One of Metro's options would reduce much of Colorado Boulevard to one car lane each way. Another option would retain two car lanes each way | Image by Metro

Metro lays out options for Colorado Boulevard: Winners and losers come into focus

2021 Business Editions More News September

By T.A. Hendrickson

At a pair of Zoom meetings on Thursday, Metro staff presented two options now under consideration for a bus rapid transit (BRT) route on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. The Eagle Rock route is one segment of a proposed BRT line from North Hollywood to Pasadena (NoHo-Pas).

Under both options for Eagle Rock, dedicated bus lanes would be added to Colorado Boulevard to accommodate the BRT. Both options also preserve or enhance the boulevard’s bike lanes. 

The main difference between the two options is in how they would make room for dedicated BRT lanes and buffered bike lanes. One option would reduce much of Colorado Boulevard to one car lane each way while the other would retain two car lanes each way. Both options would require removing a big chunk of the boulevard’s curbside parking, with the larger parking loss occurring under the two-car-lane-each-way option.

The boulevard’s medians fare better under the one-travel-lane option, with 6,730 linear feet of medians/islands that would be kept at their present widths. To compare, the medians under the two-car-lane option measure 5,360 linear feet and the widths are modified in some places east of El Rio Avenue to six to 16 feet.

Who wins and who loses under the two options?

Either way, Metro wins, along with other advocates for public transit, because their key aim is to have dedicated BRT lanes. Either way, bicyclists win, because both options retain and/or improve the bike lanes. Either way, safety advocates win, because Metro has included similar safety enhancements in both options, such as curb extensions, better crosswalks and upgraded signals.

As for losers, businesses lose either way because both options significantly reduce curbside parking, with the bigger loss occurring under the two-travel-lane option.

Drivers lose under the one-travel-lane option because they would spend more time in traffic while advocates for biking, walking and lingering on the boulevard win because car-lane reductions are central to their vision of a more outdoor- and leisure-oriented boulevard.

Conversely, the two-car-lane option favors drivers and denies the lane reductions that advocates of one-car-lane-each-way have been seeking.

Whether the environment wins or loses depends in large part on how many people use the BRT and the bike lanes. To date, Metro has had a hard time getting people into busses and the pandemic hasn’t helped, while anyone who drives on Colorado Boulevard knows that the bike lanes are seldom used. Moreover, a BRT that worsens traffic congestion and/or removes trees would be a mixed bag environmentally.

Here in more detail are some takeaways:

Dedicated BRT lanes

To add dedicated bus lanes to Colorado Boulevard while protecting bike lanes and preserving some or all of the medians, Metro has to reduce the number of car lanes and/or the number of curbside parking spaces.

Metro’s one-car-lane-each-way option would eliminate one of two car lanes in each direction and about one-third of the boulevard’s curbside parking spaces – for a loss of 122 parking spaces out of 310 spaces in total, according to Metro.

The two-car-lanes-each-way option would retain the current two lanes in each direction but remove two-thirds of the boulevard’s curbside parking spaces – a loss of 210 spaces out of 310 spaces.

Parking

The loss of 122 parking spaces under the one-car-lane-each-way proposal was unexpected. In general, it had been assumed that removing a car lane each way would be enough to fit in dedicated BRT lanes and related design features. 

The loss of 210 spaces in the two-car-lanes-each-way option was not unexpected, because with the bike lanes protected and the medians at least partially preserved, where else would space come from to fit in dedicated BRT lanes?

The upshot is that the difference between the two options when it comes to loss of parking is 88 spaces.

Here’s where the issue gets political. Metro doesn’t do parking. But elected officials, who control and influence the levers of power, can engage those levers to ensure that accessible, safe, convenient and equitable parking is built in Eagle Rock to make up for any lost curbside parking.

And clearly, all it would take to keep two car lanes each way on Colorado Boulevard without a net loss of parking is to build 88 more parking spaces than would be needed under the one-car-lane-each-way option.

A plan to replace lost parking spaces is crucial because at the presentations on Thursday Metro did not have a credible answer for how to mitigate the loss of parking in its BRT options for Eagle Rock.

Metro Project Manager Scott Hartwell suggested that drivers park on the side streets of Colorado Boulevard, where Metro has counted 763 parking spaced within 300 feet of the boulevard. It’s not going out on a limb to state that there’s not a big surplus of parking spaces on the side streets of Colorado Boulevard, especially in business-dense areas, say, from Eagle Rock Boulevard to Highland View Avenue. Moreover, the side streets of Colorado Boulevard are residential areas that would be better off without cars driving around looking for parking spaces. 

Traffic Congestion and Diversion

The Metro presentations on Thursday showed that car-lane reductions on Colorado Boulevard would result in more traffic congestion, especially at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard where Colorado’s two lanes would merge into one.

Metro Project Manager Scott Hartwell said that lane reductions would cause 20% of the traffic on Colorado Boulevard to use the 134 and 2 Freeways, but even so, there would be “increased delays and congestion” on the boulevard.

Metro has calculated that the one travel lane option would add seven to nine minutes of travel time for cars traversing Colorado Boulevard during the morning and evening rush hours, or about twice the time it currently takes.

 

For example, with one car lane each way, it would take 14 minutes to traverse Colorado Boulevard (from Broadway to the 134 Freeway) during the morning rush, versus seven minutes currently, according to Metro. In the evening rush, it would take 16 minutes versus seven minutes currently. One car lane each way would also slow down local busses by a few minutes. It would take the BRT nine minutes to traverse the boulevard in its dedicated lane.

The average speed of passenger cars on a one-laned Colorado Boulevard during the morning rush would be 9 m.p.h., compared to 19 m.p.h. currently, according to Metro. The average speed of passenger cars during the evening rush would be 7 m.p.h. versus 19 m.p.h. currently.

According to Metro’s modeling, one-lane-each-way on Colorado Boulevard would not cause traffic to  divert onto Hill Drive or Yosemite Drive, because those streets would not be any faster than the boulevard.

One lane each way on Colorado Boulevard would cause worse snarls in the event of a freeway closure than a two-lane-each-way option, said Brent Ogden, a Metro consultant. Ogden also said that drivers in a single lane would be delayed when they had to wait behind someone who was parallel parking, but that the road ahead would likely be clear once the parking was completed, so drivers could speed up enough to make up for the delay. That assumes, however, that the driver doesn’t end up behind another person parallel parking or a local bus in the single lane.

To model the traffic effects of a lane reduction on Colorado Boulevard, Metro relied on a computer simulation that incorporates the design characteristics of the proposed BRT route. Metro says this simulation is more accurate than a “cone study” that many Eagle Rock residents have called for because a cone study, which would physically block off a lane for an extended time period, would not account for changes on the boulevard from the BRT project, say, to left hand turns and car/bike interactions.

Unfortunately, the video by Metro of the traffic effects from lane reductions on Colorado Boulevard started at Eagle Rock Boulevard and ended at Townsend Avenue. As such, the video did not show the traffic effects east of Townsend, around Trader Joe’s, an area that is congested even with the current two lanes of traffic.

Metro spokesperson Brian Haas said even though the video did not show the traffic effects of a lane reduction around Trader Joe’s, such effects were incorporated into Metro’s calculation of  travel times, speeds and other traffic data. 

What didn’t get said

Here is a link to Metro’s slide presentation from Thursdays meetings. Metro has said that audio of the presentation, including the question-and-answer period, will be posted as soon as possible.

However, what did not get discussed is as important as what did get discussed. Metro made no mention of simply running the BRT in regular traffic on Colorado Boulevard. Instead, Metro has insisted on dedicated bus lanes for the Eagle Rock segment of the BRT, saying that dedicated lanes provide for greater reliability and better travel times and set the BRT apart as a premium service.

The problem with that explanation is that the BRT in Pasadena and in smaller segments in Burbank and Glendale runs in regular street traffic, not in dedicated lanes, and in some areas, the BRT travels on the freeway. At the very least, Eagle Rock should qualify for top notch fixes and offsets to all of the downsides that may result from dedicated lanes, such as loss of parking and greenery. It will be the job of elected officials to make sure that Metro fixes the problems it causes. 

Next steps

City Councilmember Kevin de León will hold meetings on Saturday, Oct. 2 with Eagle Rock stakeholders who sign up to meet with him in small groups to discuss concerns about the BRT on Colorado Boulevard. Details are here.

Metro is currently working on a Final Environmental Impact Report on the NoHo-Pas BRT with an anticipated completion around the end of 2021. In the FEIR, Metro staff will recommend a specific route for the NoHo-Pas BRT to the Metro Board of Directors.  The Board will then decide whether to certify the FEIR and adopt the project.


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20 thoughts on “Metro lays out options for Colorado Boulevard: Winners and losers come into focus

  1. Metro describes BRT as a cheaper, less intrusive alternative to light rail. They say its success relies on having its own separate dedicated lane. Traffic now moves smoothly in Eagle Rock. The only time we have traffic jams is when a lane of traffic is sealed off, which they wish to do permanently. This is an advantage to nobody except Metro.
    BRT buses will not be allowed to move above the speed limit, they will not be allowed to skip traffic lights or otherwise ignore rules of the road. They will indeed move faster than all other traffic – because Metro created a situation designed to slow down all other traffic. Everyone needing to carry or deliver supplies, to carpool children, to carry large amounts of groceries or babies – everyone must suffer to make this BRT happen for the very few needing to move quickly from Pasadena to North Hollywood without taking the freeway, which is designed for exactly that, and which we have already paid for, and which would get you there much faster.

    We do not want to lose all parking. We do not want to create unnecessary and unavoidable traffic jams on the Boulevard. We do not want to get rid of left turns. We do not need to extend the curbs. All of this is completely unnecessary. There are far better ways to improve mass transit, without damaging our town. Metro has refused to do any testing or to even consider alternatives. They paid a company to create a simulation to prove what they wanted proven, and have refused any actual testing. We all understand that there are massive amounts of money that will be spent to effect this plan, but that is insufficient reason to do massive harm to our community.

    1. Mark, I’m confused when you say it “benefits no one but Metro.” It benefits all the people that ride the bus, including myself. And I’m not sure if you listened to the latest Metro meeting, but Metro’s new design keep all the current left turn lanes. All of them. And as for parking, their F1 Refined design keeps all the parking needed during peak parking hours on the Boulevard. They did an in-depth study where they literally counted cars to make sure they all had a place to park. And as for slowing down traffic, have you ever tried crossing the Boulevard at one of the crosswalks without a traffic light? People speed right down it. Thankfully, they plans not only slow traffic by a few minutes but they also install “hawk” crosswalks with bright ligthts. I don’t see how this is anything but a win for our community, save at the cost of a few extra driving minutes.

      1. Josh, you are right, clearly; I let myself get swept up in the moment. Clearly there are benefits to more folks than just to Metro folks. That was a goofball thing to say. All the same, it’s not a good trade. We are losing left turns, they were very specific about getting rid of those open areas (such as in front of the Fire Station, though I doubt they will get rid of that particular one), where now we can safely make U-turns and left turns. They talked about getting rid of all of the open spaces. I’m sure I missed a few minutes – one of the problems with attending a Zoom meeting during a work day is occasionally getting called away by work, but I heard most of it and have been following this for about four years, so I caught the gist. One thing that struck me was in that set of graphs they had with the three lines – one for no change, one for getting rid of all parking, one for getting rid of a lane of traffic – that the no change was always the best option.

        They present the only possible two choices as permanent traffic jam or no business parking, and those their choices, not ours. We could now, right now improve mass transit – shorten wait times, add routes, lower fares, raise wages – we can plant trees and beautify the Boulevard. There are plenty of ways to spend a quarter billion dollars without doing damage. And yup, I have, of course crossed the road at the crosswalks without a traffic light. And I’d recommend keeping your eyes open when you do it. Some of these ‘improvements’ are just plain nuts – building out the sidewalks to prevent people from making right turns without going into traffic? Because that cuts out a foot or so from the width of the street? These are ways to spend money, not to improve the neighborhood. We are so locked into a mindset where the only way forward is to throw out last year’s model and build everything new – that ain’t necessary nor good. We can do better. They will always avoid doing an actual study based on actual people, such as closing off a lane of traffic to see how folks like it, in favor of spending a few hundred thousand to create a program to designed to prove the benefits of what they want to do. Their study of parking spaces was not, honest, was not a study based on the needs of people looking for a parking space, it was based on what they decided you should need. And they may not understand what in fact you and all your neighbors might need. We might need different things. Which comes back to my initial goofball statement. I know this will be good for a few people. But very few. For most folks it will be a loss. And if they go ahead with getting rid of all parking and loading zones, it will be a loss of most of the businesses. There is something fine about Eagle Rock, and we can make it better.

      2. Who in there right mind thinks that traffic will go smooth. Yosemite and hill Dr will b jammed packed with cars. Yosemite has at least 4 schools. U try these times 73am and 3pm. Not 2 mention the cluster of ppl crossing double yellow lines at trader Joes. Metro needs 2 go away with there stupid ideas. U can’t have it all. Either get rid of outdoor dinning or bike lane( they don’t obey the laws anyways) how about all the parking that will try and go on residential strs? Metro is a joke use the fwy. The city of L.A. can fix the sink holes from buses now and u don’t see a issue? Small business will lose their shirts in the time city gets done or undone. What a joke.

  2. This Metro plan is a foregone conclusion arrived at by people who will profit from it. The bike lanes haven’t been used. People in E.R. aren’t going to use the Metro system. This idea is as good as the wasteful Pillar Henge mess that needs to be removed. The money that is going into the Metro project should be redirected to removing the Pillar Henge eyesore.

  3. The realistic thing to do, in order to be fair to the Eagle Rock residents, would be to allow everyone to cast a vote on this issue, instead of having special interest groups getting an upper hand in it, without the local stakeholders and taxpayers having their input presented. This is probably an unrealistic idea, according to the way that things are going in L.A.

  4. This is why Kevin De Leon should NEVER be elected mayor. He does not understand what the community wants or even listens to it. This is a HUGE mistake. We do not need to hurt small businesses even more than they have been the last year and a half.

  5. Make sure you show up Oct. 2 at his meet with SIGNS !
    City Councilmember Kevin de León will hold meetings on Saturday, Oct. 2 with Eagle Rock stakeholders who sign up to meet with him in small groups to discuss concerns about the BRT on Colorado Boulevard. Details are here.

  6. @Susan Rocha: You are essentially spamming this page; please stop.

  7. An overlay map of Colorado Blvd location of lost parking spaces would be helpful.

  8. I gave up driving almost 10 years ago and became a self-proclaimed public transit advocate and feel that this BRT plan is a great step in the right direction! Our communities need to become more walkable and pedestrian friendly. The time of the car has had its time and it’s hand at destroying the environment and contributed to the obesity epidemic in this country, I’m sure at first this transition will be difficult for some and maybe business lose traffic temporarily, but once people begin walking, biking and transiting through that business will return!

    1. Lol. Where do u think all this electric power is coming from. Mother earth.
      U have been elected a tell small business owners that. In fact help pay their rent because 98% will not make it.

  9. Yikes. This article needs to be marked as “opinion.” Was hoping for something that just stated facts in an unbiased way but the writer has a clear agenda here.

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