Wilshire Boulevard - one of the highest volume bus lines on the planet - photo LA Wad via L.A. Streetsblog

Since the formation of the Green L.A. Transportation Working Group five years ago, one of our top priorities has been the implementation of Bus-Only Lanes (BOL)in the city of Los Angeles. Bus-Only lanes are a very low cost, very effective way of increasing mobility, including increasing transit speed and capacity.

At that time, it appeared that the Wilshire Bus-Only Lane project implementation was just around the corner… but the project has dragged on and on. Finally, it’s now imminent (at least it’s funded and the environmental review is about to be approved – construction may drag it out a bit more), and there’s a lot of resistance from some anti-bus homeowners along Wilshire near Westwood.

Green L.A. Transportation Working Group’s Bus Riders Union representative Esperanza Martinez passed along the following action alert in support of implementing the full bus lane project:

Hello GLA friends, members and allies,

Many of you have been an important part of our fight to make the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes project a reality! All the way from fighting to protect the initial one mile thru the DEIR process and now what we should be the last round before we make it home safe to a full 8.7 mile implementation!! Read the rest of this entry »

Los Angeles International Airport - Photo by LAANE

This afternoon, Green L.A. Transportation Work Group folks received an early look at a Coalition for Clean Air study on airport pollution. The presenter/researcher is Colleen Callahan, and the study isn’t quite finished, and not available on-line, but will be available some time in the near future at the CCA website.

Here’s the blurb that was sent out announcing the meeting:

While Colleen’s report is larger in scope, for this presentation she will focus on passenger ground access transportation at Los Angeles International. LAX is the most polluting airport in the region and the vehicles traveling to and from LAX are most significant source of pollution related to the airport’s operations. Colleen finds that LAX’s ground access pricing system is such that the most polluting and least efficient transportation mode– the kiss-and-ride option that results in four trips versus two or less– is incentvized while less polluting modes– drive and park, taxi, shuttle, FlyAway, and transit– are disincentized. For example, LAX collects $2.50 every time a cab enters the airport, but there is no charge for private vehicles to enter the LAX circle and the immediate roads into LAX. Colleen’s main recommendation is to increase the viability of alternative ground access options by: 1) decreasing the cost of other modes relative to the kiss-and-ride mode and 2) increasing transit options through collaborative, regional approaches.

Two interesting things I learned that I didn’t know:

1) The “non-commercial general aviation airports” (not LAX, but the other ones – frequented by private jets – including Van Nuys) are a significant source of lead, which is still used in small airplane fuels. Scary that we still haven’t learned the lesson of lesson of just how toxic lead is. We, in the city of L.A. should ban it from our airport fuel use.

2) For a lot of air pollution impacting airport communities, car traffic is more responsible than airplanes are. So, to get a handle on airport pollution, we need to look at things like TDM (Transportation Demand Management.) We need to look at getting more people to the airport via transit, taxis, and bicycles… and fewer “kiss-and-ride” drop offs.

Looking forward to reading the finished study and to making progress on solving these important issues.

updated 13 April 2010 9pm

Living Streets Tenets

30 September 2009

by Jen Petersen

In July, a GLATWG Complete Streets subgroup met to discuss how to move towards Los Angeles-specific implementation of the State of California’s Complete Streets Act of 2007/8. We decided that the first and most crucial step in this direction would be to define what we wanted ‘Complete Streets’ to mean, and to look like, given the contemporary state of streets in LA. And so we fashioned a list of tenets for what we dubbed Living Streets –because we wanted to specify that we don’t aim to complete our streets, which would imply that an objective completeness is possible–but to bring them alive, and invite them to a dynamic role in the life of our city.

The key proposition behind our tenets for Living Streets, is that by focusing on the basic mobility needs of people, rather than cars, we can make more efficient use of our City, retraining our streets as a healthy circulatory system for us, and begin to remedy some of the uninviting characteristics of life in Los Angeles. In other words, if we reapportion our abundant street space for people-scaled urban needs for closeness, beauty, and safety, we will pave the way for better residential and business development patterns that support high quality residential and commercial life.

Our ’10 Tenets for Living Streets’ follow.

10 Tenets for Living Streets Los Angeles

Overarching, supra-tenet:

**Our streets prioritize people, not automobiles**

1.) Living streets integrate income equity into their design and function.

2.) Living Streets are designed for people of all ages and physical abilities whether they walk, bicycle, ride transit, or drive.

3.) Living Streets integrate connectivity and traffic calming with pedestrian-oriented site and building design to create safe and inviting places.

4.) Living Streets connect people through:
* everyday interaction
* shared responsibility to street design and planning.

5.) Living Streets strengthen and enhance neighborhoods.

6.) Living Streets encourage active and healthy lifestyles.

7.) Living Streets integrate green management and conservation of water, energy, and plant life.

8.) Living Streets are inviting places–with engaging architecture, street furniture, landscaping, and public art.

9.) Living Streets foster healthy commerce.

10.) Living streets vary in character by neighborhood, density and function.

(Created by Aurisha, Deborah, Dorothy, Jen, Ryan on August 5, 2009)

Wilshire Bus-Only Lane Project Map - from Metro Website - Click for 2-page Metro Fact Sheet with Detailed Map

Wilshire Bus-Only Lane Project Map - from Metro Website - Click for 2-page Metro Fact Sheet with Detailed Map

Since the Fall of 2006, before I got involved with the Green L.A. Transportation Working Group, GLATWG has had among its top three goals the following: (from our 2006 publication A Green Los Angeles)

Reccomendation: Increase bus-only lanes
Immediately begin planning implementation of more peak-hour bus-only lanes.

The Bus Riders Union has lead the campaign for the city of Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard bus-0nly lanes, and many GLATWG members have testified in favor of these lanes at public hearing. The Wilshire project is funded, and currently undergoing environmental review. Readers can find out more about the project at Metro’s website and at this recent article at L.A. StreetsBlog.

The project as currently planned and funded will run on Wilshire Boulevard from Valencia Street (in Pico Union) to Centinela (the L.A. – Santa Monica border), though does not include the stretch of Wilshire through the city of Beverly Hills. The neighborhoods traversed are represented by Los Angeles City Councilmembers (from East to West)  Ed Reyes, Herb Wesson, Tom LaBonge, Paul Koretz, and Bill Rosendahl.

Green L.A. Transportation Work Group recently generated the following sign-on letter in which our participants expressed our bus-only lane project support to newly-elected Councilmember Paul Koretz:

8 September 2009

Honorable Councilmember Paul Koretz
200 North Spring Street, Room 440
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Re: Wilshire Boulevard Bus-Only Lane Project

Dear Councilmember Koretz:

Thank you for your strong record of environmental leadership at the city of West Hollywood, and in the State Legislature. We look forward to working with you to make progress on environmental issues in the city of Los Angeles.

The undersigned Green Los Angeles Coalition members listed below wish to express our support for the implementation of the city’s planned and funded bus only lanes for Wilshire Boulevard. The Green L.A. Coalition is a broad coalition of environmental justice and environmental groups working to make Los Angeles more equitable and more sustainable for all its residents.

The Wilshire Bus-Only Lane project is important as a visible example of the city’s commitment to green transportation. This project will help the city to expand mobility options, to set precedent for more complete living streets, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollution, and to improve public health.  The Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes broaden the range of transportation options, including supporting multimodal trips combining walking and bicycling with transit.

Please exercise your environmental leadership to ensure that this project continues to make progress, and to see that it is implemented in a timely manner.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Joe Linton
Green L.A. Transportation Working Group Co-Chair
Urban and Environmental Policy Institute

Colleen Callahan
Manager of Air Quality Policy and Advocacy
American Lung Association in California

Jennifer Klausner
Executive Director
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

Deborah Murphy
Los Angeles Walks, Founder
City of Los Angeles Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Chair

Francisca Porchas
Lead Organizer Clean Air Campaign
Bus Riders Union

Bart Reed
Executive Director
Transit Coalition

Martin Schlageter
Campaign Director
Coalition for Clean Air

Sentayehu G Silassie
Board President
Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance

Ryan Snyder
RSA Associates

Erin Steva
Transportation Advocate
CALPIRG

Denny Zane
Executive Director
Move L.A.*

*title/organization is for identification purposes only

 cc: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson, Los Angeles City Councilmembers LaBonge, Reyes, Rosendahl, and Wesson

At our August Green L.A. Transportation Work Group meeting, Executive Director of Move L.A. Denny Zane made a presentation about the proposed National Infrastructure Development Bank. This is a proposed federal bank that would be able to loan money to agencies at a reduced rate – allowing local dollars to be spent sooner and to go further. This could help transportation projects (locally especially those funded by Measure R) and ultimately could also be open to fronting other infrastructure dollars for things like stormwater, libraries, parks, etc.

Right now it’s a federal bill HR2521 the “National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2009” introduced by Congressmember Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. Reportedly soon to be introduced in the U.S. Senate, too. Locally, Metro endorsed it on June 23rd (It’s item 63 on page 20 here, but more helpful is their 3-page analysis of HR2521,) but, at least as of a few weeks ago, no Southern California legislators had signed on.

Denny circulated copies of this 5-page summary of the NIDBA bill. Move L.A. is requesting organizations to sign on to the letter below which will be copied to California’s senators and L.A.’s representatives. If your organization is intersted in signing on to this letter, please email dennyzane [at] movela.org

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
3rd Congressional District
New Haven, Connecticut

Dear Congresswoman DeLauro:

The undersigned organizations deeply appreciate the strong leadership you have displayed in the development and introduction of HR 2521, a bill that would create a National Infrastructure Development Bank.  We endorse this bill and will encourage our members and our communities to support the bill as well. 

HR 2521 is landmark legislation that will play, we believe, a very significant role in our nation’s effort, and in the efforts of countless communities, to address significant deficiencies and remedy long term deterioration and decay in our nation’s transportation and other vital systems.
 
HR 2521 would fund and create a bank that would direct public and private dollars toward infrastructure projects of national or regional significance.  A similar proposal was included in the Obama Administration’s Budget released earlier this year.  Like the proposal in the Obama Budget, HR 2521 would capitalize the bank at a rate of $5 billion for five years and would provide the Bank with $250 billion in total subscribed capital and $625 billion in total loan making capability. 

We believe that a properly capitalized infrastructure bank as proposed in HR 2521 could be used to accelerate major transportation projects in Los Angeles County, and other communities, by providing loans secured by Measure R funds, a recently approved ½ cent sales tax increase for transportation projects approved by more than 2/3 of Los Angeles County voters last November.  Measure R will provide a revenue stream of up to $40 billion over 30 years, nearly 70% of which will be used for public transit infrastructure and operations.

NIDB  loans secured by Measure R funds could enable LA County to accelerate the development of many voter approved transit and highway projects, thereby reducing their development costs, creating good new jobs quickly, and jump starting economic recovery while energizing our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

The undersigned, therefore, endorse:

• H.R. 2521,  to create a National Infrastructure Development Bank as introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

Further, to enable this program to better fulfill its mission, we urge that:

• NIDB loans be available not only for project-specific applications, but also for multi-project infrastructure programs backed by broad-based revenue streams, e.g., locally approved taxes; and that,

• Congress authorize interest-forgiveness on NIDB loans for projects that significantly advance national economic development or environmental goals, such as zero-GHG-emission transit projects, like electric transit, powered by zero-emission renewable energy resources.

Thank you for your leadership and for your time and attention.

Sincerely

Denny Zane
Executive Director
Move LA  
  
CC: 
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Diane Feinstein 
Members, Los Angeles County Delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives

Coalition for Clean Air's report: Getting to Work: Your clean air commute

Coalition for Clean Air's report: Getting to Work: Your clean air commute

Green L.A. Transportation Work Group participant (and more often than not host) Coalition for Clean Air has released its new report “Getting to work: Your clean air commute.” The report’s primary author is me, Joe Linton, co-chair of GLATWG.

The report highlights employer best practices for promoting clean air commuting, including: bicycling, carpooling, walking, vanpooling, telework, transit, and, of course, managing parking!

CCA’s Martin Schlageter and I presented the report at this morning’s meeting of the Los Angeles City Council’s Jobs, Business Growth and Tax Reform Committee.  The commitee’s agenda included Council Motion 08-3249, in which the city is looking to set strategies and thresholds for employers throughout L.A. to implement a menu of transportation demand management (TDM) strategies, including pre-tax transit benefits and parking cash-out. Speaking in favor of the council motion and clean air commuting were City Controller Wendy Greuel, Samuel Garrison of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and Jason Elias of the Service Employees International Union. The motion now goes to the full city council.

Here’s the power point presentation we gave today, the full report is available here.

Committee Chair Honorable Greig Smith, with Coalition for Clean Air's Joe Linton and Martin Schlageter

Committee Chair Honorable Greig Smith, with Coalition for Clean Air's Joe Linton and Martin Schlageter

This morning, Green L.A. Coalition had a meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Here’s the mayoral ask from the Transportation Work Group:

The City of Los Angeles has prioritized car traffic over other modes. This over-dependence on automobiles has resulted in many problems locally — from congestion, to smog, to obesity, to a rash of recent collisions resulting in pedestrian fatalities — and globally — from resource wars, to global warming. Continuing our imbalanced reliance on cars hurts Los Angeles economically, environmentally, and erodes our quality of life.

While there are some notable smaller-scale initiatives, mostly from the City Planning Department, the culture of LADOT continues to approach streets as if the only users are cars. There is a new paradigm emerging nationally for “Complete Streets” — streets that are shared by pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and cars.

Green L.A. Ask:

We urge the Mayor to move Los Angeles into the era of Complete Streets. There are four arenas where Mayoral action is necessary to make this vision a reality:

1. Adopt a Complete Streets policy, including reworking existing street standards.

2. Ensure that future city budgets reflect the city’s commitment to accommodating pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, by dedicating more funds specifically for such modes. This includes dedicating local return funds from Measure R for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit services.

3. Use the Mayor’s leadership at Metro to emphasize Complete Streets regionally, including incorporating a Complete Streets policy in Metro’s Call for Projects, where pedestrian and bicycle projects need to be given more funding.

4. Direct deputy mayors for environment, transportation, and economic development to work together and meet with us on a regular basis to make Los Angeles streets livable, vibrant, environmentally-friendly and efficient for all.

The mayor responded affirmatively, though not necessarily committing to specifics.  He cited his leadership on Measure R,  pledged to keep Metro fares low, and stated his interest in a “more serious bicycle program.”  The mayor concluded with a call to the assembled environmental and environmental justice communities to “stand up more” so that our agenda can move forward and not get bogged down by the “retrenched group of folks who weigh in against everything we do.”

Environmental Deputy Mayor David Freeman followed.  Freeman was generally very good – refreshingly straightforward and emphasizing “actions that end up in results.”  He placed a lot of importance on climate change which he considers the most important issue facing us today.  He was generally supportive of bikes, but his interest, though, was more in getting cleaner/renewable energy and ultimately getting L.A.’s fleet of cars to be powered by renewable energy.

(For more information on GLATWG Complete Streets campaign, see older posts here, here, and here.)

This blog entry follows an earlier one which began to explore the possibilities for a Green L.A. Transportation Work Group campaign for a complete streets policy for the city of Los Angeles.  I recently spoke with Stefanie Seskin of the national Complete Streets Coalition and here are some of her recommendations for how to proceed in Los Angeles.

She recommended exemplary ordinances in the cities of Seattle, Washington and Orlando, Florida as potentially helping shape ours in Los Angeles.

The national coalition recommends ten specific points be included in the ordinance.  Per the national coalition, a good complete streets policy:

1. Includes a vision for how and why the community wants to complete its streets.
2. Specifies that ‘all users’ includes pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses, and automobiles.
3. Encourages street connectivity and aims to create a comprehensive, integrated, connected network for all modes.
4. Is adoptable by all agencies to cover all roads.
5. Applies to both new and retrofit projects, including design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.
6. Makes any exceptions specific and sets a clear procedure that requires high-level approval of exceptions.
7. Directs the use of the latest and best design standards while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.
8. Directs that complete streets solutions compliment the context of the community.
9. Establishes performance standards with measurable outcomes.
10. Includes specific next steps for implementation of the policy.

Stefanie also alerted me to a local development that I wasn’t aware of.  There is actually already a Los Angeles City Council motion on complete streets – actually two.  Councilwoman Jan Perry put forth a motion CF 07-0002-S141 for the city to endorse the state Complete Streets legislation AB1358 (described in my earlier post.)  That motion is still pending, though it’s moot now because the state legislation already passed.

In December 2008, Councilmember Ed Reyes introduced a motion CF 08-3349, which was seconded by Councilmember Wendy Greuel.  CF 08-3349 calls for:

the Planning and Transportation Departments to prepare a report that delineates the City’s plan to implement AB1358

This motion is still pending, though the departments of Planning and Transportation issued a report on May 8th.  The report states that

a number of actions have already occurred and additional activities are underway that will facilitate the transformation of our roadways into “Complete Streets.”

The report continues by citing various plans that the city is working on.  I don’t think that any of these plans actually fulfill the Complete Streets mandate in the state legislation.  Most of these are a step in the right direction, for example: the Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay, the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, Green Streets and Green Alleys, and the Downtown Street Standards.  Some are a bit more questionable as Complete Streets endeavors, including the Bike Plan,  the Transportation Strategic Plan and various Community Plan Updates.

Overall the report is rather frustrating to me, as Complete Streets legislation is meant to foster routine accomodation of all road users, while the city’s approach seems to be to a little bit here and there, while continuing its incomplete streets policy throughout most of the city.  The report should come before the city’s Planning and Land Use Management committee soon, and I expect that Green L.A. Transportation Work Group members will be there to make our positions known.

Complete Streets image from New York (from L.A. StreetsBlog)

Complete Streets image from New York City (from L.A. StreetsBlog)

In late 2008, one of the priorities that the Green LA Transportation Working Group (GLATWG) identified was “complete streets.”  This blog entry is an attempt to draft what we might mean by complete streets, and what the policy implications/goals might be for complete streets for the city of Los Angeles.

What are Complete Streets?

Here’s a definition from the completestreets.org website (from the National Complete Streets Coalition):

“Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and bus riders of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across a complete street.”

There are similar definitions on Wikipedia, and on websites of other non-profits that are campaigning for them – for example, the Iowa Bicycle CoalitionGood magazine recently ran this interactive photo-simulation that does a great job of showing the Complete Streets concept.

Many states, cities and other municipalities have adopted various versions of complete streets policies (see listing of examples here.)  Cities that have adopted policies include Santa Barbara, CA and Colorado Springs, CO.  Some cities, such as Austin, TX have various principles and guidelines for their policies. Recently Complete Streets policy has gone into effect in the states of Hawaii (where it was adopted legislatively as SB718), and Delaware (where it was implemented via executive order from governor.)

The state of California adopted Complete Streets policy in 2008.  California’s policy was adopted legislatively as AB1358, authored by then-Assemblymember Mark Leno of San Francisco.  The state bill (per this press release) requires:

“…cities and counties to include complete streets policies as part of their general plans so that roadways are designed to safely accommodate all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, children, older people, and disabled people, as well as motorists.”

The state mandate applies when a city updates its mobility/transportation element of its general plan.  The city of L.A. actually pretty good language in our General Plan Transportation Element.  Some examples from the existing city of Los Angeles transportation plan adopted in 1999:

“…reduction of vehicle trips, and through focusing growth in proximity to public transit.”
“Provide bicycle access in or near mixed use corridors, neighborhood districts, and community centers…”
“…maintain pedestrian-oriented environments…”

In my opinion, this plan language generally doesn’t get carried out when it comes to actual street design (with a few notable exceptions, for example the city Urban Design Studio’s Downtown Design Guidelines.)

Some of the language from governmental policies is a bit more formal, and allows a bit more wiggle room in its implementation.  For example, in the above-mentioned Delaware executive order, after stating that Delaware’s streets will accommodate all users, it goes on to qualify that:

“Ensure that any exemption to the Complete Streets Policy is specific and documented with supporting data that indicates the basis for the decision”

What would Complete Streets policy/outcome/goals look like for the city of Los Angeles? (ie: what are GLATWG’s goals for our complete streets campaign?)

This is where we need to hear from you.  GLATWG has suggested using complete streets as a way of framing our demands.  All of our campaigns – from bus-only lanes to parking reform to tracking modal share – can be seen as parts of a larger overall campaign.

Should GLATWG push for the city of Los Angeles to adopt an explicit Complete Streets policy?  Should it be done legislatively (via the City Council) or via executive order (via Mayor Villaraigosa)?  What should such a policy include?  How can we make it most effective?

If you have recommendations, ideas, examples, concerns, please add them to the comments on this post.  Please include links to sample policies, images, ideas, etc.  Thanks!