Saturday, October 22, 2016

Can the crazy Sunset-Hollywood-Hillhurst vortex of traffic be fixed?

intersection map


LOS FELIZ — The Los Feliz Neighborhood Council is spearheading the most recent effort to improve the crazed crossroads where Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, Hillhurst and Virgil avenues and Sunset Drive meet.

It is a busy intersection where, on a typical weekday, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 vehicles, 3,000 pedestrians and 400 cyclists cross paths. The traffic signals can take as long as 3.5 minutes to change – an eternity for those stuck in traffic.

Complicating matters and confusion is that several of the streets change names and even direction. Hillhurst becomes Virgil Avenue, and westbound drivers on Sunset Boulevard can find themselves on Hollywood Boulevard if they don’t change lanes. A 1987 L.A. Times story said it was the second most dangerous intersection in the city.

Now, after conducting a pair of surveys, the Los Feliz council is moving forward to champion ideas to improve conditions for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists while create a more inviting environment. Ideas range from planting more street trees and adding new signs to building a roundabout.

Survey results concluded that less than 19% of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists felt very safe using the intersection; 88% of drivers have observed other drivers who are confused at the intersection, and 34% of pedestrians reported that it takes 5 or more minutes to cross the intersection.

More trees in new and existing tree wells, crossing signals that synch with parallel car signals and arrows painted on car lanes were supported by a majority of those who took the survey.

Forty-four percent supported a request for further study by the LADOT to close one or both lanes of Sunset Drive and install a roundabout at the intersection, while 39% opposed the ideas and about 16% remained neutral. LFNC conducted the first survey in September 2014 with 131 respondents and held its final survey in March 2015 with 306 respondents.

LFNC will submit its final recommendations to Los Angeles City Council and Department of Transportation for further review. While the council lacks the funds and power to implement most of the ideas, it can make recommendations to appropriate city agencies.

“We are talking about little tweaks here and there to make it into a more functional, working intersection for everyone,” said Luke Klipp, chair of the transportation committee. “And then there are a couple of big ticket items…We just want to know what these things might look like.”

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Cecilia Padilla Brill is a communications writer and journalist. She writes news, health, education and feature stories. Cecilia is currently working on her first novel. She has lived in Echo Park since 1999

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  1. It’s not the intersection, it’s the over-population. Hey folks, HAVE FEWER KIDS! Los Angeles does not need so many lost souls on the roadways, confused, and making life miserable. Here’s a thought – GO HOME!

    • Build two dome shaped foot bridges that connect in the middle top. peds could get to any corner they need and traffic could flooooow…

      We could commission an artist to design a one-of-a kind bridge that we could name “gateway to hipsterville” on one side and “warning scientology ahead” on the other…

    • Tony the Main Spoon


  2. The problems of the intersection are being way overhyped. The only real problem is that yes, you do have a long wait. That is the only issue here, and the solution is to have a tiny bit more patience, not a big deal. These ideas they are throwing around are not going to “fix” anything. In fact, I’m afraid they are going to make it less safe.

    The problem here is that that location, all the way along Virgil avenue, is where all the streets in the city change to a different direction. The original Los Angeles streets to the east run NE-to-SW. After Virgil, they run E-to-W. This creates the problem as streets run together. (And the newer E-to-W lineup of the streets creates the problem of driving straight into the sun in late afternoon, blinding drivers!)

    The issue is not too many people, it is not too few trees, it is not too few signs. The issue with this intersection is a lack of patience by pedestrians,k drivers, and bicyclists. It is simply going to take a longer wait because of so many streets merging at that one spot.

    And the so worst, most dangerous thing you could ever consider is a roundabout! (That’s the Massachusetts name for it; in other places,it is called a circle.) Many states back east went to a lot of trouble to get rid of roundabouts – because they are incredibly dangerous! They are insane. Take all the troubles people complain about this intersection – and multiply by 20 to get to the level of danger of a roundabout! Roundabouts have suddenly become the talk as if they are new, No, they are a very old idea, a very discredited idea, one that was long ago recognized as a very bad idea and eliminated. Now, faddish people suddenly want roundabouts as if they were some new, great idea. I warn you, people promoting fads are not people to listen to. Roundabouts should not be brought back – unless you are trying to hurt and kill people. That has already long ago been proven about them.

    I’ve been going through it for 35 years. Its not a big deal. But I’m afraid uninformed, although well intentioned, changes will create problems that do not now exist.

    • Calling this “uninformed,” in response to a post that shows the results of a couple surveys and actual data, seems like an uninformed thing to say. If even the LA Times could write a story about it 30 years ago, back when you’d already been going through if for 5 years, according to your math, and describe it as the “second most dangerous intersection in the city,” then saying we should just accept and let bygones be bygones seems an uninformed thing to say. And if 88% of the drivers who responded to the survey said they have seen drivers confused by this intersection (really, how many intersections would you normally see someone “confused” by them?), then I’d say that this isn’t just some uninformed desire to do something about this intersection.

      Also, looks like they want to study a roundabout, not that they’re actually saying “build it.” If roundabouts are actually as bad as you say they are, then the informed study of them as a way to change this intersection will show us that.

    • In Massachusetts they call it a “rotary.” Nearly everywhere else in the world, it’s a “roundabout.” Which, btw, to my eyes, is the clear solution here. This is the first I’ve heard of roundabouts being “discredited,” so like LAifer says, let the DOT be the arbiter of that.

      • A roundabout is an insane solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. The only problem is time. Everybody in the neighborhood avoids the spot if they’re in a rush because a red light means a nearly 5 minute wait.

        If you’re stuck at a red light for five minutes and don’t take that time to LOOK UP at the clearly marked sign telling you which direction your lane goes, that’s an individual problem. Not a government problem that requires millions of dollars in studies and construction. The neighborhood already wasted enough of our money turning Virgil into a two-lane nightmare so a grand total of 5 bicyclists a day can use a bike lane.

        • This intersection is not a problem for drivers – it is a problem for pedestrians and transit. The Vermont/Sunset subway station is one of the most underutilized stations in the entire subway system, and it’s largely because this intersection cuts off a major section of the walkshed for the station. I used to live here at what would have been a nice ten minute walk to the station, but I would often avoid trips because it was 15 minutes or more with the intersection wait. 5 minutes really does make a substantial difference to travel times by foot and transit.

      • One man, two passports.

        American don’t know how to use roundabouts (Or indicators). There’s one in Cabazon right outside of the outlets. Americans think that drivers entering the roundabout have the right of way when it’s the opposite. Americans in general are awful drivers. The drivers test is far too easy. If everyone had to learn to drive a manual like in Europe your brains would function better when it came to driving the lazy mans automatic.

    • Also, I have no idea where you get off saying ignorant nonsense like: roundabouts were “discredited” or “incredibly dangerous” or a “fad” and then calling everyone else uninformed:


    • Check a map. The grid changes at Hoover, not Virgil.

    • roundabouts are only unsafe because americans (and angelenos in particular) are terrible drivers. in europe, where people have to pass rigorous tests that PROVE they can drive before they are handed a license, roundabouts work fantastically well.

  3. Yeah that intersection is a pain in the ass if you don’t make the light, but it’s not THAT confusing. If you’re headed east on Sunset past Vons and you’ve never driven it before, the signs might be confusing. Otherwise it’s pretty simple.

  4. Road Diets. Duh.

  5. An LADOT engineered roundabout would be terrible for the neighborhood… It’s hard enough to safely cross the tree there on foot as is.

  6. A Roundabout/Traffic Circle is a brilliant idea, demonstrably safer and faster. Only in California where every idiot fights what they don’t understand in spite of factual evidence would this even be a question. On the East Coast or in Europe this intersection would’ve been circular a long time ago.

    • Well that’s exactly the problem. Roundabouts are not in use here. Good or bad, the majority of citizens here are not familiar with them. There will be a huge learning curve. Get people used to them on smaller, less busy intersections first, unless you’re a fan of rampant death and destruction. We don’t put toddlers on motorcycles before they’ve learned to ride a tricycle. That’s not the appropriate intersection to first teach Angelenos about roundabouts. Plus, it would thoroughly screw the pedestrians.


    Just put a pedestrian footbridge over this piece of shit already.

  8. Great information to start off with. Now it needs to be evaluated by professional traffic engineers who have PhD’s and do this for a living. Contact Texas A&M University – Department of Transportation. They will put out counters to count the vehicles, separate them by category depending on the space in between the axles. That way you know if it was a regular size car or larger vehicle. An engineer technician will be sent out to measure and draw the intersection, which is what I use to do for them. As well as count the vehicles manually using a set of 8 counters that are all connected. Humdrum and boring but necessary. As well as record it on video to confirm the count. Once the data is downloaded from the traffic counters two engineers go over the data using software and come up with a solution. The data is converted to logarithms to project or predict future traffic increases as well. The final draft report with drawings, charts, and graphs is submitted to the governing agency in charge.

  9. Having protected turn signals would help, as well as timing signals via traffic sensors. They are VERY long signals, so it can be frustrating to be waiting 3.5 minutes for your light to turn green when there is zero cross traffic (very early morning), or at other times waiting for the green so you can turn left when there is no oncoming traffic.

    Over traffic N/S pedestrian bridges on either side of Hillhurst /Virgil would be a huge help. If the traffic signals don’t have to be timed to allow for crossing the very wide streets, the signals could be much shorter. It would be so much safer, too. Overall though, people should try to calm the eff down. It’s not that bad.

  10. Echo Park Gringo.

    If you’re in the left lane heading west on Sunset and you’re first in line at the lights how many times has a car come around the bend heading east on sunset and entered your lane before having to make a quick evasive maneuver back into there proper outside lane. This has happened to me more than once its crazy.

  11. Well, whatever you do, keep honking for peace.

  12. And when they’re done with this, can they figure out how to regulate rush-hour traffic so that cars turning left off Silver Lake onto Glendale don’t block the opposing traffic from Silver Lake east of Glendale? The latter drivers have a three-second green light. You can sit through several exchanges because eastbound drivers enter the intersection without being able to clear it. The same thing happens at Glendale and Fletcher. These intersections wouldn’t be so bad if the 2 freeway had been connected to the 101. But that’s another argument, long over.

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