Over the past six months, the Linden Avenue residents in Bixby Knolls have been dealing with the implementation of a pilot program intended to reduce the amount of cut-through traffic in their neighborhood. The affected residents gathered on Nov. 3 at the Expo Arts Center to hear an update given by City Traffic Engineer David Roseman where many expressed strong disapproval of the program and the negative impact it’s left on the neighborhood.
Over 75 people attended the community meeting that included representation from not only Linden Avenue residents, but also those on affected streets, such as Elm Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard. Roseman distributed booklets at the start of the meeting that contained data collected and charts from the pilot program.
On several occasions the traffic engineer was interrupted by a number of residents who were quick to point out discrepancies in his presentation and how they were ill informed of the program’s implementation.
“We’re just trying to balance the traffic flow on Linden,” Roseman said. “We’re not trying to take Linden down to 500 cars a day– we’re just trying to balance it with the streets that are south of it and the streets that are north of it. So the decision now is to decide whether that solution is one that we keep or should we go back to letting people go whichever way they want.”
According to the timeline found in the booklet, the first community meeting was conducted in January after Roseman’s team collected traffic counts and conducted a speed study on Linden Avenue. Letters were sent out in March to inform residents of the pilot program, however several attendees voiced their concerns with never having received the letter or never being notified of the meeting.
Based on Roseman’s findings, his team discovered that Linden Avenue carried a large amount of traffic that was detouring through the neighborhood. Three detour routes were initially identified as those that were most traveled on by commuters and other non-residents: Carson Street and Linden Avenue, Roosevelt Road and Linden Avenue, and Bixby Road and Linden Avenue. One resident recommended that a much wider pool of interest be examined rather than what the actions are being based on.
In April the decision was made to install a full-time “no left turn” restriction on Linden Avenue heading eastbound on Carson Street, a part-time “no left turn” restriction on Linden Avenue heading westbound on Roosevelt Road, and a “right turn only” restriction on Roosevelt Road heading eastbound onto Linden Avenue. Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) went out to enforce the turn restrictions shortly afterwards and issued a number of violations over the following months.
Based on the LBPD statistics and high-violation rates, the “right turn only” restriction was removed on Aug. 3. Roseman noted that such a high violation rate was undesirable from a traffic safety perspective and could lead to an increased accident rate for the intersection. The move also allowed the team to investigate whether or not the “right turn only” restriction did what had been intended or if it had never been needed.
Several recommendations were given by attendees regarding the pilot program, including exempting residents from having to abide by the restrictions, installing speed bumps, conducting a larger study that focuses on more than just a three-block area and suggesting doing a better job of notifying people of future changes and initial meetings regarding Linden Avenue.
Roseman also said 120 contacts were made by citizens to his office, with about 80 regarding citations. Common issues collected from the contacts were given as follows: Linden is a public street and should not be restricted; traffic was deliberately slowed down on Atlantic Avenue for the sake of merchants; speeding is a problem, and the pilot program either created the problem or it was one to begin with; there was an increase in traffic in the alleys; people bypassed the “no left turn” sign on Carson Street; there should be a focus back on Carson Street and Linden Avenue; and speed bumps should be installed.
Eighth District Councilmember Rae Gabelich observed the community meeting from the back of the discussion area and provided closing remarks as the meeting extended past its scheduled time and as attendees began talking over each other. To calm the audience she repeatedly reminded attendees that the meeting was a democratic one and mentioned that the traffic on Atlantic Avenue that is causing drivers to use Linden Avenue as a detour route is also in part due to the business growth over the years on Atlantic Avenue.
Gabelich and Roseman said they will utilize the feedback gained from the meeting to make a final decision on the fate of the pilot program and to explore and potentially conduct studies on the neighboring streets suggested by the residents, including Elm Avenue.