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Downtown Los Angeles’s Broadway Street may soon go car-free

BRINGING BACK WALKING

Downtown Los Angeles’s Broadway Street may soon go car-free

The 1.5-mile stretch of Broadway Street in Downtown Los Angeles (as seen in 2006) has a total of twelve movie palaces, nine of which have been thoroughly renovated. (Chris Eason/Wikipedia Commons)

Los Angeles City Council Member Jose Huizar first began his Bringing Back Broadway initiative in 2008, which has gradually revitalized several of the early 20th-century movie palaces and long-underused commercial buildings along Broadway Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Now that many of those buildings are occupied with retail spaces, hotels, concert venues, and restaurants, Huizar recently introduced a motion looking into the feasibility of making the entire 1.5-mile stretch a pedestrian-only zone. “A car-free Broadway,” Huizar explained in a Twitter thread, “would bring a measurable increase in pedestrian traffic to the many new retail stores and theaters in the corridor.”

By prioritizing pedestrian, bike, and bus traffic, Huizar argued in an attached statement, the economic development triggered by the original Bringing Back Broadway initiative would increase while reducing the number of car-related deaths in the area. He has also argued that the project is particularly feasible in light of the ongoing LA Streetcar project, a separate initiative that will provide an above-ground public transportation option that would intersect with preexisting transit systems, and which has already received approximately $1 billion in funding.

Huizar ended the statement with an analysis of all of the elements the redesign must consider, beginning with “accessibility options related to parking, residential and commercial loading/unloading, ADA, fire and safety, and private events.” The motion would also include the further preservation of the historic buildings along Broadway, and would continue to fill empty storefronts with public amenities.

While Huizar’s L.A. Streetcar project garnered the approval of over 73 percent of Downtown residents when it was first proposed, it is unclear as of yet how the motion to ban cars from Broadway will be publicly received. Car culture famously built Los Angeles, and there are virtually no other permanent examples of a similar move in any other part of the city. The closest precedent is CicLAvia, a nonprofit event that temporarily closes major thoroughfares to motor vehicles throughout the city to make them accessible to foot and bike traffic, which has received increased popularity since it was first inaugurated in 2010.

The proposal follows last October’s announcement that San Francisco’s Market Street would be going car-free, and it is predicted that several other cities across the country may follow suit in their historic centers.