The West Hollywood City Council tonight rejected a proposal to place traffic officers at intersections along Santa Monica Boulevard to test whether that would reduce traffic congestion.
A proposal by Councilmembers John D’Amico and John Duran called for staffing nine intersections for a six-month test period. The city’s Community Development Department said that three possible sources for the necessary traffic officers — Serco, the city’s parking enforcement contractor; the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — didn’t have sufficient staff for that. The Community Development Department said two officers would be required from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays at each intersection.
As an alternative, the Community Development Department suggested hiring Sheriff’s deputies on overtime to staff three intersections of Santa Monica Boulevard — with Doheny Drive, San Vicente Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard and an additional intersection with La Brea Avenue as staffing permits. The total cost of the three-month experiment was estimated at about $140,000.
D’Amico and Duran said in November that they were proposing the pilot program out of concern that traffic congestion affects residents’ quality of life and hampers the city’s economic competitiveness. Citing a 1,320 percent increase in gridlock tickets issued in a 30 month period – 35 tickets were issued in January 2011, while 464 tickets were issued in June 2013 – D’Amico said traffic officers are needed as gridlock will only worsen with several new construction projects currently underway or soon to start.
But at tonight’s meeting, Councilmember John Heilman said it seemed the city had “contrary intentions.” On the one hand, he said, the city wants to improve the speed with which traffic flows through the city. On the other, he said, the city is installing lights at pedestrian crosswalks to alert drivers to stop for pedestrians. Councilmember Jeffrey Prang said he was not comfortable paying overtime to Sheriff’s deputies to staff the intersections. And Prang said he wasn’t sure the city was focusing on the right intersections. Mayor Abbe Land agreed with Heilman’s concerns.
In response, D’Amico noted that there has never been an accident involving a pedestrian and an automobile during rush hour. D’Amico and Duran both also said that the pilot program would produce data needed to determine which intersections have the most congestion and what techniques work best at reducing that. Otherwise, they said, the council would be left to rely on anecdotes about where congestion is worst and what could be done to ameliorate it.
Prang moved to ask the city’s Community Development Department to come back with other suggestions and to establish a council subcommittee to work on the idea. The council voted three to two to approve Prang’s motion, with D’Amico and Duran voting no. The subcommittee will be composed of Prang and Heilman.