By Matthew Reagan
A recent series of workshops on Metro’s plan for bus rapid transit (BRT) in Eagle Rock advanced ideas for a BRT route on Colorado Boulevard, with several participants submitting ideas on how to reconfigure the boulevard to accommodate dedicated bus lanes.
At the same time, the workshops added a new chapter to the controversy in Eagle Rock over whether a BRT should run on Colorado Boulevard or on the 134 Freeway, with several participants openly skeptical of Metro’s recent pledge to thoroughly study both a boulevard route and a freeway route.
Indeed, for those who would prefer to put the BRT on the freeway rather than the boulevard – or are undecided on which route would be better – it’s safe to say that the workshops got off on the wrong foot.
On the one hand, the moderator, Stephen Stansbery, a consultant for Metro, sought to assure participants that Metro would diligently study a freeway option for Eagle Rock. “Metro is listening,” he said in his opening remarks at one of the sessions, referring to Metro’s decision in October to study a freeway route in Eagle Rock that it had previously rejected.
On the other hand, Stansbery said that the workshops – intended to solicit design ideas for the BRT in Eagle Rock – would focus solely on Colorado Boulevard.
Metro’s explanation for omitting the freeway option from the workshops was that running a BRT on the freeway would require no design alterations, while putting it on the boulevard would require many design decisions regarding bus, car and bike lanes, the medians and parking.
That explanation satisfied several attendees who were ready and eager to share ideas on how to put the BRT on Colorado Boulevard.
But several participants who want the freeway option to be front and center were not buying it.
Some of them voiced displeasure with the process and attempted to interject as Stansbery facilitated the session. Some attendees disagreed with Metro that a freeway route required no design input, pointing out that potential station stops near the freeway on/off ramps would need to incorporate design elements. Others were worried that their participation would be construed as support for the Colorado Boulevard route.
One attendee, Bob De Velasco, who has been active in the fight against putting the BRT on Colorado Boulevard, was asked to leave when his objections to children voting on some of the workshop issues escalated into a shouting match with the childrens’ parents.
Overview of the Workshops
So, what came of the workshops? Each of three sessions, held on November 16 at Yosemite Recreation Center, was divided into three activities. The first was a virtual survey that asked attendees about their priorities relating to public transit, transit amenities and landscaping options.
Next was a ‘priority pyramid’ exercise, in which attendees were asked to rank which aspects of the BRT they were most concerned about. The top priorities that emerged from that exercise were transit service and amenities, traffic movement and safety.
Finally, attendees worked in assigned table groups with a Metro representative to build their ideal cross-section of Colorado Boulevard with BRT. Table groups worked to come to a consensus on the street’s design, taking into account parking, median size, bike lanes, car lanes, bus lanes as well as landscaping and pedestrian experience.
Some tables worked swiftly to complete their cross-section and left excited by the possibilities. “Our table really collaborated and listened to each other, so we came up with a streetscape that looks great – and continued to have conversations,” said Pauline Mauro, an Eagle Rock resident. “This was a great way to approach change that people fear. The facilitator did a great job.”
Others, however, were frustrated. Attendee Breanna Celis echoed sentiments shared by others that the workshops were “a completley one-sided meeting,” adding she felt concerned her votes in the virtual survey would be taken as support for the Colorado Boulevard option.
The results of the workshop exercises will be summarized in a report that will be reviewed by the Metro Board of Directors, said Brian Haas, a Metro spokesperson.
As for the decision on a Colorado Boulevard route versus a 134 Freeway route in Eagle Rock, that too will be ultimately decided by the Metro Board, said Haas.
Matthew Reagan is the Editor-in-Chief of The Occidental, the campus newspaper of Occidental College.
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