Crosswalks and Bus Stops

Last week, Streetsblog LA did a very interesting analysis on the spacing of crosswalks on major thoroughfares in Los Angeles and San Francisco, finding that the crosswalks on Vermont, Sunset and Van Nuys Boulevards are much farther spaced out than Van Ness and Geary.

There are gaps of up to a quarter mile between crosswalks on major boulevards in LA.  This is a problem for pedestrian safety,  neighborhood connectivity, etc. It’s hard to walk when you have to go two blocks out of your way just to cross the street. Just as distressing, the boulevards of Los Angeles often lack safe crossing points at bus stops.  Let’s take a look at three bus stops in Central LA:

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.16.40 PM

This is the bus stop at Pico and Windsor, on the #30.  The red arrows indicate where each stop is and its direction.  The nearest crosswalks are entirely out of the shot, at Crenshaw to the east and West Boulevard to the west.  Each is about 1/5 of a mile away, for a total of .4 miles between crosswalks.

This is a low-density commercial and residential strip. Bus passengers have to cross two lanes of traffic in each direction, a center turn lane, and two parking lanes (seven lanes total)

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.21.27 PM

Sunset Boulevard and Bates Ave, near Sunset Junction/Los Feliz.   The street is even harder to cross here because of bie lanes in each direction.  The nearest crosswalks are at Fountain, .1 miles , or a block, to the north, and at Sanborn, .2 miles or three blocks to the south.  Total distance between crosswalks is .3 miles or 4 blocks. Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.16.18 PM

Vermont and 35th Street, a stop on the #204. Vermont is one of Los Angeles’ busiest bus corridors.  The nearest crosswalks are at Jefferson, one block to the north, or at 36th Place, two blocks to the south.  The total distance between crosswalks is .25 miles.

What’s interesting here is that there’s a planted median separating these two bus stops.  There’s no expectation that anyone getting off a bus is going to cross the street here, even without a crosswalk.

If bus passengers can’t cross the street to reach their destination from a given bus stop, that stop is practically useless to them.  Counterintuitively, it may be faster for a bus rider to board or disembark at a stop that is farther away from their destination because they can cross the street there.

Of course, this is a huge inconvenience and makes transit trips take longer than they should.  It’s safe to assume that the lack of crosswalks at every bus stop is suppressing transit ridership. What would it look like if bus passengers could cross the street safely at every stop?

On paper, I would not be surprised if these stops underperform in ridership.  Some day, the number crunchers at transit headquarters might propose closing the stop based on low ridership. This has happened before.

Poor crosswalk coverage isn’t just bad for pedestrians.  It’s also bad for transit.  This discrepancy is what happens when our city streets and transit system are run by different people.

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