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Measure HLA Aims to Improve Pedestrian and Bike Safety in Los Angeles

Despite stiff opposition from firefighters and others, it appears that Los Angeles Measure HLA was passed by voters on March 5, 2024. NBC4 News has projected the measure was passed although the final results might not be known for a few weeks. The race was projected when early voting results showed that nearly 2/3 of voters had cast their ballots in favor of passage or a ratio of 63% to 37%. Here’s what to know about Measure HLA and what it will do if enacted.

What Is Measure HLA?

Measure HLA is a citizen-sponsored ballot initiative to make the city’s Mobility Plan mandatory. The Mobility Plan, which was approved by the city in 2015, recommended the city add bike lanes, widen sidewalks, add bus lanes, and add other infrastructure to slow traffic. The improvements would be completed whenever the city repaves any section of street at least 660 feet long. While the Mobility Plan called for these improvements to specific streets in Los Angeles, the city has completed very few. According to officials, the Mobility Plan was simply meant to provide guidance rather than requiring improvements.

However, Measure HLA would change that and mandate the city to complete improvements to city streets any time a section at least one-eighth of a mile long is repaved. The city would have to add bicycle lanes, protected pedestrian crossings, bus lanes, speed bumps, and bollards to try to reduce traffic deaths and slow drivers down.

Called the Mobility Plan 2035, it would affect all areas of Los Angeles. Its primary aim is to eliminate as many traffic fatalities as possible. Under the plan, the improvements would mean that 90% of all people living in Los Angeles would have protected bicycle lanes within half of a mile or less or would have bicycle paths or streets that would be designed to be safe and calm. It would also mean that most people in Los Angeles would live no more than one mile from a public transportation network.

Among other projects, the plan would add bicycle lanes along Venice and Sunset Boulevards. It would also add a bus lane to connect Whittier Boulevard from Boyle Heights to 6th Street and then onto Wilshire Boulevard. Approximately 80 miles of streets would be prioritized to increase the efficiency of traffic.

The city’s mobility plan focused on methods of slowing traffic down in certain areas of Los Angeles to increase the safety of the streets. The ballot measure would make the installation of bus lanes mandatory for 200 miles. Some of these would operate round-the-clock while others would only operate during rush hour traffic. It would also add more than 600 miles of bike lanes.

Measure HLA also provides residents with the ability to file lawsuits against the city when Los Angeles fails to implement it. The measure would also establish a public portal to allow residents to check whether the city is making progress and keep officials on task.

Opposition to Measure HLA

Measure HLA has drawn both opposition and proponents. Those who opposed the measure argued that it would make it harder for emergency vehicles to quickly reach their destinations. The opponents also pointed out that the measure fails to provide additional funding to make the mandatory improvements, which would force the city to halt some projects to instead prioritize those called for by Measure HLA.

Marz Szabo, a City Administrative Officer, conducted a study and found that the addition of new bicycle and pedestrian paths and lanes would cost more than $3.1 billion over 10 years. this would make it harder for the city to repair sidewalks and streets. Los Angeles already has more than 7,700 repairs to sidewalks that have been requested but not fulfilled, according to Szabo.

While proponents argued that the measure was necessary to improve the safety of Los Angeles’s streets, opponents argued it would have the opposite effect because of the slowing of first responders when they are trying to respond to traffic accidents.

United Firefighters of Los Angeles, the city’s union for firefighters, opposed the measure and conducted a campaign to try to defeat it a few weeks before the election on March 5. They argued that Measure HLA would lead to new traffic obstructions, including raised medians and traffic bollards, forcing emergency vehicles to slow down unnecessarily. The union also argued that the city’s budget is already strained, and the measure would cause even more problems.

The firefighter’s union was also joined by other groups in opposing the measure, including KeepLAMoving and other firefighter groups. In 2017, KeepLAMoving successfully fought the city to remove vehicle lane reductions called road diets on the city’s west side.

KeepLAMoving also argued that traffic would worsen with the measure, lengthening commuting times. They argued that HLA was designed to force people in LA to avoid driving and said it is a quick-fix measure that would increase distractions and make drivers more confused. They also argued that local businesses would lose on-street parking and pointed out that Measure HLA doesn’t allow the community to provide its input.

A few council members have also stated they are against the measure, and one has actively campaigned against it. Traci Park, a Los Angeles City Council Member, appeared with firefighters and denounced the measure. She said that it would lead to an increase in litigation against the city. Under the measure, projects called for in the Mobility Plan would be prioritized. Before its passage, the addition of bike paths and other similar infrastructure was added only when funding was available and the political will was aligned with them. With HLA estimated to cost $3.1 billion without identifying a source of funds, the city would also have to take money away from other projects at a time when it is struggling with other problems, including homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

Supporters of Measure HLA

Many groups backed Measure HLA and mounted a campaign called Yes on HLA. Some of the backers included business organizations, community officials, environmentalists, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and unions. Several city council members also backed the measure as well as the city controller. According to council member Eunisses Hernandez, the initiative is necessary to hold the city accountable for completing projects to decrease injuries and deaths.

Supporters point to Los Angeles’s troubling traffic accident statistics. In 2023, 330 people were killed in traffic accidents in Los Angeles, and more than 50% of the people who were killed were pedestrians. Los Angeles began tracking the number of traffic fatalities in 2015, and last year’s number was the highest it has ever been. It has also increased 36% from before the pandemic.

Proponents argue the measure is meant to increase safety by adding bike lanes and bus lanes while reducing the amount of cut-through traffic. Proponents spent around $2 million on the Say Yes to HLA campaign, which included the placement of billboards along some of the city’s most dangerous streets.

After the election on March 5, it appears the supporters won with the measure appearing to pass by a landslide. While the final numbers won’t be known for a couple of weeks, Measure HLA will likely soon be enacted. This should lead to significant changes in traffic infrastructure in the city and lead to safety improvements Los Angeles has needed for years.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured in a Los Angeles traffic accident or have lost your loved one because of the negligence of a driver, you should consult an attorney at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. We have several decades of experience fighting for our clients and can review your case. Call us for a free consultation at 866.966.5240.

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