After two years of discussions, surveys and planning, the City is moving forward with a $2.9 million plan to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety on Lincoln Boulevard, despite some residual skepticism about the addition of a dedicated bus lane to the busy street.
The Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor Plan (LiNC) will add a bus lane to the street from I-10 to the city limits on Ozone Avenue. Several business owners are concerned the lane will hurt accessibility to their stores because they will lose nearby street parking during high traffic hours. The current plan calls for adding a bus lane during the rush hour commute by eliminating parking between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. for westbound traffic.
The owner of Faithful Roots, an antique furniture store, complained her clients will lose the only three metered parking spaces she has during that time.
“I rely mostly on people seeing my store and pulling over and if there’s isn’t parking they certainly won’t come in,” Britta Clancey said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting where the plan was approved. “It needs to be easy for them. I’m a furniture store and I need easy parking for my clients.”
Clancey added most of her drop-in clients stop by on their way home from work. According to her store’s website, the shop closes at 5 p.m.
Just a five minute walk up the street, stylists at To the Maxx hair salon have the same concern since parking on their nearby side streets is permit only.
“It seems that one step at a time the parking has been eliminated and businesses can’t survive without parking,” Stylist Jane Swords said, adding that each of the stylists at the salon pays business taxes. “We’re supporting the City but it doesn’t seem the City is supporting us.”
The City’s principal planner, Peter James, vowed to work closely with concerned businesses to make the necessary adjustments to nearby streets. James cited a recent survey where 87 percent of businesses along the 1.25 mile stretch of Lincoln affected by the plan said they were supportive of the bus lane. Planning staff reached out to 115 businesses along the 17 blocks of Lincoln and only 16 reported being concerned or opposed to the idea.
“The project does enjoy support from the business community,” James said, calling the additional lane an important anti-gridlock measure.
Only one Councilmember voted against the plan, Councilmember Terry O’Day, who expressed disappointment the plan does not include a dedicated bike lane.
“Bikes are the fastest growing segment in our city by a long shot and it is incumbent on us to accommodate and plan for it,” O’Day said, who suggested staff look into accommodating bike traffic at by painting “bike boxes,” green squares at more intersections that position cyclists ahead of drivers at the stop bar, therefore increasing visibility.
“There’s a real lack of thoughtfulness related to bikes in this plan,” O’Day said, who wished to see a designated lane for cyclists incorporated into the streetscape. O’Day wondered if the plan to add landscaped medians to the road took away valuable space.
While several other Councilmembers agreed with O’Day’s sentiment, to them it was too late in the planning stages to scrap the current plan to accommodate a green stripe for bikes. James argued it is part of the City’s overall plan to discourage bikers from using busy thoroughfares like Lincoln, which moves about 50,000 cars a day, and instead direct them to less busy streets. Planning staff will look into adding additional bike boxes, however.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown was eager to move the plan forward.
“Five years ago, when we took control of Lincoln Boulevard from the State of California, they paid us to take it off their hands. That’s how bad of shape this road was in,” McKeown said.
The move to add a bus lane has been approved since 2005, however, because of years of delays its implementation will come while Big Blue Bus ridership is down. A recent mobility report revealed BBB ridership has decreased 12 percent, despite a widespread campaign by the City to get commuters out of their cars.
To Mayor Ted Winterer, that statistic gives fuel to the idea of a dedicated bus lane.
“If we can do anything to make it faster and more convenient to ride the bus, even if it’ only in our city limits, it’s something we need to move forward expeditiously,” Winterer said.
Planning staff has already begun meetings with LADOT to extend the lane into Los Angeles.