By T.A. Hendrickson
The push is on for a bus rapid transit (BRT) route through Eagle Rock that would reduce Colorado Boulevard to one car lane each way between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Linda Rosa Avenue. The car-lane reduction would create room for dedicated bus lanes and enhanced bike lanes, while preserving most on-street parking.
Metro will present the one-car-lane-each-way proposal at a public Zoom meeting on April 1. Details of the meeting, which will cover BRT routes in Eagle Rock and other cities along the North Hollywood to Pasadena (NoHo-Pas) line, are here.
The April 1 meeting comes on the heels of at least six recent meetings on the proposal at high levels of local government — an indication of deep political interest in the idea.
According to Metro spokesperson Brian Haas, the one-car-lane-each-way proposal was the topic of meetings in March between Metro and staff members representing Mayor Eric Garcetti, CD 14 City Councilmember Kevin de León, L. A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Hilda Solis, State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, Glendale Mayor and Metro Board Member Ara Najarian and the L.A. Department of Transportation.
Metro also previewed the one-car-lane-each-way proposal in two invitation-only meetings with members of the Eagle Rock community. A meeting on March 16 was with individuals from groups that have been active in the debate over the BRT in Eagle Rock, including The Eagle Rock Association, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, Eagle Rock 411 and Eagle Rock Forward.
A meeting on March 26 was for local businesses. Owners in attendance included those from Peekaboo Playland, Arnott Kenpo Karate, Mathnasium and Super Copy. The Boulevard Sentinel also attended the March 26 meeting.
How we got here, what’s at stake
In recent months, a one-car-lane-each-way proposal was developed and promoted by a group of activists and advocates for bike lanes, public transit and walkable neighborhoods, including local residents who are members of The Eagle Rock Association and past and present members of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.
Entitled “Beautiful Boulevard” by its proponents, the proposal was created partly in response to Metro’s initial “proposed project” for a BRT route in Eagle Rock, presented to the public in September 2020. That proposed project retained the boulevard’s car lanes, parking and medians and added a dedicated BRT lane that doubled as a bike lane. Under the proposal, bicyclists would have priority in the lane, meaning that the bus would have to go around a cyclist. Bike lane advocates objected, saying a shared bus/bike lane would be dangerous, unpleasant and a nullification of victories they had won in the fight to establish bike lanes.
Beautiful Boulevard addresses those objections: Essentially, a car lane each way is replaced by a dedicated BRT lane, leaving room on the boulevard for better bike lanes, on-street parking, landscaped medians and wider sidewalks.
At the meeting with local business owners on March 26, Metro Project Manager Scott Hartwell said that Metro’s initial route proposals for Colorado Boulevard — which retained two car lanes each way — were based on feedback from Eagle Rockers, dating to 2019, in which residents consistently told Metro to preserve the boulevard’s car lanes.
But, he said, in late 2020, Metro received so many letters of support for Beautiful Boulevard that the agency decided to revise its initial two-lane route proposals, adopting the one-car-lane-each-way feature and other aspects of Beautiful Boulevard. Metro calls its version of the one-car-lane-each-way proposal “refined F1.”
The letters of support for Beautiful Boulevard that Hartwell referred to were submitted during the period for public comment on Metro’s draft environmental impact report on the NoHo-Pas BRT. The organizers of Beautiful Boulevard have also collected some 500 signatures on a petition that calls on De León, Solis and the Metro Board of Directors to adopt the Beautiful Boulevard proposal.
However, the extent of community support for one lane each way on Colorado Boulevard is questionable.
For instance, the Beautiful Boulevard petition never mentions that the proposal would require eliminating a car lane each way on much of Colorado Boulevard. Rather, the petition highlights saving the medians, improving bike lanes, preserving parking and various other beauty and safety features. Similarly, the Beautiful Boulevard website lists 30 local businesses operating out of 28 locations as supporters of Beautiful Boulevard. But only 12 of those businesses are located on the stretch of Colorado Boulevard that would go down to one car lane. The rest are on Eagle Rock Boulevard or on parts of Colorado Boulevard that would retain two car lanes each way.
Of the handful of business owners who participated in the Metro meeting on March 26, one was in favor of one car lane each way, others were opposed or neutral. The gist of the support was that a lovelier boulevard would attract customers who would linger. The gist of the opposition was that the needs of customers — to drive to businesses and find parking — would be better met with two car lanes each way and more parking spaces.
Business owners who fear traffic jams on a one-lane boulevard had their fears confirmed. Brent Ogden, a Metro consultant who took questions at the March 26 meeting, said that “congestion will increase substantially” at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard, as two lanes become one. Ogden also said that many drivers “will be forced onto the freeway” by crowded conditions on the boulevard, but even so, congestion at the center of town would worsen.
As currently configured, Metro’s one-car-lane-each-way proposal would also cause traffic in the single lane to stop whenever a motorist wanted to parallel park, said Ogden. There are ways to mitigate the stoppage, he said, but they would involve cars moving into the bus lane or the bike lane.
Ultimately, what Metro does in Eagle Rock will be decided not only (or even primarily) by the details, but by politics, because support of elected officials is key to approving any given Metro plan.
L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Solis has publicly urged Metro to study the Beautiful Boulevard proposal and to bring it before the Metro Board for consideration “if deemed feasible and within budget.”
Eagle Rock’s L.A. Unified School Board Member Jackie Goldberg has urged Metro to adopt the Beautiful Boulevard proposal in Eagle Rock on the ground that it prioritizes “the safety of LAUSD’s students, teachers, staff, and families.”
CD 14 City Councilmember De León has not taken a position in favor of any specific BRT route on Colorado Boulevard. However, in his public comment letter to Metro on December 28 he said the agency had failed up to that point to create an acceptable BRT plan for Eagle Rock, a stance that leaves the door open to supporting a new Metro proposal.
In announcing the public meeting on April 1, set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Metro staff has said it is seeking feedback on its proposed NoHo-Pas BRT routes ahead of making a recommendation to the Metro Board in May 2021. Once the Board approves a staff recommendation, work will begin on a Final Environmental Impact Report, to be completed this summer.
To recap: Here are the details for the upcoming meeting:
Thursday, April 1, 5-7pm
Phone: 877 853 5247 (Toll Free)
Access code: 829 2509 7331
This article was updated with additional info and links at 1:10 p.m. on March 31, 2021.
Correction: This article was modified to show that the one-car-lane-each-way would extend from Eagle Rock Boulevard to Linda Rosa Avenue under Metro’s proposal. An earlier version said that one-car-lane-each-way would extend from Eagle Rock Boulevard to Mount Helena Avenue, which is a shorter stretch than Metro is actually proposing.