This is the fifth of eight questions WEHOville presented on Aug. 18 to the candidates in the Nov. 3 election for two seats on the West Hollywood City Council. The questions are based on suggestions from West Hollywood residents — the citizens of WeHo. A new question, and the answers, will be published each of the next six days. Monday’s question and the answers can be found here. Tuesday’s can be found here. And Wednesday’s can be found here. Here’s a link to Thursday’s question.
Question: What About Traffic?
West Hollywood is the 17th most densely populated city in America, and Walk Score, the mobility ranking service, gives it a score of 91 and describes it as a “walker’s paradise.” Yet before the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s main arteries were jammed with rush hour traffic (with most of that cross though traffic). And Los Angeles continues to rank as the city with the worst air quality in America because of its traffic. Also, Walk Score gives West Hollywood a Bike Score of only 57. Major urban centers (which West Hollywood is not) have taken radical steps to curb traffic and encourage people to bike or take the bus, like shutting down traffic lanes and installed guarded bike or dedicated bus lanes. Is there anything West Hollywood can or should do to reduce traffic, especially that from commuters driving through WeHo on their way to or from work?
Mark Farhad Yusupov
Traffic is, of course, a regional problem, and even though it has eased a bit during the pandemic, we can predict it may go back to worse once all restrictions are lifted. However, we do now see that when more people are working from home, it has an immediate positive effect on the traffic, so I would advocate for creating the expansion of available live-and-work residences that I mentioned before. Supporting the WeHo residents, as well as those traveling through, who are choosing cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative transportation is a priority, such as helping bicyclists by not just increasing bike lanes but also providing secure storage for the bicycles when not in use.
I also propose creating shuttles that run straight along Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards. The current shuttle has a somewhat more complex zigzag route, which makes the ride times longer and less efficient, so by adding a few new direct routes with hop-on / hop-off buses that run on time along these main boulevards, it will become an efficient alternative that would encourage our residents to ditch their cars, as well as make it much easier for tourists to enjoy all the city of West Hollywood has to offer. Think of it as an Uber pool on a shuttle bus, but for free!
Thankfully the environmental study is on its go ahead for the Metro Crenshaw extension. I also would like to encourage people to use their bikes by increasing the bike lanes in the city, as well as find a way to agree on a safe way for scooters to be approved by the city.
In addition, I would like to start working on a program such as the one working in Mexico City called “no circula,” in which a car owner does not use their car on a specific day of the week, as well as shut down streets and do a once a week “Ciclavia” or walking day for the neighborhood.
Yes, there are several things we can do to address these issues. Despite being one of the most walkable cities in the nation, we still have high numbers of pedestrian accidents, gridlock, and intersections that are not synced to provide less backlog.
Traffic is a complex issue. That’s why we have to address it from multiple directions. I will work to bring West Hollywood into the 21st Century with a real-time traffic control center operated by the city. Other cities have used traffic control systems to provide real time management of lights during high-traffic and emergency situations, reducing time spent idling at a stop light and improving emergency service response times.
The second thing I would like to see is an increase in funding to support plans for protected bike lanes. The Crenshaw Northern Extension is in its next phase. and I will continue to work with our regional partners to support it. which will help get residents out of their cars.
I will fight to stop the development of oversized projects in already heavily congested areas. I will make sure that the impacts of traffic congestion are taken very seriously for all new development proposals. I will work to make the Metro West Hollywood rail expansion a reality. And I will make it a main priority to make West Hollywood a true bike friendly city by creating safe, well-lit and clearly designated bike lanes throughout all of West Hollywood.
One of the most important things the City of West Hollywood can do to reduce cut-through traffic is to continue to fight to bring Metro Rail to the city. I’ve been working closely with Mayor Horvath to bring Metro Rail to West Hollywood. Through our advocacy, rail service to West Hollywood was included in the most-recent Los Angeles County tax measure. We worked closely with Metro leaders to develop a plan to expedite the construction of a northern extension of the Crenshaw line to serve West Hollywood.
The line would connect with the Expo line, the Purple line and the Red line. Rail service to West Hollywood is predicted to have the most riders of any line in the country. Due to our advocacy, the Metro board recently authorized the beginning of environmental review. Our goal is to have a rail project serving West Hollywood “shovel ready” by 2022. In the next two years, we will be working with Metro, and the City and County of Los Angeles to develop a funding plan for rail construction.
We also need to look at bringing a new bike share program to West Hollywood. Our initial program was not successful due in part to the clumsy nature of the bikes. Within the next several months, city staff will likely bring forward a series of recommendations, including the implementation of an electric bike sharing program. The availability of such a program may give local residents an alternative to automobiles for short-term trips.
When we begin construction on rail service to West Hollywood, we should also plan on providing more bike infrastructure such as protected bicycle lanes. Until that time, we should continue our work with the City of Los Angeles to develop an east-west bikeway.
The city must invest in creating a network of protected bike lanes, where bicyclists are separated from cars with a physical barrier. And it must be planned with the greater context of regional bikeways in mind to ensure it is part of a broader network and can be fully utilized as a primary mode of transportation.
We need to look at what LADOT (Los Angeles Department of Transportation) is planning for Melrose and how we can do something similar to create greater safety and priority for pedestrians and bikes on both east-west and north-south routes.
Additionally, the primary work we have to do is safety. We know that the average trip length of cars in the area is well within a reasonable range for bicycles to become a much more heavily utilized mode of transportation. We can educate the public about bike share, increase available bicycle parking in commercial areas, and publicize maps of bike routes and bike parking to members of the community. Once we have strengthened safety for bicyclists and have upgraded our infrastructure, we can look at how we can partner with hotels in the area to encourage use of bikes, like providing information on routes and bike share.
The city must move forward, more quickly, to integrate micro-mobility as a strategic part of our transportation planning. We know that with our present (and even near-future) public transit system, we will continue to have last-mile challenges. West Hollywood has taken good steps with shuttle service, but micro-mobility really closes a lot of gaps. Whether it’s public, public-private partnership, or private, we can figure out the best way to deploy micro-mobility alongside bike share so that residents (and guests) can have safe, easy, and cost-efficient access to transportation options.
I think it’s about how we’re utilizing our streets and how we look at them from a planning perspective in relation to the local context. For example, I live on Fountain Avenue, arguably the most dangerous street in West Hollywood for vehicle drivers and passengers. The problem isn’t necessarily that it’s cut-through traffic, it’s the conditions that make it desirable for those driving through. It’s almost entirely residential, yet the speed limit is 35 mph and cars routinely drive about 50 mph+.
We’ve removed parking and made it two lines in both directions during rush hour, and it turns practically into a highway. In an area like this, there should be only one lane in either direction to allow both for the parking to be permanent in areas where it is currently time-restricted and to reduce the speed limit to 30 mph, expand sidewalks, and add protected bike lanes. There are probably a few intersections where we should also look at adding stop signs and/or roundabouts. These are upgrades that bring the priority back to local residents, and likely have the side effect of shifting traffic back to routes like Sunset Boulevard.
West Hollywood continues to rank high as a very walkable city. Once you are home, you can do most of your travel on foot if you choose to do so. I do support the creation of alternate modes of transportation such as bikes, motorized bikes and scooters (if we can find proper docking stations).
My colleague John D’Amico and I introduced the item to create the free nighttime shuttle called the Pick Up line on Santa Monica Boulevard. It continues to be a very popular mode of transit for the nightlife around WeHo. I know there are some proponents who wish to modify Fountain Avenue and eliminate parking or eliminate one lane on Fountain. I do NOT support these ideas. Fountain Avenue is one of the only streets that moves traffic for the locals who are smart enough to get off of Sunset or Santa Monica boulevards. We cannot eliminate the parking on Fountain because many of the residents who live on Fountain or nearby streets absolutely need those spaces to park at night. And we cannot eliminate one lane of traffic (for bike lanes) because it would bring Fountain Avenue to almost a standstill and increase our traffic woes city wide.
We have added new traffic signals and crosswalks all across Santa Monica Boulevard in order to increase pedestrian safety. And we have synched these signals with Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.
As much as I would like to reduce traffic congestion in the city, it is simply impractical to assume that we can have road “diets” in a small city like ours, reducing traffic lanes in favor of bicycle lanes, or expect traffic to be diverted around the city. It’s unrealistic.
To keep traffic flowing, we need to cease adding to the city’s density with enormous new projects such as hotels and large luxury condominium projects. WeHo is simply “at capacity” in terms of density.
We can also do a better job of timing the streetlights to coordinate with the Beverly Hills street lights on the West and the Los Angeles street lights on the East instead of considering WeHo as an island with its own standards. This will go a long way to improving traffic flow. Right now, traffic becomes stop-and-go the moment it hits our borders. This is unacceptable and there are better solutions.
The effects of the pandemic are quite evident on our traffic flow. The reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard has helped traffic flow and that proposal came about through my initiatives to upgrade our crosswalks and help the timing and coordination of our traffic lights and flow.
Our city depends on tourism, so we are going to have some traffic and celebrate it. Enjoy the views.
We need to complete bike lane connectivity. I want to bring the Metro to West Hollywood but not through West Hollywood. The two incumbents running for re-election voting for new rail though West Hollywood are also the same two incumbents who voted to take out the rail just about 20 years ago. We need a vision forward.
One beautiful part about West Hollywood is that we are not near some of the major highways like the 405 or the 101. Bring the Metro to La Brea Avenue, and perhaps close to Beverly Center and use our local shuttles in and around the city. Think Disneyland, not Times Square.