November 01, 2013

Hard Work and Great Achievements

UCLA Disconnected? Could we improve the connections between UCLA and its neighbors? Are there alternatives to those fabulous traffic jams around campus?

Traffic is difficult. Everybody hates it, yet most of us contribute to it. Traffic consumes resources, lives, time. The transportation planners at UCLA know all about it. They are working hard to limit the impact of all the traffic that comes with being a world class university. They really want us to be "green commuters". They are proud of excellent Vehicle Occupancy Rates, have developed impressive Rideshare programs, support public transport and alternative modes. But walking the streets around UCLA, it seems more could be done to create a healthier and happier environment.

Around UCLA, the hillside setting creates a real challenge. Major roads are veritable barriers, as hard as they are to cross. Large buses and delivery trucks leave little space on the street for anyone outside a car, while moving past at hair-raising speeds. Everybody loves the 405 freeway, but for those coming from Santa Monica it is a mighty wall with only a few openings which create long detours. When will we be able again to take that refreshing walk among trees and lawns from Brentwood and Westwood? The fast-moving and heavy volume of traffic on Wilshire or Sunset "expressways" seems to exclude alternative modes. That's why many people feel they have no option but to drive. Even those dangerous cracks from earthquakes past, which riddle the cement roadway and sidewalks around campus, offer justification for those who decide to use the car.

But this is a university. People are intelligent, optimistic and ready to take responsibility for their environment. Bruins want to feel at home and spend time and money around campus. Give them safe and convenient ways to get to school and work without driving, and they will walk, stroll, skateboard and cycle, just as they do at other universities around the country. Address the high rate of collisions involving vulnerable road users, give us more trees and sidewalk cafes, and many drivers will thank you for it by leaving the car in the garage. Who wants to pay dearly for driving and parking only to reap congestion, stress and environmental guilt?

Connecting UCLA tries to advance the local conversation about how traffic affects life on the streets around UCLA. The goal of the site it to collect voices from the community. It wants to build on the opportunities which come to UCLA's doorstep with the arrival of light rail to the Southern end of Westwood in 2015. Connecting UCLA hopes to demonstrate that in our community there is a large pent up demand for alternatives to car use. Most of all, it wants to hear from you.

All around the world people have started to value community and neighborhood more than mobility and speed in transport. They cherish local connection and resent the segregating effects of traffic. Health experts acknowledge that the car-centric lifestyle of Southern California negatively affects those who drive and those who live with traffic. Residents want to walk their dogs, jog, meet neighbors, have a cup of coffee in the sidewalk cafe. When people feel they need to take the car to cross the road, as many do on Westwood Blvd, then you know things have gone in the wrong direction. There is no doubt that we need streets that are safer for everyone around UCLA.

Connecting UCLA tries to assemble and project those voices in our community which want to encourage healthy and active modes, which want vibrant streets where a community can be at home, where residents can safely discover their own neighborhood, where they can shop locally, and where a mother may again allow her daughter to cycle to school. Where the shade afforded by trees is valued and cultivated, and where drivers want to stop and stay, rather than race through.

If you want to join this conversation, please add your voice and story below.

4 comments:

  1. With the coming of the EXPO Line in the not too distant future, it is imperative that the local transit providers come together to determine the "best" ways to move large numbers of riders from EXPO to the major destinations such as UCLA campus, Westwood Village, the VA and Century City with its many jobs. If we can make that last connection a convenient one for riders, we stand a good chance at getting folks out of their cars. The Westwood Blvd. EXPO station, situated in the midst of a residential neighborhood, can't absorb all riders whose destinations are Century City, Westwood and UCLA. A plan is needed to determine the best departure point (Sepulveda station?) for UCLA-bound riders and then a shuttle or coordination with the bus providers should take place so that connections can be quickly and easily made. Getting cars off the road that are now destined for Century City and UCLA area will hopefully reduce area congestion.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Anonymous. I share your concern that transit options around EXPO need to be finalized. Would it not be possible that improving non-motorized (active) connections to UCLA could take cars off the road? I believe most people will agree. Your site specific concerns (location of station) lose sight of the larger benefits which are coming to Westwood, especially if non-motorized (active) connections to UCLA could be improved. Worsening levels of congestion in all parts of the city demand a radical re-thinking of the status quo: The idea of default car use for all. Drivers are being overtaken by cyclists all the time, in some cases by pedestrians due to gridlocked streets. As a community we need to explore more options for moving people (no only in cars), especially if our roads can become more livable places in the process. Luckily, we do not need the Portland rains to get more people cycling here!

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  2. I think its important to remember that commuters traveling to/from UCLA have a tremendous effect on the residential neighborhoods in and around the campus. Consider Veteran Ave, which runs north/south parallel to Westwood Blvd. From Wilshire down to Pico, Veteran is essentially a residential street. Yet on any given morning/afternoon, it is bumper to bumper with cars, a good percentage of which are likely heading to, or coming from UCLA. I can only guess this residential street has been turned into a virtual highway due to the high traffic volume and long delays on Westwood Blvd. during these same commute times. Presumably, the high traffic on Westwood Blvd. is also comprised of a high percentage of UCLA commuters. It doesn't seem fair to the residents on Veteran or the surrounding streets (I being one of them) to have to endure the delays getting into/out of their own property, the noise, pollution and other negative effects of automobile congestion to address the commuting needs of the campus.

    But how can this be alleviated? Can all those people in cars realistically transition to walking/strolling, skateboarding and cycling? If you change the traffic flow on Westwood Blvd. to encourage non-auto traffic, is it reasonable to conclude you remove a significant number of cars, or do you just push them into the residential streets running parrallel? What are the start/end points for UCLA commuters? What can UCLA do to affect the commuting habits of its own students/staff while also taking into consideration the secondary effects those actions have on the community around them comprised of residents many/most who are *not* UCLA students/staff?

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  3. On behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association, California Southland Chapter we can say "Regular exercise is one way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and a host of other conditions." AlzSoCal

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Information about your stake in the neighborhood of UCLA or your professional role is very welcome.