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Understanding the FactsHow emergency response will be impacted

How emergency response will be impacted

Measure HLA will improve emergency response times by implementing the City’s Mobility Plan. The Plan’s environmental analysis found there would be no impact to emergency response times over the status quo by adding hundreds of miles of new bus lanes and center turn lanes allow emergency responders to bypass traffic.

Fact Checking UFLAC

According to the LA Times:
"the Mobility Plan requires that the fire department review individual proposed changes to traffic lanes. But the plan’s environmental impact report found that street redesigns would actually help emergency response by adding center left turn lanes and bus lanes, which would allow ambulances and firetrucks to whiz by car traffic."
The Mobility Plan EIR studied emergency response times and traffic. It found that, by implementing the plan in full, peak-hour vehicle miles traveled will fall by -4.3% over a no-build option.
“Many of the roadway configurations as shown in the Complete Streets Design Guide would include continuous center left turn lanes, which facilitate emergency access when the thru lanes experience delays. In some instances, a roadway reconfiguration could improve emergency access where a continuous center left turn lane is introduced where it did not previously exist. Generally, multi-lane roadways allow the emergency vehicles to travel at higher speeds and permit other traffic to maneuver out of the path of the emergency vehicle. ” (section 4.1)
"In addition, emergency service vehicles would be able to utilize the bus-only lanes when responding to an emergency which could help to improve travel times along the TEN corridors. Therefore, no impact related to emergency access would occur." (section 5)
In summary, implementing the Mobility Plan would reduce emergency response time over the status quo.

In California, vehicles are mandated by law to move to the right when being passed by emergency vehicles. This means congestion itself is not a good proxy for emergency response time. With a proper road design, responders will bypass traffic.

Response speed on a street is not a question of lane capacity, but of lane flexibility. Center turn lanes and center running transit lanes create “express bypass lanes” for emergency vehicles. Similarly, unprotected bike lanes and curb running transit lanes create flexible space where cars can pull over to let emergency vehicles pass.

The Federal Highway Administration put it simply saying that safe road reconfigurations "can significantly improve response times by allowing emergency vehicles to bypass traffic'" while "reducing motor-vehicle crashes by 19 to 47 percent"

A graphic showing a 4 to 3 lane reconfiguration making it easier for emergency responders Graphic from the Federal Highway Administration

250 miles of exclusive (peak or 24/7) transit lanes that allow emergency bypass will be built by implementing the Mobility Plan. And while it’s not possible to definitively say how many new center turn lanes will be created as there is no public database to compare against, it is easily in the hundreds of miles. 600 miles of major streets will be reconfigured with the vast majority receiving center turn lanes.

Meanwhile - a high level analysis using the City of LA's Complete Street Guide found that only 32 miles of streets may lose center turn lanes by implementing the Mobility Plan. With HLA’s flexibility to move treatments to parallel streets, or modify treatments (i.e. a cycle-track instead of two protected bike lanes may allow a vehicle lane to be maintained) these impacts should easily mitigated.

In summary, according to the City’s own Environmental Impact Report, the Mobility Plan will likely speed up emergency response times by building hundreds of miles of emergency bypass lanes and creating more navigable roads. Additionally, by making streets safer, it will result in fewer overall emergencies needing response.