Westside Cities Council of Governments forwarded to Metro its member cities’ transportation priorities. Top among them was a bikeshare system for the greater Westside. (Three cities including Beverly Hills identified ‘bicycle infrastructure and facilities improvements’ as a priority.) We’ll see…
Interested to comment on the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project? If you’ve attended a community meeting or read the comments on a draft environmental document, you’ll know that off-topic, irrelevant and meandering opinions add unnecessary chaff to the wheat. Decision-makers have to sift through enough official information as it is. So present your feedback in a form that is useful. Here we provide some tips.
First Get Your Bearings
A bit of preparation will help shape your overall approach as well as sharpen your substantive points. To provide the most useful feedback we recommend that you:
- Read the project documents to understand project scope. The Psomas proposal was submitted in response to the city’s request-for-proposals. These documents outline the scope of the project. Preliminary conceptual design alternatives are referenced in the city’s staff report to Council too.
- Understand the larger policy context. The project might appear to be a straightforward repave job, but much more is at stake for transportation advocates. Read the Beverly Hills General Plan Circulation Element (2010) and the Sustainable City Plan (2009) to gain some insight into the city’s values and policy goals that should shape the boulevard reconstruction project.
- Know where we are in the process. Right now the blue-ribbon committee is deliberating on conceptual design options in a public process. We have recapped all of the key meetings, including where City Council provided direction to the consultant, Psomas; the city’s tour of the project site; and of course the first blue-ribbon committee meeting. (See all recaps.)
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the project particulars, submit your comments on the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction design options or mitigation concerns to the Blue-Ribbon Committee members. And of course the City Council will welcome your more general concerns about the project too.
Provide Focused Input
In general, decision-makers appreciate focused comments. Do the work for your reader: keep comments on-topic and well-organized. (Bullet points help!) Succinct thoughts and memorable observations are more likely to be brought into the discussion than points buried in a treatise.
- Make your comments relevant. Speak only to aspects of the project that are in the decision-makers’ wheelhouse. There’s no need to advise on issues beyond the scope of the project. “More frequent bus service” will not meaningfully help them because they don’t make transit service decisions.
- Highlight your experience or expertise. Are you speaking from a professional perspective? Let the decision-makers know because they value expertise. But you need not be a transportation planner or engineer to offer valuable insight. Talk about your experience on this corridor and enumerate specific measures that could make it better.
- Use visual aids or diagrams to make your point. The committee is asked to make design recommendations; this is not an environmental review process. So feel free to depart from textual comments with drawings or representative illustrations.
- Direct your comments to a specific committee member (if you like). We’re appointed to bring a variety of perspectives to our committee recommendations. If you feel a rapport with a committee member or want to take issue with a point made, indicate the recipient in your correspondence.
- Use whichever channel you like. Send an email directly to the committee or use the comments webform on the project website. Or send a snail mail letter or packet; it will make it to the committee.
- Plan ahead. Send your comments early!
- Contact city staff by email or by phone (310-285-1128) with specific questions about the project.
We on the blue-ribbon committee look forward to hearing from you!
Finally a ‘bicycle’ link has been created under the ‘living’ menu on the Beverly Hills website. But does it link to a page encouraging cycling? Or a ride safe tips page? Nope. The new menu item links to an outdated (July) construction notice – another transportation division #FAIL. Great job!
When we last reviewed our city’s mobile app for iOS back in March of 2012, we found Mobile Beverly Hills to be hardly worth our attention. The few entries we found were mostly focused on public art (oddly) instead of featuring the sights that tourists and residents would want to see. In fact, the app offered hardly anything for residents at all. Moreover, the clumsy interface suggested a beta release. With new features just announced we’re anxious to see if this app lives up to the hype. Will we be able to contact city hall with problem reports (a standard function for municipal apps)?
We were so unimpressed with Mobile Beverly Hills v1.0 that we cited it as a case study of typically-poor follow-through by city hall. And all that work was contracted out, so there was little excuse then for poor performance. We may not be able to develop an app in-house, but we can manage the developers, right?
Now comes word from the city’s Smart City/Technology Committee* that improvements are on the way! With new features scheduled to roll out over the next year beginning with (brace yourselves!) version 4.0, we’ll be waiting to see how it improves. Mobile Beverly Hills all growed up!
Wow – we’re at version 4.0 already (where did the time go?) without having included some key functionality. In this announcement, for example, we learn that the updated app will afford the user the ability to “search [city] website content directly from the app.” Huh? We’re just getting around to providing access to the city’s website in the app? It’s hard to imagine a municipal app that doesn’t already provide that function, but nevertheless we’ll welcome it. How will it work? Via a Mobile Beverly Hills web browser? Or will the app kick the user over to Safari? We’ll let you know when the version 4.0 arrives sometime in “late 2013.”
We’re in favor of any improvements that make it easier to keep tabs on city hall. Heck, we’re regulars down there. Better Bike is represented on the city’s Sunshine Task Force and we’re often attending Council and committee meetings. But until now we’ve had to check on upcoming meetings on the website. How clumsy! Looks like this new app will come just in time for our participation on the city’s blue-ribbon Santa Monica Boulevard committee meetings! How great will it be to simply tap to read the current agenda?
But wait: agenda access comes in a future release (version 4.5) scheduled for delivery in “early 2014.” A key app feature for version 4.5 is a convenient display of the city’s centennial activities. But the app is to debut well into our centennial year. Can’t we put the rush on this kind of innovation?
For those us interested in sunshine (as in open government) version 5.0 promises even better upgrades. Namely, contacting staff directly and reporting problems (“such as potholes and graffiti,” the announcement says) and even attaching pictures to illustrate. That feature was long ago incorporated into every muni mobile app, but here we’re rolling it out in version 5.0. Better late than never!
The funny thing is the canned language of the announcement. Were in Beverly Hills would we find a pothole or graffiti? Even funnier is the hazy delivery schedule for these project milestones: “late 2013,” “early 2014,” and “mid 2014.” Funny, funny, funny. It will be really surprising if the latter feature ever makes it into Mobile Beverly Hills because everything about the way the city is managed suggests it doesn’t want the input. (That may yet change.)
Yet we value transparency and look forward to tomorrow’s mobile miracles in city-stakeholder communications. For example, let’s hope Mobile Beverly Hills prompts a timely callback from a staffer instead of, say, the one that comes in at 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday in time for the ‘flex-time’ Friday out-of-office voicemail. Another stakeholder contact gone awry!
Maybe the future app will obviate the frustrating email that arrives just after the city hall sender has switched on his vacation auto-response. Aargh, don’t you just hate trying to reply immediately and your messages goes into a stale queue to be read in two weeks? Mobile Beverly Hills to the rescue?
Seriously, though, we have high hopes for a better mobile app. And we’ll look forward to reviewing it. But we certainly won’t hang much hope on the timeline precisely because our city always over-promises and under-delivers. (And late at that.) Not much has changed since our first look at the city’s website back in September of 2012, for instance. And today’s Mobile Beverly Hills iTunes preview page redirects browsers to a search error page here at beverlyhills.org. #Fail. C’mon guys!
In the meantime, we’ll just keep popping open the city’s webpage that we conveniently bookmarked in Safari. And when city hall finally makes that website work as well as it should, we’ll be back with a follow-up review of it, too.
*An informal get-together of middle-aged guys like us who like to tinker.
New York City today is witnessing a long-awaited bicycle renaissance! Spurred on by innovations in traffic management like segregated bicycle lanes and new policies to promote cycling under Mayor Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Kahn, everyone wants to bike. Don’t own one? Grab a bike at one of the many new Citi-branded new bike share kiosks. From hipster enclaves to the far reaches of the boroughs, it seems the bicycle is the new way to get around New York.
But the newfound popularity comes with a price. You can forget free parking for bicycles. Today cyclist view for that that most precious of Big Apple commodities: an off-street place to park. Here in Manhattan-proximate Long Island City you’ll pay $6 to lash a bicycle to a post behind a fence – fully 80% of the cost to park a car for the day in this joint!
We remember Joyce Braun, longtime Beverly Hills resident and multiple-termer on the Traffic and Parking Commission. Joyce suggested the T&P Commission begin to update the city’s 1977 Bicycle Master Plan, and a committee was indeed formed for the purpose. While it’s made no progress, we do appreciate her support. We wish her family well in their loss.
We saw how good a job New York’s bike share system does at getting Citi’s brand noticed: every bike AND kiosk is blazoned with the bank’s logo. As we look ahead to a sponsored bike share system here, consider the sobering commentary ‘Color me Blue.’
Good news from US DOT: the highway administration urges local DOTs to use the NACTO Bikeway Design Guide in lieu of the industry-standard AASHTO ‘green book.’ At last year’s Pro-Walk Pro-Bike conference in Long Beach, NACTO & AASHTO proponents duked it out, but savvy riders know which benefits us: NACTO’s progressive approach to road engineering. For AASHTO it’s business as usual. One guess which Beverly Hills uses….
We pay a high price for car parking, and one price is aesthetic: we encourage property developers to develop at higher densities than plans allow…if they build extra parking. From the Planning Commission’s Thursday agenda: “Presentation by a property owner of a proposal to provide public parking at the property in exchange for consideration of an increase in density beyond the density currently allowed.”
Yesterday we profiled the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction public outreach options that the Beverly Hills City Council will consider. We said that the choice of public outreach oversight body would have implications for the choice of design this fall, and used the city’s framing – to widen or not to widen the boulevard – to suggest the stakes for Westside cyclists. Here we want to offer our take on the four options from which the Council will select this Tuesday. If you haven’t read the post describing the wonky question on Tuesday’s Beverly Hills City Council agenda, take a moment to review. Before the Council on Tuesday is this question: What kind of panel should oversee the conceptual design selection … Continue reading
Have you busted a rim or been struck by a vehicle at I-405 project crossings? Metro’s little-known claims program might make you whole. Provide Kasey Shuda (310-846-3563) with contact info, day/time, location, and description of the event. There’s no form or website: we only know of the program because Metro’s inspector general found a backlog in I-405 claims processing!
Tuesday 9/10 at 2:30 pm the Beverly Hills City Council will hear a consultant’s proposal for an outreach program for the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project. Council will also provide preliminary feedback on a range of conceptual options (i.e., bike lanes or not?) so it will be good to represent our interests. Here is the staff report. Check back for more info and save the date!