Los Angeles still has some of the worst traffic in the nation.
And Southern California is still the symbolic American home of the drive-thru, the custom hot rod and the freeway. We love our cars.
But 2015 might someday be seen as a turning point for a city built around the automobile.
10. The dream of taking a bullet train to Las Vegas might become a reality. In September, China Railway International and railroad company XpressWest announced a partnership that would accelerate development of just such a train. A key element of that acceleration is $100 million in planning money.
9. The river is becoming a thread that runs through Los Angeles' narrative. For better or worse, the Los Angeles River is being reimagined as a more navigable waterway, with bike paths galore and a sense of connection from the Valley to the sea. Architect Frank Gehry was recruited by the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation this year to help create a master plan for the river's future.
8. Ride hailing is coming to LAX. Lyft will start picking up passengers at LAX today. Both Uber and Lyft have filed for permission, but Uber did so later, and its application was still pending. This is good news for fans of app-based transportation. Taxi companies, which have to jump through tougher regulatory hoops, aren't happy.
7. Bike sharing is finally coming to town. In August, the L.A. City Council voted to partner up with Metro, the transportation agency, to bring 1,090 bicycles to 65 downtown bike-share stations in 2016.
6. Car sharing is en route, too. In July, legislation by California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of L.A. created a pilot program to park 100 electric or plug-in hybrid cars for sharing in “disadvantaged” sections of L.A. In the coming months, a steering committee will chose locations for charging stations and car pickup points. Organizers envision such vehicles being available in dense pockets of the city so that public transportation can complement car use.
5. A streetcar system could be coming to downtown L.A. A proposal to create a 3.8-mile downtown streetcar system moved into its “preliminary engineering” phase, which means initial blueprints for the thing could be completed in 2016.
4. The electric skateboard has been legalized. You read that right. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that allows the devices to be ridden in bike lanes and on bike paths, sidewalks, trails and even on roads where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. Charge!
3. There's an effort at City Hall to reform its parking ticket racket. Westside Councilman Mike Bonin has proposed a number of measures, including one that would end fine increases to fund city services.
2. The state has finally realized that we can't pave our way to the future. Caltrans acknowledged in a report his year that adding extra lanes and extra miles of roadway only temporarily improves traffic. To alleviate traffic, we'll have to think outside the box. Which brings us to …
1. The city finally has a vision for its transportation future. The Mobility Plan 2035 was adopted by the City Council, but then it went back to the drawing board after a lawsuit by Westsiders alleged City Hall didn't put the document through proper environmental reviews and public airings.
Council members added amendments in an attempt to address those issues, and the city Planning Commission will take a fresh look at the plan next month. The Mayor's Office will review it, and then it will head to the council for a do-over vote.
The plan “proposes developing a network of bike lanes, transit lines and pedestrian-friendly streets to help encourage more people to choose to walk, bike or take public transit, taking cars off the road in L.A. neighborhoods,” says the office of Councilman Jose Huizar.
It envisions Los Angeles as a bike-friendly place with train- and bus-adjacent vertical development and “pedestrian-friendly streets.” If this comes to pass, we'll one day look back at 2015 as quite a year for the City of Angels.