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Like the rest of Los Angeles County, it’s not much of a surprise that West Hollywood residents and workers rely on their cars to get to work. Now the the conversation can shift to alternatives.
David Warren, who started WeHoByTheNumbers.com and is also West Hollywood’s Transportation Commission chairman, explained some specifics on the city’s car-centric habits by using commuting statistics from 2010-2014.
Warren found that West Hollywood residents aren’t just driving a lot, they’re doing it alone. But he also discovered differences between people who live in West Hollywood and people who work there. While 88 percent of residents and 83 percent of workers drive to work, only 3 percent of residents and 9 percent of workers are carpooling.
“The differences aren’t limited to carpooling,” Warren explained. “When compared to residents, people who work here are twice as likely to use transit for their commutes (9 percent). The numbers also suggest they’re more likely to bike to work than residents.”
Warren found that 4 percent of residents used public transit, 1 percent bike and 6 percent walk to work. Similarly, his study found that 9 percent of workers used public transit, 2 percent bike and 4 percent walk to work.
“The main finding was that West Hollywood residents were more likely to drive alone to work than people who work here or residents of nearby cities,” Warren said. “For me, the comparisons were the most interesting part. They lead to questions like, ‘What’s different here?’ and ‘What would it take to reach that number?’”
Warren found that West Hollywood’s commuting choices were different than nearby cities such as Beverly Hills, Culver City, Los Angeles and Santa Monica. For example, West Hollywood residents drive alone much more than those in other cities. Compared to the 85 percent in West Hollywood, 71 percent of Angelenos drive to work alone – the lowest among the five cities.
Warren explained that studying these statistics can measure the city’s efforts to shift some car trips to “alternate modes” like transit or cycling. Since 87 percent of West Hollywood’s households have at least one vehicle available, that is a big task. But if one commuter switched from driving to transit or cycling, that would mean 10 fewer car trips per week.
Since the time period for the study ended, the city has encouraged alternatives by adding bike lanes, offering a new bike share system and expanding its public transit options.
Mayor Lindsey Horvath said she was not surprised to hear about the city’s four-wheeled favoritism. But she also said the city has heard the community’s call for solutions to the inching traffic.
“People don’t want to keep going one-by-one down Santa Monica Boulevard,” she said.
The most impactful alternative though, could come from the city’s effort to bring a Metro rail extension through West Hollywood.
“We have long heard a cry for a rail extension,” Horvath said.
West Hollywood has been building support and a coalition to bring the county’s rail through the city. It starts with the vote for a tax increase to pay for the proposed extensions – a plan that the city has overwhelmingly supported the past couple decades.
Even if the vote to secure the extensions passes, that still wouldn’t guarantee West Hollywood a spot in the plans, so city hall has been working to educate residents about other options.
Horvath explained that the city learned that a significant amount of car trips that West Hollywood residents take are less than three miles long.
“They are often trips people can easily make biking,” she said. “That’s why we’re excited about the bike share. We will see increased bike ridership.”
The city’s bike share programs are waiting for final infrastructure installments before launching this summer. Bianca Siegl, West Hollywood’s Long Range and Mobility Planning Manager said the city continues to expand its bicycle network, and will soon be installing bike lanes on Fairfax Avenue. Siegl also offered some additional alternatives to driving that West Hollywood provides.
“On weekend nights, the PickUp allows visitors to nightlife destinations on Santa Monica Boulevard to leave their cars behind, and the new CityLineX service provides an easy connection to the Red Line at Hollywood and Highland,” she said.
After being involved in an automobile accident, Horvath also decided to be a car-less mayor. She said in addition to being mayor of the most walkable city in the state, the introduction of mobile apps like Lyft and the advancement of public transit systems have made it easier to transition to a life on foot.
“It saves me time. I never have to deal with parking, I never have to worry about getting a parking ticket, I don’t have to pay for car insurance or the cost of a car or maintenance or gas,” she said.
Siegl added that the city is also working to improve crosswalks in several key pedestrian areas.
“On the policy side, we will be completing an update to our Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan this year, and are beginning a process to update our Transportation Demand Management Ordinance, which encourages local businesses and development projects to reduce driving trips and support walking, biking and transit use for their employees and residents,” she said.
WeHo By the Numbers, started in September 2015, is Warren’s effort to understand community issues and the city’s government work through statistics. The site is not associated with city hall. Other posts on the website focus on other topics, including employment rates, crime rates and types, housing, renting and population.
“I’m a numbers person. It’s the way I understand things,” Warren said. “I also have a lifelong interest in city government. So I’ve been looking at West Hollywood numbers for years. I created the website to start sharing what I’d found with other community members. My hope is that presenting these facts in a clear way will help us talk about community issues.”
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