USC should support MyFigueroa project
Dozens of people packed into the small hearing room at Los Angeles City Hall a few weeks ago. Many stood firm and spoke eloquently in defense of an ongoing project that could bring massive improvements to bike culture and neighborhood infrastructure in our corner of Los Angeles: the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape project, also known as MyFigueroa.
MyFigueroa is an ongoing effort to redesign the Figueroa Corridor that begins just south of USC (at the intersection of Figueroa St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) and extends north to Downtown Los Angeles at 7th Street. The project would produce extended sidewalks for pedestrians along the three miles of road stretching between our university and the downtown neighborhood, and importantly would introduce the first ever protected bikeway in Los Angeles, separated from car traffic by a curb. The project would provide better access for students to Downtown Los Angeles’s booming economy: new apartment complexes and other housing options; new restaurants and bars and new retail locations, like the ever-expanding Fig@7th shopping mall and food court. Further, we would witness a decrease in pedestrian and bike collisions and accidents, in addition to a positive impact on local businesses. This effort would positively alter undergraduate and graduate life for USC students, as well as aid students, faculty and staff that commute to school by bicycle and public transit.
But there is a major problem: USC administrators have introduced roadblocks to MyFigueroa becoming reality. As a member of the new USC Bicycle Coalition, I stood in that room in City Hall and defended the project in its current iteration, extending along the full length on both sides of Figueroa Street. However, David Galaviz — currently the executive director of USC’s Local Government Relations — gave support of a motion to delay the project for further traffic analysis, on top of an already complete and sufficient report conducted by the L.A. Department of Transportation. The motion could also potentially push the bike lanes onto Flower Street or other roads to the east, farther from the USC community that would benefit. Making an official statement for USC, Galaviz argued that due to USC’s frequent events, MyFigueroa would create further traffic problems, and therefore USC is seeking to extend the timeline for additional analysis: unnecessary, given LADOT’s comprehensive report. Unfortunately, USC administrators view MyFigueroa as a traffic problem instead of an opportunity to connect students to Los Angeles’ many attractions and improve the quality of campus life.
As a USC graduate student, a longtime resident of Downtown Los Angeles and a regular cyclist and public transit rider in Los Angeles (yes, I still do not own a car after living here for 3 years), I cannot stand for administrators — devoid of contact with the lifestyles of USC students and employees — to mandate a blockade around a real and necessitated component of bringing vitality and safety to Los Angeles and the University of Southern California’s local community. Even though I have been commuting by bicycle for more than 10 years, my initial experiences on the roads in Los Angeles were distressing: almost grazed or hit multiple times by cars that are just not used to having bikes on the road. Within Los Angeles’ car-centric culture, the roads are still not comfortable to ride on. Though new lanes have begun to be introduced across the city, the route from DTLA to USC is still lacking. I ride at a fast pace with a lot of experience; my worries exponentially increase to real danger for people riding without that experience. USC boasts the highest rate of bike ridership in Los Angeles, yet many of these students have little experience riding a bike in a major city.
On Tuesday, Jan. 28, representatives at City Hall allowed a 30-day extension to propose alternatives to MyFigueroa’s current plan along both sides of Figueroa Street. We, the students, faculty and staff of USC, have the opportunity to challenge administrators’ misinformed decision and reverse any potential changes to this project, by making public statements — through student government and employee organizations — in support of MyFig.
Ph.D. candidate studying communication
Communications Representative, USC Bicycle Coalition