By Jean Stanley, August 11, 2015
OUR CHANGING CITY--Los Angeles has an undeserved reputation for being weak on public transportation, but big infrastructure reform in the works in city council could bury the notion of the car-worshiping Southern California city once and for all. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Council members are on the verge of approving a sweeping new transportation policy, one that calls for hundreds of miles of new bus-only lanes, bicycle lanes and “traffic calming” measures over the next 20 years. The initiative, dubbed Mobility Plan 2035, has sparked a debate over the ramifications of redesigning major corridors such as Van Nuys Boulevard, Sherman Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The plan isn’t without critics. While supporters say it will ease congestion and improve bicyclists’ safety and give people who don’t want to or can’t drive more options, dissenters say that it will cause more congestion, both during and after construction, and could be dangerous if it blocks more roads from emergency vehicles.
“Cars are just going to sit there,” Don Parker, a board member with Fix the City, an advocacy group fighting the plan, told the Times. “So labeling it a mobility plan is just not reflective of what the plan actually does.”
Mobility Plan 2035 is the city’s first major transportation update since 1999. And though L.A. has the second most-expansive public transportation system in the country, only 11 percent of Angelenos actually use it for commuting.
“A paradigm shift of this kind often causes growing pains,” Connie Llanos, spokeswoman for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who supports the mobility plan, told the Times. “But the long-term benefits outweigh the impacts.”
According to the Times, the outcomes of the Vehicle Miles Traveled method of evaluating traffic projections favors the plan:
Under that analysis, completion of the mobility plan would result in about 35 million miles per day being traveled on LA surface streets in 2035. Without the plan, that number would grow to more than 38 million, the city found.
State officials are in the process of eliminating Level of Service as a tool for measuring traffic in the state’s environmental review process, said Juan Matute, associate director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. The Vehicle Miles Traveled system is a more accurate way of assessing the environmental impacts of major construction projects, he said.
If the plan goes through, it will be a lot more beneficial to those who already don’t rely on their cars or who wish to change their ways for greener options like bicycling. Those who continue to rely on their cars may be the worst hit by the changes.
“There are going to be people who are going to be worse off as a result of implementation” Juan Matute, associate director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies, told the Times. “And those are going to be the people that continue driving the same or greater distances as they do now.”
(Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. This piece was originally posted at NextCity.org.)