Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 2

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Gold Line train descends from the bridge over the 101 freeway in downtown L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Gold Line train descends from the bridge over the 101 freeway in downtown L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Julian Burke dies at 85; former MTA chief (L.A. Times)

Mr. Burke was widely credited with stabilizing the young agency that was facing a consent decree over its bus service, construction issues with its subway and bad publicity on several fronts. Excerpt:

In 1997, the MTA was in turmoil, with a deficit of at least $29 million and a vacancy in the chief executive’s office for several months. One chief had been fired and another had resigned.
Riordan asked Burke to assist with a task force on the agency’s finances and soon, Riordan recalled, “he came back to say it was just about in bankruptcy.”
A short time later, Riordan asked him to step in as interim chief. “I got snagged into this job,” Burke told The Times in 2000. “I thought I was here for four to six months.”
As chief executive, he put more buses on the streets, and by the end of his second year, he had closed the agency’s considerable budget gap, Lipsky said.
He also won the respect of labor leaders at the height of the 2000 walkout, which left 450,000 riders stranded. Originally paid $180,000 a year, he had taken a voluntary pay cut in 1998, when the agency was eliminating some jobs.

To fight gridlock, a city synchronizes every light (New York Times)

The NYT parachutes in on the news earlier this year that Los Angeles completed its three decade effort of putting every traffic light in the city on the same computerized synchronization program. But will it solve traffic? Nope but it will likely increase the capacity of roads and speed travel times.

Garcetti comes out against LAX runway plan (L.A. Times)

The L.A. mayoral race takes a turn into transportation policy. Councilman Eric Garcetti says he’s against moving the northern runway 260 feet to the north, which would put it closer to Westchester homes. Controller Wendy Greuel has yet to take a specific position for or against.

The runway move is part of a series of projects that LAX wants to build, saying it will be safer and make the airport better able to handle larger planes such as the Airbus A-380. Other airport projects include a people mover and consolidated rental car facility. The runway issue doesn’t involve Metro, but it is highly contentious. The agency is obviously watching the people mover issue as the agency is currently studying a project to determine the best way to hook up the Crenshaw/LAX Line with the airport terminals.

Councilman favors lane change on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock (The Eastsider)

L.A. Councilman and Metro Board Member Jose Huizar says he would be in favor of replacing a traffic lane with a bike lane on busy Colorado, which would reduce the number of car lanes from three to two in each direction. Makes sense to me; there’s no need for Colorado to be so wide as it parallels the 134 freeway. My issue with the proposal: the bike lane would be between the car lanes and the car parking lane. How about swapping them so the bike lane is next to the curb and protected by the parking lane?

10 replies

  1. Agreed, drivers popping open their car doors when they park without checking their rear view mirror for cyclists can lead to deadly cycling accidents.

  2. “How about swapping them so the bike lane is next to the curb and protected by the parking lane?”

    While this would likely result in a safer, more pleasant experience for users of the bike lanes, it would also be more expensive and complicated to implement. When you do parking-protected bike lanes, you need additional signalization to prevent conflicts between thru-traveling bicyclists and right-turning drivers. This is how they’ve done it in Holland, Denmark and other places that have these types of facilities. There’s a tradeoff between the safety and comfort of protected lanes and the cheapness and ease of simply restriping the street; the City of LA would likely not be able to stripe as many miles of bike lanes per year if it were to do more protected lanes. This is the calculation LADOT has made thus far, as they have a mayoral mandate to stripe 200 miles in 5 years and only so much money (the bike portion of the City’s Measure R local return) to work with.

    The thing is, the supply of “easy miles” (where bike lanes can be inserted without increasing auto traffic delays) is starting to run out, meaning the barriers to further bike lane implementation are no longer financial, but political (i.e., convincing neighborhood leaders and elected officials that the benefits of bike lanes are worth the reduction in vehicle travel capacity). There’s a growing sense in LA bike planning and advocacy circles that, given this reality, the tradeoff between more expensive protected lanes and cheaper painted lanes might be worth it; that protected lanes will appeal to people who would otherwise be too scared to bike on the street in a standard bike lane — and thus will be seen as a benefit to the larger community as opposed to a minority of traffic-tolerant cyclists, which is how opponents tend to paint things right now. The new mayoral administration will represent an opportunity for advocates to push City Hall to shift its emphasis from quantity to quality and go beyond the marginal improvements of the last few years. Stay tuned.

    • Hi Niall;

      Thanks for the feedback. My question for bike advocates and the city: while I like to see the new bike lanes, I don’t see many people using some of them. So the question is why?

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Steve: Most likely the reason I referred to above, namely that unprotected lanes only marginally improve the bicycling experience and attract only a relatively small number of people beyond the hardcore set. Also, when you’re starting from close to nothing, even a significant increase in percentage terms (like the doubling in ridership observed by the LACBC on Spring Street post-bike lane) will be hard to perceive.

    Then there’s the fact that most bike lanes have been placed on secondary thoroughfares and other out-of-the-way locations and/or tend to disappear right as they near major destinations and where the streets get more congested — Westwood Blvd near UCLA is a great example; so is Sunset nearing DTLA and Santa Monica Blvd right where it crosses the 405. If you only stripe bike lanes where it’s easy and not where it’s most useful, you’re going to end up dumping cyclists into nasty traffic situations that could be so stressful that they may not even bother making the trip, even on the non-stressful part. It’s all about connecting the network, which is still pretty fragmented for the most part.

  4. Steve,

    I think it comes down to who the bicyclists are. I used to bike around when I was single. I thought why would I ever need a car?

    But once I got married and had kids of my own, my life changed to being car-centric just like my parents.

    Time is valuable; I can’t be using up 2 hours of my time bicycling from home to work when I have to do lots of things that the car can.

    Before, life was easy. Hop on my bicycle, ride 2 hours to work and home and get great exercise while at it.

    Now it’s leave home, drop off kids, go to work. Then in the afternoon it’s leave work, pick up kids, do grocery shopping, come back home. A bicycle can’t do this; only the car could. And no way am I going to ride a bicycle with my baby. There’s too much risk out there and it’s too dangerous to be riding a bicycle with a baby onboard.

    Life is much simpler with the car and it took marriage and kids for me to realize that.

    Bicycling is great option to get around the city when you’re single. It flies out the door when people get married and have kids. I assume there are a lot more married people with kids in LA than singles, therefore that’s why there’s so few people using the bicycle lanes.

    • Hi A Parent;

      I agree time is one issue. That said, I do think there are enough people living in L.A. that I would expect to see more bike commuters. I assume there are a lot of parents in Portland and Copenhagen, respectively, but it doesn’t seem to have put a crimp in the number of people cycling.

      I think Niall makes a good point: a fragmented network is going to have tough times. Hopefully as the network is better connected more people will cycle. Even then I think the numbers we see (or don’t) will directly correspond to the quality of the bike lanes. Even if the bike lane on Huntington Boulevard through El Sereno connected with anything, I’m not sure I would bike it — it’s a narrow lane next to three very busy lanes of traffic along with a stretch in which the lane sits between traffic lanes and diagonal parking serving El Sereno businesses. It’s a tough stretch.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. I think cops will just arrest parents bicycling with their babies for some made up matter like child endangerment or something. You know how they love to make stuff like that up. And people know that so they don’t do it.

  6. A Parent hinted whats wrong with LA urban planning by saying “I can’t be using up 2 hours of my time bicycling from home to work.” No one in Copenhagen or Portland bikes 2 hours to get from home to work. That’s the problem.

    LA wasn’t built as bike friendly city like Copenhagen or Downtown Portland where there are affordable condos everywhere and everything is close by within walking or biking distance.

    City planning since the 1960s were built with the automobile in mind. We have suburban homes and strip malls with vast wasteful land space being used up as parking lots. And these stretch out for miles and miles over to neighboring counties. You can’t build public transit everywhere so these people drive to work into LA County, clogging up our freeways.

    At the same time we have apartment dwellers who live within LA County who by far, a large majority of them are stuck in the “I can never afford a place of my own” quagmire because of this housing situation. And these apartment dwellers live close to work, don’t use public transit either because it’s not cost worthy to use public transit for short distance travel. Hence these people also clog up our street roads.

    We need to fix the housing situation and redo city planning first. And it can’t just be centered on Downtown LA. It has to be everywhere in LA County from places like the San Fernando Valley to the north, Torrance and the South Bay areas to the south, Culver City and Santa Monica to the west, and West Covina and Monrovia to the east.

    Poor city planning contributed to this mess and every single city planners and city managers throughout LA County is at fault for this. Zoning laws will have to change. Caps on height restrictions will have to be lifted. Single family homes will have to be bought out and be replaced with tall high rise condos, similar in style to the condo canyons that were built near UCLA and Westwood. At the same time, commercial buildings with retail stores will also have to be built where strip malls are. It will take years, if not decades, to do all of this.

    Only then, will we have a truly bicycle friendly city.

  7. There are several reasons why people do not use bike lanes. One reason is that not every street in the city has one. For the streets that do have bike lanes, I see people driving in those lanes and they never receive a ticket. Also, people who live near the beach may find it safer to use the bike way between Santa Monica and the South Bay.

  8. I think Steve gets it right. Fragmented bike network = necessity for vehicular cycling. It takes time, commitment and confidence one is visible (at night, adequate lights and reflective gear) to feel comfortable vehicular cycling. And knowledge that this is an acceptable option. I think there’s a gap in cyclist education: based on my observation of vehicular cyclists, highly educated, literate English speakers can go out and find out about it, but younger and non-English-speakers don’t know it’s an option.