Culver City is known as “The Heart of Screenland.” It is now also known as “A City that hates Automobiles.”
Driving through downtown Culver City is a nightmare. When we moved to CC in 1972, even during rush hour it took around 10 minutes to go from our close-to-Overland Blvd. home to Venice Blvd. (through downtown CC); now it takes close to 30 minutes! Here’s my perspective on what has happened and some suggestions for improving traffic flow.
In 1972, CC population was around 30,000; now it’s more than 40,000. So, clearly a more than 33% increase in CC population has led to some of the traffic congestion, but most CC residents don’t need to go through downtown CC to get to their homes. So, there has to be other reasons for our traffic congestion.
Some are out of our control. Playa Vista is a good example of this. People who work there may not be able to afford to live there, and many are using Venice and Culver as thoroughfares to reach their homes. Not much we can do about Venice, but maybe there are some things we can do about Culver, without making CC a totally gated city.
Today, in addition to Covid-19, we are facing a diverse set of forces and pressures, namely: homelessness, a need for low cost housing, bicycle riders, scooter riders, bus riders, a transition from petroleum-driven vehicles to electric or hybrid vehicles, and keeping downtown CC uniquely different and beautiful.
In theory, it would be wonderful if we could give up our automobiles, and ride bicycles or scooters. In actuality, it is absurd to believe that this can be done, for many different reasons, e.g.: family outings, the elderly, the pregnant; those with physical disabilities, the ill; etc. While our Mayor and Vice-Mayor and other members of the CC City Council are promoting bicycle riding, I ask each of them: Do you ride a bicycle to work each day? Does your wife or significant other? If not, then why are you imposing this on CC residents?
Traffic lanes have been narrowed on Culver to accommodate bicycles, scooters and buses. The riders of bicycles and scooters represent an extremely small amount of traffic through downtown CC. So, to give up a large portion of east bound and westbound traffic lanes on Culver is irresponsible. CC needs to provide alternate routes for bicycles and scooters Monday–Saturdays. Don’t tell me this has already been thought of but to do so would inconvenience —who? Every one of our traffic problems will have a solution that will inconvenience one or more groups, but, to inconvenience the largest users of Culver is intolerable.
Then there are the bus lanes that have been marked out on the east and westbound traffic lanes. I’m all for that, but, to remove one entire east bound and west bound lane on Culver is absurd. Doing this has created new traffic choke points for downtown CC (it was bad enough to have the Washington-Culver and Culver-Venice choke points). Those lanes need to be restored. This can be done, regrettably by narrowing the north and south sidewalks. Of course, this will anger the restaurant owners; but, as I mentioned above, solutions to our intolerable traffic congestion problems will inconvenience one or more groups. There are many places in LA where restaurants don’t have such wide frontage, and lots of people go to them. Something has to give!
Now for my most radical suggestion: build a street between the CC hotel and the (empty) movie theaters. It will go directly to Washington. Sadly, some restaurants may be lost, and the hotel will become an island, but that’s what stop signs and traffic lights are for. There may be some obstacles to doing this, e.g. the Steppes and its underground parking structure; but maybe they can also be overcome by clever engineering.
Some of our elected officials are now promoting the conversion of private homes into multi-family units. This concept has already been approved at the State level, so it may be that CC will have to fall into line. But, to do so without a real plan for moving the additional traffic that will occur due to another increase in CC population is irresponsible. If there is such a plan show it to all CC residents. If there is no such plan, tell us and then hire competent traffic engineers to study this and either create such a plan or conclude which parts of CC will not able to support conversion of private homes into multi-family units.
I have pointed out the many traffic flow and congestion issues that now exist in downtown CC. I have also made some suggestions for alleviating them. They will not be popular with some groups, but automobiles are the main users of Culver, so our elected officials should remember this when they make things even worse, as they have done.
Dr. Jerry M. Mendel