A 2012 Summary and SCAG DEIR Comments
Comments on the SCAG 2012 DEIR
Phillip Jon Brown, Architect
1864 Benedict Canyon Drive
Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210
Email address; RTP@scag.ca.gov
Subject; draft RTP/CSC Comments
February 14, 2012
Rather than overly focused centralizing of commuter trips via expensive rail more dispersed planning and building should be made to provide for increased population density and job creation to reduce travel and commuting with shorter trips; think “Centers Concept” in sub-regional aggregations. In that manner extensive low cost medium capacity transportation and land use in patterns and corridors will provide a much more Southern California like growth and compatibility with what exists.
The specific overall comment to be made is that SCAG needs to include the Flow Boulevard concept in its planning vision formation, criteria and plan recommendations for the Regional Transportation Plan. It may be better said that SCAG being the lead agency should see that County agencies like the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority be directed to enlarge its forms of transportation improvement to include well crafted land use and transportation improvement forms such as the Flow Boulevard technique.
A Flow Boulevard is a combined transportation and land use improvement technique which has a semi–limited access configuration and includes what are known as Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies. In that it combines strategies for land use development a Flow Boulevard (FB) can also be included in the Smart Growth category. The combined planning elements then can become a smart growth transportation corridor or if used in already dense urban areas, a way to “fix what is broken” regarding congestion or desperate land use conditions.
The transportation capacity and the land use density range can be said to be “medium” on both counts. The first stage FB transportation capacity is in the 150,000 person trip range per day and the land use would generally be a mix of R-2, and R-3 residential, as well as C-1 and C-2 commercial densities in the corridor.
The Flow Boulevard corridors evolve from selected existing urban street right of ways (ROW) without widening. The use of ITS strategies brings about the increased capacity over existing street usage. The corridors can be thought of as in-fill structures that follow the SB 375 mandate to improve and combine land use densities and transit while reducing vehicular miles traveled (VMT) in the consolidating communities and cities in Southern California. The corridors are so selected to as well “protect” existing residential communities from excessive traffic. There is a website dedicated to the development of the transportation and land use concepts at www.FlowBoulevardPlan.com. In the comments below specific examples will be referred to using URL links as best as can be arranged or named call outs.
A Brief Definition of Flow Boulevards
A Flow Boulevard (FB) is based upon the utilization of a pair of one-way streets separated by a city block or several and includes synchronized traffic signals to allow vehicles to flow with the objective of not stopping to create higher capacities and higher average travel speeds along the corridor in both directions. Flow Boulevards are not to be utilized in “downtown like grid patterns” but are to be used in “corridor” configurations which typically will have lower density adjacent development. The highly accessible blocks between the one-way paired streets, as well as land use directly adjacent out side of the paired streets are intended to be developed with higher density land uses than that are typically found in Southern California “sprawl development”. The Flow Boulevard form can be a “growth corridor” accepting higher density while providing increased transportation capacity.
Local streets perpendicular to the FB are not allowed to cross each of the one-way streets but local traffic is made to turn into the one-way flow or if FB traffic is exiting into the adjacent local street, it is made with a right turn. The streets between the one-way pair and connecting them are typically made to be one-way streets so that reversal of direction can be made or to go around the block and continue in the original direction. For more explicit operation diagrams and further discussion on the website at www.flowboulevardplan.com click on the menu title “How the Boulevard Works”.
Regarding the first stage FB where pedestrian and vehicular cross traffic occurs at the same grade as the FB; the variables of signal spacing, vehicular arterial street crossing demand, speed of travel (typically 40 mph) and the length of signal cycle time is dealt with to optimize green time for the FB “pack” of flowing vehicles. A reasonable objective is to obtain 1200 vehicles/lane/hour that will give accommodating cross traffic and pedestrian crossing time intervals at approximate 2000 foot intervals (1/3 mile). Each FB direction is timed separately to guarantee capacity and flow. In a 4 lane FB, in each direction, where the fourth lane is a Rapid Bus Transit lane combined with HOV use, the daily capacity for the corridor can be approximately 150,000 person trips per day.
Briefly, the 2nd stage of the FB is involved with developing grade separated circulation for pedestrians to bring increased green time for lengthening “the pack” that flows therefore the hourly per lane and daily capacity of the FB. Similar coordination of grade separation for cross vehicular traffic will be necessary for the maintaining of the FB green signal time intervals. The third stage of the FB is when there is complete elevated pedestrian circulation and open space provided by adjacent land use development and there is complete grade separation for major arterial vehicular cross traffic in that segment of the FB. It should be noted that there would be different stage FB development along the corridor going from the no FB condition all the way through 1st, 2nd and 3rd stage segments.
The time increment of evolution is basically “from here on out”. For Los Angeles in fifty years there is potential for a forty percent increase in population or more and certainly much more than that in corridor developments. Flow Boulevard corridors are three dimensionally organized dense environments that can happen and probably must happen to allow Los Angeles to solve its traffic problems and preserve its character and lifestyle. Selected areas of land use density allows construction of grade separated vehicular crossings to be made as well as elevated pedestrian and bikeway circulation to cross the FB providing continuity of urban fabric across the FB corridor. It is anticipated that a relative few number of these corridors are needed to solve the problems that have developed in Los Angeles. Since they grow out of the existing street network they respond to need and can evolve in density and capacity to solve for that particular need.
The capacity of the 3rd stage FB with continuous flow traffic is in the 2400 vehicle lane/hour range giving 280,000 person trips/ day for the total eight lanes with conventional spacing between vehicles and would not be expected to evolve to that capacity for maybe 60 years or more. Computerized controlled spacing of one or two lanes in each direction opens a whole expanded realm of additional capacity is even further off. That the FB becomes a guideway in segments accepting evolved technologies as time goes on is important and a relevant transportation and land use element able to work “from here on out”.
Example Applications of Flow Boulevards
Adding capacity to corridors “to fix what is broken”: In this actual proposed application, a FB is to be added as a frontage road to the 405 corridor on the Los Angeles Westside to eliminate congestion to make that segment of the 405 work without failing, along with its interchange with the I-10 which can make it work without failing and the net result of making these corridors have adequate capacity for the commuter to West LA is to be able to take enough traffic out of the West LA arterial grid so as to eliminate the current traffic gridlock. See Exhibit A at the end of this comment text for more description.
Add transportation capacity and land use development to mend two communities and their common edges: In this instance there are two differing communities where there has been traditionally a major travel corridor between them that now has broken down due to a travel demand overload into congested traffic. This puts additional travel in the form of “cut through traffic” into the community to the north (Hollywood) which has become gridlocked exceeding the ATSAC usage limits. Both communities (north and south) of the major travel corridor are becoming blighted due to traffic invasion and a mix of dissimilar land uses that resist compatible interactions. The FB application would provide the needed increased capacity to restore the traditional major travel corridor of through traffic so that “over flow” traffic does not invade either adjacent community. It would then be an urban design task to employ land use development as a part of the FB development to provide appropriate north-south circulation and land uses to mend, bring attractions and compatibility between the two communities. A preliminary corridor is laid out on the FB website and can be reached by link www.flowblvd.com/basinplan2.html or by clicking on the menu title “LA Basin FB Loop and Transportation Corridor Study”, then when that comes up click on the Page 2 link (in blue) to get to the “Santa Monica Flow Boulevard Corridor” which is a preliminary study. Scroll down to the Hollywood segment.
Protect adjacent land use and entire communities from unnecessary traffic: The configuration of a LA Basin Loop is intended to reduce traffic invasion into the extensive single and multi family residential communities of the Basin as well as to provide a way to circulate within the Basin and to accept part of the multi-modal commuter travel to Basin employment centers. The configuration would provide the additional transportation modes as back-up to the subway and rail network being built in the Basin. The extensive central form of residential communities surrounded by work centers and geographic features is unique in world city form organizations. It would be a great loss to have traffic gridlock claim yet more square miles of Los Angeles. There is further discussion on this subject regarding the alternative locations of the Westside Subway Extension at two different websites 1/ www.flowblvd.com/subwayextension.html or by clicking the website menu on Subway Extension and 2/ at www.flowblvd.com/basinstudy.html or by clicking the website menu on Basin Loop/Corridor Study (it’s page one).
In this discussion is revealed that there is the traffic problem of attracting too many trips to an inadequate transportation infrastructure but there is the additional problem that the existing boulevard structure has “built-in” bottleneck configurations which cannot be dealt with unless the entire central residential community form is involved with congestion and “cut-through” traffic. In other words the impacts to the basin communities would be monumental.
Use as the necessary multi-modal back-up component to a Subway Corridor: As part of the Westside Subway Extension study in the LA Basin area it became evident that the subway and the development around stations would attract a percentage of vehicular trips in the corridor. It might be a fairly high percentage of trips depending on the amount of regional trip attractions that would be built. There is a fair amount of discussion on the matter located at the link www.flowblvd.com/subwayextension.html.
Sub Regional Consolidation Being Structured with Growth Corridors: Being that Flow Boulevards increase transportation capacity and provide advantageous land use relationships as density is developed, it is logical to structure additional growth in the low density existing settings of Southern California by the FB technique. The examples referred to in the before mentioned website are in the Los Angeles County sub region and within geographical subdivisions of it, essentially the San Fernando Valley, East LA areas, South Bay, and the LA Basin area. Whereas the LA Basin area needs transportation improvement to stabilize the relationships between transportation infrastructure and land use, it does not need growth in the Westside area particularly but it does need renewal growth in the eastern area towards downtown Los Angeles.
Outside of the Basin the low density areas of residential, commercial and industrial land use are a particular opportunity, if not necessity, for corridor growth development. Given the low density existing sprawl where the majority of County trip mileage is generated and performed, growth corridors are necessary given by the recognition of energy security to reduce VMT, as well as the need to increase economic development productivity for both existing and the future increased population to sustain an acceptable standard of living. “Growth is necessary” to adapt the urban form. It is imperative that growth be directed to make the necessary improvement to functional and spatial relationships to bring about the efficiencies that will allow affordable, sustainable and desirable city environment.
While accepting greater population, VMT must be reduced by the proximity of needed land uses. The area where the greatest amount of VMT can be reduced while conforming to affordable, sustainable and desirable objectives is in the existing low density suburban areas. The average trip length in LA County is almost 16 miles long. The length must be reduced and a general transformation to non fossil fuel energy in small truck and automobiles needs to take place while increasing transit options as well. In transit the greatest cost benefit comes from bus usage. The cost of five miles of light rail construction (ROW, hardware and typical occasional grade separations) can pay for 100 miles of Flow Boulevard which is fully outfitted including hybrid articulated buses at generally 10 minute intervals ( local bus costs reducing time intervals further have not been included). In addition to the greater amount of transit coverage there are approximately 16 times the amount of patron transit miles developed (volume of users). On a typical FB paired street, whether two or three lanes of auto and truck flowing lanes are used, there would always be the additional BRT/HOV lane provided in each direction of the Flow Boulevard.
A preliminary allocation study at www.flowboulevardplan.com/lafbnetwork.html has been made. It should be pointed out that since that study was made it is recognized that it is very likely that the flow boulevards seen in that plan would be discontinuous not really long connected corridors. That is because a problem solving FB would be in response to a specific location, town or city. Maybe in the future continuous connection may be built up however.
Use of the Interactive Comment Sequence
Generally I will be commenting on these issues from the viewpoint that I understand from being familiar with the Los Angeles County and its MTA. I would think that the same kind of comments would apply elsewhere. I am trying to be more specific with examples and applications to actual places and peoples. I find little wrong with SCAG criteria but it strikes me as being abstract. I realize SCAG can’t design for all six counties. But more specific examples of how multiple criteria and objectives are put together in plans, urban forms, transportation corridors and programs would be an improvement. So in my comments I will refer to both the policies, objectives and strategies that SCAG is developing but I will also respond with reference to the Flow Boulevard concept as it reflects and incorporates the criteria and objectives that SCAG seeks to make a part of plans for the RTP/SCS.
01 OUR VISION
Towards a Sustainable Future
Mobility, Economy, Sustainability; Realize the Vision
In LA County the MTA (Metro) has a major emphasis on expansion of the rail network.
My general impression is that there is too much emphasis on rail to the fault of being unbalanced in multi modal considerations as it relates to comprehensive planning and sound economics. This emphasis brings about the speculative dimension of proceeding with a narrow view of what and how things should be. This brings in the dimension of risk and the realm of making very large misallocations of resources.
It’s not that Metro’s proposed system is too big, it is that it is too expensive to be realized in a short amount of time and that over time there may be much needed revisions and additions such as Flow Boulevard networks to the plan. Metro rarely refers to serving population and land use patterns. And the talk of accelerated financing by borrowing from the future and of laying an even greater burden on the public is frightful. It is as though another “bubble” is in the talking stages of being made; a transportation bubble and how disastrous a thought!
On the Westside of LA, having a notorious level of congestion, the inclination is not so much to solve the communities’ problem but to simply find a way to build rail transit and if there are major deficiencies with continued problems then there is no budget to actually solve the traffic problems. That appears to be the direction of their approach overall.
The SCAG objectives of Mobility, Economy and Sustainability falls through the cracks in the kind of planning the MTA and the City of LA is performing. This problem is showing up in countywide instances as well as in City Community Plans. Mobility is not being achieved in City Community Plans, and congestion persists countywide. Much of the MTA response to the event of recession is essentially that of trying to re-inflate past trends that were heavily dependent on speculative real estate ventures. That is not an approach to obtain sustainability with. Growth, based on assemblage of businesses that provide jobs and sustained productivity will produce better results.
There is some room for “recovery” by supporting real business with access and the solving of problems of congestion. The larger question however is how we obtain new growth in our economy to provide future employment for the young and replace jobs that have fallen away with past trends. This area of planning should be of great importance in securing the economic future that is needed in Southern California and I think extensive Flow Boulevard “growth corridor development” can provide the necessary structure and place to make it happen. This kind of growth related to transportation improvement seems to be absolutely missing in Metro’s planning elements.
Economic Recession, Population Growth
Fixing real transportation problems while developing a new and expanding economy is needed. As stated in the above section dealing with Sub Regional Consolidation, the suburbs are where the majority of the additional 2 million people in LA County will be located over the next twenty five years. Extensive low cost transportation improvement and low cost land use development that is able to bring opportunities for starting new businesses are the kinds of policies and programs that should be identified and made apart of the denser consolidation that is to occur within existing communities and work centers. Flow Boulevards as growth corridors would be instrumental in bringing that about.
In addition to using a transportation form that targets reduction of VMT it is necessary to bringing about programs and policies that promote the attraction of businesses that will help form a new relevant economy. A concerted effort to attract new businesses and manufacturers from other counties, states and countries by providing the attraction of affordable start-up, connectivity, idea environ, affordable housing, technical support, access to needed materials and generally friendly government should be a part of growth corridors. These programs should be coordinated city wide if not countywide.
In LA County the radial patterned commuter rail plan that is focused on the LA Basin and is so expensive to develop will carry only an approximate 2 and 1/2% of the travel miles made in LA County on the rail system. That leaves a remainder of 16% in vehicular commuter modes to the LA Basin. I’m speaking about the percentage of total travel miles in LA County. That leaves more than 90% of travel (including the 16%) in vehicular modes mainly circulating in suburban locations. This 90% of travel is the area to target for reduction of VMT by making those areas more self sufficient in land uses that allow shorter trips. This responds to the fact that LA needs growth to adapt to an urban form that supports energy security by reducing energy usage. This also secures economic stability and growth through low cost transportation development in areas that can and desire to receive development in low land cost areas.
Safety, Multi-Modal System
The Flow Boulevard system separates vehicles from pedestrian and bikeway circulation over time. This allows safe and aesthetic crossing of the FB corridors as well as the direct connection to the high density land use areas and open space centered in the FB corridors. Each corridor would have different characters given their density and location. For examples of images of such integrated environments in model form can be seen on the FB website. By clicking the menu on “Elements and Travel Demand” photo images of environments are presented in model form. There are two portions of images showing development of such environments separated by a potion of the study dealing with travel demand. Just keep scrolling from one end to the other. The link is www.flowblvd.com/elements.html.
Transportation System Management
Flow Boulevard characteristics of TSM and ITS are pretty well expressed in the FB descriptions above. What has not been stated is how the “medium capacity” FB system can relieve the freeway network of much of the local and medium length travel that crowds our present freeways. This would allow freeways to specialize more into long trip facilities and thereby extend their life and performance as a system that will not see many more miles added to it in the LA County area. By over concentration and expenditure on a long trip expensive rail network, vehicular trips suffer in all travel of short, medium and long distances. This can of course be relieved by development of a 200 mile or greater FB network in LA County that reduces VMT and the length of peak hour periods at the same time for all short, medium and long vehicular trips. This results in a very much reduced level of congestion, if not elimination of it with good network design, and therefore a better living standard because it affects the more than 90% of travel in LA County.
Challenges and Opportunities
Transportation Finance, System Preservation, Goods Movement
The Flow Boulevard system looks to increase the tax and service fee base to produce more revenues. The FB system is a “money maker” not a facility that needs subsidies such as rail transit. Built up corridors throw off revenues way in excess of their cost and maintenance. In about 20 years a typical mile of FB would likely throw off $150,000 million in discretionary monies that can be used elsewhere. With 100 miles of FB that is $15 billion annually to put elsewhere. For more discussion on this subject click on the link of www.flowblvd.com/basinstudy.html; that’s page one. Scroll down until a City of LA Chart in green named “Where the Money Comes From” appears. After the charts begin reading the discussion titled “Flow Boulevards Pay Their Own Way”.
System preservation occurs by using the existing street system and settlement pattern to the advantage of integral growth, land use up dating and transportation improvement. And of course people and goods movement is provided with the FB system. Remember as well the points made above where the FB can help protect (preserve) communities and the aspect of extending the life of the freeway system. That is being done by the FB system taking on the burden of local and medium length trips. And finally this shows how the FB transportation system helps preserve the entire system by the use of the excess revenue being “thrown off” by the money maker Flow Boulevards.
Integrated Land Use and Transportation
The Flow Boulevard concept could be the “poster image” of representing the mandate of SB 375 integration of land use and transportation. Over time VMT would be reduced, and with programs that help transform the overall vehicular movement to electric (or non fossil-fuel) power integrally, comfortably and economically; then that is the objective is it not?
Air Quality, Energy, Adaptation
From what I know, natural gas will afford a step in the right direction for air quality over coal and oil; using natural gas instead of coal in producing electricity and electricity instead of oil (gasoline) in propelling vehicles. Unconventional natural gas resources seem to be cheap and abundant, with low NOX emissions and can be counted upon 24/7. With shorter trips, less energy used in vehicles, greater public transit use in extensive BRT networks, use of walking environments with “proximity” and a transformation to electricity instead of gasoline all seem to add up well in the kind of land use and transportation patterns provided by Flow Boulevards.
Adaptation must be made affordable by an economy that has the resources available to be applied to the cost of that adaptation. I can’t see where large expensive rail networks that are supposedly justified by the need to commute large distances should be embraced with so much enthusiasm. There should be ways to communicate and produce more without so much commuting. More money will be needed for adaptation, which the growth corridors provided by the Flow Boulevard concept make available and in turn “throw off” revenues. Better conserving architecture fits in this model as well.
Detroit Michigan lost half its population between 1980 and 2002 because the car companies could not compete with other manufacturers in the world market. Will Southern California lose half its population due to excessive population dispersal, over use of natural resources, of not developing a more efficient urban form, of making expensive transportation systems instead of affordable systems, of not transferring to less expensive and cleaner energy and of having an over reliance on commuting?
The first chapter of the SCAG RTP/SCS “Vision” format was used to focus comments on the respective issues in a kind of combined conceptual way. By this I mean that considerations of Investments, Funding and Future Land Patterns, for example, are combined with the Vision issue response. As an architect I tend to think using a more integrated concept rather than what seems to me as being overly abstracted pieces of issues when broken down so much. I will however generally respond to issues posed in these subsequent chapters of the format with general overview comments referring to some of the issues.
Getting the Most Out of Our System: The major point is to maintain the basic existing street and land use system while evolving segments so as to improve the relationships and achieve new levels of population growth (in some areas) and transportation capacity within corridors. By the use of the right mix of land uses, more sustainable neighborhoods and communities are obtained by way of those proximities, shorter vehicular trips and to divert trips from SOV by the inclusion of transit. In this setting the SOV use can in effect “shrink”.
As pointed out in the “Vision” comments, congestion should not be allowed to develop as it has in the LA Basin. Those bottlenecks and inefficiencies are not a strategy to make a better city with. It is a failure and in due course will be corrected; possibly with some help by SCAG as well as others.
By using the existing street system to greater advantage there is less need for expensive long distance rail trip development. In the Measure R list of projects there are basically no TSM and ITS projects to take care of the mounting congestion in the LA Basin. And the City of Los Angeles DOT does not seem to be able to cope with the condition either. I am very concerned that with the impacts being made on the function and standard of living in Los Angeles communities. Appropriate policies and transportation improvement must be employed to eliminate congestion.
Transit Policies: By expanding the BRT network it is appropriate to lessen time and trip length that is commensurate with making communities self sufficient and reduces VMT. This is the most effective way to increase transit use in LA County and the most direct way of going after and reducing the length of the 90% of SOV trips. Point to point BRT trips would basically be at 40mph speeds for really reducing bus travel times.
Active Transportation: Pedestrian circulation, bikeways and open space are an integral part of Flow Boulevard development. By developing its circulation separately from the street its development becomes the condition to which greater capacity is obtained from the roadway itself. This is a unique relationship where building pedestrian elevated circulation and open space creates increased vehicular capacity in Flow Boulevards.
The term “complete streets” tends to imply that most all arterial streets should accommodate all modes of travel. This of course would make major conflicts on many streets. The better view is to accommodate all modes of travel within a community plan that respects the character, purpose and safety of each mode and give it the necessary spaces, routes and function that allows that mode to perform its given task. On the FB website at www.flowblvd.com/elements.html one can see highly developed environs with separate modal circulation systems interrelated.
03 FINANCIAL PLAN Generalized Comments
Trimming project expenses and making more affordable budgets: There is still a great deal of underutilized capacity in most roadways. There should be more thought in utilizing the unused capacity because it is so less expensive to provide for the mobility of existing and future growth. It is also a way to up-date the mix of housing stock and community services, retail and work locations to respond to changes in demographics and the economy.
There is generally great risk in over designing a transportation plan that cannot be achieved without taking funds from other social costs that are more important. It would appear to me that the Metro ambitious and self serving rail plans have that budget busting, excessive social burden look to them. They seem narrowly conceived by not having comprehensive planning attached to them. And now there has been a realization that we have been living through an era of very fortunate economic circumstances for the last 40 years and that those conditions have changed. Proceeding with caution, having flexible plans and not getting over extended would be prudent if not absolutely necessary. And please refer to the above linked discussion regarding “Flow Boulevards Pay Their Own Way” in the” Challenges and Opportunities section for an alternative approach to providing growth and transportation improvement.
Primarily use “Pay-Go” (pay as you go): By using land use development in combination with transportation improvement in growth corridors, transportation improvement costs can be tied directly to the cost of the increased land use density developments. In this manner much of the transportation improvement pays for itself and then continues to do so out of property taxes and fees generating revenues for the governing jurisdiction. The generation of continuing excess revenues is a source for paying for additional infrastructure improvements and maintenance that towns and cities are faced with.
The large commuter rail system that Metro has planned and wants to build at an accelerated pace also has that risky burdensome look to it. After it would be built at an accelerated pace would it really be used? And then what happens to that under funded period to transportation improvement that follows the accelerated building period when debt is being paid off? That is when really difficult problems can arise and then there would be a lack of funding to deal with them.
It is also quite unbelievable that Southern California will attach themselves to a mobility form that requires so much transferring and great distances to be traversed to carry out normal daily living. With inexpensive electricity for electric vehicles and more compact communities with shorter trips to connect daily tasks, why would people submit to a hodgepodge of inconvenient transfers and disconnected transit trips? Southern California society should be given the chance to decide these issues; we need full disclosure that the fullness of time affords; and that means to plan comprehensively and to pay as you go.
04 SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Sustainable Communities Strategy: Sustainable communities are necessary for Southern California to sustain itself, and growth is necessary to bring about adaptation of existing communities to become sustainable. One such approach refers to the case I have been building for the use of Flow Boulevards to bring about that adaptation of existing community urban form through land use growth and transportation improvement in corridors. The FB form also targets the majority of areas where trip generation is made and brings Intelligent Transportation System technologies to bear on the issues of SB 375 including that of GHG emissions. There is an incredible existing investment in the sprawl that persists throughout Southern California and this investment must be made to become efficient in terms of preservation, energy, job creation, productivity, lifestyle achievement, environmental and air quality. Whereas some might think it is becoming crowded, it really does not have to seem that way by moving up pedestrian circulation and places over the improving street transportation below with the use of architecture in order to enjoy the view and open space.
This is a natural and very affordable adaptation to low density existing development. Examples of this kind of organization can be seen in parts and whole already in Los Angeles. And by connecting the growth corridors to existing towns, work centers and cities it can reduce VMT by both proximity and improved energy utilization. The FB concept is also able to improve more densely built existing urban areas as found in the LA Basin. These opportunities may employ land use growth along with transportation improvement techniques or may use one or the other, land use or transportation improvement to solve an urban condition. As indicated below (Westside LA, Exhibit A), there are instances where the transportation improvement ability of FB can be used without land use growth to solve “out of control” congestion issues inexpensively. However the land use growth component can be a dynamic element in creating both walking “place” environments and with eliminating congestion in the urban context generally.
With the congestion that the City of Los Angeles and the County MTA has allowed to continue by not employing ITS strategies, it would seem that more pollution is now being made by inefficient vehicular movement than is being saved by rail transit usage. This is beyond the loss of “productivity time” and the loss of livability in impacted communities both residential and commercial.
A Plan to Eliminate Westside Congestion
The real prospect of eliminating congestion on the Westside is nearing a reality as existing approved projects (405/HOV lane and Expo line) and potential proposed projects are combined with them. The basic approach to eliminate the existing traffic congestion, since it primarily comes into the Westside from the north and south, is to add additional capacity to the 405 corridor and then as well to the I-10 corridor to connect to the City of Santa Monica. By that capacity improvement the Westside arterial network can be relieved of traffic and therefore the gridlock now experienced on both sides of these freeway corridors as well as the freeways themselves.
The weakest link in these corridors to be improved is the interchange connecting the 405 and the I-10. The freeway interchange traffic is constricted both in its flow-through capacity and turning movement capacity. From there the freeways are further constricted by merging movements on and off the freeways at the very high collection and distribution ramp movements affecting the freeways and adjacent arterial street flows.
The key to eliminating Westside congestion is by adding needed capacity in order to relieve the interchange, the freeways and the ramping operations by the addition of a one-way pair (three regular flowing lanes along with an exclusive BRT/HOV lane in each direction) Flow Boulevard (FB) as a frontage road to the 405 (proposed in a study found at www.flowblvd.com/index3.html). This improves the operations of the freeway and arterial network and is focused on balancing travel demand with infrastructure to essentially “fix what is now broken”. The intension is to limit the improvement to between the Sepulveda pass and Culver City and not to provide additional improved access to the Westside that might be a basis for yet more traffic attracting development that would put the Westside back into yet more congestion. At this time, the objective is to bring balance between existing land use attraction and Westside infrastructure and then maintain that balance through a strictly enforceable Community Plan.
Sepulveda Boulevard would provide the north flowing side of the FB. South of Pico, Sawtelle would provide the south flowing side of the FB. North of Pico, there are two alternative streets to provide southern flow between Wilshire and Pico. The Cotner Street alternative (east of the 405) as developed in the study and Beloit Avenue (west of the 405) the alternative simply mentioned in the study. As an up-date to the study, the Beloit alternative now has political pull since the VA potential subway station has been identified. The prior difficulty was to obtain right of way through the VA property. Now that there is desire to provide some kind of future connection to the east- west rail lines, which would include the VA subway station; political and economic “pull”, could make the Beloit alternative the likely choice. North of Wilshire the FB would flow into the Metro “Sepulveda Pass” project, whatever that may work out to be. Note that the quick and low cost improvements being discusses here are more short term problem solving plans and do not involve the ambitious 10’s of billions dollar price tags that Metro envisions for later projects.
Adding up the improved capacities in the 405 corridor would be 30,000 person trips (pt) with the new 405 HOV lane and with a Beloit FB connection (where no through connection exists between the Pico and Wilshire areas) it provides 80,000 pt of improvement at this area of the corridor. This would total an increased capacity of 110,000 person trips to be distributed to reduce congestion on the freeway, through the interchange, in the ramp use and out of the arterial network in the north-south direction. South of the interchange the increased capacity to the Sepulveda-Sawtelle pair would be about 38,000 pt/day due to BRT lanes and the synchronized vehicular flow in general. In the east-west direction the Expo Line would add approximately 35,000 pt, the I-10 improvements 60,000 pt and three sets of BRT (Wilshire, SMB and Olympic) giving an additional 20,000 pt totaling 115,000 pt of increased capacity to reduce congestion with.
The key to making the interchange work adequately is the reduced 405 through traffic volume and the potential to make direct connections from the freeways to the FB to reduce turning movement demand (such trips would be headed to or from the FB). This allows greater provision of freeway to freeway turning movement capacity by having two full lanes to turn with and not being merged into one lane going into and out of the turn ramps. This additional lane continuity allows about a doubling of turning movement capacity in the critical turns connecting the 405 and the I-10.
Operation of the FB requires priority signalization separate from the cross streets of the arterial grid. This priority is “earned” by the fact that the FB accommodates a higher volume of vehicles than an intersecting arterial would have, has the greater length of travel, presents the fact that the FB makes the freeway system work without failing, provides additional north-south to east-west turning opportunities between crossing arterials with the 405 and also takes travel demand out of the arterial grid so it does not gridlock. While the north bound side of the FB needs to have synchronized signals, with for example one minute vehicle packs and one minute gaps between them (for cross traffic signal periods), likewise the south bound needs the same for continuous flow of the vehicle pack without stopping. The phasing of each side of the FB may be coincident at an intersection (both having green signal periods) or out of phase with each other in any amount that may be of some benefit to the crossing arterial. What cannot be allowed is the breaking of the flow of signal synchronization on either street of the FB pair. With a travel speed of approximately 40mph, this means that the automobile travel time between Wilshire and Culver is about 7 minutes on the FB and the BRT bus can take about 14 minutes using prepaid platform boarding and alighting techniques by staying at less than 1 minute at each arterial bus stop.
- Eliminating congestion is the first step in being able to remove ambiguity so as to stabilize the Westside and make Community Plans for improvements like livable boulevards and needed land uses that allows developers and residents to fully support.
- BRT bus transit works well with the Westside by having lines to and from the FB by connecting with the destinations of Westwood, Century City, Santa Monica, etcetera, without transfers; as well as connections to the future rail stations of the Expo Line, the LAX and the VA Station. And the BRT facilities can be up and running in just a few years.
- By stabilizing the land use and transportation balance, it would then be prudent to insist that City and County planning departments make comprehensive plans for the expected two million additional residents in the next 25 years. In other words, plan for additional development and population in other areas and not to allow excessive Westside development which yet again brings unbearable congestion.
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