How a small project by a local non-profit stands for so much more
A little over a year ago, Metro’s First and Last Mile Planning team sat with LA-Más to talk about a TransitCenter grant application to improve access to the Gold Line’s Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park Station. But the hyper-local project was about more than maximizing the station; it was about recognizing the need to rethink the community outreach and visioning process and recognizing that in order for transit to succeed, paths to transit must be welcoming and clearly marked.
LA-Más, a non-profit urban design firm based in Northeast LA, engaged Metro in the project’s early phases. They made it clear that supporting the project required supporting a process. This community outreach and engagement process involved a lot of listening and a bit of investment before it was clear what exactly the project would be, what it would look like and how it would be implemented.
The process paid off, but not without a substantial amount of work and collaboration between LA-Más, Metro First and Last Mile planning, County Counsel, Metro Art & Design along with Caltrans, LA City, and LA City Council District 1. But the results were worth it – the design installations are stunning, and they demonstrate that transportation can be an opportunity around which unlikely things can occur. The connections between community and transit facilitated by this project hit on multiple levels from pragmatic to fun, and give Angelenos a better sense of what buzz words like placemaking, activation of space, wayfinding and first and last mile connections can actually mean.
Go Ave 26 supports pedestrians and public transit users around the transit hubs of Avenue 26, which connect Elysian Valley, Cypress Park, and Lincoln Heights. The project site (on Avenue 26 between Figueroa and Lacy Street) features many freeway on and off ramps, narrow sidewalks, and a lack of signage, all of which make it difficult to access transit and get around.
After a community outreach and engagement process that involved partnering with many local organizations, conducting intercept surveys, observational analysis, and online questionnaires, LA-Más produced designs for a series of temporary design installations. The installations include: seating and shading in Lacy Street Neighborhood Park; wayfinding signage that points to the Metro station, bus stations, and local amenities; murals on the underpass walls which create a sense of play and light; and patterns on the sidewalk, fences and poles that reclaim space for pedestrians and indicate clearer pathways.
In addition to designing and creating a series of physical improvements, LA-Más worked closely with government partners to encourage them to prioritize improvements in this sometimes overlooked area. Through the duration of this project, Caltrans replaced broken fencing, painted high visibility crosswalks, and completed a number of site clean-ups. The Department of Recreation & Parks installed two permanent picnic tables at Lacy Street Neighborhood Park. Councilmember Gil Cedillo ensured that crosswalks were added at Ave 26 and Lacy Street. Lastly, Metro will be adding new wayfinding signage at the Lincoln/Cypress Metro Station in next month!
As this project shows, through low-cost high-impact strategies, a little bit can go a long way.
With a little listening, a little paint, and a broader sense of what transportation can mean for a community, these design interventions are greater than the sum of their parts. Such projects require a willingness to be flexible on the part of agencies who may not know what they are getting into at the beginning. Metro is glad to have played its part in collaborating with LADOT, Caltrans and non-profits LA Walks, Investing in Place and the LA County Bicycle Coalition in bringing LA-Más’ small, but powerful, project to life.
We would like to congratulate all who were involved in bringing this project to life, and we encourage readers to check it out. We are confident the community will!