Counting cars, counting cars, counting cars…

West Hollywood has been from its beginnings a thoroughfare - a place people went through to get elsewhere.
June 19, 2014

Op-ed by Carleton Cronin, West Hollywood, California

Everybody knows that our West Hollywood streets, all of them, are absolutely chock-full of cars and trucks, but how could I have guessed that an average of 368 vehicles headed west would pass through my short block of Dorrington each weekday?

Carleton Cronin writes about the living in the wilds of WeHo's urban jungle.

Carleton Cronin writes about the living in the wilds of WeHo’s urban jungle.

Eastbound traffic averaged only 306. But, on Ashcroft, between Robertson and Doheny, 627 vehicles would head west in the AM, and between Robertson and San Vicente 679 would pass through eastbound on an average weekday evening!

A veritable highway! Who really knew the volume of traffic was so heavy? Too bad the city can’t charge a toll.

These numbers and other statistics were presented at a meeting between several city departments and the West Hollywood West Residents Association. Attendees were given the opportunity to review the numbers with city staff and the consulting firm, Fehr-Peers, which came loaded with many acceptable “traffic-calming” mechanisms.

Considering the initial dismay exhibited by those attending at the enormity of the project, the consultants divided the group of forty or so into four tables which would host residents from various sections of WHW.

The intent was to mark on a large map at each table covering two Study Areas, the points of particular interest or locations of concern and to synthesize the comments on a board to share later with other tables.

West Hollywood has been from its beginnings a thoroughfare - a place people went through to get elsewhere.

West Hollywood has been from its beginnings a thoroughfare – a place people went through to get elsewhere.

“The best laid plans,” goes the old saw.

The figures above were for Study Area 1, that west of San Vicente. Average speeds ion that area seem to be about 25 miles per hour – although all could cite instances when that number was exceeded. But, the number which surprised many was the westbound and eastbound vehicle counts on Rosewood in Study Area II, which were 1898 and 2327 respectively.

That’s an astounding a total of 4225 average vehicle trips each weekday on but one street, which is used primarily as a “cut-through” to La Cienega in order to avoid traffic lights and congestion on Melrose and other streets.

It would seem that all of those cars were commuters heading either to work in the morning and home in the evening and WEHO is a pinch point in the overall traffic flow on the West Side. But, action is beginning to address the situation. Whether it can truly be fixed is yet to be seen.

These numbers came from a recent survey of traffic volume and speeds commissioned by the city for the West Hollywood West area bounded by Melrose on the north, Beverly on the south, Doheny on the west and La Cienega on the east.

As the city develops, the number of people coming into town for work, leaving town  for home and passing through to parts unknown grow.

As the city develops, the number of people coming into town for work, leaving town for home and passing through to parts unknown grow.

Our little patch of paradise is an exceedingly popular place in which to drive through.

Everybody had a pet complaint and it took some time, at least at my table, to find a singular voice for all our concerns. Somehow we got through it and were able to present our notes. The consultants had prepared a folder containing many of the “traffic-calming” methods which are commonly used.

Considering our narrow streets with relatively short blocks, some of the ideas were passionately quixotic. Yet, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  One easily acceptable item was to paint the speed limit (25 MPH) on the streets. Knowing that there was a budget, some felt this was a good start since the painting would cost $75 each, the least expensive item.

Other popular calming methods included no left or no right turn signs at particular hot spots; making certain streets one way during rush hours was another. The entire catalogue of calming measures was invoked throughout the discussion.

The city must go about traffic calming in a deliberate manner.

The city must go about traffic calming in a deliberate manner.

Disappointment was voiced when we learned that any of these measures would have to be “petitioned”, that is a majority of residents on any street to be affected would have to agree with the measure and the Planning Commission and the Council would each have to take up the individual petitions.

This is nothing new in government administration. Rome, as you know, was not built in a day.

A couple of items which received no attention were pedestrians and bicycles. In my view this reflects our peculiar adulation of cars and the attendant needs for more control of the streets.

Traffic control, pedestrian crossings, bicycle lanes (or not) and the general requirement for safer streets is all part of the picture. The city’s current attention to redesigning designated streets, looking at street lighting, and considering zoning changes reflects the popular concerns.

Moreover, this is a start, we hope, as the song goes – “of something big” – as we consider how to get traffic through our city in the most practical and efficient manner.