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A Little More Perspective on Spring Street and Contraflow

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2005, at 12:11PM
Spring, north of 1st Eric Richardson [Flickr]

As I've mentioned before, the issue of the Spring Street contra-flow lane goes to the City Council's Transportation Committee tomorrow at 2pm. I'll be at the meeting, and I'll be testifying that as a resident I think that this will be a good thing for the neighborhood.

That's the point I want to make clear; even as I write that widening the street will speed up traffic and be bad for pedestrians, I still am in support of the fundamental ideas of what LADOT is looking to do.

Yesterday morning I got a chance to go over to the Caltrans building and meet with some of the people involved in this project. I definitely learned some things, and hopefully I was able to more thoroughly articulate to them the issues I'm concerned about. There were some important things I took away from this meeting...

DOT Believes that Traffic Volumes Require All the Lanes

They firmly believe that traffic count data taken last year and the projection of that data via current trends shows that the four mixed-flow traffic lanes and the bus lane are necessary to maintain a satisfactory level of service on Spring St.

Yesterday I got a copy of the report that has all the traffic data in it, and quickly realized I'm not currently a transportation engineer. If I was I'd be able to pull out my copy of the Highway Capacity Manual, turn to the formulas for arterial lane capacity, and punch the numbers in with accounting for light cycle times, turn interference, etc. But I don't have the HCM, and nobody's paying me to do that sort of thing, so for now I'm going to take their word for it. They took the counts, and they've run those numbers in the simulation. So for now, I think it best to accept their word on peak hour needs.

Since the Planned Changes are Only Striping, They're Easy to Change

The planned changes on Spring and Main do not involve physically altering the street. They simply take striping changes. That means that down the road changes can be made.

Six months after they implement the new striping, DOT will go back and run a post-project analysis. They'll go back out and do another traffic count, and see how actual traffic flows correspond to the simulations they did beforehand. If at that point traffic data looks different than it is currently projected to look, changes like peak hour parking on the east side of Spring street can be examined.

DOT would love to have peak hour parking -- that's how they make money -- but currently they don't see it as feasible. Is the data changes, so can their assessment.

It's Important to See This as a Start

After these changes are made, Spring Street will have more parking than it does currently. That's important. There are downsides to the plan, but this is a definite upside.

The Downtown traffic structure will inevitably be changing. MTA is currently looking at how to change their routing structure to send less buses through Downtown. Such changes will reduce bus volume, and the traffic data I've seen shows this to be as much as 10% of Historic Core traffic.

Reductions in bus volume would also allow for a consolidation of stops and a reduction in the amount of red curb. That in turn means more meter spots of the street, and more turnover spots for people to use when accessing the shops and eateries that need to continue to develop along the street.

In summary, I think it's important that we take this step and then continue to work with DOT and the MTA to craft a street infrastructure that works for both vehicular concerns and those of Downtown. This is a process, not a one-step deal.

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