Eagle Rock divided on Colorado Boulevard bus route design

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The usual car traffic on Colorado Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 10, 2021. Lizzie Friedrich/The Occidental

The newly approved 18-mile Metro Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line connecting North Hollywood to Pasadena has sparked debate about the best route design for the Eagle Rock portion of this line. Currently, the two proposals considered by Metro are called Refined F1 and F1. Metro staff expects the BRT to open in 2024, and there will be update meetings Sept. 23 about the Eagle Rock design options.

Refined F1 was inspired by the Beautiful Boulevard proposal where red bus-only lanes would replace existing car lanes and reduce much of Colorado Boulevard to one car-accessible lane each way.

The alternative proposal, F1, would maintain all the car lanes. However, F1 would not preserve the medians, and it would have unprotected bike lanes. It would also eliminate half of the on-street parking.

An intersection on Colorado Boulevard, just blocks away from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 10, 2021. Lizzie Friedrich/The Occidental

In a May letter, LA City Councilmember Kevin de León cited his desire for a design option that maintains all the car lanes, medians and safe bike lanes. In that same letter, he said he felt neither bus design proposal addressed the concerns brought up by the Eagle Rock community.

Occidental College, a prominent real estate owner in Eagle Rock, gave its official support to the Beautiful Boulevard Coalition. According to Occidental’s director of communications Jim Tranquada, the college communicated support to the coalition via email April 28. Tranquada said the endorsement came after he conferred with President Elam and Occidental’s senior staff.

“Beautiful Boulevard is a creative, thoughtful proposal that addresses an issue that affects Oxy students, faculty and staff,” Tranquada said via email. “[It] is consistent with the college’s sustainability program, including its continuing effort to offer alternatives to private cars. Oxy encourages its students to use rapid transit.”

The Beautiful Boulevard Coalition’s website also lists the following student organizations as supporters: Bike Share, Food Energy and Sustainability Team (FEAST), Occidental College Democrats, Diversity & Equity Board (DEB), Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund (RESF) and Honor Board.

However, some Eagle Rock residents have concerns about the lane reduction proposal.

Bob de Velasco, owner of Commercial Printing on Colorado Boulevard, said he is worried that construction efforts could take a few years and would possibly put some stores out of business.

De Velasco said he is concerned the Beautiful Boulevard proposal would turn Colorado Boulevard into a traffic center. If lane reduction happens on Colorado, drivers will likely try to drive down Yosemite Street to avoid Colorado, de Velasco said, and traffic on Yosemite could be dangerous to Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School (ERHS) which is located nearby.

Nadine Levyfield, who grew up in Eagle Rock, said she is not a fan of either proposal and she has attended protests at Eagle Rock City Hall against the design options. She said Metro has rushed this process and has not properly consulted with the people who live or work in Eagle Rock.

“I was very angry to learn that during the pandemic, there were [Metro] meetings happening on Zoom [about the proposals] that were not widely advertised to the community,” Levyfield said. “April of this year, we heard Metro has had all these conversations, and they’re ready to get a proposal through that eliminates a lane of traffic each way on Colorado.”

Urban & Environmental Policy (UEP) major Peter Merry (senior) said he is a proponent of Metro’s Refined F1 plan.

“As a cyclist, I feel extremely unsafe biking along Colorado in its current condition,” Merry said. “I would love to visit more businesses on that street with my bike, and separating the bike lane from the car lane, as the Refined F1 proposal does, would allow me to do that safely.”

A metro bus on Colorado Boulevard, just blocks away from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 10, 2021. Lizzie Friedrich/The Occidental

UEP professor Seva Rodnyansky, who researches transportation, said the Refined F1 proposal is the better option for this project.

“It [the BRT] is the biggest transportation transformation to our main street Colorado in a generation. It’s as if you had no sidewalks, and then all of a sudden you have sidewalks,” Rodnyansky said. “It’s big visually, and it also has a potential usage impact. Metro will pour a decent amount of financial resources into Eagle Rock and the surrounding areas.”

The visual impact of a dedicated bus lane that is a different color, with the Refined F1 proposal, could motivate more people to use Metro, according to Rodnyansky.

“With a faster, more regular, more visible service, people will actually think to use it,” Rodnyansky said.

A longtime resident, Gen Collopy, has lived in Eagle Rock since the 1970s, and she said she does not think a dedicated bus lane would increase ridership meaningfully.

“I would want to preserve all of the lanes, but we have to keep our medians and protect the trees,” Callopy said. “Besides, they have those buses that go up and down Colorado, and they’re mostly empty.”

Rodnyansky said people in Eagle Rock are civic-minded, so participation in local affairs is important to a lot of people.

“There’s a plethora of transportation solutions,” Rodnyansky said.