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To Become 21st Century City, Los Angeles Plan Aims To Curb Car Culture

"The car capital of America is officially changing its tune."

Rush hour in Los Angeles, March 2015. (Photo: Eric Demarcq/flickr/cc)

Marking a major departure for a city known for its over-reliance on cars, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday evening approved a 20-year transportation plan that aims to encourage walking, biking, and public transit over automobiles.

"The car capital of America is officially changing its tune," wrote LA Weekly.

The 'Mobility Plan 2035,' described in the LA Times as "a sweeping policy shift," calls for hundreds of miles of new bicycle lanes, bus-only lanes, and other road redesigns throughout the city. It targets about 10 percent of the city's major streets for lane reductions.

ABC 7-Los Angeles reports that about 47 percent of trips taken in the city are less than 3 miles, and of those trips, 84 percent are taken by car. The city's Environmental Impact Report suggested the plan, which passed the council 12-2, would reduce the amount of car travel by 1.7 million miles a day.

According to the LA Times, the plan (pdf) "also seeks to cut the fatality rate from traffic collisions to zero within 20 years, in part by keeping cars within the speed limits."

Responses to the plan have been mixed. In advance of the vote, the MoveLA coalition said the plan was "excellent" because it "addresses the adverse health and environmental impacts of air pollution and climate change, and the question of how we can grow the city more sustainably."

"LA has been slow to join the worldwide movement to re-orient streets away from cars and back towards people and community life by prioritizing the safety of all road users and emphasizing the public right to use what are undeniably public spaces," MoveLA's Gloria Ohland wrote on Monday. 

The plan also "prioritizes investments in areas where car ownership rates are low or the number of bike and pedestrian collisions are high so as to serve the areas of greatest need," Ohland noted.

Editorializing in favor of the plan earlier this week, the Times wrote: "It's time for L.A. to shed its traditional automobile-centric approach and evolve into a modern, multimodal city."

At Tuesday's hearing, public testimony was limited to 20 minutes, and was reportedly heavily in favor of plan approval.

But the Los Feliz Ledger reports that one group of opponents has already announced that it will sue the city over the plan, claiming it will increase traffic congestion and hinder the movement of emergency vehicles.

On the other hand, pro-transit Streetsblog LA reminded readers: "Ultimately, it is just a plan."

Noting that a 1999 plan had similar language and goals but failed to materialize, Streetsblog continued, "Communities will need to organize and press to translate the Mobility Plan's multimodal vision into improved safety and broader mobility choices in L.A. neighborhoods."

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