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Santa Monica Readies More Parking Signs to Ease Downtown Gridlock
By Niki Cervantes
February 12, 2018 -- A proposed contract adding more “real-time” parking signs downtown to steer drivers to spots in Santa Monica’s city parking garages goes to the City Council on Tuesday, part of an overarching plan that allows more development downtown but doesn’t require new parking in general.
The item before the council would award a contract of no more than $105,000 over three years to Transpo Group, Inc., a Washington-based company, for engineering design services for the “Downtown Real-Time Parking Signs Project.”
The City’s Downtown Community Plan (DCP) -- adopted in July by the council after a six-year planning process -- includes expanding use of traffic signs and short messages that alert motorists to real-time traveling conditions and open spots at City garages.
“The Downtown Real-Time Parking Project is identified in the City’s Downtown Community Plan as a means to reduce traffic congestion and help drivers more quickly find available parking,” a staff report to the council said.
The project “will develop construction-ready plans, specifications, and estimates for real-time parking and traveler information signs for motorists traveling to Santa Monica’s Downtown parking garages adjacent to 2nd Street, 4th Street, and the Pier,” the report said.
Santa Monica’s DCP is part of a re-engineering of the city which undertakes a juggling act ("Santa Monica Council Sets Highest Affordable Housing Requirement in State for Downtown," July 27, 2017).
The plan allows more new building, especially adjacent to Expo, but averts more congestion by discouraging cars -- and parking space for them -- in favor of alternative transportation, such as Expo, buses or walking and bicycling.
The DCP clears the way for 3.2 million square feet in new, and taller, building.
Finding a place to park downtown has been a battle for years. The area's daytime population mushrooms to a quarter of a million people as workers and visitors pour in, officials say.
In 2014, the City completed the “Real-Time Beach Parking Project,” installing 21 digital signs to direct motorist to the beach parking lots ("City Council to Consider $6.5 Million for Parking System Upgrades," January 13, 2014).
Two years later, City staff began exploring expanding the system into the downtown. It would involve installing two types of “dynamic message signs” in the area bounded by Ocean Avenue, California Avenue, Pico Boulevard and 6th Street.
The first type is small and two-sided, and proposed for the entrance to seven Downtown parking garages.
The second type is a “full matrix sign that can display multiple lines of text and graphics,” the staff report said.
Those signs would be in 18 locations.
The signs will “display messages directing motorists from the freeway off-ramps to the nearest available parking facilities based on real-time occupancy conditions,” staff said.
“The DMS will also have the capability to display custom messages and will assist the management and diversion of traffic during special events, planned closures, or unexpected incidents,” it said.
Much of DCP focuses on building new apartment/mixed use complexes, meant to address a regional (and statewide) housing crunch. Many projects, especially along boulevards like Lincoln, are razing 1970s era buildings with surface parking lots to construct multi-story apartment houses.
Those include several levels of underground parking. But the blueprints for those developments were submitted before the council decided not to institute parking requirements downtown.
Tuesday’s council meeting is at 5:30 pm. at City Hall Council Chambers, 1685 Main Street.
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