How do we open Griffith Park up to people, not cars?

Griffith Park, to quote one city councilman, is being "loved to death." The number of people visiting the park has been on the rise, particularly at prime tourist destinations, causing traffic and parking problems. On summer and holiday weekends, roads and parking lots serving the Griffith Park Observatory are a car-clogged nightmare. Visitors seeking the Hollywood sign jam narrow hillside residential streets.


The observatory: A Jan. 26 editorial referred to the Griffith Park Observatory. The correct name is the Griffith Observatory.

To help address the problem, the Recreation and Parks Department has proposed limiting car travel by changing busy two-way roads into one-way routes and charging for 400 parking spaces near the observatory, with the new fees used to fund a free or low-cost shuttle to carry visitors from lots at Fern Dell and the Greek Theatre to the observatory and the Hollywood sign viewing area. The plan aims to alleviate congestion by creating a disincentive to drive to the busiest areas of the park and an incentive to use a shuttle, walk or bike instead. It's a good idea, but it needs to go much further.

If parks officials really want to persuade people to leave their cars behind, they've got to make sure it's easy, cheap and safe to take an alternative mode of transportation. That means more bus lines to Griffith Park and frequent shuttle service inside the grounds. It means adding protected bike lanes on busy roads so more people feel comfortable cycling to the park's attractions. It means building trails and accessible pathways for people with wheelchairs and strollers. It means giving visitors clear information and directions on how they can enjoy Griffith Park without a car.



Griffith Park traffic: A January 26 editorial misidentified the Griffith Observatory as the Griffith Park Observatory.


Too often, city officials have tried to fix localized congestion problems at the park with temporary measures — some of them worthwhile experiments, and some worrisome efforts to limit public access. They tried a $10 shuttle from the observatory to a Hollywood sign viewing area. They closed the entrance to a popular hiking trail. They even tried to persuade Google to hide the address of the sign on its digital maps so tourists wouldn't drive through hillside neighborhoods in search of the popular vista. To his credit, Councilman David Ryu, who represents the area and made the "loved to death" observation, says he is committed to a larger solution for Griffith Park's traffic woes, not simply pushing the problem from one area to another.

L.A. is not alone in struggling to manage public access. The National Parks Service has considered closing areas to cars, limiting visitors and using reservation systems to reduce traffic congestion and environmental degradation at Yosemite and other popular parks. But as city leaders try to find the balance at Griffith Park, their solution should allow the greatest number of Angelenos to enjoy their park, not necessarily the greatest number of Angelenos' cars.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 26, 2016, in the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Unclogging Griffith Park" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe