Monday, October 2, 2017

Sustainable Transportation around UCLA: The way forward after the I-405 Widening

Below is the text we have shared with the members of the Westside Council of Governments, which is meeting early October to discuss the Westside Mobility Study Update.

The arrival of the Purple Line and the Olympic Village at UCLA offer important opportunities to improve transportation, environment and public health in the region around UCLA. The UCLA Bicycle Academy sees the need for a nimble regional entity which works closely with the campus and can better support those who would get around without a car. A complex network of overlapping authorities, sometimes called a "bureaucratic quagmire", has made it very difficult to improve connectivity for sustainable modes. The COG itself helps to overcome these barriers, but we would like to see a more dedicated focus on healthy and sustainable modes in the region around UCLA. The campus would play an important role in this effort. It creates most trips in the region, including some 50.000 weekly ride-share trips to campus. UCLA also has a track record of supporting healthy ways of getting around. The expertise among its administrators and faculty should become part of a long-term program to improve transportation options in the region. We ask the COG to investigate if such a round table would improve its ability to deliver improvements for active and healthy modes.

The Background:
The I-405 widening project had a singular focus: Adding more car lanes. It failed to follow the Complete Streets Policy Caltrans adopted in 2008. Today, the interstate has become a massive barrier between Westwood and Brentwood, severing UCLA from its hinterland, forcing people use the car for very  short distances. Sepulveda Blvd mocks us with a cruel grin that lacks sidewalks and bike lanes. Nobody represented future residents on the VA property who want to walk or wheelchair to Westwood away from the dangerous roar of a sea of fast cars. Residents are eager to do the right thing for the environment and for their health. But those soaring ramps and bridges which cross Wilshire so elegantly have become the Arc de Triomphe of Motordom, a stark reminder of what happens when traffic planning ignores the needs of those who would get around without a car.

The way forward: 
We envision an entity which can refresh bike markings across administrative borders, trim hedges without a long waiting period and has funding to implement non-controversial improvements fast. It would also offer a mechanism for walkers and riders, the real experts on our street, to give feedback and call for small improvements. Overlapping authorities need to work together in the long term to make walking and cycling more attractive in the area around UCLA. After 1.6 billion dollars have purchased our cars a few more lanes across the Sepulveda path, now it is time to facilitate a well coordinated regional effort supporting sustainable modes. Funding for such a regional forum could come from Measure M. It should also be able to apply for 3rd party funding for regional non-motorized improvements around UCLA. We believe that such a forum would be able to remedy the negative consequences of the I-405 widening in the region around UCLA.

This is a pretty comprehensive ask. We want to see UCLA play a more significant role in transportation planning in the area. We also want to see a streamlined process for minor maintenance and safety improvements. We also want to see new funding for demonstration projects, for safety studies or for workshops to develop new ideas to support and encourage healthy and sustainable modes in the region around UCLA. The COG is an appropriate forum for such projects, because it ensures the co-ordination and collaboration between jurisdictions. If the COG becomes convinced that the I-405 has become a massive barrier for pedestrians in the region, then it would be only natural for them to reach out to the Rep Ted Lieu and ask him to raise the issue in Washington. Then we could see a path forward to remedy the negative impacts of the I-405 widening and get our region back on the path towards healthy and sustainable transportation. 

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