Better More flexible Planning
This section is to respond to recent changes in economic conditions and seeks to expand considerations of what is necessary to better solve our planning problems. A “growth solution” is referred to as needed to adapt and also to be able to afford that adaptation. Bigger transportation concerns including longer time frames with open technology and system design affects planning choices. Objectives include countering sprawl with an economy of consolidation. Regional, sub-regional and city form imply “decentralized efficiency” as opposed to “centralized excess”. All these issues exist in a disconnected planning process in Los Angeles City and County. At the citizen grass roots level of participation through Neighborhood Councils; this also is disconnected. (Comments made in 2010 follow)
Update Vision Statement
Flow Boulevards are needed now to eliminate existing congestion, to help better form the LA Basin, provide structuring of suburban Los Angeles and to secure a network of guideways for the future evolution of vehicular travel that can serve and protect the communities of Los Angeles. In this design approach average trip length will become shorter even with more trips and population.
The distribution of population, job growth and economic development needs a comprehensive vision with supportive multi-modal transportation plans that unite all of these considerations and more. Presently there is excessive congestion in large and small scale elements of the transportation hierarchy of facilities, as well as serious impacts at the community scale of residential and commercial land use.
A major missing transportation facility is that of Flow Boulevards which can serve and protect the community scale because it is integral with the existing surface network of streets and highways and can relieve impacts at the large and small scale. The success of the entire design depends on its livability for all. The present emphasis on rail transit distracts from a comprehensive solution.
The electric car represents the dimension of possible change Los Angeles may have to go through to maintain our economic and functional lifestyle. Read more below and keep your options open in this changing world.
A reformed economic emphasis is needed in Los Angeles to solve the problems it now has. The end to the old economy of “sprawl” has coincided with an end to a fifty year financial expansion. There are many needs and problems to solve and little money or evident concepts of how to formulate affordable solutions. Los Angeles needs better transportation, a better economy and to become a better City. Flow Boulevards can be instrumental in making all that happen.
The following update to the Flow Boulevard website is intended to describe a “Growth Solution” in an “Economy of Consolidation” to help bring about that reformed economy and vision for Los Angeles. As a part of the reformed economy and vision, LA County Metro must adopt the Flow Boulevard concept as part of the Long Range Transportation Plan for Los Angeles County to establish the new policies and plans that can help solve the problems and make a better Los Angeles.
There are four sections that follow that deal with the updating subjects for Better More Flexible Planning, namely; New Economy, Vision, Objectives and Disconnects. They are briefly described below and followed by more extensive subject treatment below that.
Page 2, NEW ECONOMY; although not solely dependent for all aspects of an economy, it is found that Flow Boulevards are an indispensable part of a new economy. The new economy is meant to replace the “old economy of sprawl” which has been lost and is no longer in operation in Los Angeles.
Page 3, VISION; this section outlines a reality based overall problem solving vision that adds a very desirable and affordable urban fabric in LA of Flow Boulevards.
Page 4, OBJECTIVES; this section outlines new innovative large scale and long range objectives to solving our major transportation and land use issues.
Page 5, DISCONNECTS; this section points out conditions that must be corrected in order to proceed with coordinated plans to make a better Los Angeles.
NEW ECONOMY IN LA
Los Angeles is a big economy within even larger economies. There are significant differences but all depend on using money well, making money, hopefully not being too wasteful and by solving problems with it.
Our growing Federal deficits can lead us into continuous failing budgets where we spend so much money servicing the Federal Debt, Medicare and Medicaid there will be nothing left for social security, defense, education, infrastructure –you name it-! As David Walker states, “unfortunately, today we are cutting our investment in the future and handing our descendants a mountain of debt”. The way our Federal Government is going in just twelve years servicing the debt will be the largest budget expenditure. What you get for that is just keeping your creditors away for the mean time but there are virtually no funds to solve problems with or to research, invest in and develop a better life and economy. Such a condition can not be allowed to continue.
LA City and County are not supposed to run balance sheet deficits. However, we do run deficits in another way and risk handing an unworkable city to our children. We have deficits in business opportunity, education, all kinds of infrastructure and unemployment to mention just a few. Sprawl has been expensive and many tax base revenues that could have been in LA are in Orange, Ventura and other counties. An unbalance has occurred due to sprawl leaving LA with physical and social problems unable to be paid for because of inadequate revenues.
A “growth solution” of consolidating our city form would help on both the revenue and the expense side of the balance sheet. The intention is to cure our deficits in business opportunity, lack of transportation capacity so that congestion is eliminated, up-date our failing utility infrastructure and improve education through the many benefits of enhanced socio-economic conditions within our communities. The low cost of Flow Boulevard corridor development begins this process that also brings along with it a new revenue stream in the form of property taxes and fees on new land use development. Along with solving for the physical and economic deficiencies come the pride, creativity and urban brain power to build community mind, body and spirit.
The following brief comparisons and issues are presented so that citizens become aware of project choices, design benefit, general budgeting and what social “return” can be expected. These issues and situations are examples that can lead to good decision making and components to be used in establishing a new economy to replace the one that has been lost.
The Growth Solution, - an Economy of Consolidation-.
Effectively with an end to sprawl, most all existing urban areas will gain greater density over time. The notion of geographic areas, like the SF Valley, becoming more “self” sufficient is a logical objective. By structuring an area like the Valley with the transportation improvement of Flow Boulevards that absorb housing, commercial and are connected to work centers; the higher form of density is a way to solve problems like congestion and develop the offerings of urbanity to a greater extent with greater proximity and resource savings.
On this website the LA Basin has been studied in that regard and it is found that with this pursuit a new economy can be expected to be generated as well. Besides solving traffic congestion, Flow Boulevards would bring new revenues to the City with property taxes and fees and are actually a “Paygo” (pays for itself as it goes) kind of development. They would produce more revenues than expenses so they can help fund other City needs as well. The denser urban form would “make” money, not waste it within many existing underutilized areas and activities (an analysis of Revenues and Expenses can be seen in the LA Basin Loop section on the menu).
By developing from existing mainly commercial city streets the FB development process is an “organic economic growth”. It would be an injection of economic vitality in many existing communities. Since the first stages of Flow Boulevards cost so little networks can be devised that connect many deserving communities with jobs and solve traffic and environmental problems with this emerging new revenue base as well. This is because as the FB grows so does the network as do the businesses and the housing in the corridor.
An extensive economical use of resources is taking place as the land use density increases and higher transportation capacity develops. The streets being used already exist, so they will simply be given a higher more productive use. The growth of a varied mix of uses in close proximity means many short trips are being generated as opposed to the long trips that are typically generated by sprawled development. The high capacity FB itself solves the need of accommodating through traffic but it also generates short trip and walking scale environment that will develop separately from the vehicular travel at grade.
Among the benefits will be a more economical use of resources, a more efficient juxtaposition of built form and an obvious generator of a variety of jobs. More product development can be expected to emerge meaning manufacturing of products to build the FB and the surrounding structures. This means there will be lots of off-site jobs as well as on-site jobs building within the existing functioning communities; off-site jobs in making new kinds of energy efficient building products, pre-fab exportable products, precast concrete for street and building use; on and on and on. This means compact FB corridors would have a spectrum of higher use, more sophisticated components technologically that have a more efficient use of material, labor and energy use during construction and function of the corridor through time.
More manufacturing would be reintroduced in LA. This is different than the “stick built” suburbs in the economy of sprawl. As time goes on much of the new product development would become even more sophisticated as the FB becomes involved with three dimensional organizations of built elements, with different ownerships vertically and built at different times. The trade off is expensive costs of large tracts of land and transportation development in the form of sprawl as opposed to the physical, spatial and social economies in the form of some urban consolidation in the form of Flow Boulevards. Land prices on a square footage basis will increase but time is saved and more products and productivity can be made within that space of land.
It can be called a new economy of consolidation to replace the lost economy of sprawl. Where the first phase of building the sprawled form of greater Los Angeles used the freeway and gas fueled car, this next phase of growth can use the electric car on Flow Boulevards in the consolidation of land use within communities and geographic areas within greater Los Angeles.
This entire website is dedicated to show how this low cost, problem solving and integral approach to increasing transportation capacity and rebuilding of an economy in our City beats any other approach available. The LA Basin FB Loop Plan with Rail on this website is the only comprehensive 2030 year plan for that area. As preliminary as it is the plan is comprehensive by providing for both the expected increases in population and Travel Demand for the LA Basin. By starting in this comprehensive way it is clear that new innovative solutions are necessary to both add population density, transportation capacity and to protect existing residential communities from growth impacts. Both the LA City Planning Department and the Metro transportation plans are deficient in providing for population growth and especially in transportation capacity and avoiding impacts. Metro’s transportation plans to date “map out” less than 20% of the needed increase in transportation improvement that will be needed in the LA Basin. The likely reason is that they have no plausible way to even pay for what they presently propose let alone for what is truly needed within the time frame they are needed with the methods they are now using.
The time has come for the low cost FB with its ability to build desirable environment and its path to rebuilding an economy. Clearly its time has come because of this great recession and the failing budgets at every level of government within a city having so many deficiencies.
It should also be made clear that massive loans would not be needed to begin the plan. However the FB development would probably begin the credit cycle all over again because it plans for things that are truly needed, the value is there and beginning the work is within existing budgets. Directing existing flows of funding to better use is how the planning and work begins. Flow Boulevard development would demonstrate true value creation and true 21st century city building -affordable and innovative-.
Metro Must Use its Funds Effectively
Metro has the revenue stream coming in now; they simply do not spend it well. Art Leahy states that Metro’s yearly budget is about $3.5 billion. Yet Metro expects a short fall in 2011. The kinds of projects they get into at this time are unfortunate. The 405 widening is commented on below. Heavy rail is basically too expensive at this time in urban LA. Light rail is expensive to build and operates at a loss. It also conflicts with surface vehicular and pedestrian traffic and people don’t use what there is of it very much. A subway is in the neighborhood of $500 million dollars per mile to build. And at this time with office vacancies and an economy in need of repair there is little demand for heavy line haul transit (subway). In addition, in the Westside extension study they really do not acknowledge there will be a need for improvement in vehicular mode capacities in the same corridor (see below and also on the menu Subway Extension) due to “modal split” (more vehicular than transit travel). It would be logical to build the needed Flow Boulevard in such a corridor before the subway; it is more affordable at this time and has greater need. This is simply another case where Metro’s planning is deficient and not comprehensive.
The premise they are apparently working with is that since there will be no more freeways in an area like the Basin and that widening of streets is impractical there is no other choice but rail to add large capacity. This is simply not true as evidenced in the Travel Demand study on this website (see menu). A Flow Boulevard with its three stages of development can make each existing lane perform as three when developed fully. That is a 200% increase in capacity within the right of way of existing streets. And so this is but one reason for the Flow Boulevard website; to inform enough people so that Metro can re-evaluate their mistaken premises, biases, and assumptions; change their ways and adopt the FB concept as a part of the Long Range Transportation Plan to improve transportation in LA City and County.
Westside Subway Extension; Western to La Cienega Portion of Wilshire
This segment of Wilshire is a poor choice to put a subway in as opposed to the Santa Monica Boulevard route that would connect the existing Hollywood/Highland station with the La Cienega corridor to Wilshire and on to Beverly Hills. Both routes extend the existing subway westerly to Beverly Hills and beyond but the Western to La Cienega route along Wilshire presents many small and large, short and long term, traffic and land use impacts. This issue is discussed extensively in the new menu addition named Subway Extension. A couple of interesting facts however are that the cost of that four mile segment could “buy” 60 miles of first stage Flow Boulevard. Secondly there is no good reason to bring regional commercial service into that segment of Wilshire because it is basically a single family residential area and should remain so.
These are streets that have a hive of activity where vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians travel along what are essentially shopping streets, complete with residential housing above first story commercial. These streets are of the “new urbanism” variety. This is fine in a few places to the extent there is a good balance between adjacent residential and the need for a “shopping street”. The problem is that city planners tend to want too many of the streets because they are picturesque and urbane. With pedestrian signals every 600 feet or so to let pedestrians move from one side of the street to the other, there is little ability to move vehicles. With many “shopping streets” there is not enough patronage for the shops to keep economic vitality and yet the community becomes gridlocked in congested traffic due to too many signals. The problem comes from not having a hierarchy of streets that serve through traffic and then the local street needs of the community. There will be a major conflict between land use and the need to move vehicles as increased development occurs in areas such as the LA Basin with too many “complete streets”. An example solution to congestion is the Loop of Flow Boulevards in the Basin Plan that picks up the major “through traffic” function and allows existing communities with there now balanced land use relationship to existing streets to essentially remain as they are.
There is presently a “disconnect” of not knowing how to structure and plan for transportation and land use together. A Flow Boulevard provides the missing highway capacity range between that of a freeway and of a basic urban boulevard. There will be no more new freeways but a FB can be developed out of existing pairs of streets to take on the higher volumes of travel demand and to eliminate congestion. Without Flow Boulevards the increase in traffic not only creates congestion it overflows in a cascading effect from freeways to arterials, to basic boulevards, and local collectors into residential streets. Los Angeles can not afford to fail in this manner. The appropriate information between the two planning disciplines concerning transportation and land use must be “connected” so there are not wasteful conflicts and misallocations of resources. Furthermore Flow Boulevards must be planned throughout LA County to pick-up the growth in traffic to keep the freeway system operational and our communities congestion free.
The 405 Widening
This project fills in a ten mile gap in the north bound HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane which is understandably needed. In that it is extremely expensive for the amount of capacity it adds to the corridor it is unfortunate that it comes at a time when the economy and revenues are down. Over 1.1 billion dollars or over 100,000,000 dollars per mile for an increased capacity of maybe 25,000 vehicles per day on the one HOV lane to be added is very expensive given the amount of transportation benefit that will be derived. There are many reasons for this including rebuilding three bridges and 20 freeway ramps.
The larger importance of this situation is again a relationship issue between transportation and land use. At present the 405 breaks down due to insufficient capacity for the corridor and the traffic ends up in adjacent community streets congesting them with both traffic and land use impacts. Once the HOV segment is completed it will be but a few years until the traffic over flow from the 405 again destabilizing the adjacent communities. In the corridor there will be approximately a deficiency of 180,000 person trips (pt) by the end of the next 25 year period. About one hundred and fifty thousand pt are directly connected with 405 long and medium length trips. Subtracting the 25,000 for the HOV added capacity leaves a deficiency of about 125,000 pt.
A Flow Boulevard in the 405 corridor acting as a “frontage road” to the 405 can provide the additional capacity required to meet travel demand over the next twenty five years and even more capacity for increased traffic beyond that time. Since FB’s are developed in stages additional capacity is obtainable beyond the twenty five year period. The main point here is that the adjacent communities will be able to be stabilized by the addition of the FB for maybe 60 years or more using cars and buses. This is a needed and cost effective solution in that corridor and is emblematic of the value the FB system can bring to the LA Basin and elsewhere.
Urban Design that Includes Children and Seniors
As urban areas without adequate transportation capacity become more dense the major open space element, that of the street, becomes over run with vehicular traffic. This is usually not a safe and often not an aesthetic environment for the young, old and even those in between. Over time this can downgrade environmental quality, function and market values.
The Flow Boulevard concept has as an integral part of its concept the plan to develop over time a separate elevated pedestrian (including bike and other small vehicles) circulation and open space system in order to cross the Flow Boulevard. This separate system would be designed to achieve the safety and aesthetic needs for the pedestrian and at the same time is removing the need for traffic signals along the FB. With this plan vehicular traffic at grade can flow more freely giving greater capacity and the pedestrian can be given safe and aesthetic environs scaled to their needs as the elevated circulation is integrated into the adjacent architecture in the FB (see renderings and pictures of models on this website). The Flow Boulevard therefore anticipates the needs of children walking to and from school, seniors to have community open space and pedestrians in general to have a walking and open space system within more densely built environments. The Flow Boulevard would have a higher density along the corridor but would connect low density residential areas on either side of the FB with the exclusive pedestrian circulation. So by integrating higher density land use, obtaining greater transportation value and making more livable and desirable environment out of a few existing corridors makes great economic value for a city. The website segment called “Elements” on the menu show how the boulevard and separate pedestrian circulation develop through stages one and two.
To the Residents of the Basin
After fifty years of sprawl having left your residential communities mostly undisturbed, the prospects of hearing about consolidation and higher density at first might seem unsettling. You are well aware of “through traffic” not being provided for and the next question would be –what kind of density-?
The kind of density and traffic being talked about would occur in just the few corridors identified in the LA Basin FB Loop Plan. The intension is to protect and leave the great expanse of existing residential communities as they are; and that means excluding growth in the undesirable “through traffic” of long trip regional traffic. The FB concept has “impact mitigation” as a part of its basic design; at the adjacent neighborhood level and the community scale as well. The overall concept is to “channel” increased through-traffic as opposed to letting it flood throughout the existing streets and boulevards. If traffic were allowed to disperse and flood throughout the existing street network it would bring congestion and gridlock to the entire Basin. The beginning of that is already evident at this date. Therefore it is necessary to channel the increase of through-traffic into Flow Boulevards which are able to increase capacity within existing rights of way through three stages of development; each stage increasing capacity. FB corridors become a unique and desirable corridor in terms of land use in themselves; a new 21st century form making LA a leader in the world. And it is at least a sixty year traffic solution if not a one hundred year solution before there will be a need to think about “intelligent” computer guided transportation. The reason I say it could very well solve transportation needs for a hundred years is because the flow boulevard corridors would reduce average trip lengths and by that extends the utility of the transportation system. If for example average trip lengths were reduced by fifty percent that would be like adding 100% capacity to the overall existing system including all freeways, boulevards, streets and rail transit systems.
At the neighborhood scale adjacent to a FB there are “edge” mitigations anticipated such as right in and right out turning movements to limit traffic and cul-de-sacs of adjacent neighborhood streets to cut off traffic altogether. At the same time the emerging separate and elevated pedestrian circulation, characteristic of stages two and three development, are integrated with the adjacent building. This allows the FB to be crossed by the pedestrian and becomes the ideal of safe and aesthetic “walking space” that would knit a neighborhood to, within and beyond the FB to the other adjacent neighborhood (see Elements on the menu).
In and around Downtown those communities can benefit most by the restructuring, redevelopment and the new complex of jobs associated with that in the short and long term. West of La Brea most communities will opt for protecting and stabilizing their communities from impacts from traffic. All areas should do well as new jobs and economic growth of the new economy as the era of consolidation progresses.
One should recognize the need for LA to do well and the potential of the FB to make a better LA Basin. The “protected” neighborhoods and communities will do well in an era of consolidation with RE appreciation, the opportunity of depressed areas to invigorate as well as benefit from the added services, shopping, mix of multiple residential, improved utility and ecological infrastructure, and the improved transportation and its options in the FB. Concurrent to the new economy solving the problems of sprawl with growth in the consolidated FB forms it is likely if not almost mandatory that the fleet of standard automobile in the Basin is transformed over time to non-fossil fuel burning vehicles. Electric cars would appear to be the most likely form of evolved standard car. With electric cars (or equal) on Flow Boulevards an overall transformation can be taking place where there is no congestion, pollution and the economical use of land use and resources can make a better Los Angeles. Enjoy and participate in the trend of a new and better economy in Los Angeles through growth in the consolidated forms of Flow Boulevards.
Flow Boulevards as a Growth Solution
Los Angeles has one of the highest rankings of; a/ being anti-business, b/ having overly priced housing and c/ of being snarled in traffic congestion. At one time the sprawl of single family homes and free flowing freeways provided the attractive life style that brought so many of us here. The limit of sprawl has effectively been reached and now leaves the function of this economy vulnerable to Peak Oil, the consequences of greenhouse gases and more economically beneficial cities elsewhere. The peak in Los Angeles employment was in 1995. The LA area has been losing about 30,000 jobs per year since that time.
The planning vision that must be followed should counter the problems of sprawl with a “growth solution”. A growth solution that; a/ reduces average trip length and eliminates congestion, b/ provides a mix of affordable housing close to work centers, c/ protects existing residential communities yet enlivens commercial areas and d/ becomes part of the basis for the re-energized economy itself. The element of the city that brings this planning vision about is a network of Flow Boulevards within our existing urban areas. This approach is an emphasis on medium and shorter trips within some higher density transportation corridors as opposed to long trip travel in a sprawling suburban landscape. The vision is to introduce Flow Boulevards into the vulnerable sprawled landscape to bring about the efficiency of shorter trip lengths in denser transportation corridors along with the urbane benefits of this new kind of urban fabric.
Shorter trips in Electric Cars
A Flow Boulevard (FB) is flexible, affordable, very low impact and integral by virtue of emerging from existing street Right Of Ways (ROW). A FB is simply a better way of using existing streets so that the increased transportation capacity is achieved and therefore the basis for higher density housing and development. Flow Boulevards are effective in providing needed additional transportation capacity. For example, on this website the Travel Demand analysis shows that with just two east-west FB corridors they can solve for the 2030 increase in person trips through the LA Basin. This is in contrast to an Expo Line and a Westside subway extension that only would provide for 20% of that projected need. This means that after spending 10 Billion dollars or more on rail transit there will still be stifling congestion in the LA Basin. It should be recognized that transit and especially rail transit is simply “supplemental” to the vehicle and roadway system established in Southern California. Real problem solving should be made by making efficient now the more than 95% of vehicular miles traveled in LA County, and ultimately by transforming the vehicle energy source from fossil fuels to electricity. This should be combined with inducing shorter trips with the use of higher population density transportation corridors that can be made with Flow Boulevards.
Consider Metro’s misallocation of resources in the longer term and larger scale. The transportation study presented here on this website named PowerPoint to the Alliance (see PP/Alliance on the menu) shows that with the present Metro program concentrating on long commuter trips with rail and with LA’s projected population and travel growth, transit will only be about 7% of the total trip miles (TTM) traveled in LA County after 30 years of expenditure. Seven percent is not a solution given the prospects of Peak Oil, Greenhouse gases (GHG) and a sprawled inefficient city form in conflict with itself with congestion. It will only contribute to bankrupting greater LA. Metro must address the greater percentage of trip miles traveled by automobile and improve transportation facilities that induce medium and shorter trips.
Address the Bigger Transportation Concerns
Metro’s emphasis on long trips, a network that is big and getting bigger, is also a very risky bet that takes too long to build. Enough rail serving long commuter trips has probably already been built. There are better more effective transportation improvements to be made that deal with the bigger environmental and economy threatening issues that face us. Rail hardware and technology is also inflexible, making it a very expensive investment in fixed technologies easily being outdated and made inferior by future innovation. This is not the pondering slow moving nineteenth century. The twenty first century will be full of innovation and will evolve in dramatic ways. That is why we need to embrace a better planning vision; one that is affordable, flexible and desirable and concentrates on transportation facilities that serve medium length trips where the majority of energy and GHG production is made. There is anti-sprawl State legislation (SB375) on the books now, why can’t our planning institutions follow through with innovative planning in the face of what may very well be a problematic future with economic and environmental concerns.
The question of getting from where we are now to what may be an all electric car system or maybe some other fuel and technology can easily be made in an incremental transforming process on what the FB becomes –an open guideway that can receive what is put in it-. Newly marketed cars will evolve and innovate each year responding to the needs as they generate; greater gas mileage, hybrid, plug in or whatever. You simply make your choice when you need that newer car. In 20 or 30 years there may exist an all electric city fleet of cars and they may then evolve in some instances to include intelligent computerized control beyond that time, --things change!
Example: LA Basin FB Loop Plan
The LA Basin Flow Boulevard Loop Plan with Rail (see menu Basin Loop on this website) is a preliminary vision to solve transportation problems in the Basin and make a more desirable city. This represents the approach of having an emphasis on medium and short trips. As stated above, two FB’s are needed for east-west growth in travel demand. The FB’s in this plan form a loop around the Basin and is intended to be part of transportations corridors which include the Expo Line, the proposed Westside subway extension and the freeways to form true transportation corridors and yet stay out of the many existing central residential communities of the Basin. The FB’s are on commercial streets for the most part and with the configuration protects the existing communities from traffic and land use impacts.
Need of Coordinated and Comprehensive Plans
In contrast to the LA FB Basin Loop Plan Metro’s first preferred segment for the Westside subway extension would be in essentially a single family community that has an inadequate street network to take increased regional vehicular traffic. In a few years such an emerging transportation corridor ends up in a quagmire of bottlenecked congestion in Beverly Hills, and there is no realistic solution (see the menu selection Subway Extension). Metro, this has to be rethought. This is an example of not having comprehensive and coordinated planning.
Metro expects the LA Basin to conform to it rather than have plans to work with and complement what the Basin is and how it should grow. That is the planning side of the situation. On the political side of this plan there is a lot of short term thinking complete with insider windfall profits by some and potential real estate bail out activity going on. It is not good and the broader interests of residents are not represented. Metro tends to leave the most difficult segment of a network until the end. However, this last east-west segment of subway to the 405 should be built and built correctly with the way the LA Basin works. But as Roger Snoble, the former administrative Metro CEO stated, it is probably thirty years off from being constructed. So it would be appropriate to start a Flow Boulevard now in the correct Santa Monica Boulevard corridor and bring a subway in later (for more on this issue see the Santa Monica Corridor study on the menu under Basin Loop/Corridor Study and the new segments added to this website under the menu Subway Extension).
So why doesn’t the LA Planning Department have a vision of LA to correct these outrageous conditions? In a word there are “disconnects”. Planning in LA is unprepared to deal with the future that is being embarked upon (see Planning Disconnects below). The supposed authoritative “Plan A” that Metro et al currently proposes is not only unaffordable, - it does not work-. Therefore a “Plan B” is needed. That is what the Flow Boulevard concept is, “Plan B”; and it is affordable, desirable and it works. Please excuse me for being so emphatic.
Quality of Pedestrian Circulation and Environment
Another dimension of transportation planning is not being dealt with. That is the quality of life that is steadily deteriorating in our urban communities. A lot of this deterioration is because of traffic congestion and land use impacts. With Metro concentrating on its rail plans vehicular traffic congestion is not being addressed. Along with traffic congestion there is a lack of transportation planning that deals with the pedestrian scale of its circulation and lack of open space. All of these levels of circulation should be in consideration and are a part of transportation planning.
As indicated in the Loop Plan the overall configuration of the loop is to solve for the expected travel demand and to keep the major transportation corridors out of existing communities. In the FB corridor themselves there is a design strategy to eliminate “cut through” traffic in residential neighborhoods. The FB also develops pedestrian, bike and related small scale vehicles to have a separate circulation system to cross over the auto and truck vehicular ROW at grade. The elevated pedestrian circulation system is essential in developing bike path continuity through the many communities and across FB corridors.
Flow Boulevard stages Two and Three with the elevated pedestrian circulation and open space system, incorporated in the adjacent buildings, are in fact what allows the FB system to further increase in vehicular capacity and land use density in the transportation corridor. By creating elevated pedestrian circulation and open space, that keeps pedestrians off the street level grade, higher road capacity is made by removing street signals. By this construction, continued traffic congestion and land use impacts are eliminated and a better quality of urban environment is being created by making elevated pedestrian circulation (see the Elements segment and the How the FB Works segment on the menu). One more time; higher capacity Flow Boulevard roads are made by developing elevated pedestrian circulation and open space across the Flow Boulevard corridor.
Big Changes Make Many Changes
Metro is not set up for nor does it have a staff of scientists and economists keeping track of changes in the world that affect transportation and land use. Yet, it looks like big changes have occurred in the larger context by way of the allocation of resources, climate and economics within which transportation is but a small part. However, the importance of transportation is identified here because it is able to dramatically shape and affect the land use it serves at the scale of the city and therefore the quality of life for the people within it.
Metro had perfected the plans and methods to serve sprawl but now that objective has changed. They have been caught going the wrong way. Between world sized environmental concerns and the cyclic end of a sixty year economic expansion it looks like the U.S., California and Los Angeles will have to allow for adjustments, flexibility, and many changes within its urban plans.
For example, environmental concern in Los Angeles will be a major concern. If global warming affects all natural systems as it implies, there needs to be better management of the whole use of energy in the transportation system and have the flexibility in plans, as conditions develop, to be able to even go into a mode of 0% GHG emissions if necessary (or some other percentage). We only get one try at staying away from a tipping point into uncontrollable negative environmental consequences. So flexibility is needed and the majority of the total miles traveled, in Los Angeles City and County, must be addressed as an issue in transportation plan.
Regarding economics; not only must the various negatives like $7 a gallon gasoline that threaten LA be countered, we must have an economy capable and able to afford such problem solving activity. Is work towards correcting planning, environmental and economic ills one and the same with developing a new economy? The “growth solution” in an economy of consolidation, would tend to say that it is.
Counter the Effects of Sprawl on a Budget
There is much to be planned for in our City and County; long range and large scale problem solving objectives and at a smaller scale, quality of life issues. The economy of sprawl has ended and with it the collapse of the housing bubble. There is now a deep credit contraction taking place affecting governments and individuals. There is a great need for a low cost way to solve our transportation and housing needs and to get the City on the right path to solve its vulnerability of dependence on oil, correct city environmental deficiencies and restore an economy that works. It is very likely that starting small in an innovative manner will be necessary to lead us out of this tough condition because so few funds are available.
The question is can affordable Flow Boulevards start small, grow big, return the many dividends we seek and restore a vibrant economy? I believe they are able to structure such a feat. Flow Boulevards would grow out of existing communities citywide becoming a natural organic urban process. By countering the “economy of sprawl”, there would then become, “the economy of consolidation” (more on considerations of a new economy are stated above). This is the basic objective offered by the Flow Boulevard concept regarding economics.
Decentralized Efficiency Not Centralized Excess
We are decentralized now and this condition must be made efficient. The sprawled urban form is too big and it would be too expensive to try to make it work with a single centralized work center yet that is what is implied by Metro’s radial patterned plans of rail transit. It would not address the problems and it would “blow the budget” as well. The decentralized character of LA must be made efficient by working with the many dispersed work centers that now exist and the major percentage of total miles traveled (TMT) each day in LA County.
The character of movement in LA County has changed through time. When the freeway system was first expanding, there was lots of space for cars to freely move about and gasoline was cheap. People would gladly drive long distances. Now with massive suburban sprawl and congestion people are not so happy to travel long distances. Metro tries to give the commuter to central work areas relief with the alternative of rail transit, but this is too little by only addressing but 2% of total trip mileage (TTM) in LA County and would be too late in taking 30 years of expenditure to do it. Likewise, if they were to accelerate the spending with the 30/10 proposal (getting a loan advance from the Federal government with Measure R revenues being collateral) now being discussed, they would spend future revenues on a plan that did not address the real and large issues only to leave a crisis of transportation in the future with no budget to address it.
Alternatively we need to address over 90% of total trip mileage and do it in 10 to 20 years (see PP/Alliance on menu). An affordable (within current revenue flow) and a comprehensive “steady as you go” approach dealing with that 90%, to see how the problems and conditions arise, and keeping available budgets to deal with them is the appropriate way to proceed. The unadvisable way to proceed is to spend the entire budget on inadequate and narrowly conceived plans before the problems are presented in the fullness of time. Addressing the 90% transportation problem in a more rational County wide manner would be to have greater conservation in the short term and with open ended long term plans as apart of that initial approach. That leaves open major shifts that may even mean transformations of the total public vehicular fleet to electric cars (see menu PP/Alliance) and the needed greater density that so many planners allude to be accommodated. Plans to address the overall problem of providing adequate transportation long term must be looked at by geographic increments not some commuter deficiencies on a few corridors. The Flow Boulevard system is the affordable and “open ended” system to start with on a County wide basis.
And so the needed objective is to consolidate geographic areas like the Basin, SF Valley, East LA and South Bay with more self reliant and self contained balances of multiple work centers and bedroom communities. It has already naturally begun. Flow Boulevards can reinforce such a relationship and solve congestion at the same time. Flow Boulevards can provide denser housing closer to work centers, generate medium and shorter trips, and can add the needed extra vehicular capacity at low cost. The result of these more compact forms of housing, shopping and employment in transportation corridors (see menu Elements) is a reduction in the length of an average trip. The lowering of the average trip length of the entire geographic area in effect lowers if not eliminates congestion throughout that area.
Reduce Average Trip Length
Having a consolidating transportation and housing urban element comprised of Flow Boulevards; that will reduce the percentage of long and medium length trips is a necessary objective. Presently LA County has an average daily trip length of about 15 miles long and about 75 million total trip mileage (TTM) is traveled each day (using all modes of travel). The commuting function to central work centers in the Basin is about 18% of this total and Metro’s rail plans would capture but 10% of that or less than 2% of total trip mileage each day. The Metro objective of putting so much of the Measure R revenues into rail would receive too much of the transportation budget and it would not reduce average trip length as well. And in consideration of total miles traveled in the County, with an additional 5% of TTM in bus transit County wide, this would be but 7% of TTM in transit. This leaves over 90% of total trip mileage unimproved and without conservation in mind. Seven percent in transit is not a solution. A much longer Flow Boulevard network (in that it is much more affordable) with exclusive Rapid Bus lanes along with the “built in” higher density would develop many more shorter average trips that would reduce the average trip length county wide.
The objective of reducing average trip length generally, with Flow Boulevards, would have the greatest economizing effect thereby easing the cost of transportation in our lives and our budgets, be they through government in the form of taxes or by our own necessary expenditures. Exclusive bus lanes for buses are an integral part of the FB concept and are used to get the economies from transit as well. As mentioned above, FB networks in geographical, more self sufficient areas are meant to reduce average trip length throughout the County as part of the consolidating and conservation effort. Quite possibly with the application of FB networks, to the sprawled Southern California landscape, congestion can be eliminated and kept that way as well. All that needs to take place is the additional capacity provided with the FB, along with its ability to generate shorter trips; that increase in capacity would need to stay ahead of the affects of increased trips due to population growth. That way growth in the Flow Boulevard corridors will eliminate congestion, save resources, time, money and continue to do so into the future.
Conceptually, by reducing the average trip length by half for example there would then be half the “traffic” to deal with on the overall and entire transportation system. It would possibly be like doubling the capacity of all transportation facilities, streets, boulevards, freeways and rail. Obviously there are a lot of variables here that can produce different results but the general concept and approach to transportation improvement is the right one. The bottom line here is that through the FB three stages of development each lane evolves to perform the capacity of three existing lanes. Please recognize that stage three would only happen in just a few places. Most of the system would be made of stages one and two. The FB system absorbs the increase in travel demand as population increases in the region and develops community forms that use shorter trips to acquire daily needs through the proximity made with higher density. This should significantly reduce the average trip length in LA County.
Get a Program
Flow Boulevard corridors leading to networks becomes a basis for a new LA City and County economy. Get a program for growth over the next 25 years!
- Think about two million more people,
- one million more dwelling units,
- a hundred and fifty miles of Flow Boulevards,
- tens of millions of new electric cars (be sure to have several manufacturers located here in LA County),
- Geothermal energy plants supplying electricity. This becomes the next phase of growth in Los Angeles (much of the products and services connected to this program would be exportable as well). If a program of a “growth solution” is not embarked upon LA will sputter, congest further and not solve its problems.
Spend Money Well by Being Comprehensive
As stated above in the LA Basin FB Loop reference, any major transportation corridor will require a Flow Boulevard as part of the balancing and improving of the various modes of travel; auto truck, bus and rail (where it occurs). This is to acknowledge the accommodation of “travel demand” by percentage of demand by the various modes. The greatest need for improvement, and the most affordable, is vehicular (auto, truck and bus) with Flow Boulevards. Most importantly is the transforming effect of inducing shorter trips over time and the evolution of transforming the entire fleet of vehicles to effectively non-fossil energy sources. The additional good characteristic is that Flow Boulevards essentially “pay their own way” to begin the process. See the study of Expenses and Revenues in the LA Basin FB Loop Plan (see Basin Loop on menu).
Additional property taxes and fees on the new land use in the FB development more than generate additional revenues than the “road work” costs. This objective is to get Los Angeles on a basis where less money is spent on transportation, in that FB’s can actually make money for Los Angeles and then more money would be available for the other necessities and quality of life issues in government budgets. Removing LA from the vulnerability that sprawl has left us in, within a relatively short period of time, is a major objective to be achieved as a part of the program to consolidate and bring about a new economy that in turn becomes the major problem solving “engine” to fix the City and County. In other words, comprehensive problem solving is begun with Flow Boulevards on a “pays its own way” basis, meaning that money has been spent well regarding short term and long term problem solving.
Cars Have Been a Problem But Are Now a Major Solution
It would seem that helping electric cars be successful in LA would be a worthwhile objective. They are a breakthrough form of transportation in a setting such as LA and globally for that matter. They can hold LA harmless from Peak Oil, GHG emissions, and they can be incorporated in a more urbane urban form and life style generally. All major automobile companies foreign and domestic are quickly bringing hybrids to market. There are dozens of start-ups both foreign and domestic, bringing a wide variety of vehicles and additional technologies to market as well.
So where does all the needed electricity come from and is it low or even without GHG emissions? It comes from natural gas, coal with sequestered GHG emissions, and hydro-electric all powering turbine generators. Some can come from wind and solar but more from nuclear and geothermal again powering turbine generators; all just about in that order of low to zero GHG emissions. The common denominator of all these power sources is electricity.
Today there are a number of process, concept and organizational disconnects that should be cleared up to improve the results of planning for Los Angeles. This would be needed in the instance of adding Flow Boulevards to LA as well because they are tied together with influence at the overall or large scale and the adjacent neighborhood or small scale. Adding major transportation corridors with new dense land use in existing urban settings is complex enough without having the burden of participants being disconnected or missing relevant information in making plans. Many of the difficulties result from “disconnects” between planning and transportation departments within the City of LA. It also occurs between the City and County level regarding large scale planning, vision and not being comprehensive and coordinated.
Community Plans Need to be Better
In the City of LA the Planning Department makes plans without sufficient transportation travel demand input. The plans end up being “5 year” plans instead of the 20 or 25 year plans for which they are intended. Land uses are arranged in manners that will most certainly create gridlock where through traffic should be accommodated. Likewise transportation plans are made that will result in significant land use impacts for no good reason. Confusion and conflict result with plans that do not work for the City, or communities and the developers who are hopefully meant to help implement the plans.
Lack of Coordination
There is not enough of a shared vision and shared approach to solving problems between Metro and the City of LA. The Community Plans mentioned above do not readily add up to an overall City Plan. Nor do Metro transportation elements work well enough with Community Plans. The Westside Subway Extension Study is an example of this. Metro with its mainly regional orientation and narrow concern of simply extending a commuter line west neglects both land use and community traffic impacts that would result from their plans on Wilshire in the Park and Miracle Mile areas and in turn the entire established central residential communities in the Basin . There is a better route along Santa Monica Boulevard which would be from Hollywood to Beverly Hills but it is given a subordinated status. Currently given the lack of funds the Santa Monica Boulevard Route would most likely not be built for maybe decades after the Wilshire Miracle Mile route. But the main point here is that Metro seems to expect the function of the existing City and its communities should conform to some engineering preconceptions instead of how the City really works as well as its needs. Improving upon how the City and corridor works with the addition of the subway is the correct approach to take. City Planning is not representing the people’s needs here with a comprehensive vision which also is problematical.
What truly baffles me is that Metro neglects how the vehicular traffic in and through the Basin would interact with its preferred subway route selection in the Miracle Mile corridor. A subway would establish that segment of Wilshire as a major transportation corridor which in a short time would impact the adjacent single family residential community and all of its low capacity streets with vehicular traffic following development... Then that increased vehicular traffic would make impacts to the west in Beverly Hills turning that city itself into a total traffic bottleneck that cannot be solved (see menu Subway Extension).
This is a major lack of comprehensive planning and coordination. The one line of the subway extension can have major land use and transportation organizational consequences for the entire LA Basin from here on out. In the specific area between the Western station and La Cienega that should remain as “community oriented” and not regionally oriented, the subway would lead to direct impacts for transportation and land use in the short term and for the entire central portion of the LA Basin for decades to come. Metro does not acknowledge in its plans that a vision for LA is needed to make a good plan and the City Planning Department defers to Metro’s transportation “authority”. Both are in error because there is not a vision that combines transportation and land use in the best interests of Los Angeles.
Spending Well Cannot Happen Without Comprehensive Planning
Again let us look at the four mile long segment of proposed subway extension along Wilshire between the Western station and La Cienega. Here the “disconnect” is mainly because Metro has not responsibly provided a comprehensive understanding of the transportation needs within the LA Basin context. The Expo Line and a Westside subway extension can together provide just about 20% of the needed increase in the east-west transportation capacity needed to serve the LA Basin in 2035. The 80% deficiency is not addressed in its plans for the subway extension except for some minor improved bus service maybe adding another 5% of increased capacity. So how does that other 75% of needed capacity happen and where? And does it also help renew communities with growth that need it or protect communities from the impacts of growth that do not need renewal?
This just takes apart any perceived credibility of acting responsibly regarding planning and the spending of the limited financial resources. This particular Wilshire segment of Metro’s regional rail system could leave the LA Basin in total gridlock impacting all land use and all streets and without money to pay for the other needed vehicular transportation improvement that is critically needed.
To cut to the chase; the way transportation improvement is proposed by the Flow Boulevard plan is basically the following; a/ invent a low impact, low cost and high capacity street improvement called the Flow Boulevard, b/ two of these FB corridors will be needed east-west in the Basin due to the amount of increase in person trips and the direction of this travel demand, c/ place the FB’s to further support existing and future transportation facilities (such as with a Westside subway extension) so that complete transportation corridors are established, d/ make sure the transportation corridors serve and protect existing unique established land uses and future development, e/ make sure that the plan is affordable so it is able to be realized and finally, f/ make the development process a part of the socio-economic objectives that make the City a better place to be in and live in. The preliminary LA Basin FB Loop Plan with Rail is intended to perform those objectives through the recognition that without comprehensive planning, limited funds cannot be spent well and that the desired plans cannot be achievable without that reasoning from the very start.
From the adequacy of providing enough transportation improvement to serve projected demand see the Travel Demand segment on this website. Regarding economics the 2.4 Billion that the four miles of subway Wilshire Miracle Mile corridor would cost could be used to build 60 miles of first stage Flow Boulevard in appropriate transportation corridors and would generate the “growth solution” broadly throughout many communities in Los Angeles. Flow Boulevards could be built first due to their low cost and ability to bring the most transportation benefit in addressing the increasing travel demand. Since Flow Boulevards pay for themselves plus “throw off” extra revenues they would in turn be able to help pay for transit such as the Westside subway extension in the Santa Monica Boulevard route to Beverly Hills and beyond (after Flow Boulevards were in place with additional housing and commercial generating tax and fee revenues for the cities).
From a development perspective Flow Boulevards can serve and relate to adjacent communities in a number of ways. On the westerly side of the Basin FB’s can be used to protect communities from “over development” and traffic impacts; whereas in communities around downtown and even into south LA and the SF Valley they need to help structure growth of close-in renewed neighborhoods connected to work centers. Since this great recession is affecting the entire City and County of Los Angeles the way to spend money well is to start of a broad network of Flow Boulevards that are comprehensively planned for and give economic relief, growth and promise to a wide number of communities.
Metro is in a “Disconnect” With the Times We Live In
Metro is working on the wrong problems. Its planning is disconnected both from the short term problems and potentially from the long term devastating economic and environmental problems we face. Short term congestion is unbearable for commuters and detracts from the operation of business in LA. Metro does not address solving congestion in the LA Basin for example and is not looking to solve freeway congestion citywide. Long term the issues of Peak Oil, Greenhouse Gases, the vulnerability of a sprawled urban form and a weak economy that can fail, are not being planned for with flexible open ended problem solving plans. Metro is trudging along with old ideas and plans that can result in potentially catastrophic future problems in Los Angeles. These are contrasting approaches that shows Metro to be inflexible and without innovation the way they are going:
- Long trip emphasis for sprawl vs short and medium length trip consolidation
- Expensive and fixed transportation vs inexpensive and flexible transportation
- Impacts to existing urban development vs supportive and protective kinds of organic growth of transportation and land use.
- Break the bank budgeting by pouring huge amounts of funds into forms of rail transit and closed systems that have no chance of solving the threat of Peak Oil, GHG pollution or needed travel demand instead of transforming the majority of travel with a simple evolving growth process with vehicles over time.
- Being a drag on the economy by spending ineffectively instead of helping it move forward with innovative plans.
Citizen’s Can Save the Day Through Neighborhood Councils
Responsible Neighborhood Councils (NC) can represent the individual citizen well and by this become key players in making good community plans. The theory being is that they are closest to the scale of experience and reality giving them potentially accurate judgment on the affairs of the community. However in this era of mixed directions, the end of “sprawl” and the beginning of some “consolidation”, a NC will itself need to be up to date as to what problems are to be solved and be able to convey it to others. The implications of large scale and long term problems should be set in a framework of objectives that a NC is knowledgeable of and can work within. This allows the NC to fit within the larger plan, be an information and creative resource and also to prove or question the relevance of the larger framework.
Growth is an example of an issue that can bring controversy. There are some neighborhoods that need and want growth and others that do not particularly need or want growth yet there are outside or adjacent pressures for growth that would affect them. A NIMBY reaction can result and it may very well be the case that it is warranted. Whether it is an issue to provide growth or to reject growth, adjusting and relating the various scales of issues and concerns require a balance and resolution to be made. This is where and why the Neighborhood Councils can help save the day. They can be sensitive to needs, impacts and responsibilities to the community. Getting adequate information to come to adequate resolutions is the responsibility of all involved. The NC becomes a forum where adjustments and resolutions can be made. What is often the case however is that plans or issues have not been made well or adequately formed to deal in a coordinated way between the city, community and neighborhood levels. The different scales of the city have not been given a comprehensive coordination due to the lack of information or because of inaccurate information. So the matter of sorting out these differences and deficiencies in the forum of a NC is an apt democratic process.
Resistance to growth can be in some cases challenged where the natural growth of new births and the fact that we are living longer creates a growing population. The megalopolis of Los Angeles is attractive as well so there is in migration. Given the legality and morality surrounding these facts growth should generally be accepted, however having the growth be well planned for is reasonable to be expected. What may be new in the equation is that the era of urban sprawl has left LA with many vulnerabilities that can not be overcome without a growing economy able to counter what are serious threats to the well being of LA. The “growth solution” as described above within the “economy of consolidation” is the better choice as opposed to the direction of Detroit Michigan. Detroit is shrinking due to high unemployment, abandon buildings by the square mile and is being forced into “urban farming” in the wake of buildings being removed as a result of being abandoned.
So some increased density and the need of some improved transportation is an integral part of the growth solution for LA. The main point is to structure this new growth into corridors and do not let a flood of traffic and growth into existing residential communities that are best preserved. Conversely, communities that need to be rebuilt can be designed in a structured way to route “through traffic” through without entanglement with primary residential functions. The “through traffic” corridor would essentially be a commercial corridor which benefits from increased business as well. Neighborhood Councils can represent both residential and commercial interests regarding pertinent issues. What is unique here is the detail of interest that can be dealt with, whereas at the City Council level it is not possible. Having the activities of Community Planning in close communication with Neighborhood Councils would be essential to make good plans.
From a political perspective the average citizen may feel like a “detail” in all kinds of issues and processes. The average citizen can find their value and political representation best in a Neighborhood Council. A Neighborhood council is an aggregation of details with the ability to help in the problem solving process as well as the very relevant power of affecting the vote. This can off-set the influence of the rich and powerful which is the usual high office political concern.
A Neighborhood Council will have a lot to say regarding how an improving corridor can relate to a community and neighborhood scale. And it will be with the help of the Neighborhood Councils that the City Council, Mayor and County Supervisors can make sure an improving corridor, such as would be the case with a Flow Boulevard, can come together in a network that is beneficial at the citywide scale.
An example of a lack of some of these good relationships is presented with the Olympic-Pico one-way pair proposal by the City. Neighborhood Councils and the community at large has rejected that corridor proposal by the City due to the obvious impacts to the many residential communities. And this proposal does not work regarding transportation for the Basin and citywide scale either. The Olympic-Pico proposal attracts regional traffic into an area it should not be in. Community Plans are designed to address needs on a 20 year basis into the future. For large scale elements serving regional needs and becoming part of a citywide network such plans should at a minimum be studied comprehensively, in this case at the Basin scale, for a twenty year if not for a fifty year planning scope.
For this reason coordinated NC’s should be able to question for what reason and upon what basis of facts would an Olympic-Pico proposal be made. As you can see there needs to be ample and qualified information and plans for all scales of planning so that they come together to solve problems and provide for our individual and collective needs. The needs and their reasoned solutions can be coordinated with the help of the Neighborhood Council onto the Citywide scale. The era of correcting our problems due to sprawl with growth among our existing communities must be done with competency and the involvement of the people that live in those communities. In actual fact that growth should not impact or diminish the qualities of those communities but that growth should make the community have a better quality and be a better place to live in. This is something to plan for and look forward to.