Lend Your Voice to the Beverly Hills Complete Streets Plan

Several years ago Metro added a condition to the transportation grants the deep-pocketed agency makes to localities: money is contingent on a Metro-approved complete streets mobility plan in place at the local level. Our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan won’t cut it, so City of Beverly Hills city stepped away from a decade of talk about a plan update and instead chose to focus on a brand-new complete streets plan. That planning process is under way now. Mobility advocates please lend your voice!

We need you to participate in the Beverly Hills complete streets planning process by both taking the city’s online complete streets survey (tell our complete streets consultants about your mobility preferences!) and attending one of the city’s complete streets public events. The first workshop was held in mid-March (read my recap) and the next scheduled event is Earth Day on Sunday, April 15th at the Farmers Market. Check the city’s complete streets website for more upcoming events.

Some Backstory on the Complete Streets Plan

So Beverly Hills has embarked on a complete streets plan process. Why now? The city kept an outdated bike plan on the books for four decades and made no other multimodal concessions aside from a few bike lane segments. Then the city heard that regional transportation agency Metro requires localities to have an approved complete streets plan if a local agency wants to tap Metro grant money. The city will receive not one but two Purple Line metro stations, so the city saw the light: adopt a complete streets plan or do without Metro’s pot of grant-funding gold.

Metro may be best known here for sparking the heated debate about a tunnel under Beverly Hills High School, but there can be no debate that Metro is the good guy when it comes to multimodal mobility in Beverly Hills: the agency forced the city’s hand where we bike types failed.

Multimodal advocates have dogged City Hall for years about safe streets  (and specifically the lack of safe facilities for those who ride a bike) but we were out in the cold. At least until found strong support among three councilmembers: Lili Bosse, John Mirisch, and Bob Wunderlich (now in office just a year). Bosse, in fact, was committed to multimodal back in 2016 when she forged (bare) Council consensus to make it a Council ‘A’ priority. The following year she garnered City Council support for a complete streets plan (her first official action as Mayor). And notably those three councilmembers supported a bright green high-viz bicycle lane for Santa Monica Boulevard too!

In the end Council support was unanimous, and last year the city selected Iteris engineering as lead consultant on the complete streets plan. It was backed by Nelson Nygaard and Alta Planning as subcontractors. Theirs wasn’t the most imaginative proposal, but the team is experienced and Alta has some bike plan bona fides. If this plan fails it is because we-the-people didn’t step up to make it our priority. Indeed the plan and the implementation program will be less the measure of our consultants than a reflection of our city’s commitment to the principle of complete streets: the ‘complete’ street is one that is safe and accessible for every road user regardless of age, ability or travel mode.

Santa Monica Boulevard hazards

Storm drains like this one reflected the disrepair of Santa Monica boulevard as well as the city’s disregard for cyclist safety on that corridor.

Will the final plan be a leading-edge example of multimodal planning? Time will tell, but don’t sit this one out. We’ve come this far, over too long a time, against too much city-side opposition, to simply leave it up to staff and consultants to shape a draft plan for Council consideration this fall.


Interesting side story.

Caltrans, the state transportation agency, handed to City of Beverly Hills control over North Santa Monica Boulevard back in 2005. The boulevard was a shambles, so Caltrans forked over about $5M for repairs. Beverly Hills sat on that project for nearly ten years as bicycle riders endured clearly unsafe conditions. When it came time for a top-to-bottom reconstruction the city eschewed any outside money for the estimated $13 million job. Why? The city wanted no conditions attached to that money; the city didn’t want Caltrans or the Federal DOT requiring bicycle lanes or other complete streets design features.

Well when the city did finally reconstruct Santa Monica Boulevard (wrapping up this June) it will have a bicycle lane; and it will have high-visibility crosswalks. Because the city belatedly acknowledged that such features on a corridor like Santa Monica are required for bike and pedestrian safety.. They needed only glance at crash data to understand. Thing is the city was left holding the bag when the cost projections for Santa Monica reconstruction soared to $24 million and we could tap not a dime of outside money for it.

City Hall made no such mistake when it comes to Metro’s Measure E pot of grant-money gold. Transportation officials here may continue to view mobility exclusively through the windshield (they never did recommend bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard even though we got the lanes anyway) but they know a pot of grant money when they see one. With two Metro stations coming to the city we needed a complete streets plan post-haste.

Collision Injuries in Beverly Hills Sill Reach for Record Highs in 2017

Nearly 5,000 road users have been injured on Beverly Hills streets in the eleven years that our police has been disclosing monthly traffic data. That’s about ten crash injuries every week – enough for the state’s Office of Traffic Safety to rank our city among the most dangerous small California cities for those who walk, bike and drive. And it is especially dangerous for seniors. This dubious distinction reflects the both city’s lack of multimodal planning and the declining enforcement of traffic laws. Continue reading

Complete Streets workshop #1 Recap

Complete streets workshop #1 flyerThe first Beverly Hills complete streets process community workshop was held on Monday, March 12th, to kick off the drafting of the city’s complete streets plan. This is the first step in the creation of a complete streets plan. More workshops and city meetings will follow, but this event suggested that Beverly Hills is ready for complete streets. Here’s my recap.

Complete Streets workshop #1 overviewJohn Lower, Associate Vice President of Iteris, the consultant to the city that secured the complete streets project, opened with an overview of complete streets principles: improved street accessibility regardless of age or ability; infrastructure upgrades to improve safety and efficiency for all users; and the opportunity to employ new technologies to improve mobility safety and efficiency. Technology is playing a key role in this process because mobility options like bikeshare and Bird scooters are becoming popular and City Hall is warming to autonomous vehicles (perhaps for a citywide taxi system as championed by Councilmember John Mirisch).

Mr. Lower’s PowerPoint presentation was somewhat dry; it was also light on vision. Which is unfortunate because a complete streets planning process encourages people to imagine what urban mobility could look like: high-visibility and/or protected bicycle lanes, world-class crosswalks, road diets to calm traffic, and policies to encourage active modes of mobility over auto use. Complete streets principles are best illustrated with before and after imagery, but Mr. Lower’s presentation was heavy on schematics and tables that are difficult to read in a large room. It was a presentation shackled to today when what we want stakeholders to do is to image tomorrow.

Still, Mr. Lower only had to set the stage for the main event: the roundtable breakout groups. (For more information on complete streets see the consultants December PowerPoint.)

Complete Streets workshop #1 postersLydia Kenselaar, a planner with an Iteris subcontractor, Alta Planning, then took the mic to suggest participants identify values and goals that should guide the planning process. She then suggested strategies to inform the draft complete streets plan. But she was asking us to imagine tomorrow’s ways of moving about the city without visual cues. And if one doesn’t know about the variety of measures that contribute to a complete street, one can only recall places like Europe (and Santa Monica!) to inform some recommendations. My table did draw on examples elsewhere and no one referenced the content of Mr. Lower’s PowerPoint presentation.

Roundtables

Each roundtable included 6-8 participants and was facilitated by a consultant’s staffer. Around the tables hovered city staffers, Traffic and Parking commissioners and, notably, public safety representatives. Also attending were councilmembers Bob Wunderlich and John Mirisch (both multimodal mobility supporters). My table was fairly representative of the entire room of about forty stakeholders: aged about fifty, on average.

Complete Streets workshop #1 breakout tableThe breakout tables were charged with identifying guiding values and goals in about 45 minutes. The exercise would feel familiar to those who have perhaps participated in the drafting of local plans: the urge to participate; round table with a poster to mark-up; some spirited conversation and a group member ultimately chosen to present the table’s ideas to the room. Then other tables follow suit, followed by a wrap-up statement. Everyone goes home and feels good about the process.

My table showed some collective interest to move beyond auto-era problems and into a future where mobility is safe, efficient and (for lack of a better term) ‘modern.’ As one of my tablemates said, “We want people to feel good about how they pass through the city.” That seemed to sum up the spirit at the table.Complete Streets workshop #1 my table

Breakout Tables

I’m not sure if my table was representative, but over the next 45 minutes my tablemates Melody, Kathy, Tom, Giada, Susan and (Traffic commissioner Pam Hendry) talked only briefly about goals. Issued included:

  • Crosswalks are dangerous (“I need to wear a reflective vest to feel safe”);
  • Few areas feel safe to ride a bicycle so we can’t reduce our car use;
  • Motorized bicycles present a safety issue to pedestrians;
  • Inaccurate maps and Waze-like apps prompt drivers to make unlawful turns; and,
  • Hotel black cars and limos hog meters south of Wilshire and disabled residents can’t park.

Complete Streets workshop #1 tabletopWe then moved quickly on to fixes. Recommendations made at my table included:

  • Busy commercial streets need a bicycle lane and better to place it between the curb and parked cars;
  • Create pedestrian-only streets or areas safe and enjoyable to walk;
  • Schools should be connected by bike routes to encourage bike-to-school;
  • Relocate 720 Metro bus service from North to South Santa Monica Blvd;
  • “De-prioritize vehicular traffic” on Beverly Drive and and add a bicycle lane;
  • Protect bicycle paths: paint is not sufficient (“in Europe they are raised to a different level from the street”);
  • Designate priority bike routes for a citywide bicycle network (like Berkeley) perhaps Charleville, Gregory and Carmelita;
  • Create a ‘flyover’ to allow riders and pedestrians to rise above busy, problem intersections like Wilshire-Santa Monica.

When breakout tables convened for the summation the top recommendations by table were

Table 1: Improve the quality-of-life, implement measures with a positive environmental impact, and reduce auto traffic though transit use.
Table 2: Reduce pass-through traffic & neighborhood spillover, improve pedestrian safety, and address driver aggression.
Table 3: Improve safety, improve the quality-of-life, and install bike lanes & facilities to make mobility more efficient.
Table 4: Improve safety & reduce collisions, improve quality-of-life (restore a ‘village’ atmosphere), and make on-street mobility improvements.
Table 5: Improve safety, better the environment by reducing auto traffic (via ‘active mobility amenities’), invest in ‘smart’ technology lighting & signals.
Table 6: Improve safety via protected bicycle lanes, calm traffic, and create more pedestrian areas incl. South Beverly. (Note: I was not a very active participant at my table #6 and these recommendations were suggested solely by my tablemates.)

Other suggestions included: make the business triangle pedestrian-only (which recalls one City Council candidate’s call to close Rodeo Drive to vehicles); separate pedestrians from traffic at the busiest intersections using flyovers; make city data public (which I suggested along with table #4); and implement a ‘vision zero’ program to reduce traffic crashes by improving the design of streets. There was something for everyone unless you are an Auto Club booster!

Wrapping Up

City Transportation deputy director Aaron Kunz brought the proceedings to a close quickly by commenting on the “great turnout” and noting the timeline for the complete streets plan process. It should conclude with a draft plan by early fall and be in the hands of City Council for a final vote by October. Of course it’s a long way from this workshop to a final plan. In the meantime there will be more workshops, online survey responses, monthly Traffic and Parking Commission meetings for additional public comments (first Thursdays), and one or more City Council meetings.

Was it worth attending? This kind of pro-forma community input event (‘workshop’) suffers from familiar shortcomings: an informational presentation that is not so informative; too little time to really talk in depth about the issues; table facilitators who may not be very experienced; and a volume of public input can seem overwhelming unless a wrap-up facilitator can properly organize it into a coherent framework. Without an experienced facilitator the tables produce a laundry list of proposals that may or may not survive the event. But in the end we have no choice to attend – and to press our electeds and officials through other channels too so that our streets become safe and more accessible (i.e., ‘complete’).

My Take-Away

There were a few things I took away from this workshop that I didn’t expect that suggest Beverly Hills may have turned the corner on mobility.

Most astonishing was the sense that Beverly Hills has collectively turned the chapter on auto-era mobility. Nobody suggested the city should expand a road or otherwise seek to make driving more convenient. Nobody spoke up for drivers period. No bike advocate needed to lead the discussion to focus on measures that support active mobility because the room was already there.

Safety was the prevailing value. Of the six tables presenting, five cited safety as a top value or put safety at the center of the short-list of recommendations. That is truly remarkable considering that city officials never mention the increasing toll of crashes or suggest the need for a policy to address what residents have long complained about: feeling unsafe on city streets.

No business owner showed up to defend curbside parking or call for an expansion of curb parking. Yet that is what’s on City Council’s April 10th agenda: a plea from South Santa Monica businesses to expand curbside parking on the street once Santa Monica Boulevard construction is complete. No champion spoke up tonight for a proposal that would short-circuit the complete streets process by changing the function of that street in advance of a plan (which is supported by city staff).

NIMBYs stayed home. The not-in-my-backyard crowd has long exerted undue influence over city policymaking. That was evidenced in caricature fashion when northside residents turned out two years ago to try to tank SM Blvd bicycle lanes. Though recommended by the federal and state DOTs for improved safety for riders, and though championed by 100+ pro-lane speakers at City Council, those naysayers nearly carried the day. None showed up tonight.

Perhaps most significantly, there was no sense that complete streets is a zero-sum endeavor. New mobility measures need not come at the cost of any particular road user (for example motorists). Instead there seemed to be acknowledgement that mobility could be both safer and more efficient.

Complete Streets workshop #1 empty bike racksThe zero-sum argument (drivers vs. everyone else) has been trotted out again and again across the Southland to stymie efforts to improve street safety but tonight it carried no weight in this first complete streets community workshop.

The the next workshop I’m hoping that we’ll have more bike-minded attendees. Not too many showed up (notwithstanding the number of recommendations for pro-bike infrastructure). Witness the City Hall bike parking area. We need to see a few more bikes here next time!

Mark Your Calendar: Complete Streets Workshop #1

Better Bike invites you to attend the Beverly Hills complete streets visioning workshop tonight, Monday, March 12th at 6:30pm. This event kicks-off a planning process for which our alternative mobility community has long waited: the preparation of an actual complete streets plan 40 years after the city adopted our first, and only, Bicycle Master Plan.

Complete streets workshop #1 flyer
Finally the city is getting into gear! Tonight’s workshop is a high-level exercise where planning consultants Iteris and Alta will invite your ideas for safer streets in Beverly Hills. It is intended to inform the process with our values and goals looking ahead to a final complete streets plan. (Two subsequent workshops will drill down to the details, such as key nodes and priority projects.) “The workshop will include a variety of interactive stations, table top exercises and visual presentations,” says the city’s press release.

City of Beverly Hills lags behind many localities in the Southland (and indeed all of our Westside subregion peers) for having taken no significant step to make our streets safe and accessible regardless of mode, age or ability. Four decades ago (in 1977!) the city adopted the bicycle master plan. It was the height of the American bicycle renaissance and that plan recommended a citywide network of bike routes to connect parks and schools. But that plan simply sat on a shelf ever since, a red-headed stepchild among city plans.

We need to hear from you because the city still evidently does not consider street safety a guiding value: there was no such direction provided to bidding consultants, and, even today, when city staff talk about this process, they never frame it as a safety effort foremost.

This workshop is our opportunity to inform our values about street safety and mobility policy. I welcome your attendance at this workshop and two subsequent workshops. Can’t make it? Then at least respond to the city’s complete streets survey. Tell our consultants and policymakers that we need streets that are accessible to all road users.

I welcome you to keep in touch with Better Bike. Any concerns suggestions for this process you can bring to me and I will take them forward.

Later this spring look forward to the opening of Santa Monica Boulevard’s new high-visibility bicycle lanes. That was another hard-won battle that suggests the corner may have been turned when it comes to multimodal mobility in Beverly Hills.

Traffic Citations Reach Record Lows in Beverly Hills in 2016

In my last post I charted police department collision injury data to show the extent to which collision injuries continue to mount in Beverly Hills. From 2008 (when the department made data available) though last year, police report that 3,805 people have been injured on city streets in collisions. Most concerning, the data show that the most protected travelers, auto occupants, suffered record-high injuries – so many that it pushed the overall injury totals to record highs too. In this post I crunch police data for citations to show that enforcement of traffic laws has withered on the vine.

All Major Traffic Enforcement Trends Show a Steep Decline Since 2008

For your consideration here are the enforcement trends from 2008 through 2016. I plugged nine years of Beverly Hills Police Department data (download the reports) into a spreadsheet and generated some charts to visualize the trends. When 2017 data becomes available in February I will follow up with a year-end analysis of that data too.

The number of overall signed citations has plummeted since 2008. Last year officers issued half as many citations for speed, stop-sign, signal, pedestrian and cell-phone violations than they did in 2008. Indeed they issued the fewest tickets for those offenses in total during 2016 than at any time since the police began to report the data to the Traffic and Parking Commission. This chart makes it clear.

Chart: Signed citations by category 2008-2016All citation categories are clearly trending downward. Cell phone citations in particular show a marked decline since BHPD began ticketing in 2009 after the state imposed a ban the year prior.

Chart: Cell phone citations 2009-2016I presume that as grants for targeted cell phone enforcement diminished so did the department’s efforts. That’s often the way it works: grants fund enforcement campaigns but, once the money runs out, so does the enforcement.  The result: inconsistent enforcement priorities and, as we see, very few citations for cell phone use in recent years. (See note #1 below.)

From the peak year (2011) the number of cell phone citations issued annually decreased by about 85%. In recent years the number of citations decreased by about 20% on average every year even from relatively low levels. The takeaway: where officers had once written nearly 100 tickets each day, today they write only 12 or so on any given day. Yet diminished interest in enforcement coincides with what seems to be an increased prevalence of handheld phone use (my anecdotal observation finds).

Moreover, the drop in citations comes as US DOT has issued warnings about injuries and fatalities that result from distracted driving. The overall trend downward is set to continue into 2017: year-to-date data (though October) show that citations are down  another 15% from last year.

Red-Light Runners Can Violate the Law With Impunity

Citations for cell phone violations is among the most steep and consistent declines among all categories. Yet one one key traffic enforcement category rivals it: the collapse in citations for running red lights. Between 2008 and 2016 citations for running a red light dropped by a whopping 83%. Eighty-three percent!

Chart: Signal Violations 2008-2016So steep has been the decline that citations in the category dropped by half from 2011 to 2012 and then again by half the following year. To put that in perspective, officers in 2008 issued five red-light tickets every day but last year such citations averaged not even a single ticket per day despite the outrageous prevalence of drivers running red lights.

Arguably the reason why we have high-and-rising collision injuries overall is because we see lax enforcement of traffic laws. But divers who run red lights – especially when speed is excessive – present a clear-and-present danger to all road users. But they seem to be injuring other drivers more than ever as my chart of auto-occupant injuries shows.

Chart: Auto-occupant injuries 2008-2016It seems clear that these trends are connected: fewer signal violators nabbed probably means more injurious collisions at signaled intersections where speeds are greater. And that means more injuries among our best-protected road users. That should trouble both our police and our Traffic and Parking commissioners but they appear untroubled.

Patrol Officers Issue Fewer Citations

Both patrol officers and traffic division officers write tickets. As I understand it, the traffic division is charged with enforcement of the traffic laws while the patrol division is simply out on patrol looking for law-breakers. What I don’t understand is why patrol officers are finding fewer traffic law-breakers than ever before.

This chart shows the annual tally of citations issued by patrol officers (exclusive of traffic division citations) since 2008. The overall tally has fallen by 55% between 2008 and 2016.

Chart: Signed patrol and traffic citations 2008-2016Not only did officers on patrol last year issue fewer than half the tickets they did in 2008; the year-over-year declines can be quite steep too. Last year patrol officers wrote one-third fewer tickets than they did in 2015, for example, which amounts to just six tickets a day for any offense. So in a city of 40,000 people that swells to more than double that on any weekday our officers can find only six violations? How many of those were issued for signal violations? Probably zero.

The chart not only shows the absolute decline in patrol tickets; it also shows clearly the relative decline: that is, the proportion of patrol-issued citations out of all signed citations. Patrol citations is a shrinking proportion.

What is the impact of so few patrol citations? I expect that drivers can brazenly run red lights without the fear of getting pulled over. Even when a black-and-white police cruiser sits waiting at the same stoplight these drivers are rarely if ever pulled over. (Indeed several times I have watched as drivers blow through a red signal but the police cruiser right there in front of me at the scene gives no chase.) What’s more, not once in 15 years here have I seen a driver ever pulled over for running a red light. The slight chance that it might happen looks ever more slight today.

Traffic Division Numbers are  Up

Here is the good news: the traffic division has issued more citations in recent years than a few years ago, but it’s not translating into higher numbers across enforcement categories. It’s hard to draw definitive conclusions about the traffic division numbers, though. There are citations for violations outside of the categories broken out in the BHPD monthly report; indeed the monthly tally for traffic division citations adds up to many more than are broken out across the major traffic offenses like signal, pedestrian, speed, and right-of-way violations.

Despite the late increase in traffic division enforcement, I can’t recall targeted campaign to catch those who run red lights. Not to say it hasn’t happened, but I don’t recall a press release announcing one, and I’ve never seen such a campaign in action. Not even on South Beverly! The area is a designated pedestrian district yet crosswalks there feel very hazardous. (And they are! This year a pedestrian lost his or her life there.)

The question is why we don’t we more targeted enforcement campaigns. Or do they exist and we simply don’t know they’re happening? Occasionally we see them, as we did after a Rexford Drive resident complained to the Courier about right-of-way violations near Beverly Vista. Soon after, there were motor cops on the; corner looking for violators.

But what about red-light stings at intersections where the most serious injuries probably occur? We just don’t see the targeted enforcement for that violation.

Instead our police department outsources red-light enforcement to automated cameras. Easy! This year red light cameras are on track to issue a near-record number of citations at the relatively few intersections where they do operate. Last year our robocops issued eighty-two times as many signal violation tickets as did human officers. (Read more about red light cameras in note #2 below.)

What about that the later surge in traffic division citations? Years 2015 and 2016? I think there’s a story there. For years BHPD offered various excuses for lax traffic enforcement: officers were injured or out sick; the ranks were depleted by retirements; officers were on diplomatic duty; and tough hiring standards allowed few officer candidates to make the cut. All were dubious but maybe there is merit to them. Perhaps putting those challenges behind has allowed the department to get back to work and hopefully the numbers will continue to rise. But be that as it may, the overall trend is clear: in 2016 the traffic division’s officers issued just one-third as many tickets as they did in 2008. And year-to-date data suggest that 2017 will show another decline.

I welcome any insight as to why signed citations vary so much year-to-year when law-breaking does not take a breather.

Fewer Hit-and-Runs is the Only Real Bright Spot

I want to close my analysis of Beverly Hills Police Department data on a positive note: hit-and-run collisions are on a clear downward trend. Here the trend is going in the proper direction!

Chart: Hits-and-run 2008-2016Hopefully 2015 was an anomaly and we will see the decline continue, from last year’s  27% drop from the year prior to this year’s anticipated further drop of 15%. Where a hit-and-run once occurred every day on average in 2008, today we’re seeing three per week. Better!

But how can police drive down that number even more? That’s not so clear. For one thing, we simply see too many collisions in Beverly Hills. We don’t even know how many because injury data doesn’t capture non-injury collisions (of course). So the tally of total collisions is unknown as is the magnitude of the problem. Not surprisingly, if we don’t have the data then we can’t see what fraction of collisions found perpetrators running off afterward.

In light of the limited data and the nature of the crime, perhaps the best strategy is a campaign to emphasize our individual responsibility to other road users and to society as a whole. The hitch: many people who pass through Beverly Hills are not residents. I’d wager that those who do flee a collision most likely don’t live here. Anyway, the challenge is not only to reach them but to persuade them.

My Recommendations

The Traffic and Parking commission and the Beverly Hills Police Department must coordinate on a response. Traffic and Parking Commission is the only oversight body we have when it comes to traffic. It must be a part of the solution. And the department must step up in more than a symbolic way: we need officials to coordinate on a plan or program to reduce collisions, injuries and deaths on Beverly Hills streets.

The monthly traffic report should provide context and analysis. Interested commissioners want to see trends rather than struggle to find patterns in a matrix of monthly figures. Generating at-a-glance charts for key indicators is a no-brainer!

Put a trained transportation planner or staff analyst on the job. Let officers collect the data but somebody outside the department should work it. The commissioners will be able to more readily engage with the analyst if she is staff-side. Save the higher-level coordination for the monthly report or perhaps regular meetings between Traffic and Parking liaisons and police brass.

Ensure that any officer who delivers the monthly traffic report is able to answer questions. Can the department representative say something substantive about injury totals and trends? Where are the collision hotspots? Today we hear BHPD answer about department operations but there no context of insight provided to go with the monthly report’s data.

Identify data categories that would help our understanding but that are not currently included in the report. We can start with total collision figures and collision locations. These should be systematically reported. Unlike other departments, Beverly Hills publishes no crime or crash data for public consumption (aside from the occasional management report that never reaches residents). A public-facing department would be a positive change.

We all need to be comfortable talking about numbers. Law enforcement is data-drive; if the commission (and the public) are to keep an eye on it we need basic numeracy. Comfort with numbers is necessary to understand trends, distinguish patterns from anomalies, and, most important, frame pertinent questions for the department.

The city needs the department at the table. It’s one thing to crunch the data and talk anecdotally in commission about problems. We need law enforcement solutions. But we’ve heard too many pro-forma monthly reports that wastes everybody’s time. If the department can make a priority of coordinating with the commission on real traffic problems, then we would be getting somewhere.

Lastly, this commission should be cognizant of its capacity, and responsibility, to oversee general traffic conditions. To date that has largely been mission deferred. We have as well-equipped a commission as ever and a new Chair is coming in January. Let’s call it a new start!

In sum I’m cautiously optimistic that things will change. Our commissioners are asking more questions than before and the monthly traffic report format may evolve into something more useful. All to the good. If my charts and the elementary analysis behind them suggest the opportunities for action, then my effort to generate them will have been worth it.


Notes

Note #1. Cell phone citations appeared in 2009 the year after California banned the use of handheld cell phones. Over the first three years, the department issued nearly 3,000 tickets every year for the violation. That was more than for any other other violation. Soon, though, BHPD enforcement priorities evidently shifted. Ever since, the data show, there was a marked and persistent decline in law enforcement interest. The drop is representative of a continuing overall decline in traffic enforcement under the new Police Chief (at least as represented by citations) who took office in March of 2016.

Note #2. The decline in red-light citations (and the diminished enforcement priority it reflects) is only half of the story. The other is the city’s growing use of automated red-light cameras to catch scofflaws. After a brief hiatus in 2015, when Beverly Hills transitioned from a corrupt vendor to our current automated camera vendor, Xerox, today automated red-light camera citations are back on the upswing: year-to-date data for 2017 show the total may surpass twenty thousand (!) which is a 7-year high. If so many drivers choose to run a red light where they are guaranteed to get a ticket, how might they drive at intersections without any camera?