A Tale of Two Projects: Urban Transportation in Los Angeles

September 20, 2012 at 10:54 am | Posted in Bike News, Get Involved, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Image: The NBC Universal-adjacent reach of the Los Angeles River is featured on the cover of the Revitalization Master Plan.

As the second largest city in the country, Los Angeles is home to major industries including goods movement, film, aerospace, and others, all participants a dynamic, global economy.  We are fortunate in that these industries choose to continue investing in our city, bringing jobs and tax revenue to our local communities.  Every so often, a major player announces a large project that promises to reshape the public realm for the next generation.  Last week, the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission recommended approval for Farmers Field, a football stadium that will transform an already bustling entertainment complex at the southern edge of downtown LA.  Next week, the Planning Commission will consider NBC Universal’s plans for the future development of Universal City.  Both of these mega-projects will have far-reaching effects on nearby communities, for better or for worse.  Considered together, these projects provide a study in contrasting approaches to planning for the future.

Set in the urban core, Farmers Field is planned to integrate itself into its surrounding neighborhood.  The stadium is required by state legislation to be carbon neutral and has aggressive plans to reduce travel by private automobile by investing in and promoting alternatives.  The separately planned My Figueroa project will introduce the City’s first separated cycletrack on Figueroa, delivering visitors to the event center’s 250 bicycle parking spaces.  A future mobility hub will provide additional bicycle parking, as well as bikeshare, carshare, and transit info.  The stadium project is required to invest $10 million to add an additional platform at the Pico Blue/Expo Line station to accommodate expected game day crowds.  While some may quibble at project details (and we’re no exception), the project has demonstrated a clear willingness to encourage people to arrive by transit, by bike, and on foot.

Universal City is also strategically located on the Metro rail network, as well as at the terminus of existing bike lanes on Forest Lawn Drive and planned bicycle facilities along the LA River, Barham, Cahuenga, and Lankershim.  The project applicant, however, has taken a decidedly different approach than Farmers Field, and chosen to meet their transportation demands by investing $100 million in cars, cars, and more cars.  The applicant has resisted efforts to include the LA River Bike Path on the County right-of-way adjacent to the River, as prescribed by both City and County bicycle plans and river plans, due to alleged security concerns.  The project also includes aggressive expansion of car infrastructure, including adding lanes, doubling turn lanes, and increasing parking—all in the name of reducing traffic impacts (by making it easier for more people to drive).  Not to be found in the transportation plan is a single inch of new bike lanes on the City streets outside the project.  Worse, the mitigation measures will make planned bike lanes in these corridors all but infeasible.  (NBC actually hired consultants to do bike counts in the existing dangerous conditions to justify their claim that there is no demand for bicycle travel.)  In a separate project, NBC is forcing Metro to construct a $19 million pedestrian bridge across Lankershim to get pedestrians out of the way of traffic flow.  In an industry reliant on attracting creative talent, NBC’s next generation production facilities will not be accessible by the travel modes most desired by young professionals.

We could provide a long list of reasons why the NBC Universal plan went off-track, but ultimately it comes down to whether our corporate leaders share our vision of a more sustainable city wherein people can safely and conveniently travel under their own power, and whether our civic leaders are willing to enforce plans that are carefully crafted with years of public input.  Large investments in the built environment are all too rare, which makes it all the more important to follow plans and policies that support strategic investments in public infrastructure when opportunities do arise.

We hope you’ll take action by writing to the City Planning Commission and/or attending the hearing on Thursday, September 27th (8:30 AM at Van Nuys City Hall Council Chamber, 2nd Floor, 14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys, CA 91401).

Please email comments by Tuesday, September 25th to:

Sample letter:

Dear Planning Commissioners:

I am greatly concerned about the lack of bicycle accommodations in the proposed NBC Universal Evolution Plan, including the LA River Bike Path.  In this day and age, it is unfathomable to propose a project of this size without seriously considering multimodal solutions to transportation impacts.  A stronger bicycle infrastructure component is necessary to provide a safe, convenient alternative to driving for NBC visitors and employees, while also providing regional connectivity for bicyclists in the Cahuenga Pass area.

I therefore request that the applicant be required to fund and/or implement the LA River Bike Path as a condition of the development agreement.  I further request that planned on-street bicycle lanes on Lankershim, Cahuenga, and Barham be included in the proposed project’s traffic mitigation measures.

The proposed project will generate close to 30,000 daily trips in an already congested corridor with inadequately developed multimodal transportation infrastructure.  The proposed project will invest $100 million in the region’s transportation system to mitigate this impact.  It is vital that the City follow through on its plans to enable residents to bike, walk, and take transit to relieve our transportation system’s impacts on health and the environment.  The constraints within the Cahuenga Pass area make adequate consideration for safe travel by all modes all the more important.

Thank you for your consideration.

Joe Angelino
123 River Road
Los Angeles, CA 90000

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  1. […] LACBC says the proposed expansion of Universal Studios has gone off the rails by relying exclusively on cars at the expense of all other modes of transportation — as well as […]

  2. The development of making the city is very important!!As the increase of transportation is a major thing to develop the city,hope more suggestions must be given in letter formats!!

  3. […] Problems Persist for NBC Universal Project, Still Cuts Bike Path (LACBC Blog) […]

  4. […] week ago, we blogged about the NBC Universal Evolution Plan, a $1.6 billion investment in our region’s film and entertainment industry.  LACBC, along with […]

  5. […] week ago, we blogged about the NBC Universal Evolution Plan, a $1.6 billion investment in our region’s film and entertainment industry.  LACBC, along with […]

  6. If this is not the #1 policy issue in LA, I don’t know what possibly is. I was there just last month, and that traffic, and the pollution it creates, is downright tragic.

  7. Greetings I am so thrilled I found your weblog, I really
    found you by mistake, while I was browsing on Digg for something else, Anyways I
    am here now and would just like to say thank you for a fantastic post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the excellent job.

  8. I just want to thank you for sharing this information with us and i totally agree that the City has to follow through on its plans to enable residents to bike, walk, and take transit to relieve our transportation system’s impacts on health and the environment.

  9. and this plan has to be well followed by all US big cities such as New York City

  10. Hi! I’ve been following your weblog for a while now and finally got
    the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Texas!
    Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

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