best protected bike lane in all of Los Angeles can now be found on South Figueroa Street in Downtown LA.

As we hit the halfway mark in the year, several modest livability improvements surfaced seemingly out of nowhere. Is it coincidence or a sign of growing momentum?

Alhambra Avenue Safety Road Diet Completed

The biggest news this month is NELA livability has to be the completion traffic safety improvements made to Alhambra Avenue between Lowell Avenue and Brawley Street (1.25 miles) in El Sereno. (We hope to do a more detailed post about this project in the coming days). For those not familiar with the project, the package of improvements include:

  • Traffic signal, crosswalk, and curb extension at Lowell Avenue
  • Flashing crosswalk at Hollister Avenue
  • Upgrading all existing crosswalks to high visibility markings
  • Bike lanes
  • Dedicated center turn lane
  • Speed feedback sign
  • New sidewalk next to El Sereno Arroyo Park

What remains most fascinating about this particular project is the urgency and smart coordination with which it was implemented. The first in a series of community meetings for the project was hosted in March 2017. Just over a year later, the project was completed in tandem with routine street resurfacing, which means the bike lanes, crosswalk upgrades, and center turn lane all were achieved for free since the street gets re-striped when it is resurfaced anyway.

“My Figueroa” (Partially) Protected Bike Lanes A Reality

In Downtown LA the most high-profile bike lane project that has been in the works for roughly a decade is finally (mostly) completed. Although there are continuity gaps, there are now bike lanes along Figueroa between 7th Street and Exposition Boulevard by USC, part of a project known as “My Figueroa.” The design is far from perfect but was a huge undertaking and will finally provide safer accommodation for people walking and biking along the Figueroa corridor. In contrast to the Alhambra Avenue project, My Figueroa has dragged its feet and cost over $1 million per mile. Our view is that we should focus more on the cheap, nimble Alhambra Avenue type projects that can be implemented at a rate of 10 to 1. Yes, the gold-plated My Figueroa is a nice addition, but at what cost? There are hundreds of miles of streets that need safety improvements and the only way such can be realized is through swift implementation of re-painting streets.

Hollywood and Vine Pedestrian Scramble “Coming Soon”

The Militant Angeleno tweeted a sign that a pedestrian scramble crossing is coming soon to the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Seeing as a similar scramble has successfully cut the number of crashes at nearby Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, this improvement seems to be a no-brainer for a street filled with foot traffic as Hollywood Boulevard. Let’s hope the scramble is celebrated with the red-carpet treatment once it finally arrives and improves safety.

Avenue 26 and Humboldt Street Traffic Signal

Traffic signals are a costly measure that only really work to slow people down when the light turns red. When the light is green, speeding will still be an issue. So it is with mixed feelings that we celebrate the coming of a traffic signal to the intersection of Avenue 26 and Humboldt Street. And of course, it only came after someone died attempting to cross Avenue 26. What Avenue 26 would really benefit from is an Alhambra Avenue style road diet to tame traffic. The redeeming benefit of this particular signal is that it facilitates crossing at a small neighborhood hub– there are bus stops, street vendors, a recurring street sale and a few businesses centered around here. The signal also makes Humboldt safer to travel along as a bicyclist. Humboldt is an informal bike route used alongside a series of other minor streets to go between NELA and DTLA while avoiding freeway ramps and the madness at North Figueroa Street.

Could E-Scooters and Dockless Bikes Be Coming to Eagle Rock?

(Ofo Dockless Bike-Share and Bird E-Scooter sightings in Eagle Rock. Bird picture via Eagle Rock Facebook Group)

On a local Eagle Rock facebook group, residents recently debated the merits of bringing dockless e-scooters such as Bird to the neighborhood. Shortly after the discussion, a couple residents shared that they had signed up to serve as “nests” (households that charge e-scooters when they run out of battery) and a handful of e-scooters were even sighted outside of Swork Coffee. Around the same time, the yellow dockless bikes from company Ofo appeared near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Townsend Avenue. Would an abundance of publicly accessible rental bikes and scooters help locals ditch the car for neighborhood trips? There’s only one way to find out, and maybe Eagle Rockers will get a chance to test it out. If proven successful, maybe “Bird” scooters should be re-branded as “Eagles”?

Political Courage For Livable Street on Local and State Level

The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) scheduled for their July 5th meeting an agenda item to follow up on an earlier request for safety improvements on Yosemite Drive. Also on the agenda is a motion to support The Eagle Rock Association’s (TERA) Rock The Boulevard grant application.

The City Council released the list of transportation projects that will seek State-level funding to implement. Included on the list are NELA projects:

  • Rock The Boulevard/ Eagle Rock Boulevard protected bike lanes
  • Eastern Avenue pedestrian improvements in El Sereno

After getting some negative publicity regarding faded markings on a bike route in East LA, County Supervisor Hilda Solis – a longtime champion for walking and biking – announced:

I am committed to installing, expanding, and maintaining high-quality and safe bike lanes where appropriate. Currently, our neighborhood streets in East Los Angeles are under construction with roadway improvements that include maintenance and new bike routes that improve safety for all commuters. These enhancements include smoother riding surfaces and clear sustainable markings. When complete, I’m excited to see even more East LA residents take advantage of these new bike paths!

Meanwhile, on the State level, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, representing our neighbors in Glendale and Atwater area, discussed how lower speed limits can improve safety. Around the corner from Glendale, NELA’s very own assemblymember, Wendy Carrillo, announced that the LA State Historic Park will receive $500,000 to develop a plan to provide safe access to the park.

Livability in Pasadena and Beyond

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Fresh bike path markings along the Arroyo Seco Bike Path

  • Mission Street Sharrows in South Pasadena: Mission Street in South Pasadena is a pleasant bicycle street lined with local shops and minimal traffic. The far west and far east ends of the corridor have bike lanes but the bulk of the corridor has nothing. The City recently installed “sharrows,” street markings reminding drivers to expect bicyclists. Like Avenue 26, what is really needed on Mission is a road diet, but sharrows are a step in the right direction.
  • Pasadena Traist Sunday Service Returns: After a 10 year absence, Sunday service has returned to Routes 10, 20, 31/32, 40 and 51 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • NELA’s Not-Yet-Built Taylor Yard Bike Bridge Up for Design Award: Once built, the Taylor Yard Bike and Pedestrian Bridge will connect communities to the Rio de Los Angeles Park and LA River. However, the bridge has already been nominated for a design award. One should be weary of such awards because the final product may not look like the rendering, but if it does NELA will have a beautiful, award winning bridge design!
  • Cellphone Service Coming to Gold Line Stations: Metro announced: “Cell service… in the Gold Line’s underground stations in Pasadena and East Los Angeles is scheduled to become available towards the end of [2018].”
  • Arroyo Seco Bike Path Re-Striped: In mid-June the edge markings and center line striping on the Arroyo Seco bike path were refreshed after what appeared to be decades of neglect.

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – May 2018

Despite May being recognized as “Bike Month” in Los Angeles, virtually no bicycle improvements were celebrated, installed, or announced in the greater Northeast LA area or adjacent neighborhoods. But this month was not without continued gradual progress, and NELA’s Councilmember Huizar championed several of the improvements or forward momentum in month’s headlines, so kudos to him for his continued focus on sustainable transportation.

New(ish) All-Way Stop at Oak Grove Drive and Nolden

It’s unclear when this all-way stop was installed, according to Google Maps Streetview it was likely in the last few months but it didn’t make any headlines…until now! The intersection has limited visibility and Oak Grove Drive has increasingly become a victim of cut-through traffic so all told the stop signs are a welcomed addition to allow for safer maneuvering and to curb speeding. (Bonus: If you walk up the public stairway along Nolden here, there’s a nice little pocket park with a bench a free little library, well worth checking out if you’re in the area).

Councilmember O’Farrell Investigates Opportunity for Bicycle Infrastructure

For better or for worse, Mitch O’Farrell is one of few councilmembers that engages with constituents on Twitter. So when twitter user @Bike_LA asked if the recently resurfaced Bellevue Avenue could get bike lanes, O’Farrell said he’d look into it. He responded that Bellevue, at 42 feet wide, is “too narrow” for bike lanes. Go figure. That didn’t stop @Bike_LA from showing that there is indeed room for at least a bike lane in one direction.

Baxter Street Receives Traffic Calming in Record Time

In April, LA Times writer Steve Lopez brought attention to growing cut-through traffic on Baxter Street, a notoriously steep hillside street. The article subsequently went viral with news stations and blogs picking up  the article. Since the article was published, Mitch O’Farrell met with residents and city departments, and made addressing the issue a priority. Now, less than two months since Lopez wrote his article, Baxter Street and several other streets in the vicinity have received traffic calming measures to deter cut-through commuters. No public hearings, no months long debate. Baxter Street was recognized as a real safety issue and transportation officials acted at the urging of Councilmember O’Farrell. So yes, the best way to get an issue addressed is to have Steve Lopez write an article about it. If only he could write about local impacts of climate change, traffic deaths, and unjust transportation system, maybe we would see some progress in those areas.

DTLA 7th Street Bike Lane Improved, Hope for Bike Lanes on 5th and 6th Street

One block of the 7th Street bike lane in Downtown LA received an unexpected upgrade, providing a minor bit of protection and high-visibility green paint where none existed before. The recently completed Wilshire Grand tower was supposed to pay for protected bike lanes along all of 7th Street in Downtown, but it’s unclear if that will still happen. Meanwhile, advocates in Skid Row have campaigned admirably for bike lanes on 5th and 6th Street, and their efforts appear to have paid off. Councilmember Huizar introduced a council motion to have the two streets added to the Mobility Plan’s Bicycle Enhanced Network. With a formal designation in the City’s Mobility Plan, it will be easier to direct resources and planning efforts toward actually implementing infrastructure. Thank you to the advocates of Skid Row and to Councilmember Huizar for listening.

Car-Free LA River Bridge Breaks Ground, Metro Advances Efforts to Extend LA River Bike Path

The long-anticipated, multi-modal Kretz Bridge crossing the LA River finally broke ground in May. The bridge will accommodate horses, pedestrians, and bicyclists, helping improve access to the LA River and adjacent park spaces. Meanwhile, Metro is making progress toward closing the current gap in the LA River bike path through downtown LA.

 

Updated “High Injury Network” Includes Glendale Boulevard

The City’s “Vision Zero” program prioritizes traffic safety improvements along the most dangerous transportation corridors in the City. The enormously wide portion of Glendale Boulevard in Atwater was added to the City’s list of priority corridors known as the “High Injury Network,” the series of streets were most fatal and serious traffic collisions occur. While this is a dubious honor, it means limited transportation dollars can be leveraged to improve safety on the NELA street, which is a good thing (in a backwards kind of way).

Livability in Los Feliz and Beyond

When Did Speed Become So Important?

Unlike most residential streets in Eagle Rock, Yosemite Drive is quite busy and traffic tends to move fast. The speed limit is 35 miles per hour (MPH) – the same speed limit as that on Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock Boulevard, and North Figueroa Street – and some may think it has always been this way but that is not true.

See the below cropped image from 1960 at the corner of Yosemite Drive and Eagle Rock Boulevard, in which Yosemite Drive had a 25mph speed limit.

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Image courtesy of Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society

By 1972, a photo from the same corner reveals the speed limit was raised to 30mph.

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Image courtesy of Eagle Rock Historical Society

Today? The speed limit is 35mph.

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Image via Google Maps

At an uninterrupted 25mph, it would take an estimated 4 minutes to travel along the 1.5 mile corridor of Yosemite Drive from North Figueroa Street to Eagle Rock Boulevard. At 35mph? It takes an estimated 3 minute. Drivers save, at best, one minute of time but the street becomes far less pleasant for residents and discourages people from walking and bicycling, modes of travel that are good for one’s health. When did speed, and the ability to save one minute of travel time, become so important that we willingly sacrifice everyday quality of life and health?

Of course, an obscure State law prevents us from simply lowering speed limits, and in fact makes it such that we must raise the speed limit in response to people speeding. So what can we do at this stage if we want to restore the more residential 25mph speed limit? Well, it’s quite simple: Either we implement traffic calming so that people decide to travel at a reasonable 25mph, or it’s only matter of time before the speed limit on Yosemite goes up to 40mph and becomes even more hostile to pedestrians.

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – April 2018

The theme for April is similar to that of the past few months– no major improvements took hold but some small ones did while various plans for better walking, bicycling, and transit inched closer to reality.

Rock The Boulevard Meeting #3 Recap, Meeting #4 Set for May 31

On April 26th, Eagle Rock stakeholders gathered for meeting #3 of the community initiative “Rock The Boulevard.” Approximately 60 people turned out for an interactive workshop and shared ideas about how to improve Eagle Rock Boulevard. Prominent ideas included upgrading existing painted bike lanes to protected bike lanes and introducing changes that make people want to actually spend time on the boulevard. The final meeting in the Rock The Boulevard series will be held on May 31, 7pm, at the Center for the Arts.

York Boulevard Parklet Returns!

Almost overnight, the parklet on York Boulevard that once was made a surprise return without any flashy announcement or anything. Once the cones and “caution” tape was removed, people knew exactly what to do and started using the micro public seating.

Yosemite Drive Safety Makes Minor Progress

Modest measures to address safety on Yosemite Drive were announced this month. According to meeting minutes from the Eagle Rock High School Leadership Council, the City is working to “better lighting and signage” at a Yosemite Drive crosswalk. Also per the Leadership Council, in an effort to improve safety, the City will pilot “closing La Roda Drive to traffic in the morning except to school employees or the families of students with disabilities” and providing a valet drop-off zone for the month of May. While more substantive changes to the streetscape need to be made to improve long-term safety, any progress is welcomed.

Ave 51 and Lincoln Ave Intersection Gets 4-Way Stop

As York Boulevard increasingly becomes a destination, the need for traffic control on nearby side streets has grown. In April, the intersection of Avenue 51 and Lincoln Avenue went from a 2-way stop to a 4-way stop intersection. But not everyone is pleased.

Hollywood Boulevard Traffic Signal Installed, Scramble Crosswalk Announced

The intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Gramercy Place was graced with a new traffic signal and naturally Councilmember O’Farrell was on hand to celebrate. It was also announced in April that the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street will be getting a scramble crosswalk sometime in July.

DASH Service Improvements, NELA Expansion Makes Progress

StreetsblogLA shared news that potential DASH service improvements, including Sunday service, longer hours, and increased frequency, could start taking shape soon due to available funds in current fiscal year budget. New DASH lines altogether, such as the proposed Elysian Valley/Cypress Park line, and Glassell Park/Highland Park line, are also on the horizon pending funding.

Bike-Share Expansion to Echo Park, Silver Lake Closer to Reality

LADOT is recommending a Fiscal Year 2018-19 Metro bike share expansion to include approximately 700 bicycles the DTLA adjacent communities, including Silver Lake and Echo Park. Per StreetsblogLA, the expansion is unfunded and anticipated to costs $900,000 for its initial year. While more bikes on the ground and providing access to bikes is a positive thing, the price tag does make one wonder if this is the most sound investment a city can make in promoting bicycle use.

San Gabriel Valley Check-In

In may soon get easier to take transit to the San Gabriel Mountains. Pasadena Now reports Pasadena Transit is introducing a 6-month pilot for a new bus route connecting the Memorial Park Gold Line station to the Sam Merrill Trail in Altadena.

It’s official, again. Senator Anthony Portantino is convinced that the decades long debated 710 freeway extension “is dead,” that “it’s not going to happen.”

Oh the places NELA’s Gold Line Stations will take you someday. Per the Daily Bulletin, “The California Sate Transportation Agency announced Thursday it would award $290 million to the Gold Line extension to support the project on both sides of the Los Angeles-San Bernardino county line.”

Livability in Boyle Heights and Beyond

  •  Boyle Heights Pedestrian Linkages: Boyle Heights discussed “pedestrian linkages” for the neighborhood.
  • Arts District Bike/Ped Improvements: It may become safer and more pleasant to walk and bike in the Downtown LA adjacent Arts District if the Arts District Pedestrian and Cyclist improvements Project Plan moves forward.
  • Envision Eastern: El Sereno’s “Envision Eastern” initiative to make Eastern Avenue a safe, complete street will have a design workshop meeting on May 8th. There is also an online survey available to provide input on what needs to be improved.
  • State Bills to Improve Park AccessNewly elected Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo is off to a strong start, championing two bills to improve access to parks. According to a press release:
    • AB 2614 would require the Natural Resources Agency to track the availability of outdoor experiences for disadvantaged youth in a school district and create a grant program to encourage access to these experiences with the goal of improving the overall health and well-being of these youth.
    • AB 2615 would require the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to develop strategies to maximize safe and convenient access for bicycles and pedestrians to federal, state, regional, and local parks near or connected to the state highway system.
  • Waze Taking Toll on Neighborhood Streets: An article by LA Times writer Steve Lopez sparked quite a conversation about the effect apps such as Waze is having on residential streets, including streets like Echo Park’s Baxter Street, one of the steepest streets in the nation.

 

Eagle Rock Kid Asks for Dutch Style Bike Paths…In 1974!

Are current efforts aimed at bringing quality bicycle infrastructure to Eagle Rock a passing fad? Is it something just the newcomer hipsters are asking for to cause headache to the longtime residents? While some frame the issue in such terms, perhaps this is not the case.

According to public records available from the City Clerk’s Archives and Records Center in Downtown Los Angeles, demand for better bicycling conditions in Northeast Los Angeles goes back decades. In fact, there was so much public interest in bicycling during the 1970s that a folder kept by the area’s councilmember at the time is simply titled “Bikeways.” Included in that folder are public communications the council office had with constituents. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is the below letter one constituent wrote.

In October 1974, a young Eagle Rock child had recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam, and penned a letter to the local councilmember asking for similar Dutch-style protected bike paths here ,”so people can ride bikes safely.”

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A young Eagle Rocker asks his councilmember for Dutch-style bike paths.

Then Councilmember Art Snyder was vocally supportive of bicycling on the city council, and championed the construction of the Arroyo Seco Bike Path in nearby Highland Park. However, the first bike lanes in Eagle Rock would not be striped until March 1998 along Eagle Rock Boulevard– nearly 24 years after this young kid’s letter, and long after Snyder left office.

How did Snyder respond to the letter?

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In the other letter referenced by Snyder, he wrote of sponsoring support for State legislation to use a portion of the State gas tax fund to construct “bikeways and exclusive bike lanes throughout the State” and a forthcoming “500-mile Master Plan for Bikeways for Los Angeles.” The plan was described as “a long-term construction and street-space allocation program” and when it was time for council to vote on it, Snyder said that as a bike rider himself, he expected to give full support to the program.