A Campaign Ad That Transit Buffs Can Appreciate

Bobby Shriver PE flyer versoAmid the onslaught of flyers that seem to keep the Postal Service afloat every campaign season, the last theme we expected to see land in our mailbox was one harking back a century to legendary interurban rail travel. Mass transit, sure – it’s every progressive’s pet cause today. But to summon the heyday of the Pacific Electric, the gargantuan Southern California system felled by disinvestment and the convenience of the automobile?

Maybe it had to come from a Santa Monica candidate for the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor. That city (unlike Beverly Hills) has taken the lead both in transit-friendly planning and in creating the infrastructure and programs to make cycling attractive, practical and safe as a mode choice.

Though Metro’s Expo Line is not expected to reach the beach by 2015, well in advance of that historic re-linkage of the beach city to Downtown Los Angeles the city embarked on a general plan update. And the updated plan envisions “no net new evening peak period vehicle trips” (see the executive summary). The new Land Use and Circulation Element in effect calls for policies that it is anticipated will redistribute travel from automobile trips to those on other modes.

Leveraging public investment in transit and infrastructure is the key, Shriver’s flyer suggests. By concentrating new development near transit hubs, as well as providing incentives to walk, ride and/or use transit, we can find our way toward a post-auto transportation future.

Of course the larger region enjoyed that kind of transit access a century ago, and candidate Shriver’s campaign flyer summons that history with a map of the extensive Pacific Electric lines inter-city travelers once took for granted:

Bobby Shriver PE flyer frontSlowly but surely, Metro, with the support of the voters, is retracing some of the original PE rights-of-way (like Expo Line, which sticks closely to the old Santa Monica Air Line) in an effort to again offer travelers transportation alternatives. Shriver juxtaposes the legacy of interurban rail travel with today’s present program to “rebuild our infrastructure!” by foregrounding the role of public investment in the recreation of a great transit system. As a County Supervisor, too, he’d be in a position to approve further investment to make county-wide rail access a reality.

Now, this is no endorsement. Let’s wait to see if his opponent Sheila Kuehl steps up to herald that bygone era of convenient, affordable rail access, perhaps with her own tribute to the Pacific Electric. Is there a more suitable tip-of-the-hat to our region’s once-greatness that reminding us that we once had a jewel of a public transit system?Pacific Electric Railway in Southern California map 1912

CicLAvia comes to Venice This Sunday!

Ciclavia mapThe now-famous CicLAvia cycling street party is back this year with pair of events that expand its reach westward along two of the city’s greatest corridors: Venice and Wilshire boulevards. Starting with this Sunday, when cyclists and streetscape enthusiasts alike will enjoy free run of Venice between Downtown and the beach. From 10am to 3pm.our most pervasive public space will be returned to two-wheeled travelers and pedestrians and allow us to explore the layered histories in the physical environment that make Los Angeles so unique. We’ll be there and hope to see you there too! Next up in June: Wilshire! Continue reading

CicLAvia Reaches Out to the City Present, Past and Future

Ciclavia route map for 2012

We previously posted about changes to this Fall’s CicLAvia route, including a new extension into Chinatown and a long spur into South Los Angeles and Exposition Park. Gone is the Eastside’s touchstone, Hollenbeck park, and jettisoned too is ‘Hel-Mel.’ But the new western hub at MacArthur Park does opens it more to Westside & Mid City riders. What do these changes mean for our ride in October, and what can they tell us about the city past, present, and future? Continue reading

As Beverly Hills Celebrates 100 Years, Lend Your Voice

Beverly Hills is now gearing up for an 18-month long (!) centennial celebration of “style, class and glamour” which will culminate on January 28th of 2014 – exactly 100 years to the day of the city’s founding. With retired Playboy executive Richard Rosenzweig chairing a Blue ribbon committee to gin up ideas, could we expect a ‘What Happens in Las Vegas’ style fete? Or a more sober affair characteristic of the self-congratulatory, irony-free backslapping that is our city’s stock-in-trade? Continue reading

Proposed Business Retention Agreement Includes PE Right of Way Condition


Better Bike scrutinizes most Beverly Hills agendas, and a condition in a 15-year ‘business retention” agreement with a big Hollywood talent Agency (UTA) caught our notice: “…rezoning [former Pacific Electric right-of-way] shall be consistent with…provisions of the General Plan.” That ties the city’s hands should we want to zone it for, say, active transportation uses. It doesn’t belong in this agreement.

Beverly Hills 100th Anniversary: A Town Built on Rail

Beverly Hills 100th anniversary city sealBeverly Hills was incorporated as a municipality on January 28, 1914, which means that our 100th anniversary is coming up. And that means a party! City leaders have already appointed a ‘blue ribbon’ panel (yes, we’re that old school) to suggest festivities that will stretch out over more than a year. And the city has lowered the drawbridge to receive public input too. Let’s take a moment to suggest what we cyclists would like to celebrate for the city’s next 100 years: our history of mobility! Continue reading

New Details Released on the Gateway Overlay Zone

Riding the right-of-way at the Western Gateway

Riding the vacated Pacific Electric right-of-way at the city's Western Gateway.

When we heard that Planning had convened a sub-committee meeting for the Gateway project last week, we were stumped: we’ve followed the process for the past year, and several times indicated our interest in being kept informed about Gateway-related meetings. But we weren’t notified, and indeed in the past we haven’t always been. And we’ve complained. What was this sub-committee meeting about anyway? Today we were able to connect with staff planner Michele McGrath who filled us in the details. In brief, no applicants were present and the staff and Planning Commissioners took the opportunity to nail down some proposed development objectives. Continue reading

Will We Lose Historic T-Zoned Property to Offices?

[12/19/2011 Update: Beverly Hills Planning Commission took no action on the overlay zone described here. It was continued to a meeting in late January for further discussion.]

Pacific Electric at Beverly Hills Station

Pacific Electric at Beverly Hills Station

Beverly Hills was not always the car capital we see today. At one time our city was the junction of two busy Pacific Electric rail lines, one a spine of the PE’s Western Division along Santa Monica Boulevard; the other the shortest route Downtown via today’s Burton Way. With the rails long gone, it’s the history that is next to go if Beverly Hills rezones the right-of-way. Continue reading

Better Bike Pacific Electric Ride

Last weekend’s ride along the abandoned Pacific Electric right-of-way through Beverly Hills was an exploratory romp along the rails (so to speak) to put into historical perspective  the role of railroads in the development of Beverly Hills. The transportation patterns we follow today do originate with the rails, which first came to this area in the 1890s. By 1900 we had a station here, and in 1932 we got a second, larger depot. But by WWII it was over for passenger rail in Beverly Hills. Nevertheless,these early rails did establish a pattern for transportation that continues to this day, and will likely determine tomorrow’s transportation patterns will too. We took a tour to see how it looks today.

LA MTA Backbone Route circa 1961

Doing a bit of web walking to prepare for our upcoming Sunday ride along the old Pacific Electric alignment here in Beverly Hills, I came across an intriguing proposal for a subway-to-the-sea circa 1961 – the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Backbone Route. The hard-working folks over at Metro’s superb Primary Resources blog give the whole backstory to this intriguing conceptual midwife to today’s Purple line (aka subway-not-quite-to-the-sea). The best part: it courses right though Beverly Hills along the same alignment as today’s subway proposal (albeit hewing to Santa Monica Boulevard through Century City). See the map. Back in the day, two light rail lines converged at Beverly Hills, each connecting Downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific communities of Santa … Continue reading