Workshop Focuses on Sustainable Transportation
By Anita Varghese
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,
- 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
- 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
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
“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
“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.”