A study released Monday, April 16th, has found that traffic capacity on Olympic and Pico Boulevards between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica could increase by up to 20 percent if the two major corridors were converted into one-way thoroughfares.
The traffic study, which was commissioned by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and authored by transportation consultant Allyn Rifkin, proposes transforming Olympic and Pico into one-way paired streets between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, with traffic flowing east on Olympic and west on Pico.
Under the proposal, there would still be two-way bus and van pool lanes on the two streets through the use of “contra-flow” lanes. Left turns and street parking would be restricted during peak hours.
While emergency vehicles could use the contra-flow lanes at all times, buses and van pools would be able to use the lanes during peak hours, according to the study. Local traffic would be permitted to use the lanes only during off-peak periods, when parking would also be allowed, the study said.
The 14-mile stretch on both Olympic and Pico between Santa Monica and downtown L.A. carries more than 106,000 vehicles per day. The section of the corridors runs through the cities of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. All three cities would need to approve the traffic plan for it to take effect.
In commissioning the $15,000 study, Yaroslavsky said he wanted to explore a potential solution to easing traffic congestion between Santa Monica and Los Angeles in the more immediate future.
“Traffic has reached a tipping point in the L.A. Basin, especially between the 405 (San Diego Freeway) and the ocean,” said Yaroslavsky, who represents Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and parts of Los Angeles in the Third Supervisorial District.
Although proposed traffic improvements, such as the Exposition Light Rail Line and the Wilshire Purple Line subway extension are currently in the works for the area, they are years away from possible implementation, he said.
Hoping to address traffic solutions “in the meantime,” Yaroslavsky said he approached Rifkin to conduct a study on the feasibility of making Olympic and Pico one-way boulevards.
“The two streets offered the most promise because theyíre relatively close together and they function as a couplet system,” Yaroslavsky said.
Rifkin said he began the study in January and found that with Olympic and Pico Boulevards, there is a potential for traffic signal synchronization and the removal of left-turn arrows, which would significantly help increase traffic flow.
“Left-turn arrows have a big impact in terms of congestion,” Rifkin said.
One-way streets would allow for reduction in turn and pedestrian conflicts and reduce travel time for public transit, he said.
The use of one-way paired streets has worked successfully in many other cities and, according to some reports, residents have been able to adjust to the changes in circulation patterns, Rifkin said.
Yaroslavsky said he was “very encouraged” by the findings in the traffic study and added that by releasing the one-way proposal to the public, he is hoping to spark community discussion on the potential solution to easing congestion on the two corridors.
“I wanted to provoke a discussion,” Yaroslavsky said of releasing the study.
Joel Bellman, spokesman for Yaroslavsky, added, “What we want and hope for is people keeping an open mind and willing to study it.”
The plan is not meant to act as a replacement solution for other major long-term traffic proposals, such as the Exposition Line or Purple Line subway extension, but rather as a way to help settle traffic problems in the short term, Yaroslavsky said.
“This is a road map to a remedy,” he said.
With the proposalís release, local officials have begun to review the findings and traffic and transit operators from the cities, as well as the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, are also expected to provide an analysis.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl noted that he was “intrigued” by the one-way proposal and said he would assure that community members in his 11th Council District get a chance to review it.
“I am happy that people are finally thinking out of the box and thinking creatively about solutions to the gridlock we endure each day,” said Rosendahl, who unveiled an $11-million traffic improvement plan for the Westside in December. “Especially on the Westside, the traffic is intolerable. I am willing to entertain any and all ideas that promise significant relief.”
The councilman plans to receive input from various local groups, including residents, businesses, commuters and neighborhood councils by holding public meetings with the Department of Transportation on the proposal.
Among the main concerns of some officials and community members with the one-way plan is the impact to neighborhoods and intersecting streets as drivers “cut through” between the two boulevards.
Other concerns are the impact on businesses along the corridors, increases in travel miles and confusion of visitors and tourists regarding what direction the boulevards head.
Yaroslavsky said the issue of cut-through traffic can be addressed on a “street by street basis” and while the one-way concept can take some time to get used to, people should be able to get adjusted.
The study, which is just an initial proposal, will next be brought before city and transportation officials, as well as local residents, for review, but Rifkin said he is pleased to have the idea being discussed.
“Iím excited to have the debate going,” Rifkin said.