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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Plan Aims to Convert Drivers Into Riders

Plans are under way to improve areas frequented by pedestrians and public transportation users to encourage more people to abandon their cars for buses and other mass transit.

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, known as LANI, is working in eight areas of the city, including Boyle Heights, to involve the community in improving public transportation and pedestrian corridors, said Frank Villalobos, president of Barrio Planners Inc., an Eastside architectural firm working with residents to devise a plan for the area.

LANI was created last year by Mayor Richard Riordan to enhance public walkways and parks and improve traffic flow throughout the city. The effort received a $2.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Boyle Heights group recently received its share of that grant--$250,000--to beautify areas in the neighborhood where pedestrian traffic is high, such as at 1st Street and Boyle Avenue.

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“The goal of the effort is to improve these areas but also to impact community involvement and economic development. That’s the long-term goal,” Villalobos said. “One of the initial goals is to get the community involved.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre appointed 20 community members to explore the issue of pedestrian traffic here and come up with ways to improve the areas. The group has met biweekly for the last six months.

The members have taken a walking tour of the areas of 1st and Boyle, Mariachi Plaza and 1st Street and Evergreen Avenue. They gathered information from Caltrans on traffic patterns and from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on bus ridership and drafted a plan.

At 1st and Soto streets, the group found one of the most densely traveled bus lines in the city and decided to concentrate on that area first. They hope to lobby the Los Angeles Police Department for more foot patrols in the area, install donated bus shelters, plant trees and improve curbs.

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The second phase of the plan is still under discussion and will include improvements at Mariachi Plaza. Phase Three will concentrate on 1st Street near Soto Street.


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