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Five Years Later: Looking Back on the Spring Street Contraflow Lane

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, May 06, 2011, at 01:47PM
Spring Street Contraflow Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Buses navigate the Spring Street contraflow lane just south of 6th Street on May 21, 2005.

On May 6, 1973, Mayor Tom Bradley was among the city and Rapid Transit District officials who boarded a bus to take a Monday morning test run of an experimental northbound "contraflow" transit lane installed on Spring Street between 9th and the 101 freeway.

Most of the residents on today's Spring Street likely don't remember the contraflow lane, but it stayed in place until June 18, 2006, when it removed after advocacy by the Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council.

Intended to speed bus traffic toward the transitway that runs east along the 10 freeway from Union Station, the lane would eventually carry nearly 100 buses per hour north along a primarily-southbound Spring Street.

A look at the east side of Spring Street today shows just how things have changed in five years. While Downtown's redevelopment was still relatively new in 2006, the east side of Spring was dead when compared to its west side. With constant buses and no parking or loading, the east side of the street was almost entirely devoid of businesses.

Today, the east side of Spring between 6th and 7th is home to a pair of clothing stores, a coffee shop, two bars and a nightclub.

Would those businesses have been there with 100 buses rumbling by each hour?

While the lane may just be a historical footnote for most, it's something with a little extra significance for me. As a member of DLANC's Transportation and Public Works committee, I helped argue for its removal. Back in 2004 and 2005 it was one of the first projects where I as a still-new resident saw those in the neighborhood successfully advocate for a policy change.

Unfortunately, it's also a great example of how residents need to stick with an issue to make sure that it is carried through. In July of 2005 I wrote an opinion piece for the Downtown News calling on LADOT to get rid of the peak hour parking restrictions in their Spring Street plans. I argued that the plan would create a "virtual urban freeway" with five lanes of traffic.

Afterward, I met with LADOT to discuss the issue and their response. They promised to do a followup study six months after the lane was removed to see if Spring Street traffic really warranted so many lanes. I've never seen that study, and five years later the peak hour "No Parking" signs are still there.

Even so, I think the Downtown community would have to classify this one a victory.

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