Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a sweeping reform of LA’s transportation policies a couple weeks ago. The motoring public took a big hit.
His Mobility Plan 2035 hopes to make Angelenos give up or reduce their use of private vehicles. It involves the installation of hundreds of miles of exclusive bus lanes, pedestrian enhancements, dedicated bicycle lanes and related amenities on LA streets and highways over the next few years to achieve “Great Streets.”
Sound familiar? It should. Santa Monica has had its own homebrew version of Garcetti’s Mobility Plan for the past 30 years. We started with traffic calming; slowing traffic via physical impediments such as stop signs, phased traffic lights and extending curbing into intersections, speed bumps and went on from there.
More recently, Santa Monica’s traffic misplanners added center traffic medians, islands, narrowed traffic lanes and outright removal of congested traffic lanes and left turn pockets to their bag of tricks. It’s made it more inconvenient and stressful to drive here and growing ranks of angry frustrated motorists have added significantly to our congestion.
Knowledgeable opponents of Garcetti’s Mobility Plan predict that removing traffic lanes on many of LA’s major boulevards will lead to traffic chaos. But, he’s a hip (if not a practical) mayor, so who cares if people find it harder to get to jobs, schools, shops or just go out? Those opposed to Garcetti’s “Great Streets” program state that the resulting traffic on gridlocked streets will seriously impair police, fire and paramedic/ambulance response times too.
So what if Los Angeles has hundreds of thousands of potholes that need filling (a situation that will get worse if we have the wet “El Nino” winter being predicted) and, speaking of pedestrians, thousands of miles of unsafe sidewalks? Priorities are priorities and the exclusive use of LA’s streets by the approximately 2 percent of those on bikes at the sacrifice of the 98 percent of the users in private vehicles is far more important than public safety.
Potholes can wreak havoc on a bicycle and its rider. Cracked, uneven sidewalks can lead to falls and pedestrian injuries. More people would ride public buses if they were more reliable and convenient. Forcing people out of cars by making streets impassable doesn’t work here and won’t work in LA.
If Garcetti wants to make alternative transportation modes more inviting to the public, he should start with the basics: safe sidewalks and streets. But, that isn’t fashionable or hip. Image-conscious Garcetti, like our own policy makers, prefers idealism over reality.
Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista, between Inglewood Boulevard and Beethoven Street, is one of the first projects. This corridor is facing a loss of traffic of two of its present six traffic lanes, replaced by protected bike lanes. Four new mid-block pedestrian crossings with pedestrian activated signal lights and beautifying features such as planter medians, furniture and parklets are included to make the street more welcoming.
The only thing I see happening on this heavily-traveled thoroughfare is more congestion. And, don’t forget the “let’s cut through the quiet residential neighborhoods to get around the gridlock” phenomenon that boulevard-adjacent neighbors face as a result.
We get letters
Thanks to Roger Swanson, chair of the Lincoln Boulevard Task Force for his letter (Aug. 18, Pg. 6) in the Daily Press. He responded to my comments last Monday about his organization’s wish list for enhancing Lincoln from the freeway to the Venice border.¬† Swanson’s letter, which I hope will prompt more community dialog about the thoroughfare’s future, started off a bit rough though. He implied I was uninformed because in part, I’ve “never walked Lincoln.” Truth is I’ve walked it many times and drive Lincoln frequently.
We differed on peak hour, bus/bicycle only curb lanes currently used for parking. With ten Rapid 3 and regular No. 3 buses an hour and a projected few dozen bicyclists, the unused lanes will sit unused most of the time. Better to keep the parking for Lincoln businesses or prohibit rush hours parking all together and use the space to increase vehicular capacity during rush hour traffic. Sitting empty is the worst use for this resource.
Swanson suggested using residential side streets for business-related rush hour parking instead of Lincoln. However, many side streets already have parking restrictions and neighbors will be begging for more if that happens.
Claims that implementing curb-adjacent bus/bike lanes in Venice and the Marina area would ease congestion in Santa Monica don’t make sense. Congestion on Lincoln here is mostly a result of inadequate street capacity and traffic signals. Some of his task force’s recommendations will make things worse on Lincoln if they’re not carefully thought out.
I wrote that additional crosswalks and center medians would obstruct traffic and eventually contribute to commuters short-cutting through quiet residential neighborhoods. It’s a risk I wouldn’t want to take if I were in Swanson’s shoes.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org