Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CityWatchLA - Speed Limit Increases Hit a Speed Hump

CityWatch, Nov 18, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 83

LA Traffic Watch
By Stephen Box

The Transportation Commission's consent agenda for this past Thursday hit a speed hump when the LA Department of Transportation and the LA Police Department withdrew the first of six proposed speed limit increases and the remaining five were pulled from "consent" because of a public comment card.

The proposed speed limit increases are the result of speed limit surveys conducted by the LADOT as required by the State in order to utilize radar and laser speed limit enforcement. When the prevailing speed is in excess of the speed limit, the speed limit is adjusted so that 85% of the motorists are now driving legally. Opponents to this process argue that 1) the LADOT has no business raising the speed limits on residential streets used for cut-through traffic 2) there are other traffic calming techniques that would bring the prevailing speed of traffic and the posted speed limit in sync 3) the 85% rule that the LADOT relies on when setting the speed limits is in the process of being reviewed and potentially revised at the State level and, 4) the community MUST be involved in the process of evaluating the speed limits and traffic in the neighborhood.

The LADOT was well represented with GM Rita Robinson flanked by two Assistant General Managers, John Fisher and Amir Sedadi, along with LAPD Officer Troy Williams, the Radar/Laser Coordinator for the Valley Traffic Division, and Senior Transportation Engineer Randall Tanijiri. This formidable team was assisted by Shelley Smith of the City Attorney's office who stated "What's being presented to you is the opportunity to enforce the speed limit."

Commissioner Andrea Alarcon took issue with the Assistant City Attorney's representation of the situation and countered "We're voting to increase the speed limit."

The LADOT gave a lengthy presentation on the need to increase speed limits in order to use radar/laser, and worked hard to create an "anti-radar - safe streets" dichotomy, one that failed when Alarcon pointed out that we all want safe streets, this is simply a discussion of how we make them safe and how we engage the community.

Commissioner D. Malcolm Carson was tenacious in establishing that radar enforcement is not the issue and that it has significant support. He argued that there must be other mechanisms for bringing the prevailing speed of traffic in line with existing speed limits and that these options must be explored with the community's support before there is a rush to simply raise the speed limit.

At one point in the discussion, a reference was made to the objections of the community to the speed limit increases and Robinson waved her hand at the single member of the public at the table and said "He's just one man." This comment was revealing for LADOT and its record of engaging the community.

Robinson also failed to acknowledge the dozen emails protesting the speed limit increases and the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council Board Resolution calling for a moratorium on the speed limit increases until LADOT involved the community and began giving 60 day notices of proposals for speed limit increases.

At the end of the day, the five proposed speed limit increases for the West Valley failed to pick up the approval of the Transportation Commission.

Commissioner Carson and AGM Fisher agreed to work together to establish policies for exploring other traffic calming techniques that could be incorporated into the process and to also review the process for engaging the community.

Unfortunately there was no agreement for Robinson and the LADOT to better listen to and involve the public in the process.

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

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