Perhaps the most striking development to the increased artistic and community programming at this past Saturday's 9th annual Frogtown Artwalk, was the conscious attempt to address transportation issues that will arise as the L.A. River's revitalization continues to attract more and more Angelenos to the riverfront neighborhoods.
Elysian Valley already faces parking issues because of its narrow streets and riverfront industrial section that brings large commercial vehicles through the neighborhood on a daily basis. These factors, combined with the collective impact of increased cars, bicyclists, skate boarders, kayakers, and pedestrians that use the area's prime river access points, have created valid concerns amongst residents and businesses who fear the looming congestion that may result from the River's increased popularity.
At this year's Artwalk there was a concentrated effort to relieve automobile traffic congestion and offer alternative mobility options. Organizers created designated parking lots accompanied with shuttles, offered pedicab service on the river trail, and saturated the neighborhood with directional signs of all sorts and colors, designed to help attendees navigate the event.
Local organizer and Elysian Valley Arts Collective president, Tracy Stone, stated that the strategies were deployed as a way to "consider the future of Elysian Valley, how to accommodate all the people who are thinking about coming here for the River, and what solutions could be tested so that it becomes a neighborhood that everyone can use." The Elysian Valley Neighborhood Council funded the strategies through a series of Neighborhood Purpose Grants, and local L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell's District 13 office assisted with the street closure efforts.
The pedicabs added an active use of the river's greenway trail as it transported Artwalk attendees to the various venues that opened their doors to art, amusement, and live music. Along with the crowds of people who got around on foot, the pedicabs provided the necessary slowing down of some inconsiderate bicyclists who choose to see the trail as a speedway instead of a multimodal space open to public gathering.
The majority of designated parking lots were sensibly placed at the fringes of the neighborhood close to Riverside Drive, with the intent that the shuttles would roam around for pick-up and drop-off throughout the spaces of Artwalk activity. As expected for any parking strategy deployed for the first time, there was some confusion because parking lots and shuttle stops were not as easily identifiable to drivers coming into the area. At the intersection of Ripple Street and Gilroy Street, there was noticeable traffic perplexity. Artwalk volunteers attempted to remedy the confusion by taking to the streets and actively directing drivers to the designated lots and shuttles. As this particular Artwalk grows in future years, there will need to be a more coordinated effort in ameliorating traffic and parking snags.
Overall, Frogtown Artwalk organizers, like the creative neighborhood they are embedded in, continue to be at the forefront of addressing the impending transportation and parking tensions that riverfront neighborhoods face. Like the local residents and small businesses in the neighborhood, other efforts have also recognized the mobility challenges. For example, the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront District Vision Plan and recreation and commerce advocate River Wild have called for intentional plans for an Elysian Valley Parking District that seek to effectively manage the transportation and parking challenges of the neighborhood in relation to the region.
As Angelenos collectively rediscover the L.A. River as an asset, let us hope that we can collectively join in to ensure that the neighborhood of Elysian Valley is not bombarded by cars aimlessly searching for parking to access the River. Strategies such as designated parking lots and alternative mobility options offer solutions that allow all of us to enjoy the River and its vibrant riverfront neighborhoods.