Monday, April 26, 2010

Chair of Metro Board says "I see bike racks!"

Ara Najarian, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Metro and the Mayor of Glendale, wrote a post for the Metro's blog, The Source, defending the Metro's Westlake/MacArthur Park Transit Oriented Development against claims that it failed to accommodate cyclists. First of all, I'm pleased that he is paying attention, I'm also pleased that he responded to the criticism of the Metro's most recent foray into the land of TOD. But I'm distressed that he took information from his staff at face value and that he failed to notice that it merely confirmed my charge, that the Metro's new transit-oriented development being built just west of downtown Los Angeles falls short of the LA Municipal Code minimums for bike parking. Regardless of the requirement, the Metro's "zero bike facilites" at the Phase I component is insufficient. It fails.

Metro's Westlake/MacArthur Park TOD Phase I, the initial phase of a two-phased development effort, will contain  90 units of affordable rental housing above approximately 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and residential, retail and commuter parking.  The commuter parking will consist of 100 spaces, partially funded by Metro, that are intended for use by Metro Rail commuters.  The total development costs for Phase I is approximately $45 million.  The second phase of the development will be constructed directly over the Metro Rail station entrance, and will be comprised of 82 affordable housing units, a retail component and associated parking.

Phase I will have a residential element, a retail component, and a full complement of commuter automobile parking but no bike racks, no bike lockers, no bike room. This is completely unacceptable. No matter how you spin it, this fails. Najarian explains, in his blog post, that for Metro commuters, the Phase I location is an inconvenient location for bike parking so the Metro plans to include it in the Phase 2 project. What about the people who live in Phase 1? What about the people who shop at the Phase 1 retail? Has nobody at the Metro ridden a bike? Cyclists should have bike parking available in all locations. There is commuter automobile parking in Phase 1, why not for cyclists?

Phase 2 will purportedly include the bike racks and lockers, but based on the Metro's most recent performance at the Eastside Extension and the Hollywood & Vine TOD, the public has little reason to expect anything other than bike parking as an after thought, if at all. The current Metro standard is to install bike parking where it fits, not where it belongs. That must change.

It is the ultimate demonstration of hubris that the Metro elects to pass on bike parking on Phase 1, instead postponing any accommodation in its declaration "Bicycle parking was chosen to be designed into the second phase of the project, which provides bicyclists with the same convenient access to the Westlake/MacArthur Park subway portal and multiple bus lines serving the station. Both bicycle lockers and racks will be placed in a visible location."

I stand by my original charge, that the Metro's Westlake/MacArthur Park Transit Oriented Development fails to accommodate cyclists. All promises of any pie in the sky schemes must be tempered by reality. Are they on paper or are they vague verbal commitments? Does the Metro have any Bike Parking standards that the public can rely on or are we limited to  vague verbal commitments? Does the Metro include any reference to bike parking in its real estate contracts with its development and operational partners or does it rely on vague verbal commitments.

The bottom line is this, the Metro considers bike parking as an afterthought, not as an intregal element that gets positioned in the early stages of planning. That must change.

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