My Commute: Palms to USC and DTLA

 

I like to ride my bike along the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

Hi! It’s me, Gwen. I love riding my bike along the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

When I moved from Deep Springs, California to LA for graduate school, friends and family shared concerns that without a car, my commute would be terrible. Well, I am happy to report that I have proved them all wrong! Yes, walking, biking, and taking public transit has its challenges, but so does driving (traffic congestion, parking, climate change, to name a few). Rather than live in fear, I actually look forward to my multi-modal commute every day. First, I look at it as a learning opportunity. As a student in urban planning and public administration at USC, it is important to me that I understand and experience public transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Second, I embrace the economic benefit! I save a lot of money by not driving, which helps me afford life in Los Angeles as a student.

I save $4,020 each year by not driving

Thanks to a partnership between Metro and USC Graduate Student Government, I get to buy an affordable, unlimited Metro TAP Card each semester. You can see if you are eligible for a discounted TAP Card, too.

On any given week day, I travel from Palms to USC or DTLA on:

  1. The 733 Rapid bus: I love taking the bus, because I can read the news, do homework, meet new people, and bring my bike. Oh, and during my commute, I’ve also taken up learning a language. By using this time to practice Spanish on Duolingo, I have gone from 0-33% fluent in just 10 months! A este ritmo , voy a hablar con fluidez en un par de años más.
  2. The Expo Line train: The train is great for all the same reasons as the bus, but it’s faster. I guess one downside is that it warrants less time for language learning.
  3. My awesome bike: This is my favorite mode of transportation. I get to be outside, exercise, and meet other people who ride bikes. I hope that people who see me on my bike think, “Hey, that person looks pretty happy on their bike. Maybe I can ride a bike, too!”

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Palms is way closer to UCLA than USC. Why am I choosing this epic commute? Well, to start, I need to get out and living far from campus helps me to explore more of LA. Plus, I have a lot of friends at UCLA, and I think it’s a cool school to live by (don’t tell Tommy Trojan). Some people are bi-coastal. I like bi-campusal.

Riding from Palms to USC

Before I hop on my bike, I run through an ABC Quick Check to make sure everything is in working order. It is better for me to solve a problem like a flat tire, broken chain, or faulty brakes at home than when I am rushing off to work or school. For example, when I take my bike down from a wall mount, sometimes the brakes become disengaged. I prefer to notice this in the comfort of my apartment, not when I’m trying  to stop at a red light.

Once I know my bike is good to go, I ride to Culver City Station and park at the station bike racks (with not one, but  TWO U-locks). Did you know you can rent a bike locker from Metro? I am seriously considering this, because my bicycle can never be too safe.

I keep an extra set of bike lights in my bag, and my helmet is reflective.

For the ride home, I keep an extra set of bike lights in my bag.

Since some classes end after 9pm, I often get home late. I love Venice because of the bike lane. Venice has the longest connected bike lane in Los Angeles! But cars drive at high speeds, which is even more terrifying at night. So, I’ve mastered at-night riding. Check out my super reflective backpack!

My reflective backpack helps me stay visible at night.

This picture of me wearing my backpack at night shows how hard it is for cars to see me when it’s dark. Good thing they can really see my backpack!

I also have a reflective jacket and helmet cover. You can never be too visible on the road!

Ok, back to my commute. At Culver City Station, I hop on the Expo Line train for a seamless commute to Expo Park/USC station, which is closest to my department, but there are actually three Expo Line stations at USC:

  • Expo/Vermont
  • Expo Park/USC
  • Jefferson/USC

This bike-train commute from my apartment to school takes anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes, depending on how long I wait for the train.

While I usually ride my bike to the train station, I sometimes like to bike all the to USC! My route travels along Venice and Exposition and takes about 45 minutes.

I really like this route because there's a bike path or bike lane the whole way

I like riding all the way to USC, because there’s a bike path or bike lane the whole way.

On my way home, I often swing by the grocery store. Thanks to my folding pannier baskets, which I bought from Palms Cycle, I can carry two full grocery bags (one in each basket).

Palms to DTLA

On days when I head directly to work, I take the 733 Rapid bus, which is pretty much a straight shot.

Taking the bus gives me a chance to read, do homework, and learn Spanish.

Taking the bus gives me a chance to read, do homework, and learn Spanish.

My walk to the bus stop is great because it gets me outside. It also reminds me that most streets in Los Angeles are not designed for pedestrians. I have near misses with cars almost as often as I do on my bike, and it’s especially bad during rush hour. Being a pedestrian can feel really powerless when streets are made for fast, heavy vehicles. People who walk should feel safe and connected. I’m grateful to be part of LADOT’s Active Transportation Division, working to make LA neighborhoods walkable through programs like People St.

I prefer the 733 Rapid to the 33 Local, because it's faster

I prefer the 733 Rapid to the 33 Local, because it’s faster.

My walk-bus trip takes about an hour, depending on how long I wait for the bus. I use Transit App to track arrival times, which helps minimize my wait.

DTLA to USC

Getting from DTLA to USC is super easy, because it’s only 4 miles on my bike. There aren’t always bike lanes, but I confidently take the lane and ride 4 feet away from parked cars when that’s the case. I was “doored” a few years ago, so I learned the hard way to never ride in the door zone. Learn from my mistake! This commute takes 25 minutes.

When I’m not on my bike, I take public transit. There are a lot of options spanning 28 to 36 minutes:

  • 910/950 Silver Line bus
  • 81 bus
  • DASH A bus
  • DASH F bus
  • Purple Line train
  • Red Line train
  • Expo Line train
I love that from work to school, I can either take public transit or ride my bike

I can take public transit or ride my bike from work to school.

This commute is about to get way better thanks to the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project (aka MyFigueroa). As part of MyFigueroa, complete street elements will be installed along a 4 miles stretch of Figuera. These improvements will include a protected bike lanebike signal heads, and bike boxes at intersections, among others. Construction starts in summer 2016 and will be completed by March 2017.

Well, there you have it. My commute saves money, gets me outside, gives me opportunities to be productive, and makes me feel connected to my communities and the greater Los Angeles.

Thanks for reading! How is your commute?

Gwen von Klan is an intern at LADOT’s Active Transportation Division.

Portlandi-LA: Placemaking Lessons from the City Repair Project

#LeapLA tries to keep you looped into all things that make Los Angeles streets and neighborhoods more livable. Last month, Active Transportation Division had the opportunity to partner with the Department of City Planning, the Mayor’s Great Streets Initiative, and the Los Angeles Eco Village to bring Portland’s Mark Lakeman to speak to City departments. Lakeman, the founder of City Repair Project, gave a compelling presentation on how communities in Portland create natural building, permaculture, and public art projects. Lakeman’s presentation provided Los Angeles with some food for thought, illustrating how City Repair Project has served as an effective means for achieving transportation implementation goals.

The mission of the City Repair Project is to “foster thriving, inclusive, and sustainable communities through the creative reclamation of public space.” The project has facilitated simple, yet holistic approaches to improving Portland’s neighborhoods. Lakeman’s strategy emphasizes that streets are the center of cultural convergence: a community meeting place where ideas are communicated and people are compelled to interact. In this, Lakeman argues, a street should reflect the full spectrum of human expressions and serve more as a cultural continuum than a conduit to move traffic.

People enjoying a completed City Repair Project

People enjoying a completed City Repair Project

Culturally and physically, Los Angeles neighborhoods seeking to reclaim culture back into the streets can continue to expand their toolkit and learn from the City Repair model. Many Los Angeles communities have been touched by locally-driven placemaking efforts. From the more recent Great Streets Challenge, to well-established organizations such as Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI), placemaking in Los Angeles has generated greater connectivity and revitalized neighborhoods. Community-driven strategies like these that utilize and engage active communities can facilitate critical improvements that enhance community cohesiveness.

City Repair Projects inspire creativity and community engagement

City Repair Projects inspire creativity and community engagement

Lakeman’s talk explained that City Repair Projects are a unique partnership between the non-profit, the community, and the City of Portland. The projects are driven from the bottom up, largely developed by volunteers and citizen activists, but the process is sustained and facilitated by the city. The city has made the process to opt into a City Repair Project fairly simple:

  1. after identifying gaps and corridors, community members can pool resources and collaborate to design a project that is context sensitive and cost effective
  2. community members then apply with the Portland Bureau of Transportation for an encroachment permit and a block party permit, that allow them to shut down two streets (4 blocks) during a City Repair Project intersection painting

By keeping the regulatory process flexible and simple, Portland enables communities to create artistic and ecologically-oriented transportation improvements. Projects such as benches, community kiosks, gardens, street paintings, tile mosaics, and intersection treatments, though granular, integrally stitch neighborhoods together and inspire creativity and diversity.

The semi-permanent nature of some projects foster opportunities for continual innovation

Some projects are semi-permanent, fostering opportunities for continual innovation

The City Repair Project is about the intersection of transportation, art, public spaces, and community engagement. Fostering collaboration among community members, these projects create permanent and semi-permanent street improvements that benefit neighborhoods and the city at-large.  Following the lead of People St and Great Streets, City Repair Project is another model that Los Angeles can adapt as a means to encourage creative and environmentally sustainable placemaking.

Happy Parklet Day! Hope St Parklet comes to life in South Park

Putting on the finishing touches at Hope St Parklet

People St is excited to kick off the new year with the installation and official opening of Hope St Parklet in the South Park neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles. The new Parklet is located at the southwest corner of Hope and 11th Street, just a few blocks south of STAPLES Center, L.A. Live, and the Metro Pico Station. This is the first parklet to be constructed within the framework of the People St program, which hosted its first application cycle in Spring 2014

As a part of South Park’s Walkability Project, Hope St Parklet serves as a catalyst for future investment in pedestrian and bicycle amenities for the South Park community. The Parklet replaces two parking spaces, providing 288 square feet of new public green space complete with planters and seating for people to meet, talk, and enjoy the neighborhood. The parklet design is based in the People St Kit of Parts model, The Steps, which provides space for 2-3 tables and chairs and is flanked with built-in terraced benches and planters. The combination and configuration of movable and permanent seating encourages flexibility in uses.

Like other People St projects, identity and wayfinding signage at Hope St Parklet orient visitors to local destinations that are within walking and biking distance to the site. A quick look at the map shows that Metro Blue and Expo Lines are only a five-minute walk away. Raising awareness of walkable destinations, transit, and bikeways encourages people to explore the neighborhood, creating a dedicated resting place along the way.

Hope St parklet signage panel shows a person-oriented wayfinding with 10 minute radius

People St projects like Hope St Parklet align neighborhoods around street life, creating a place of communal respite in otherwise urban neighborhoods. Amenities like parklets are important to the vitality of any people-oriented corridor, creating an oasis of free public seating so people can pause, relax, and take in the neighborhood. “Working with the community to make neighborhoods more enjoyable and walkable is one of our goals,” said Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager. “Creating spaces like the Hope Street Parklet gives people the opportunity to meet, relax and spend time where they live and shop.”

Councilmember Huizar, LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds, and South Park BID Executive Director Jessica Lall host parklet ribbon cutting ceremony

As the Community Partner for this project, South Park Business Improvement District (BID) is responsible for the management and ongoing maintenance of the Parklet. Funds for parklet materials, design, and labor were largely donated by members of the South Park community, including SODA Architects, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Mack Urban, Benchmark + Tishman Construction, A Joint Venture, Swinerton Builders, Trumark Urban, Hazens Group, USA, ValleyCrest Landscape Development, Harry H. Joh Construction, ABC Resources, Tinco Sheet Metal, Helix Electric. By leveraging donations and community good will, South Park BID managed to construct the parklet for less than $10,000.

With a full crew, the parklet was constructed in just over a day

Hope St Parklet is one of three parklets approved in the inaugural People St application cycle, along with People St Plazas in North Hollywood, Leimert Park, and Pacoima. Because the People St program is a public-private partnership, LADOT has provided technical assistance, project support, and the wayfinding signage. To date, the People St program has created a total of 30,600 square feet of Plaza space, a total of 1,540 square feet of Parklet space, and 1,500 square feet of Bicycle Corral space. The addition of Hope St Parklet adds to over 33,640 square feet of people-oriented green space in the City of Los Angeles – that’s 3/4 of an acre, nearly the size of the Taj Mahal! By reallocating vehicular right of way to people uses, we give new life to our public realm.

Can’t get enough parklets? There are two more parklets located on Motor Avenue in Palms that will complete installation in the coming month, so stay tuned! For more information about the People St program, visit our website, peoplest.lacity.org or email peoplest@lacity.org.

Planning Day 2015: A Planner’s Guide to DTLA Complete Streets

Take a look at your calendar, and you probably will not find Planning Day as a listed holiday. Planning Day, held on October 15th this year, is an annual event observed exclusively by the Department of City Planning (DCP) where DCP staff lead and participate in multiple tours designed to explore different planning-related themes throughout Los Angeles . For this year’s Planning Day, a group of DCP staff biked the streets of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), Little Tokyo, and the Arts District to see first-hand how LADOT is helping transform Los Angeles into a vision of Complete Streets.

LADOT People St guru Elizabeth Gallardo rallies DCP staff for our tour.

To kickoff the tour, LADOT People St Project Manager, Elizabeth Gallardo lead DCP staff along a greatest hits of active transportation projects designed by LADOT to serve a broad cross section of road users, who find DTLA as a vibrant place to live and spend their leisure time. First stop was the Spring Street parklets where Nicholas Ziff Griffin, Director of Economic Development at the Downtown Center Business Improvement District described the importance of these amenities in creating a vital place where people want to linger and explore new businesses.

Bicycle Friendly Business Peddler’s Creamery offers sweet rewards for customers that churn ice cream using pedal power.

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People St Application Window Opening November 1st with Small Changes

Last year, the People St program opened its first ever application cycle re-purposed road space in Pacoima and Leimert Park for two new Plazas and will bring Parklets to Palms and South Park in Downtown LA soon. LADOT’s award-winning People St Program will open its second application cycle and begin accepting proposals for Plazas, Parklets, and Bicycle Corrals from potential partners starting November 1st! Community Partners will have 45 calendar days or until December 15th to submit their applications for all People St projects.

Ballet folklorico at July 30th Ribbon Cutting at Bradley Ave Plaza in Pacoima.

Before you start gathering your neighbors and friends to help you put together a proposal, here are a few things you should know about this year’s People St application cycle:

  • Apply for a Bicycle Corral: Instead of a on rolling basis, Bicycle Corrals are now integrated into the application-based process along with Plazas and Parklets! All applications for People St projects will be accepted during the application window period. This helps us prioritize Plazas, Parklets, and Bicycle Corrals all at once and lets us foster better communication between Community Partner applicants.
  • Updated Application Manuals: As the People St program continues to grow, we would like to streamline the application process and make applying easier for Community Partners. We’ve made revisions and updates to our application manuals incorporating new information to better guide Community Partners!
  • Keep your Neighborhood Council in the loop: Community Partners are now required to present their proposed People St project to their neighborhood during one of their local Neighborhood Council’s monthly meetings. For a People St project application to be considered complete, a copy of the Neighborhood Council meeting’s agenda or official minutes must be included as proof of presentation.
  • Kit of Parts for Plazas Went on a Diet: Information from the previous ‘Kit of Parts for Plazas Technical Appendix’ has now been incorporated into the ‘Kit of Parts for Plazas’. Now, Community Partners can refer to the ‘Kit of Parts for Plazas‘ exclusively for information on needed furnishings and programming to construct and activate a Plaza!

People St 2015 Application Cycle Timeline.

Now that you are up to speed on the changes we’ve made and are interested in applying for a project in your neighborhood, start now! All Plazas, Parklets, and Bicycle Corrals application materials and information you need can be found at our one stop shop: peoplest.lacity.org. If you have additional questions, email us at peoplest@lacity.org.

We can’t wait to form new partnerships and work with our Community Partners to bring their project ideas to life!

Our mobility future is upon us! Plan for 2035!

Exciting things keep happening for the future of mobility in Los Angeles! Some of you who have been following mobility planning and implementation in the City may be wondering when Mobility Plan 2035, the primary planning document that guides planning and implementation of mobility for the City, could take effect.  Well you are in luck! On Tuesday, August 4th, the LA City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management Committees will consider the decision to adopt the Plan at 2:30pm in Council Chambers.

If urban planning and government are not your profession, you might be wondering what a plan is, why we use them, or how you can learn more. Planning documents are developed (this one has been in development for nearly 4 years!) with an extensive process of outreach, studies, socio-economic forecasting, visioning, and strategic planning in order to guide unified decision making in the future.  Plans are not set in stone, but they provide goals (aspirations in vision) and objectives (ways of achieving the vision) that the City can pursue to achieve a desired future. Once adopted, Mobility Plan 2035 will become part of the City’s General Plan and provide policy and implementation guidance for LA streets for the next 20 years.

Mobility Plan 2035 is getting ready for a green light!

Mobility Plan 2035 is especially dynamic and groundbreaking in that it represents the first time Complete Streets policies and guidance will be reflected in the City’s General Plan! Complete Streets are considered streets that provide safe access for all users.  Mobility Plan 2035 includes a Complete Streets Design Guide that provides decision makers, departments, and the broader community a number of options for public rights of way (streets!) to achieve safe mobility access for people of all ages and abilities.

Next Tuesday August 4th at 2:30pm the LA City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management Committees will consider the decision to adopt the the Mobility Plan 2035, the key planning document for mobility and streets in the City of Los Angeles. If the Committees vote to adopt the Plan, then the Plan will be heard at full City Council for final Plan adoption, the last step in the adoption process!

We’d like to tell you a little more about the Plan! Planning documents can be policy game-changers, and some of the substantial policy directives found in Mobility Plan 2035 are outlined in its Chapters:

  1. Safety First
  2. World Class Infrastructure
  3. Access to All Angelenos
  4. Collaboration, Communication and Informed Choices
  5. Clean Environment & Healthy Communities

Reseda Boulevard, LA’s first iteration of the Great Streets program shows how streets can facilitate low-stress travel with a parking protected bike lane and an attractive walking environment

Mobility Plan 2035 provides a vision of integrated transportation networks for all road users. The Plan especially focuses on safe, low stress networks that encourage more people to embrace modes of active transportation, whether it be biking, walking, strolling, rollerblading, skating or more.

The plan also establishes objectives to measure success, including objectives to decrease transportation-related fatalities; establish slow school zones; provide frequent, reliable on-time bus arrival; increase vehicular travel time reliability; expand bicycle ridership; expand access to shared-use vehicles; share real time information to inform travel choices; and increase economic productivity by lowering the overall cost of travel.

Other cool Mobility Plan objectives include ensuring that 80% of street segments do not exceed targeted operating speeds and increasing the percentage of females who travel by bicycle to 35% of all riders by 2035

If Mobility Plan 2035 is achieved, it would take 219,000 trips off of our roads every day, and result in 1.7 million fewer miles traveled every day, which would be great for our health, our commute, and the health of our environment! Full implementation of the Plan would triple the number of Los Angeles residents living within a quarter mile of a Transit Enhanced Network (TEN) facility and would more than double the number of jobs located within a quarter mile of such transit facilities.

Don’t forget, on Tuesday, August 4th, the LA City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management Committees will consider the decision to adopt the Mobility Plan 2035 at 2:30pm in Council Chambers. The meeting is open to the public and speaker cards will be available for those who wish to comment.

Corridors and plazas are the malls of the future! #streetsforpeople

Bradley Ave Plaza #thefuture

In the realm of active transportation, we are always thinking about the future and the constantly changing trends, cultures, and behavior shifts – these are the heartbeat of the City that we listen to in order to plan and integrate our work into the ever-evolving urban fabric of Los Angeles.  The conversation about active transportation increasingly goes beyond the modes we are talking about (walking, biking, rolling). The beauty of active transportation is that it intertwines with other disciplines, a wide variety of stakeholders, and other physical and social aspects of public space like social life, urban spaces, and cultural programming. Constantly in our practice, we observe these ties, although they differ neighborhood to neighborhood and place by place, as each has its own deep cultural and historical influences. We were lucky enough to spend some time in one of these culturally-rich neighborhoods lately, learning about the lay of the land.

Last week, LADOT Active Transportation Division traveled to Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima to attend a workshop put on by the Urban Land Institute (ULI). Van Nuys Boulevard is no stranger to recognition! It has been designated by two council districts as a Great Street, was selected as one of four Demonstration Corridors in the country for ULI’s Healthy Corridors Grant, and today hosted the ribbon cutting of its People St Plaza, the Bradley Ave Plaza.

This neighborhood within Pacoima is a touch point for the conversation about mobility and transportation due to its confluence of modes: the historically car-dominated transect of the Valley crosses both Metrolink tracks and the San Fernando Road Bike Path, a right of way that has been slated for a proposed future high speed rail line. Additionally, Van Nuys Blvd. is being studied by Metro as part of the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. It remains to be seen what the future configuration of the street will look like or what type of transit and active transportation facilities will be built, but keep your ears peeled because improvements to mobility are in the works!

Max Podemski of Pacoima Beautiful leads a walking tour of Van Nuys Blvd, stopping at the intersection of Van Nuys Blvd and San Fernando Rd., where the bike path and Metrolink cruise side by side.

Pacoima is indicative of some of LA’s most significant growth challenges: though it lies in the heart of the sprawling single-family-home-oriented San Fernando Valley, because of ubiquitous under-the-radar garage conversions, the area reflects the density of multi-family housing. When reflecting on our favorite statistic, that 47% of trips in Los Angeles are under 3 miles and can easily be completed by walking or biking, we can’t help but see Van Nuys Blvd. as the ideal attractor for these local trips.

The ULI Healthy Corridors Workshop brought up some interesting points, but one of the things that piqued our attention was the term “economic leakage.” The workshop presented a number of snapshots and studies that have been conducted in the area. One study found that though many families- over 3000 property parcels- live within 1/2 mile of Van Nuys Boulevard, the vast majority leave the area to shop elsewhere.  This is the same story of economic decline of corridors and local economies over the past 40 years that can be told by countless cities and LA neighborhoods. Read more