Santa Monica Lookout
Planning Commission Tackles Future of Getting Around Downtown Santa Monica
By Jason Islas
March 8, 2013 -- Downtown Santa Monica could see itself transformed in the coming years, with less on-street parking, one-way streets, fewer left-hand turn lanes, sidewalks as wide as 25 feet and even new streets along the 10 Freeway.
These are among the suggested strategies presented to the Planning Commission Wednesday as part of the Downtown Specific Plan, to tackle congestion and help safely and efficiently move people on foot, in cars, on bikes and on buses throughout Santa Monica's dense downtown area.
“These are just things we're looking at,” said Neal Payton, a principal with the urban design firm Torti Gallas and Partners, which has been working on the Downtown Specific Plan.
Among the “tools” that planners are considering are included building more parking on the periphery of the Downtown area and adding scramble crossings at key intersections to prevent conflicts between cars turning while pedestrians are crossing.
The general consensus Wednesday was that the circulation strategies in the Downtown Specific Plan should make the pedestrian experience a priority.
“I think pedestrians need to be the priority,” said Vice Chair Jennifer Kennedy, echoing the sentiments of the Commission. “Pedestrian safety and circulation everywhere throughout the downtown should be the main priority.”
“Almost everyone's a pedestrian at some point in their downtown journey,” said Commissioner Jason Parry.
Even so, staff isn't looking to stop people from driving downtown but rather looking to make downtown a multi-modal environment.
Staff emphasized the City's park-once strategy, which encourages visitors to the downtown area to park their cars in one location while they shop, eat or just meander.
“A lot of the traffic that occurs downtown is from people circulating around looking for parking,” said Commissioner Amy Anderson, referring to the staff's report. “For any parking strategy, it would be important to prioritize” a system that makes it clear to people where the is parking.
The staff also recommended more parking be built on the periphery of Downtown, but some Commissioners thought that, unless there was easy access from the periphery parking to downtown's core, it could undermine the park-once strategy.
“So much of the conversation has been about adding parking,” said Kennedy. “My suggestion would be to really focus on circulation first.”
She imagined a series of one-way streets around the Promenade that kept traffic circulating in a clockwise manner while looking for parking.
Newbold was more skeptical of one-way streets, adding that there she thought there were many issues. McKinnon pointed out that one-way streets could actually speed-up traffic and make streets less pedestrian friendly.
Payton told the Commission that he thought one thing that could make a big difference with circulation downtown would be if the Big Blue Bus could coordinate their buses' layovers to happen at the yard rather than curbside.
“This whole discussion goes toward what sort of city we want,” said McKinnon. “The shape of the city should be driven by how we create liveable, walkable spaces.”
|copyrightCopyright 1999-2013 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.|