Monday, March 29, 2010

Metro's Hollywood & Vine "Bike Room" draws the crowds!


Opening night for the Metro's Hollywood & Vine "Bike Room" drew overflow crowds of the Hollywood elite, all anxious to take part in the Metro's ongoing commitment to Transit Oriented Development. They arrived in lovely private automobiles that were parked by the valets on Hollywood Boulevard, they arrived in taxis that competed with the Metro buses for the prime real estate on Hollywood Boulevard, they arrived in limos, they even arrived on foot, and if the bike parking had been in place they might have even arrived on bicycles. No matter, there's always time in the future for the cyclists, most importantly, the beautiful people were there to celebrate the "Bike Room" ribbon cutting and to be part of the TOD scene!




The W Hollywood is a $600 million Transit Oriented Development (TOD) that features the W Hotel, complemented by the W Residences, justified by the W Apartments, perched atop the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station, and wrapped around the Hollywood Boulevard public plaza. Critics might suggest that the public plaza is the "posterior" of the large complex, pointing to the lack of integration and connectivity as evidence to its "backside" status. (The public are asked to take Hollywood to Argyle and then to walk down to the "Motor Court" entrance to access the W Hotel. Delphine has no signage on the plaza side, instead aiming for the motoring public on Hollywood Boulevard. Those that arrive by Metro get little enticement to stay and become part of the W experience.)



As for the "Bike Room," critics have asked how a TOD project of this size can spend over a decade getting to the finish line, only to find that Metro Planning is just now asking "Where do the cyclists go?" It's only now that Metro Planning is looking to the other Metro Departments such as Real Estate, Operations, Rail, and Security and asking the tough questions such as "Who's in charge?"


None of which matters in the least to the crowds of Hollywood's finest who turned out to celebrate the impending arrival of the "Bike Room" and to celebrate the idea that pedestrians and cyclists and mass transit passengers are all "transportation heroes" at the Metro's Flagship Hollywood & Vine Red Line station.

Nestled discretely in an eastside nook, just opposite the rest rooms, is the "Bike Room." Take a look at the plywood wall (all dressed in black!) and the hasp lock (understated yet powerful!) and the fact that it is obviously closed. (Hollywood exclusivity only makes people want more!) Nothing says "Yes!" like being told "No!"

Truth be told, in spite of the overwhelming success of the "Bike Room" opening, I have a few suggestions for the Metro, which I offer in the hopes that the Hollywood & Vine Red Line station can improve and become the standard against which all other TOD projects are measured. Most importantly, this journey at Hollywood & Vine is also an opportunity for the Metro to examine its own (dis)organization and to improve systemically so that it becomes the Transportation System capable of planning and executing the 30/10 plan that would fund a dozen mega-projects, all executed within a decade by the same people who can't get bike racks installed at a Metro Station. Here are my observations and recommendations.

1) Metro Systemic Failure: The "Bike Room" non-start demonstrates that the Metro wasn't paying attention to its development partner from the beginning. The W Hollywood opened several weeks ago (complete with pictured employee bike parking) and the Metro is just now grappling with the need for to develop a plan for the proposed membership based bike parking system for the Metro station. This is not the visionary work LA needs from the Planning Department of the Metro. In fact, it demonstrates the need for the Metro to integrate and synchronize its many departments who all had a piece of this (in)action, from Real Estate to Planning to Operations to Rail to Security to Financial to the Executives who allow these people to operate without oversight or accountability. "Tear down these silos!"

2) Bike Room Location Conflict: The "Bike Room" is currently located on the east side of the plaza, in conflict with the W Hollywood and Drai's, both of which use the red carpet area as entrances to their venues and the open plaza as a holding area for crowd control. The "Bike Room" would be best used as storage for the space heaters, the barricades, the stanchion poles, and the velvet ropes that Drai's and the W use on a regular basis. The "Bike Room" is a very inhospitable room in a very inhospitable location and to stubbornly insist on shoe-horning a bike storage facility into a small room with 24" thick walls and no windows is the recipe for failure. Give it back and negotiate for a better space that will hold a flagship "Bike Room" worthy of a flagship Metro Red Line Station.

3) Install Public Bike Racks First: The "Bike Room" does not address the basic needs of the casual cyclist who needs to lock up a bike at the Hollywood & Vine Metro Station. Bike Racks must be the basic and minimum "end-of-trip" accommodations that are part of all Metro Stations. To operate without basic Bike Racks is cavalier and irresponsible. Simple Bike Racks give the most ROI for bike parking, are the most basic foundation for multi-modal transportation, and are the opening move. Fancy key-fob, private access, membership based "Bike Room" proposals fail to resonate in an environment that lacks the basics. "Start with public access inverted U racks."

4) Consider the Humans: Site surveys must take place when the public is using the common area, the public plaza. A significant amount of surface space on the west side of the plaza is made of vented grates. The women who frequent the W and Drai's tend to wear high-heels and they avoid the grates. To install inverted U racks on the cement area on the west side of the planter reduces the walkway leaving a small amount of cement and a wide swath of grates. In addition, this area is the access to the gate for the Living Room and Delphine's patio. One would presume that when the finishing touches are put on the patio area, perhaps as summer gets closer, this west side of the plaza will enjoy crowds similar to the east side. Is it necessary to put the cyclists at odds with the public simply because of especially poor planning?


5) Send in the Negotiators: It is apparent that the developer got away with little, if any, community benefit in this deal. Renegotiate now or prepare to accept defeat. The public plaza could stand to lose a planter or two, it is poorly laid out and the fact that those on a site survey are always "in the way" demonstrates that this looked good on paper but fails the simple "people" test. Take out the westside planter, put in parallel bike parking with endcaps to protect against crowds passing by, cover with an awning, and move on.


6) Get a Room: There are lots of street level spaces on Argyle. Start there and negotiate for a real facility, one that people will write home about. Set the standard for innovation. Create a "Bike Room" that offers all of the services that Hollywood needs. Would this be a location for a bike share for tourists? Would this be where people get information? Would this serve as a hub for Bike Culture? Would this be a place that offers education and encouragement for locals? Would this be the location of a Bike-Share for W guests? Would this be the location for a Bike-Share for the W residents? Would this be an opportunity to create a presence in Los Angeles for other transportation innovations such as electric bikes, cargo bikes, a bike delivery service, and a pedicab service? These questions and others should become part of a commitment to raising the standard, not lowering it, and now is the time to "Get a Room" and to fill it with ambition and innovation.



7) Protect the Walk of Fame: Both Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Avenue are part of Hollywood's legacy. People come from all over the world to visit the Walk of Fame. Treat it with respect and take care of it. Curbside inverted U racks are great and they are always a welcome sight when looking for opportunities to lock up a bike. But curbside racks are no substitute for a bike corral that is visible, safe, effective, and protected. The W Hollywood has four sides to a five acre property. Concentrating all bike parking efforts on the northside public plaza means that Trader Joe's is opening with no bike parking. If there is no plan in place now, the solution will end up being inverted U racks on the Walk of Fame. Hardly worthy of the Metro, Gatehouse Capital, the CRA, the City of LA, Legacy Partners, the W and the cycling community who continually accept promises of "Don't worry! We've got a plan!"


8) The Bike Stops Here: Based on results, often harsh but always fair, the Metro has an abysmal track record for bike parking. Witness the Hollywood & Western "Metro Bikes" fiasco that never opened. It resulted in years of activity including the purchase of racks that have since disappeared, the hiring of an operation partner who was paid but never performed, the partnership of the CRA, the City of LA, the Developer, none of which resulted in one bike ever getting parked. Consider the recent Eastside Extension and the bike racks at the Soto Station and the Mariachi Plaza. Both stations had racks installed and in both cases the racks failed to meet the feeble Metro Bike Parking standards. The Metro doesn't spec the standards, the contractor doesn't meet the standards, the Metro doesn't inspect and the contractor doesn't correct. This casual approach must stop.





The Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station is in the middle of LA's largest Transit Oriented Development. It is here that the Metro's performance as a robust and comprehensive Transportation System must be evaluated and it is here that the Metro demonstrates its commitment to multi-modal transportation. Good, bad, or indifferent, the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station bears witness to the Metro's relationship with the cycling community.

CityWatchLA - Metro Betrays Community



CityWatch, Mar 30, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 25

Metro Bikes at Hollywood and Western promised to serve the cycling community of Hollywood by offering bike storage and minor bike maintenance support, all as part of the Metro's multi-modal commitment to a robust and comprehensive Transportation System. Instead, it betrayed the community and demonstrated the need for a swift and thorough reorganization of LA County's regional transportation authority, the Metro.  It has been years since the Metro offered up its Hollywood & Western Red Line station property for development by the CRA which then brought in McCormack Baron to build the Metro Hollywood low-income housing and retail Transit Oriented Development (TOD) known as Metro Hollywood.

The Metro negotiated a "community benefit" component into the TOD project, the City of Los Angeles offered up the services of its General Services and Transportation Departments and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) signed on as the operator of Metro Bikes. What could go wrong?

Apparently, everything.



Several years later, the property is still empty, save for the occasional transient tenant such as the census workers who recently used it for training or the homeless who favor the comforts of the patio area.

When negotiated, the property had an estimated rental value of $3 per foot. Quite a score for the "negotiator" if only the Metro's Real Estate, Operations, Planning, Rail, Security and TDM departments could get it together and figure out who was in charge and who was accountable.

Adding to the confusion, the CRA and the City were all Metro Bikes partners when it sounded like a successful venture but when the project fizzled, nobody was in charge.

Somewhere along the way, calls to the property manager started getting referred to City Council President Eric Garcetti who had become the de facto "boss" of the two empty storefront locations on the west side of the TOD. This new relationship was confirmed in last year's CD11 press release that announced new plans for the Metro Bike operation.

Still, we wait.

The promise has been broken, the checks have been cashed, the money has been spent, the equipment has been delivered, the equipment is now gone, and the partners have all scattered.

It is imperative that the Metro demonstrate a commitment to "connectivity" that starts within the Metro organization, not in our communities. There is no chance that the Metro can connect the people of LA with a comprehensive and robust Transportation System if it can't even connect the many Metro departments within the One Gateway tower.

It is also imperative that the Metro develop oversight and accountability mechanisms so that the plans and standards that are promised to the community become a reality, not just another casualty to the Metro's silo battles.



(Stephen Box is a transportation and cycling advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

Friday, March 26, 2010

CityWatchLA - Mayor’s 30/10 Vision: Is Metro Up To Task?


CityWatch, Mar 26, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 24

Mayor Villaraigosa recently traveled to Washington DC to drum up support for the "30/10" plan that would enable the LA Metro to put 30 years of Measure R Transportation funds to work on an accelerated 10 year schedule that would a bring a dozen mega-projects to life within the decade.

All that is needed is federal backing for the creation of a Transportation Bank that would then loan billions of dollars to the Metro based on the anticipation of sales tax revenues from the future. Voters approved the Measure R ½-cent sales tax last year but the typically long term nature of transportation planning, funding, and construction meant that many voters would not see the Measure R projects become a reality. The "30/10" plan would change that. And, in addition, would produce jobs now.

This is the kind of vision that could change the landscape of LA County in many ways, not just in terms of improved connectivity but also by stimulating employment and improving the community economically and environmentally.

The tough question is not "Can the Mayor pull off the funding coup?" The really hard question that nobody is asking is this, "Can the Metro bring a dozen mega-projects to life within the decade?" It doesn't look good.

1) The Metro's own staff doesn’t believe in the Metro.

Based on results, often harsh but always fair, the Metro's own staff are less likely to walk, bike, ride the Metro's bus or rail system or car-pool than the general public.

What is it about going to work for the Metro that prompts them to engage in behavior that is at odds with the mandate of the Regional Transportation authority?

Approximately 7% of the general public rides the Metro but only 1.6% of the Metro staff takes advantage of the free Metro pass and then puts it to work.

If nothing else, having 9200 staff members ride the Metro would offer a supreme opportunity for oversight and feedback but somehow the Metro can't even convince its own staff to "Go Metro!"

2) The Metro's customers don't believe in the Metro.

Whether it's the zoo-like gates, the illusory TAP cards, the erratic service, the behavior of bus operators on the streets, the inter-departmental confusion or the painful Board meetings, Metro patrons have plenty to complain about and the Metro's own survey reveals that the Metro serves people who simply have no other choice.

Granted, that's a huge simplification and there are plenty of satisfied Metro passengers who travel regularly and effectively and without complaint. Unfortunately, they are not in the majority and that is the simple test that the Metro can't pass.

When the majority of Metro passengers ride because they have a choice, not because they have no choice, then and only then will the Metro have a system in place that should be super-funded and taken wide. Until then, slow down and focus on the details.

3) Metro’s commitment lagging.

The Metro's commitment to a multi-modal transportation system is lagging behind that of the Federal and State government, leaving in doubt the Metro's ability to bring a robust and comprehensive list of mass-transit projects to life in 10 years. In fact ramping up the funding and the schedule would be the motivation for cutting the multi-modal corners even more dramatically.

The Metro must commit to supporting all modes of transportation, beginning with those who walk. Pedestrians turn into Metro customers if they can access the system but that requires a commitment to walkable streets. Are the standards in place?

Cyclists are gap connectors that increase systemic capacity but their ability to become Metro customers depends on simple accommodations including access to rail cars, functional racks on buses and bike parking at Metro stations, the holy grail of cycling! "Is there any room left for the cyclists?" has been the Metro's approach to bike planning for too long. That must change.

4) Lack of oversight.

The Metro's lack of oversight and casual approach to the details are causes for slowing down the process, not accelerating it, and now is the time to implement systemic changes in the way the Metro engages in the business of planning, building, and operating our regional transportation system.

From blocked emergency exits to homeless encampments to safety hazards to malfunctioning equipment, the Metro's inability to accept feedback and respond effectively allows the system to muddle along, desensitizing patrons and normalizing mediocrity.

From bike paths to escalators to security cameras to intercoms, the Metro should be in the business of checking, double-checking and ensuring a high level of performance, not simply offering excuses. Unfortunately, offering excuses is the Metro's current strong suit.

The Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station is considered a "flagship" station which makes it especially unfortunate that ribbon cutting on the W Hollywood, LA's largest Transit Oriented Development caught the Metro off-guard.

Only now, after repeated calls from the public, is the Metro attempting to engage Operations, Planning, Security and Real Estate to ask the tough questions such as "Who has the little key for the toilet paper dispenser?" and "Where do the LAPD have authority and where does the W Hollywood security have authority and where do the LASD and the Metro Transit Police have authority?" along with the popular "Where do the cyclists park their bikes?"

This project has been in the works for over a decade and it is only after the ribbon cutting that the Metro responds to complaints and actually conducts a site survey to evaluate their responsibilities and their shortcomings.

5) Not talking to authorities.

The Metro's inability to synchronize with local authorities, municipal transit operators, law enforcement departments, developers, property managers, and with itself is a cry for intervention, not for funding. LA County will have a Comprehensive Transportation System in place when a passenger can ride smoothly throughout the region without having to pay over and over again, experiencing the shortcomings of a Balkanized environment that leaves casual passengers and tourists scratching their heads and wondering "Why can't we get along?" Is there nobody (C'mon Tony!) that can pull it together?

Funding the Metro now with 30 years of anticipated Measure R proceeds would be like offering the Hatfields and McCoys moonshine and guns.

Now, more than ever, the Metro must engage in a diplomatic mission that results in a regional ticketing process that integrates all transit operators.

Now is the time to synchronize the local authorities so that effectiveness is the goal and competitiveness is ended.

Law enforcement must end the petty "blinders" approach to responsibility that results in enforcement gaps and confusion on the streets.

The Metro's Real Estate department must take responsibility for the performance of its development partners and not simply execute contracts and walk away from the communities that suffer from TOD failure.

But most of all, the Metro needs to get it together and stop the inter-departmental game of hot potato that occurs when a customer makes a complaint.

A recent call regarding the missing bike parking and lack of maintenance at the Hollywood & Vine Station was sent from Bike Planning to Real Estate and back to Bike Planning and then to the Sheriff and then back Real Estate and then to Operations. The Mayor's staff got involved and suggested taking it to the Metro Board.

Is it any wonder the Metro Board hears petty complaints? No one else can handle them!

The Mayor's 30-10 vision, if funded, has the potential to change the way LA moves. But only if the Metro is able to rise to the occasion and become the requisite partner in greatness that can match the big vision with a big commitment to the details.

At this point, the vision is in place, the funding is in play, and it's up to the Metro to rise to the occasion.

Go Metro! Or, Metro be gone!

(Stephen Box is a transportation and grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CityWatchLA - Talkin’ Budget with the Mayor: My Personal Story


CityWatch, Mar 23, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 23

"A Seat at the Table!" Long the battle cry of neighborhood council Mayor’s Budget Advocates who have fought hard for the right to participate in the City’s process … balancing the city's budget while prioritizing the delivery of city services and engaging the public in the journey. Along came the Mayor's Budget Day (Mar 13) and approximately 70 NC reps spent a Saturday morning with Deputy Mayor Ceja and CAO Santana, reviewing the Mayor's Budget survey results and the Mayor's Budget.

This representative body then broke up into groups based on planning areas, discussed budget priorities, and then elected Budget Advocates who would take those recommendations to the Mayor.

I was honored to be selected as one of the 14 Budget Advocates, elected to represent the Central Planning Area along with Scott Bytof of the Downtown LA NC. When we arrived at City Hall last week to meet with the Mayor's staff in preparation for our Budget Presentation to the Mayor we found that there were lots of chairs, an abundant number of chairs. Finally, our day had come and we had the proverbial seat at the table!

Well, almost. When we showed up at City Hall last Wednesday to meet with the Mayor's staff for the planning meeting, the chairs were abundant but the table was lacking in size. Next time we'll have to remember to ask for "A Seat at the Big Table!"

One would think that the host would be able to match the number of invitees with the number of seats and then match that with a table large enough to hold both the attendees and the requisite chairs but such was not the case. After much milling about and moving of furniture, two more tables were put into service and a replay of the "furniture power" debates of the Paris Peace Talks was narrowly averted.

In past years, the Budget Advocates have presented "consensus priorities" for the Mayor's Budget but the intensity of this year's budget crisis seemed to warrant a more robust presentation of priorities and recommendations and the "single item" focus approach fell by the wayside.

With less than a week to prepare, the Budget Advocates put together a program that offered a wide variety of representative voices to be heard on the issues that impact us all. Prepped and repped, we returned to City Hall this past Friday to meet with the Mayor and to present our budget recommendations.

Well, again, almost. In spite of the fact that there were three city staff members handling the 14 advocates (20+% ratio and we're in a budget crisis?) the City Hall bureaucracy doesn't seem to have a knack for planning or for learning from missteps. This simple example might be an anomaly or it might be an indicator of a systemic behavioral flaw.

Based on results, often harsh but always fair, City Hall's inability to staff appropriately, plan effectively, allocate resources efficiently and match performance with desired outcome seems to be a pattern that impacts everything from simple meetings to the big-picture issues of a balanced budget and the efficient delivery of city services.

So it is that the people of Los Angeles find themselves, backs against the wall and hands in the air, faced with the impossible demand "Your libraries or your parks!"

Our meeting with the Mayor went well. Co-chairs Dr. Dan Wiseman and Doug Epperhart guided the highly motivated team with great diplomacy, Ron Galperin set the tone with an optimistic call for innovation in governance and Scott Bytof closed with a simple commitment of partnership.

Along the way, Shawn Simons presented an evolved plan for the Department of Empowerment, Ginger Damon addressed opportunities to reduce costs, and Ernesto Arias called for a commitment to the delivery of community services.

The recurring message was that any efforts to balance the budget must take place with an equal commitment to the delivery of services, based on the understanding that the purpose of the city is not to serve as an employment agency but to provide Public Safety, Public Health, Public Works, and Public Service. These are not just options, they are the essential elements of a Great City.

As for the Central Planning Area, there are many budget issues that came up on Budget Day and again in the planning sessions, all of which resulted in the drafting and approval of the following guiding principles that should be used to "script" the critical decisions that must be made in the immediate future and over the long haul.

1) Honor the Charter - Protect Charter Departments over Ordinance Departments. Eliminate redundancies, inefficiencies, confusion, and city family competition by consolidating Ordinance Departments into Charter Departments. Use the City Charter as a guide for pursuing the Great City commitment it represents.

2) Public Private Partnerships - Investigate rigorously, avoiding short-term financial gain opportunities that come at the expense of the constituents who use those services, at the expense of the city’s assets, and at the expense of long-term revenue streams. Consider the opportunities that non-profits and academic organizations offer as partners in the delivery of services.

3) Invest in Infrastructure - Avoid short term and ineffective maintenance/repairs of the City’s Infrastructure, instead commit to the substantial prioritization of an investment in the future.

4) Community Redevelopment Agency - Draw the CRA into a robust relationship with the City of Los Angeles, evaluate the financial relationship, and embrace a partnership in funding, in revenue, in budget accountability, and in budget responsibility.

5) City Pensions - Evaluate and re-evaluate the City of Los Angeles pensions program for budget savings. (including health care liabilities and contributions)

The process for preparing the Mayor's Budget is a year-long journey and the City Charter specifies that it is due by April 20. This doesn't leave much time for the feedback and advice from the Mayor's Budget Day and the Budget Advocates to be included, especially if the Mayor's proposed budget is delivered early, as promised.

This means that the most recent engagement by the neighborhood councils isn't the conclusion of the budget process but is actually the beginning of the long-term budget advocacy journey.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that the people of Los Angeles step up and communicate clearly their priorities for balancing the budget and prioritizing the delivery of services. Now is the time to join together to make Los Angeles a Great City that Works!

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate, is a Budget Rep for the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CityWatchLA - Metro Goes Into Company Mode! Above the Law?



CityWatch, Mar 19, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 22

A Metro bus operator on Sunset Blvd. pulls out from a bus stop and "asserts" himself into traffic, forcing the cyclist riding downhill in the bike lane to give up the bike lane. The cyclist is alongside the bus as they both merge left, the bus operator by choice, the cyclist with no choice. The cyclist bangs on the side of the bus and continues riding east on Sunset Blvd. Between Micheltorena and Silver Lake Blvd, the Metro's bus operator drives behind the cyclist, honking and waving his hand. The theatrics come to an end at Silver Lake Boulevard when the bus operator rear-ends the cyclist and yells, "You vandalized my bus!" With the bike stuck under the front bumper of the bus, the cyclist calls 911 while the bus operator pulls the bike out, explaining, "If it's not on the rack, it doesn't belong on the bus." He then throws the bike to the curb.

The Los Angeles Police Department asks the cyclist if there are any injuries and if any emergency medical services are needed. Upon learning that there are no injuries, the LAPD simply instructs the cyclist to exchange information with the bus operator and file a report.

Meanwhile a Metro Supervisor shows up along with a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy on a motorcycle. They take control of the situation, the bus operator no longer talks to the cyclist, and the Metro Supervisor, the Deputy and the Bus Operator all get on the empty bus. (Another bus had arrived and taken the passengers, leaving the empty bus and the bus operator behind) The Cyclist attempted to board the bus with the Deputy, the Supervisor and the Bus Operator but was denied access. He asked for the bus operator's information but was again denied.

The Sheriff's Department works for the Metro and is responsible for the security of Metro property. The streets of Los Angeles are not the Metro's property. The Metro's Supervisor and the LASD are both there to protect the Metro, the Metro's property and the Metro's employee. Who is representing the cyclist?

The question here is simple, "Is the Metro above the Law?" Is a Metro bus operator required to exchange information with the cyclist according to the California Vehicle Code or is a Metro bus operator allowed to disappear into the Metro's system, leaving the cyclist on the street with a 3" by 5" card in his hand and some Metro identification numbers along with instructions on how to file a Metro property claim?

Is the Sheriff's Department authorized to overrule California Vehicle Code and interfere with the exchange of information between two parties involved in a traffic collision?

The Metro has approximately 9200 employees, making it one of the region's largest employers. Of those who are engaged in providing the LA County area with a robust and comprehensive Transportation System, approximately 1540 take advantage of the Metro pass that is offered to employees but only 155 actually use the free pass to ride the Metro to work.

Four hundred and eight employees participate in a vanpool and another 422 use carpools. As for the Metro employees who ride a bike, only 39 out of 9200 employees pedal to work. These figures come from the Metro's AQMD compliance survey, taken at Metro workplaces in 2009. (Air Quality Management District is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the smoggiest region of the U.S.)

Apparently, Metro employees ride the Metro less than the general public (Metro estimates that 7% of LA County uses public transportation but less than 2% of Metro employees share that ride) and they also ride bikes less than the general public. (Metro estimates that 2% of the general population rides a bike to work but at the Metro, it drops to 0.4% mode share) What happens when people go to work for the Metro? What is it about working for a regional Transportation Authority that motivates employees to get in a single occupant motor vehicle? Do they know something we don't?

The cyclist involved in the Sunset Boulevard incident has a suggestion for the Metro: the Metro's bus operators should ride a bike on the same streets for a week. Then perhaps they'd develop some empathy for those who are smaller and more vulnerable.

Who knows, they might like it and the Metro's AQMD compliance results might improve!

(Stephen Box is transportation and cycling advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CityWatchLA - End of the Road for the LADOT!


CityWatch, Mar 16, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 21

As the City of Los Angeles grapples with the impact of the largest budget crisis since the Great Depression, it is imperative that departmental redundancies be eliminated. The place to start is LA’s Department of Transportation.

Established in 1979 by City Council ordinance, the LADOT was originally charged with “coordinating the City ‘s various ground transportation and related activities.” Along the way it has evolved and grown, picking up a gravitational force of its own, resulting in inter-departmental tensions and a city-family competitiveness at the expense of the community. Three simple reasons for absorbing LA ‘s Department of Transportation into other City departments:

1) The City Charter calls for the existence of many City Departments and provides for their funding and specifies their responsibilities. The LADOT is not one of them.

In times of lean, the Ordinance Departments are the first to go, especially if their services are or can be provided by Charter Departments.

Now is the time to get behind the LAPD, Public Works, City Planning, and other Charter Departments, remembering that the City Charter is what sets the course for tough times and is the blueprint for becoming a Great City, not just a survivor. Double down on the departments that are part of the City’s DNA and eliminate duplicated services and redundant administrative structure.

2) City Departments must focus on core priorities.

The LADOT is entrenched in activities that are provided by other departments or agencies resulting in robust turf wars and funding battles that only waste money and impede progress.

International Peace Treaties are negotiated and signed with greater ease than an inter-agency deal memo with the LADOT.

From bike lanes to street closures to community plans to housing developments, Team LADOT will show up in numbers that simply stagger the process.

Consolidate, reduce the conflict, focus on the objectives and get behind those that get it done.

Street Services already provides Safe Routes to School programming and they do the work.

City Planning is already responsible for the City’s Mobility Plan, let them handle transportation planning.

The Metro provides transit services and LA has four seats on the Metro Board. Start getting along with the Metro and work with them! The Bureau of Engineering already builds the streets, support them. Street Services is repairing and maintaining, they’re already on it!

3) City Departments must demonstrate a proficiency.

The LADOT has instead offered a lackluster enthusiasm for its core priorities, a casual approach to the implementation of funded programs (Safe Routes to School, Fletcher Bridge, Ventura Boulevard, all funded but stalled), an oblivious approach to parking lot oversight (Pershing Square, Hollywood & Highland), a cavalier approach to parking lot fee collection ($75 million outstanding?) and a completely irresponsible approach to the maintenance of LA’s City’s Parking meters (20% failure rate?).

The LADOT’s Capital Funding Department showed up late to the Metro’s Call for Projects arguing before the Transportation Committee that “We didn’t know there would be a funding opportunity!”

Two years later they offered the same argument when they missed out on Stimulus money.

If the City of Los Angeles is serious about qualifying for its fair share of Federal and State funding, it will move to consolidate and synchronize its efforts and stop competing within the City Family for limited funds while smaller cities with less resources go big and bring home the money.

The LADOT’s Planning Department handles an integral element of land use - mobility, but their mandate is often at odds with that of City Planning. Community Plans must have authority and that means that the transportation element must be incorporated and balanced, not forced on the community. Dueling philosophies and departmental debates only hurt the neighborhoods and it is imperative that City Planning includes both planners and transportation engineers.

The LADOT’s Traffic Department provides a service that should simply be assimilated into the Public Works Department. After all, they already build and maintain the streets. Street signals, street signs, traffic controls, are all elements of great streets, just like curbs and striping and safe grates.

It should not take interdepartmental bureaucracy simply to stripe and signalize an intersection.

The LADOT’s most recent innovations include a personnel tracking system and a geo-tagging program that identified the many parking meters.

If the LADOT is struggling to account for its staff and for its revenue producing assets, perhaps its time to ask if other departments might do a better job. After all, it was the BOE who helped the LADOT identify and account for its many parking meters.

Maybe General Services could improve on the LADOT’s 80% parking meter performance rate.

Perhaps the Office of Finance could take a shot at collecting parking revenue and fees. It would be hard to do worse!

Great Streets, Complete Streets, Green Streets, Safe Streets and Shared Streets are all mobility innovations that are part of making LA a Great City.

Now is the time to evaluate the many Departments who have a piece of the street and to refine LA's process for providing safe and effective streets for everybody.

Transportation and Mobility are much too important to be entrusted to LA’s Department of Transportation and LA has no money to be wasted on a Department that simply duplicates the services that other LA Departments either provide or should provide.

LADOT, it’s the end of the road.

(Stephen Box is a transportation advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

Friday, March 12, 2010

CityWatchLA - Transpo Commission: Caught in the Blind Spot

CityWatch, Mar 12, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 20

LA's Transportation Commission has a rich legacy of "consent agendas" that routinely rubber stamp the LADOT's proposed speed limit increases with out so much as a question, a bit of discussion, a suggestion for traffic calming or even an acknowledgment that our streets are getting fast, very fast. Yesterday's Commission meeting saw the LADOT's Assistant General Manager arguing that the City of Los Angeles was challenged by aging infrastructure and personnel limitations. He spoke affirmatively in favor of "embracing the new technology." Of course, he was defending the department's parking meter performance, not the City's ability to control speeds on the streets of LA.

When it comes to speed limit controls, the LADOT still embraces the State's 50 year-old speed trap law and an antiquated and ineffective approach to public safety that requires the presence of a law enforcement officer in order to control the speed of traffic.

I challenged the Commission to at least have a conversation about traffic calming, to simply ask if there is a correlation between traffic collisions and the streets picked for speed limit enforcement.

It would seem that if the Transportation Commission has the authority to approve speed limit increases, they would also have an obligation to review the overall philosophy for which streets are selected and in determining if those streets are in sync with the Community Plans, the Bike Plans, the surrounding TOD projects.

In other words, "Does the City of Los Angeles have a big-picture strategy for effectively establishing speed limits and for effectively enforcing those speed limits?" (The answer is no!)

The W Hollywood, LA's largest Transit Oriented Development project, just opened. It's located over the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station. TOD projects have a purported emphasis on cycling and pedestrian access and yet Vine isn't eligible for speed limit enforcement and Hollywood's certification will expire in a few months.

In the works for over a decade, did the LADOT not know the W Hollywood would be opening?

Glendale Boulevard is a brutally fast street and recent hit and runs have taken down two cyclists, resulting in the death of one. Yet the speeding traffic continues and the speed limit certification will also expire in a few months. Van Nuys, Foothill, Oxnard, and Pico are all set to expire in the next three months.

The current approach to speed limit enforcement is based on the State's Speed Trap Law.

1) Certify the speed limit by surveying the current traffic and setting the speed limit so that 85% of the motorists are considered legal.

2) Maintain the speed limit certification in order to use radar/laser speed limit enforcement.

3) Only enforce the speed limits on streets with current certs (500 street segments of streets out of 7200 miles citywide, approximately 10% of LA's total street mileage is eligible for speed limit enforcement using radar/laser)

Even if one believed in the current approach to making our streets safer, the City of LA's implementation is so bad that in some cases, one can be ticketed for speeding on one side of an intersection but not the other.

Streets such as Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Roscoe, Laurel Canyon, Magnolia simply aren't eligible for speed limit enforcement. In Hollywood, speeders on Vermont and Western won't be getting tickets. After next week, motorists in a hurry should use Fairfax because the speed limit certification expires on the 19th.

The City of Los Angeles currently embraces an approach to speed limit enforcement that simply doesn't work. The LADOT is unable to maintain the speed limit certifications for the streets of Los Angeles and the LAPD doesn't have the personnel necessary to enforce speed limits on the streets of Los Angeles.

The Transportation Commission is at a fork in the road. It can take the road to irrelevance, one marked by rubber stamping agendas that approve anything proposed by the LADOT, or it can take the road to innovation and responsible oversight, asking the hard questions and demanding that the LADOT and the LAPD work with the community to make our streets safer for everybody.

Raising the speed limits on our streets is not a solution to controlling speeding traffic. It is simply the perpetuation of behavior that simply does not work.

It has been said that repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result is the sign of insanity. In this case, the LADOT and the Transportation Commission are repeating the same behavior and claiming that it will make our streets safer.

Our streets are unsafe, the City of LA is repeating the same behavior, it's beyond insane, it's professional incompetence.

(Stephen Box is a transportation advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

East Hollywood NC Frees the Street!


CityWatch, Mar 12, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 20

Hollywood Neighborhood Council is taking over Santa Monica Boulevard on Sat the 13th, from 2pm to 10pm, celebrating the local art community and LA’s growing bike culture. The EHNC is one of the most densely populated communities, bordered by some of LA’s busiest streets but for one day, the street will belong to the people, not to the motor vehicle. Ride your bike to East Hollywood and join one of the many bike tours of the local galleries including the Barnsdall Gallery, which is hosting a Bike Week celebration featuring an exhibit entitled “In the Living Room of Bike Culture.” The bike tours are led by local guides and will leave Santa Monica and Madison every half hour.

Santa Monica Boulevard, right at Madison and across from the Cahuenga library, will be loaded with opportunities to make art, view art, purchase art, admire art, and maybe even become art!

Hop on a bike to take a tour of some of East Hollywood’s finest galleries, like Synchronicity, Thinkspace and Junc. Check out New Media Artists, see a show at Sacred Fools, check out or just browse among the dozens of artists and performers displaying their creations at the street scene on Santa Monica Boulevard.


There will be plenty of food and live entertainment, including the exotic salsa dancers of Salsarologo and the gypsy jazz phenomenon of KillSonic.

Bring the kids along for arts and crafts, face painting, and lots of hands-on fun. Be sure to bring an old T-shirt for a BYO silk screen.

Come join the celebration as the people of East Hollywood take back the street for a day of art, music, cycling and fun.

ArtCycle is a collaborative creation of Artist Jen Moran, Cyclist Enci Box, EHNC Board President David Bell, Downtown Art Walk Director Jay Lopez and a host of artistas, cyclistas and community members who think that the streets of Los Angeles are beautiful when they are full of people!

“See you on the Streets!”



(Stephen Box is a cyclist and a cycling advocate. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Transient Oriented Development (TOD)


The W Hollywood Hotel & Residences, perched atop the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station, has simultaneously raised the curtain and lowered the standard, establishing itself as LA's largest Transient Oriented Development (TOD) complete with a public plaza that offers convenient single serving drug sales, discrete nooks for defecation and urination, secure yet public overnight sidewalk accommodations, and a popular valet-adjacent vomitorium. Let there be no mistake, when it comes to the creation of great public space, the W Hollywood turns its back and runs.

The inadvertent pursuit of the Transient Oriented Development (TOD) title over the more highly sought after Transit Oriented Development (TOD) status is just one of the many miscommunications and misunderstandings that have occurred during the long and contentious W Hollywood development process.

Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners have spent over a decade developing the land owned by the Metro. Along the way they engaged in a journey that City Council President Eric Garcetti referred to as "sometimes painful, but worth the effort." (wait until he sees the vomitorium!) Jeff Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of Gatehouse, agreed with Garcetti and said the process he went through was "not for the faint of heart."

Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler rises above the fray and simply states that the W Hollywood was developed with a unique "local focus" in mind and a commitment to alleviating congestion, explaining "That’s why the project is right next to an MTA subway stop."

All of which prompts me to suggest that Eric and Jeff and Leron hop on their bikes and pedal over to the "local focus" Transient Oriented Development known as the W and join me in looking for the bike parking. There are directional signs, three of them, alerting the public to the bike parking. There just isn't any bike parking.


This is a problem for several reasons:

1) Failure to deliver on the TOD promise: This is a $600 million Transit Oriented Development, funded with significant amounts of your (the public's) money on land owned by you (the public). The TOD promise comes with assurances that the project will cater to cyclists and pedestrians and that it will have a positive impact on the community, creating human density and offering opportunities to live, to work, to shop and to socialize, all without having to further congest the streets with private motor vehicles.

2) Lack of Metro oversight and accountability: Evidently the Metro's Bike Planning Department was unaware of the decade long development process that went into bringing the W Hollywood to the ribbon cutting ceremony. Apparently the Metro staff didn't get invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony and were unaware that the project has passed the finish line, leaving behind a public plaza at the Hollywood & Vine Metro Station that is the responsibility of...nobody!

3) Lowers the standard for future TOD projects: This is the largest TOD in Los Angeles and there will be more. Now is the time to raise the bar and to engage in development that is so brilliant that it causes those around the world to covet and envy, not to giggle and mock. When the City Council, the CRA, the Chamber of Commerce, the BID, the Metro, the LADOT, the LAPD, the LASD, and the Federal Government all get together, one would think two things would happen.

* Real leaders would rise to the occasion and create powerful and effective teamwork.
Unfortunately, the public hears nothing but the difficulty of working with so many agencies and authorities. This is a cry for leadership.

* Real innovators would rise to the occasion and create a world class Transit Oriented Development.
Unfortunately, the public hears nothing but the limitations of scale with so many details to be resolved. This is a cry for innovation.

4) Demonstrates a lack of standards: Whether it's the simple process of deciding in advance who sits at the big table and who waits until the ribbon cutting to get a shot at the scraps or whether it's deciding in advance what the design standards are for TOD, this project is a scream for attention. Cyclists and pedestrians are the user group that is to be considered from the beginning of the project conception, not after the project delivery. Simple access and accommodation standards are given to the designers and architects in advance, not squeezed in after construction. Does the Metro and the City of Los Angeles have those standards? If yes, why weren't they implemented? If not, develop and implement them immediately before engaging in any more missteps.

5) When this many authorities working with this much money use "I assumed!" as an operating mantra, it borders on professional negligence. The details matter. They are significant. They are the telltale whisps of smoke that indicate a much larger problem, one that may not surface for some time. But they are significant and one can only wonder, "What else was completely overlooked?"

6) Bike parking should be visible to those who ride by. It should reinforce that this is a rideable community. It should reinforce that cyclists are welcome on the Metro, whether they leave their bikes secured at the stations or take them on the train or bus. It should be visible so that the community's eyes are on the cyclists and their bikes. It should reinforce that bikes are an integral part of the Metro's commitment to a robust and comprehensive Transportation System. It should be part of the basic foundation of accommodation, not an afterthought that comes up when everything else is done.

7) Public Space should encourage good behavior! As we gathered for a site survey, it was apparent that wherever we stood, we were in the way. Great public space isn't just open, it's designed to foster social interaction, yet the benches here are fixed and allow people to sit back to back but not to face each other. Where do people "hang out" and relax? Where do couples or small groups sit and chat? The Metro's Hollywood & Vine open space attracts transients and discourages community. Tough charge, backed up by reality. What looks good on paper doesn't always translate into reality. Environmental architecture is not simply positioning a "rain forest" to the east and specifying bamboo for the planter, it is "designing for good behavior," a standard that applies to all disciplines, from law enforcement to transportation to development to hospitality.


Twelve days ago, I called Lynne Goldsmith, Metro's Bike Planning Manager, to report that the W Hollywood had made it past the ribbon cutting and still the Metro hadn't installed any bike racks. She explained that the Metro has big plans, but that the bike racks wouldn't be installed until later in the year when the Metro "programmed" the small room off to the side of the rest rooms, next to the elevator. I pointed out that the W Hollywood has been in development for a decade and asked how the Metro could justify waiting until after the opening to begin thinking about "Where do the cyclists fit?"

(Goldsmith's promise should be tempered with the knowledge that the Metro's Hollywood & Western Red Line Station also has a room set aside for bike parking. At one time it even had racks stored in it, now gone, and the room is still empty years after the development was built, with your money!)

Goldsmith told me how busy she was and suggested that I call Greg Angelo, Director of New Business Development in the Metro's Real Estate Department. We chatted, he suggested that I talk to Goldsmith. I pointed out that she said she had no authority and had sent me to him. I offered my opinion on the "little room of urine" that was the current plan and pointed out that it violated basic Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) standards. He became a bit argumentative and told me that I can't complain of a deficiency without proposing the solution. I proposed that the new deficiency was a failure to perform and that the solution was for him to join me for a site survey and to take responsibility for doing his job. We were off to a great start.

One of the simplest and snarkiest solutions to the criticisms of the public is to demand that all interaction be solution-oriented. This closes down feedback and deprives people from participating in the "discovery" process that is part of real innovation. The solution may not be present as the problem is experienced but that should not discourage people from yelling "Fire!" when they see a fire. Angelo seems to think that the solution that eluded the Metro for years is my responsibility for identifying during the process of pointing out that the Hollywood & Vermont Red Line Station is lacking Metro oversight and accountability. The new rest rooms have never seen paper supplies. The bike parking signs are up, the bike parking isn't. He didn't know that until I called. I've already earned my keep, he hasn't.


It gets worse.

I get an invitation to a site survey at the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station. Then I received an amended invitation moving it out an additional day. No request of availability or convenience, after all, the public is always available to complain, but it's the Metro staff's time that is valuable. Still, I'm pleased that the meeting will take place and I simply adjust my schedule, pleased that Goldsmith and Angelo and others from the Metro will be joining me for a survey of the Metro station.

Tuesday arrives and I lock my bike up to a light pole on the public plaza. I'm joined by Ron Durgin of Sustainable Streets and Enci of illuminateLA, both of whom take a one hour survey of the W Hollywood Hotel &; Residences with me. When we return to the small empty room off to the side of the elevator, we find Lieutenant George Grein, Retired, of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. He has just interrupted a drug deal in the future home of the Metro's safe, secure, and effective Hollywood & Vine bike parking. We are later joined by Sergeant Cliff Yates of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department who is the supervisor for this area of the Metro. Both Grein and Yates concur that isolation and seclusion are bad ideas for bike parking and that the evidence of human waste, transient accommodations, and drug activity would support my contention that the bike parking should be located elsewhere.

Goldsmith and her assistant, Tony Jusay, arrived and seemed to have a hard time letting go of the little room as a bike parking solution without having another option to grab. Since we were still standing in the little room, I offered that there may be many solutions but it is imperative that we agree that the little room was not one of them. At this point, Goldsmith engaged in displacement activity that had her cleaning the broken baby carriage, the floor mat, the newspapers, the barricades, and the debris, all as we watched and wondered how this moved the site survey forward. Jusay was able to get her to return to the discussion.

Ben Cien, Vice President of Construction and Design at Gatehouse arrived and we now had a fairly robust discussion going, all of it focused on the little room of horrors. All that was missing was somebody from the Metro who had the authority to say "Yes!" Apparently Angelo was unable to make the meeting, too busy to even communicate with the group or to offer an alternative meeting time. Too bad because the resulting two hour survey was then an exercise in "Who's in charge?"

Cien explained that he thought "everybody had signed off on the plan to install a little door" and to make the now "open and secluded little room" into an eventually "secured and secluded little room."

The LASD representatives stayed out of the fray, the cycling representatives argued vehemently against bike parking that requires security cameras and security officers, neither of which are in place, in order to be safe. Both Cien and Goldsmith offered arguments that the camera monitoring and the close proximity of the W Hollywood security would make the environment safe. (Hence the drug deal and the human waste and the evidence of overnight accommodations!)

The cyclists walked the larger facility with Cien, a pleasant host who seemed proud of the many W Hollywood elements. He was comfortable in his skin, greeting guests and staff as we walked through the hotel, the back hallways, the sidewalks, and the parking garage. We chatted about the project including the LEED elements and even offered up that if the employees of the W Hollywood were offered Urban Cycling classes, they would be more likely to ride their bikes to work, take advantage of the employee dressing rooms and bike parking. (there were three large bike racks in the employee parking area of the garage but only one bike)

We measured off some public plaza space as options for bike parking, having arrived prepared to actually survey. We offered some criteria for the eventual solution including visible, close to the entrance, secure, protected with a canopy or cove, out of the passageway, and we looked for opportunities. Essentially, the bike parking must work for the casual cyclist who arrives for the first time, no membership card for a "bike room" or other pre-arranged bike parking. Simple racks that a casual visitor would feel comfortable using and that would serve as secure and effective bike parking. It starts there, not with the VIP program that requires registering, a key card, a membership, and a visit to One Gateway.

Goldsmith had prepared for the meeting by packing a large bag of "That's not possible!" and suggestions such as a canopy or moving the planter or doing anything other than using the little room was met with "That's not possible!" Since she can't say yes and she has no plan and she isn't prepared and she hasn't asked, how does she know the answer will be "No!"

I'm not sure how this project turned into such an environment of limitations but somehow Lynne Goldsmith's contribution to the two hour bike parking survey was a series of "No!" responses to suggestions covering bike parking location, style, visibility, canopy, accessibility, and responsibility. Of course, when listening to Goldsmith speak authoritatively on limitations, from political to financial to social to environmental, I remind myself to never take a "No!" answer from somebody who doesn't also have the authority or power to say "Yes!"

The site survey ended with the obligatory confusion and lack of resolution over authority. The LASD typically is responsible for the Metro Station and the plaza area with the developer/property manager responsible for the actual development. Again, the ribbon has been cut and those at the meeting were unclear of who had authority and who maintained the rest rooms and who was in charge.

I'm not sure who is going to step up on this one. It might be County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky who also serves on the Metro Board. Perhaps Metro CEO Art Leahy will decide that the buck stops with him. Maybe Doug Failing, the Metro's Executive Director of Highways and Interim Director of Planning, or perhaps Roger Moliere, the Metro's Chief of Real Property Management & Development, will take a shot at solving the bike parking problem that has caused "paralysis of analysis" within the Metro's Bike Planning department. Angelo is already a no-show and Goldsmith is simply in charge of "No!"

This may seem like a lot of effort, all simply to get some bike racks installed on the public plaza on top of a Metro station at the new W Hollywood TOD but it's much much more.

This is the largest Transit Oriented Development in the City of Los Angeles. The $600 million that is invested in this TOD project came from many sources including you, the public. The Metro's budget comes from you, the public. A standard is being set, not just with the use of public funds, but with the implementation and design of TOD projects of which there will be more. In addition, the Metro is busy, working on the Expo and the Orange Line Extension. The mistakes they make will be repeated unless we work together to raise the bar. The Eastside extension has bike racks installed at Soto and at Mariachi Square. In both cases they need to be reinstalled correctly. That feedback doesn't come from the Metro, it comes from cyclists who care enough to insist on excellence.

Transit Oriented Development is the concept that was sold to the public. The Metro, Gatehouse Capital, Legacy Partners, the CRA, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Improvement District, the LA Department of Transportation, the LA Police Department, the LA Sheriff's Department, the Federal Government, CalPERS, and Deutsche Bank Berkshire Mortgage all have a piece of this project and it's a shame that we're still standing on the public plaza having a "Who's in charge?" discussion while the work remains incomplete.

For too long, the question "Is there any room left over for the cyclists?" has been the battle cry for the Metro's Bike Planning Department. This is the last time. Who is the person who will say 'Yes!" to bike parking at the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Station.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Metro Bike Parking - Won't Get Fooled Again!


Won't Get Fooled Again

In 1971 The Who released their 5th album, entitled "Who's next" featuring album cover art consisting simply of a photograph, taken at Easington Colliery, of the band apparently having just urinated on a large concrete piling protruding from a slag heap. The album cover was voted by the VH1 network as the second greatest album cover of all time. The album itself went platinum...three times over.

"Who's next" inspired a generation of rock and roll fans and, apparently, also served to inspire the Metro's transportation engineers who continue to incorporate the "public urination" and "large concrete piling protruding from a slag heap" concepts in their Transportation Oriented Development (TOD) programming.

Consider the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station, now also the home of the W Hollywood Hotel & Residences, a $600 Million Transit Oriented Development that somehow made it past the ribbon cutting without so much as a nod toward the incorporation of bike parking.

The Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station has been in operation for a little over a decade. During that same period of time the Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners team has been working to bring the largest mixed-use TOD to Hollywood. This decade-plus journey saw the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the Los Angeles City Council, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) all working together to bring the gift of Transit Oriented Development to Hollywood. Somehow these titans of development got swept up in the hugeness of the Metro Red Line and W Hollywood Hotel & Residences partnership and lost sight of the details.



Transit Oriented Development (TOD) typically refers to residential and Commercial Centers designed to maximize access by Transit and Nonmotorized transportation, and with other features to Encourage Transit Ridership. A typical TOD has a rail or bus station at its center, surrounded by relatively high-density development, with progressively lower-density spreading outwards one-quarter to one-half mile, which represents pedestrian scale distances. It includes these design features (Morris, 1996; Renne, 2009):
  • The neighborhood is designed for Cycling and Walking, with adequate facilities and attractive street conditions.
  • Streets have good Connectivity and Traffic Calming features to control vehicle traffic speeds.
  • Mixed-use development that includes shops, schools and other public services, and a variety of housing types and prices, within each neighborhood.
  • Parking Management to reduce the amount of land devoted to parking compared with conventional development, and to take advantage of the parking cost savings associated with reduced automobile use (NJDOT, 2007).
  • Transit Stops and Stations that are convenient, comfortable and Secure, with features such as comfortable waiting areas, venders selling refreshments and periodicals, washrooms, Wayfinding and Multi-Modal Navigation Tools
Of the five basic TOD elements, the Metro and the W Hollywood have failed to get past the first half of item #1, designing for Cycling. Somehow the Metro's Real Estate Department, led by Roger Moliere, Chief of Real Property Management & Development, and Greg Angelo, Director of New Business Development, allowed a significant 2/3 of a billion dollar development to get to the finish line before they spoke up and said "What about the cyclists?" Within the Metro's Planning Department is a team led by Lynne Goldsmith that is responsible for bike parking at Metro facilities. How is it that the Hollywood & Vine Metro Station is now built out and the W Hollywood ribbon cutting is old news, yet the Metro still doesn't have a plan for cyclists other than wandering around asking "Is there any room left over for the bike parking?"



The Association of Pedestrian and Bike Professionals (APBP) has national standards for bike parking. They are pretty simple. Accessible, visible, secure. Bike parking isn't mystery science, it's often just good common sense and a bit of commitment. All of the training and common sense in the world can't help a major entity such as the Metro if they can get a decade into a project and pass the finish line before they consider the implementation of a bike parking element. This is simply Planning Malpractice. The bike parking element isn't optional, it an integral element of the TOD concept and of the Metro's larger commitment to its status as a Comprehensive Transportation System.

The City of Los Angeles also has bike parking standards. (see below) They are not quite as simple but they are part of the Municipal Code of Los Angeles. The LA Department of Transportation was involved in this project from the early days, working with the Metro and the developers on traffic mitigation, traffic controls. The LA Department of Transportation has a Project Grants, Bikeways and Enhancement Division led by Michael Uyeno, which is responsible for bike parking in the City of Los Angeles, as specified in LA's City Council approved Bicycle Transportation Plan, an element of the Transportation Plan which is part of the City's General Plan. Doesn't anybody read these documents? Isn't anybody responsible for actually following through on these commitments?

Law Enforcement professionals have standards for the built environment referred to as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and if any law enforcement professionals had advised the developers and the Metro on this project, it is reasonable to suggest that they would have excluded secluded areas that reek of human waste as safe areas for bike storage. "Natural surveillance" is a key element and the eyes of the public are of greater value than the hollow promise of video cameras. Urine stains on the walls and floor would be the "broken windows" that serve as cues to both criminals and those who value their safety that this is not supervised real estate.


It's been a year since I last posted "Good for Bikes, Good for Business!" Since then, salaries have been paid, checks have cleared the banks, vacations have been taken, raises have been given and some promotions have been awarded. Granted, those who work for the Metro, the LADOT, the CRA, the City Council, Building and Safety, the LA Police Department, the LA County Sheriff's Department, Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners aren't responsible for reading my blog on bike parking, but they are responsible for doing their jobs.

Based on results, often harsh but always fair, anybody responsible for incorporating cyclists, bike parking, and public safety into the Metro's Hollywood & Vine Red Line Station and the W Hollywood's TOD has failed.


From the Los Angeles Municipal Code: (LAMC 12.21-A. 16)

16. Bicycle Parking and Shower Facilities. (Added by Ord. No. 167,409, Eff. 12/19/91.) Off-street parking spaces for bicycles and facilities for employee showers and lockers shall be provided as follows:

(a) In the C and M zones, for any building, portion thereof or addition thereto used for non-residential purposes which contains a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet, bicycle parking spaces shall be provided at the rate of two percent of the number of automobile parking spaces required by this section for such non-residential uses; provided, however, that at least one bicycle parking space shall be provided for any such building having a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet of non-residential use. If the calculation of the number of required spaces under this paragraph results in a number including a fraction, the next highest whole number shall be the number of spaces required.

(b) The bicycle parking space requirements in Paragraph (a) shall also apply to any building, regardless of zone, owned by the City of Los Angeles and used by the City for government purposes which contains a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet.

(c) All bicycle parking spaces required by this Subdivision shall include a stationary parking device which adequately supports the bicycle. In addition, at least half of the bicycle parking spaces shall include a stationary parking device which securely locks the bicycle without the use of a user-supplied cable or chain. Devices which hold the bicycle upright by wheel contact must hold at least 180 degrees of wheel arc.

(d) Each bicycle parking space shall be a minimum of two feet in width and six feet in length and shall have a minimum of six feet of overhead clearance.

(e) Bicycle parking spaces shall be located no farther than the distance from a main entrance of the building to the nearest off-street automobile parking space.

(f) Bicycle parking spaces shall be separated from automobile parking spaces or aisles by a wall, fence, or curb or by at least five feet of open space marked to prohibit parking.

(g) Aisles providing access to bicycle parking spaces shall be at least five feet in width.

(h) Signage which is clearly legible upon approach to every automobile entrance to the parking facility shall be displayed indicating the availability and location of bicycle parking.

(i) Showers and lockers shall be provided as required by Section 91.6307 of this Code. (Amended by Ord. No. 177,103, Eff. 12/18/05.)

CityWatchLA - Slow Down for Julia



CityWatch, Mar 9, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 19

Julia Siegler stood on the north side of Sunset Boulevard and looked at her school bus, parked on south Cliffwood Avenue. She looked to her left, began to cross the street and hesitated, getting knocked to the ground by one vehicle and then run over by a second vehicle.

Much can be made of the fact that Julia crossed the street against a red light, and it has. But not much has been made of the fact the two motorists left the scene of the traffic collision before the Los Angeles Police Department arrived.

The first LAPD press conference offered up incorrect information of the crash and of the motorists, sending the public and the LAPD on a goose chase that was resolved later that day when the two motorists made contact with the LAPD. Much could also be made of the speed of the motorists, but it wasn't. Questions as to the speed of the motorists were rebuffed with "Not an issue!" responses. (The question was "What was the speed of the motorists?)

Much could be made of the environment, but it wasn't. Sunset Boulevard is a very fast street with lots of motor vehicle traffic. Sunset and Cliffwood, the scene of the tragedy, is signalized so I asked the obvious question "Was the demand actuated ped crossing button working?" I didn't get an answer.

That prompted me to go and take a look at the traffic signals at Sunset and Cliffwood, along with the signals at the intersections to the east and to the west. Here's what I found.

Sunset and Cliffwood is an intersection with demand-actuated signals at all four corners, requiring pedestrians to use a push button to call for a pedestrian "walk" phase.



When I pushed the button, the response was immediate and countdown started for the east west traffic, shifting to amber and then to red. I've never seen such a responsive traffic signal. I tried it with traffic, without traffic, with cars on Cliffwood and with none. In all cases, that signal offered an immediate response and a ped "walk" phase within seconds. Was this signal operating like this on February 26 when Julia Siegler attempted to cross Sunset?

Further confusing, Cliffwood has four demand-actuated signals but the east/west ped "walk" phase is set for fully-actuated timing. In other words, it is always a walk phase unless shifting to red.

Sunset and Kenter, just to the east of the tragic crash, is an intersection with demand-actuated signals used to cross Sunset and fully-actuated signals to cross Kenter. That means peds only need to push the button to cross Sunset.



I pushed the button and waited. Nothing happened. No countdown, no chirping for the blind, no indication that I had done anything meaningful, significant, or likely to result in an opportunity to cross Sunset supported by the "walk" phase of the traffic signal.

I tried it several times and in the video you can see that it took almost a full minute and the arrival of three motor vehicles on Kenter to get a "walk" phase to cross Sunset. Kenter also only has crosswalks on three sides of the intersection.

Sunset and Burlingame is an intersection to the west of Cliffwood and it has one demand-actuated signal to cross Sunset and one demand-actuated signal to cross Burlingame. This intersection is odd in that the default setting for the intersection is an all red, yet anybody approaching from any direction gets instant recognition.



Motorists don't need to slow down or stop, the signal simply turns green as if to "approve" of their passage.

Pedestrians approaching the "all-red" intersection simply push the buttons and get an instant ped "walk" phase with no hesitation or countdown. I tried it several times, with and without oncoming traffic and it was uncanny.

If ever a pedestrian needs to feel powerful, simply come to this "first-come, first-served" intersection and hit the ped button. "Walk!"

Sunset and Bundy is a busy signalized intersection farther to the east of Cliffwood that gets fairly decent traffic from south on Bundy as well as both directions on Sunset.



This intersection also features fully-actuated signals for east/west pedestrians and demand-actuated signals for north/south pedestrians. The white "walk" phase is quite fast , requiring pedestrians to be in place and ready to move. Not really the hospitable environment for pedestrians.

On either side of Cliffwood, there are traffic signs with speeds posted, some white (regulatory) and some yellow (advisory). Traveling east, on the approach to Cliffwood where Julia attempted to reach her school bus, motorists are greeted by a yellow sign that "advises" motorist that the "comfortable" speed is 25 mph.



From the west, motorists are informed by a white sign that the speed limit is 35 mph and also advised that the "comfortable" speed is 30 mph. There is no better time than now to look at all of the signage on Sunset and ask "Why?" Is this the limit of LA's attempts to control traffic.

More "suggestions" and "advice" to motorists traveling too fast to even read the signs which then prompts the LADOT to embark on a billboard campaign advising motorists to keep their eyes on the road. "Slow Down" must be a regulation, not simply a suggestion.

Traffic engineers can probably explain the three-sided crosswalk configuration over the four-sided crosswalk. They can probably use a slide rule to justify the short white "walk" phase and the longer "flashing hand" phase of the three part crossing signalization.

They can even offer up the "Crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security" demonstrating that even traffic engineers make mistakes. (It was a question, not a conclusion, at the end of the infamous Berms traffic study.

Often misquoted and always misunderstood, it has served the LADOT well but the pedestrian community has suffered. Traffic engineers and law enforcement officers can work all day to explain the complexities of using radar/laser tools for speed limit enforcement, they can talk all day about through-put and congestion and capacity and friction and conflict and eye lines and they can try very hard to impress me with how complex the world of traffic control really is for the professional, forget about the amateur.

But the real question is this: Do pedestrians need a degree from MIT to cross the street?

Would it be too much to have some sort of "pedestrian" logic applied to the traffic signals at the four neighboring intersections on Sunset Boulevard? The pedestrians walk down streets like Cliffwood with no sidewalks.

They are trained to walk in the street with motor vehicles. They push buttons that may or may not respond, they stand and watch the world go by, sometimes reminded that on the food chain of Los Angeles transportation, they rate right up there with the trash (can) and that if they really want to cross the street, they need to get in an automobile like everybody else.

In the days immediately following Julia's tragic death, the LAPD and others put the emphasis on pedestrian and their responsibility for their safety. Good advice, but not enough.

When there is a traffic collision, it must be standard operating procedure to test the street signals, not just for demand-actuated responsiveness but for all phases and for all modes.

As a cyclist, I encounter intersections such as Sunset and Park or Sunset and Rosemont that won't recognize cyclists and won't cycle green unless a motor vehicle approaches.

Ever wonder who trains cyclists to run reds? LADOT. By the way, it's the law that signals recognize all modes, it's just not common in Los Angeles. The current failure rate for LA's parking meters is 20% which begs the question, "What's the failure rate for traffic signal sensitivity and accuracy?" Anyone can guess but why guess when people are dying.

When there is a traffic collision, it must be standard operating procedure to investigate speed as a factor. Nothing about LA's traffic will change without data and when I called to get the speeds of the motorists, the question was dismissed.

Standing at the corner and watching the oncoming traffic from the east, vehicles traveling 35 mph would have been slowing down traffic. That street is fast. If cars are moving, they pose a threat. The faster they move, the great the threat. We must have data.

The City of Los Angeles has an underground bunker below City Hall East where the LADOT operates the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) system [LINK] but the LADOT doesn't play well with others nor does it share its data. That must change.

When there is a traffic collision, it must be standard operating procedure to evaluate that street, the community, the behavior of the people who use the street, and to ask the hard questions. Are we working together to make this street safe for all people? Are we making the safety of our most vulnerable a top priority?

Julia Siegler's death is tragic. It shouldn't have happened. It has resulted in a sense of helplessness in the larger community made up of Julia's neighbors and family and friends and schoolmates and even strangers.

An impromptu memorial of hundreds of flowers, candles, photos and stuffed animals, sits at the accident site at the corner of Sunset and Cliffwood, along with a sign that reads “Slow Down, For Julia.”

In Los Angeles, we name buildings after politicians, and we name intersections after children who get killed trying to get to school. That must change!

(Stephen Box is a transportation advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)