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LUCE Workshop Focuses on Sustainable Transportation

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

December 10 -- Transportation resources should be allocated for sustainable and environmentally friendly approaches, said attendees at last week’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) workshop.

LUCE Transportation Workshop (Photo by Frank Gruber)

Among Thursday’s workshop participants, major topics of interest, whether or not these topics are supported or rejected by the public, include:

  • Encouraging the use of sustainable practices such as mass transit, walking and bicycling;
  • Decoupling parking and housing to reward people who drive fewer or no vehicles;
  • Providing incentives for people who own, rent or share alternatively fueled vehicles;
  • Increasing the availability of affordable workforce housing as one method of reducing traffic congestion; and
  • Implementing a Safe Routes to Schools program for students attending public and private elementary, middle and high schools and colleges.

“Transportation is not an end in itself,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, the City’s transportation consultant and a principal at Nelson/Nygaard Associates.

“It does no good just to have people driving around in circles,” he said. “Transportation, like the sewer system, is there to support other city functions and other city goals.”

Twelve transportation principals and 41 programs and policies have emerged from public input gathered at a variety of LUCE workshops in the past few years.

Among the principals that will guide city planning staff as they work on 20-year policies are that transportation is a limited resource that must be carefully managed, that efficient transportation supports a strong economy, that reducing vehicle trips is a solution to global climate change and that fairness demands equal distribution of transportation investments.

Other guiding principals are that transportation services support the city’s social life, that streets should be designed to support the places and neighborhoods they serve, that transportation systems should be less frustrating and that more enjoyable opportunities for walking and bicycling improves public health.

“We are tying to convert this into language for Santa Monica’s General Plan, language that is much different from other cities’ General Plans,” Tumlin said.

“It is good to talk about principles that are in conflict with one another, where programs and policies create problems in an effort to solve another problem,” he said. “In the transportation world, a one-size fits all solution never ever works.”

One idea that creates tension and asks the public and City planners to consider many trade-offs is decoupling parking.

While planning commissioners Hank Konig and Terry O’Day would like to see City officials study the issue, their colleague Julia Lopez Dad has a vehement opposition to decoupling parking.

“Unbundling parking falls heaviest on people who have the least income when we are doing everything we can to develop affordable housing in the city,” Lopez Dad said.

“It is not a good idea for a variety of reasons to create a market for parking spaces, to create a commodity that could become more expensive and cause burdens for residents,” she said.

“We have so many residences and apartment complexes with not enough parking to begin with and to take away parking options only makes the problem worse.”

Lopez Dad said she can support studying shared parking and preferential parking options for rented flex cars or newer vehicle models built to be friendly to the environment.

“Traffic does not just come from people who live in or need to get around Santa Monica,” said Commissioner Gleam Davis.

“Traffic is coming from people who need to get into Santa Monica because this is where their jobs are,” she said. “We need a regional approach to the issue, but we can’t control cities like Los Angeles.”

Davis would like the Big Blue Bus to identify more necessary routes outside of Santa Monica.

At the moment, bus lines are dedicated for heavily traveled routes to and from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Westchester, UCLA in Westwood and downtown Los Angeles.

Santa Monica College recently undertook a comprehensive survey of its students that helps determine where they live, Davis said.

The college now subsidizes Big Blue Bus routes to and from Culver City, Mar Vista, Palms, West Los Angeles and other surrounding Westside communities.

“They now have an unexpected, tremendous increase in ridership and I don’t see why we can’t do something like this for our special office districts or Downtown,” Davis said.

“We could have a Big Blue Bus line into the Valley if employees are coming from there,” she said. “Someone from Sherman Oaks is not going to bike into Santa Monica.”

Davis also suggested that bus lines be rerouted inside Santa Monica because she takes the bus in a confusing maze from her eastside home to a westside stop, traveling back in an eastern direction to her downtown law office.

Another suggestion is for City officials to continue taking a proactive approach and plan for the possibility of future light rail and underground subway trains from Los Angeles to Santa Monica, Davis said.

“Car traffic, which is a pain for everyone in the city, makes it so difficult for us to talk about land use and circulation in a constructive way because everyone always says they don’t want any more cars,” said Planning Commission Chair Gwynne Pugh.

“Fifteen years ago, cities like Vancouver found out they had terrible traffic problems,” he said. “As Vancouver officials developed their city’s plans, they realized that car transportation went down.

“People were using their cars less because the ability to walk and utilize public transportation went up. This is a possibility in our city, but we can never get rid of all cars.”

Readers Fine Jewelers Advertisement


“It does no good just to have people driving around in circles.” Jeffrey Tumlin


“It is not a good idea for a variety of reasons to create a market for parking spaces." Julie Lopez Dad


“Traffic is coming from people who need to get into Santa Monica." Gleam Davis


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