The 7th Street Corridor Part 2

Image provided by: TPS

Good news for the City of Los Angeles, protected bicycle lanes are coming to 7th Street in downtown! The roughly two-year pilot program for a new street design was announced by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation last Wednesday, May 6th.

With 7th Street recently repaved under the StreetsLA ADAPT program, new striping is expected to be completed this week. The striping, which will occur between Figueroa Street and Main Street, includes protected bike lanes, additional safety enhancements, a new parklet, bikeshare/scooter parking, and more loading zones. 

The pilot program is funded with money collected from scooter rental fees which can be used for street mobility enhancements. 

Let’s take a look at some positives, negatives, and what this means for the future of 7th Street.

The Good

We’ll start with the good, because there is a lot to like about LADOT’s plans (shown below courtesy of LADOT). 

The Protected Bike lane

Finally a protected East/West bike lane in the middle of downtown. This is clearly the big highlight of the pilot program, a win for advocates who want to see the Mobility Plan implemented, and completes a huge missing link in the bicycle lane network. A big thank you to those who worked on this project.

A New Parklet

Though not technically part of the re-striping, the new parklet would sit in front of the Bloc development and create more pedestrian gathering space and greenery. Both very much needed downtown!

Intersection Bollard Treatment

Adding bollards at strategic locations within the intersection helps to reduce vehicle speeds while turning and forces cars to turn at a right angle. This makes crossing the street safer for pedestrians and cyclists, since it increases their visibility and, in the event of a collision, decreases the probability of them being killed or severely injured. We hope that these bollards, or a full curb bulb out, would be part of the final project.

Street Parking

7th Street does not have a ton of street parking, so it is good that they are adding more commercial and passenger loading zones and reducing longer term parking. In the opinion of this website, and many other urbanists, street parking is generally a waste of space in the public right of way. Safe loading spaces are a much more efficient use and can still serve the local businesses in the area. The addition of loading zones along streets adjacent to 7th Street is also a much needed change. 

The Not So Great

There are a few objections to the plan which would hopefully be considered for the final 7th Street improvement project – anticipated to be completed within the next couple of years by the Bureau of Engineering.

Mixed Traffic Zones

Having bikes, buses, and right turning vehicles in the same lane is problematic for all road users. It’s understandable why this space has to be shared given the constraints of the pilot program, but we have to give bikes more protection in the final implementation of the project. The pilot does provide yield signage for vehicles entering the lane, but aggressive drivers may ignore these suggestions. Additionally, vehicle queuing in the lane may create difficulties and delays for bike riders. 

Bus Delays

Given the lower traffic volumes and number of bus riders due to Coronavirus, it may be some time before we see the true impacts of the pilot on bus speeds and ridership. But it is hard to imagine that this pilot program would make much improvement to bus travel times through downtown. 

Anyone who has been on the DASH E or any Metro Line during rush hours knows just how slow bus travel can be on this corridor. Walking is oftentimes faster, which sounds like an exaggeration, but I have actually tried it and can verify. TPS hopes that the City considers making 7th Street an exclusive bus, bike and pedestrian corridor to address this issue, as discussed in our first post

Figueroa & 7th Street 

This intersection is crazy for all the wrong reasons. Thousands of cars, pedestrians, buses, bikes, and scooters enter. No one leaves.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But we would still like to see a pedestrian/bicycle scramble at this intersection. Not only would it give peds and bikes their own phase to safely cross, it would eliminate the need for a protected left turn phase on Northbound Figueroa Street and protected right turn phase on Westbound 7th Street. This means longer green times for cars and buses, less queuing spillover into the main lanes on 7th Street, and overall better and safer traffic operations. 

This improvement was proposed at one point, but then it disappeared and was never implemented. Please come back scramble crossing, we need you.

Updates from the 7th Street Corridor Part 1

I wrote an article before LADOT’s meeting last Wednesday discussing my expectations for the pilot program hopes for the future of 7th Street. I’m very pleased with the pilot program and the City’s commitment to implementing the Mobility Plan on this corridor. I was disappointed that completely eliminating private vehicles from portions of 7th Street was not a greater consideration for the future of the street.

In the CIty’s defense, the street is heavily trafficked by rideshare services and commercial trucks serving businesses. However, relocating these spaces to nearby streets (Hill Street, Hope Street, etc.) and reallocating space on 7th Street for pedestrians and buses would have the potential to revolutionize downtown Los Angeles into a multimodal paradise. Throw in the streetcar and Broadway car-free corridor and you’d have one of the most iconic downtowns on the West Coast. 

Unfortunately, it does not appear the City is thinking this progressively about the future of downtown. This means we’ll spend the next few decades or so stuck behind single occupancy vehicles while taking the bus (or streetcar). 

We’ll continue to follow progress on the street and provide feedback on the proposed improvements. In the meantime, what do you think of the pilot program and future street plans? What improvements would you like to see on 7th Street? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter, or email us.

DAWSON WOODSTONE
FOUNDER – THE PLACE SPACE
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