Wednesday, December 10, 2008

CityWatchLA - LADOT on Speed: Don’t Need Public’s Help

CityWatch, Dec 9, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 99

Just when you thought it was safe to cross the street, the LADOT is back in front of the Transportation Commission, asking for speed limit increases on five streets segments in the West Valley.

The proposed speed limit increases are for sections of Mulholland Drive, Corbin Avenue, Saticoy Street, White Oak Avenue and Fallbrook Avenue. These five proposals are part of approximately two dozen speed limit increase proposals that the LADOT is working through the system. At issue is the State mandate that restricts radar enforcement of speed limits to streets that have speed limits that are set based on the 85% percentile criteria, meaning that traffic is evaluated and speeds measured and the speed limit is set so that 85% of the motorists are traveling legally. As Alan Willis, Senior Transportation Engineer for the LADOT explains, "Drivers vote on the speed limit with their gas pedal."

Meanwhile, residents have voiced their opinion in emails, online, at neighborhood council meetings and on the evening news. In the last three months, this process for evaluating and raising the speed limits has become a hot topic for debate.

One resident wrote of the Mulholland proposal "I also object to any thought of any speed increase limit on Mulholland Drive or Topanga Canyon Blvd. This is a Disaster Zone...instead of speed warnings there should be signs showing a skull and crossbones, highlighting the high incidence of horrible crashes that occur here day after day, week after week, and year after year. The sound of police and ambulance sirens is horrifying for all of us in the general vicinity of this most unfortunate intersection....the sound of the collisions at all hours of the day and night is terrifying...and nothing is done to make this place a safer zone for drivers or pedestrians!"

Another protested "With the amount of small children in our subdivision, and young families, WE ARE AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN. To increase the speed limit is ASKING FOR DEATH TO OCCUR- PERIOD!!! while another complained "My Tampa Estates neighborhood has been asking the city for help with speeding in our neighborhood for years (literally). And now they want to increase the speed limits? Our neighborhood is off the side streets from Corbin, and when the Orange Line backs up traffic, cars use our street as an Indy 500 detour. Not exactly safe for the young families and seniors living in our area."

The LADOT, in a demonstration of its "soft" skills, sent a letter to the community explaining that "the establishment of speed limits can be an emotional issue." Apparently, working on speed limit proposals for a year while leaving the community out of the process, ignoring the public when they protest and failing to pursue the full spectrum of traffic calming techniques available to transportation professionals evokes an "emotional" response from the community.

The letter, in a subtle dismissal of the "emotional" concerns of the community, proceeds with an explanation that "a rational, objective and defensible determination is necessary to maintain public confidence in the process." Public confidence?

Chip Yost of KTLA covered the issue and pointed out that the current process for surveying streets and setting speed limits leaves something to be desired, hardly the system that inspires the "public confidence in the process" that the LADOT espouses.

Councilman Dennis Zine has responded to the brouhaha over speed limit increases with a City Council resolution calling for a process that would "allow local traffic engineers and transportation authorities to develop and make use of more tools for traffic calming and enforcement."

Transportation Commissioner D. Malcolm Carson has responded to the protests of the community by meeting with the LADOT and the LAPD to establish more rigorous standards for evaluation and for communication.

Meanwhile, the LADOT has these five speed limit increase proposals on the Consent Agenda of the Transportation Commission for the THIRD time, demonstrating a tenaciousness that might be better applied to projects that actually come with community support.

The Transportation Commission meets on Thursday, December 11, at 10:00 am in room 1070 of City Hall.

If you have any comments on the proposed speed limit proposals, email them to me and I'll carry them in and present them during public comment.

"See you on the Streets!"

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