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OMG! Pasadena to LOS: CYA!

Posted by Wes on Thursday, November 6, 2014

On Monday, November 3rd at about 10pm, the Pasadena City Council bid farewell to auto Level of Service (LOS), a transportation metric that is a driving force behind auto-centric street design.  In doing so, Pasadena became the first city in Southern California (to our knowledge) to retire LOS as a transportation measure.

With the City in the midst of updating its General Plan for the first time in 10 years, this reform simply makes sense. Auto LOS is not compatible with the City of Pasadena’s Guiding Principles or the Goals and Policies of both the previously ratified, and proposed updated General Plan.

Even the State of California has recognized that LOS is at odds with “…modern state goals such as emission reductions, development of multi-modal transportation network for motor vehicles, infill development, and even optimization of the roadway network for motor vehicles,” and has mandated that cities institute reform by passing SB 743 in September 2013.

LOS prioritizes the speed at which cars move through intersections, and completely ignores multi-modal alternatives. Pasadena’s Guiding Principle #5 (“Pasadena will be a city where people can circulate without cars”), and the entirety of the Mobility Element, require a metric that makes room for additional modes (such as walking, biking, and transit).

What’s more, LOS actively impedes those additional modes, because the mitigation measures that result from an LOS analysis typically increase road speeds and widths, making it easier for people to drive at high speeds, and less convenient and more dangerous for people walking, driving, and riding transit. Staff therefore worked for several years to research and develop a set of new metrics that would better accommodate the diversity of road users in Pasadena - holistic metrics that have now been vetted by an exhaustive review process in a year-long series of community, committee, and commission meetings.

In place of Level of Service, the City has adopted a collection of 5 new transportation metrics that should together make it easier for people to get around using any mode of transportation. 3 metrics look at the ease and safety of walking, biking, and riding transit. 1 metrics look at the ease of driving - not in terms of speed, but in terms of encouraging shorter, more direct routes. And finally, 1 metric incentivizes changes that make it actually easy to walk, bike, or take transit as an alternative to getting in the car.

Pasadena CSC applauds the alignment (finally!) of these proposed Transportation Metrics with Pasadena’s General Plan and Green City Action Plan. Phasing out LOS will help tip the scale towards a healthier, safer and more vibrant Pasadena. Many thanks to all those stakeholders and local residents who as a whole devoted countless hours of their free time to supporting positive change in the City!

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