Logo horizontal ruler


City Charts Path to Fight Traffic Congestion

By Jorge Casuso

June 19 -- Hoping to reduce new net car trips to “zero,” the City Council on Tuesday gave the green light to a plan that fights traffic congestion by using a classic carrot-and-stick approach, and some government regulation.

A cornerstone of the framework for the City’s new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), the plan proposes a mixed bag of tools that includes imposing new development fees, upgrading traffic signals, encouraging carpooling, carving out new and better bike lanes and jacking up parking fees.

The plan would concentrate new development near public transit nodes such as future light rail stations, encourage walking by providing neighborhood-serving uses in strategic locations and charge developers mitigation fees to bankroll special districts to manage traffic.

The districts would help coordinate and encourage car and van pooling to work, as well as shuttles and “flex cars” to the get carless workers around during the workday, planning officials said.

“This document as a whole is inspiring,” said Mayor Herb Katz. “It goes far beyond what I’ve ever read before in a planning document.”

The proposed Circulation Element, said Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom, “embraces a paradigm shift on parking and traffic.”

The plan, said traffic consultant Jeffrey Tumlin, is based on a basic premise: “There is no capacity to accommodate new trips. Let’s not pretend we can.”

The key component of the plan is to target new development only on corridors that will have easy access to light rail, a move Tumlin estimates would cut potential car trips in half.

The development would likely take place at Bergamot Station on the city’s east side, around Ocean Park and Lincoln boulevards and near the hospitals around 14th Street and Wilshire Boulevard.

Developers who build above a certain height -- yet to be determined -- would pay a fee based on square footage. The money would be used to create "Transportation Demand Management Districts" that would coordinate and encourage transportation alternatives, such as car and van pooling, not only for employees in the building, but for those in surrounding ones as well.

“We have to put together a very aggressive Transportation Demand Management District not just for their employees,” Fogarty said after the meeting. “The City has to be in the business of bringing in a manager” for the districts.

“We don’t charge fees now, so that’s a big opportunity,” Fogarty said.

Car pooling and providing incentives to take public transit already has proven effective in large developments – such as at the Water Garden complex and at RAND headquarters – where car trips have been reduced by 50 percent, said Planning Director Eileen Fogarty.

The plan also would encourage motorists to leave their cars at home by providing shuttle service and “flex cars” that can be rented by the hour and by encouraging new neighborhood serving uses within walking distance of homes and offices.

If the plan offers carrots to encourage motorists to ditch their cars, it also provides a stick in the form of higher parking fees, which according to City officials have been kept artificially low.

The plan, Tumlin said, “uses price to balance supply and demand.”

The plan also includes adding certain uses to streets, such as recreational uses for the median along Olympic Boulevard similar to San Vicente Boulevard, which has a similarly wide and shaded median that is popular with joggers.

The plan also would carve out walking and bicycling routes through the Santa Monica High School and Santa Monica College campuses, a pedestrian and bike bridge over the 10 Freeway at 7th Street and new improved connections to the beach.

The plan, Tumlin said, “would produce one of the strongest bike networks in all California” and “make Santa Monica a pleasure to walk on every street in the city.”

In the works for more than three years, the plan -- which will be fine tuned over the next several months -- is reaching final form as voters prepare to vote on a ballot initiative that addresses traffic congestion by curbing commercial development.

Many City and business leaders worry that the measure on the November ballot -- which would cap most commercial development at 75,000 square feet a year for the next 15 years -- is an end-run around LUCE.

But instead of gutting LUCE, Council member Kevin McKeown argued that the Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT) in fact compliments the city’s plan, which does not limit development.

“LUCE gives us a mechanism to steer the future of our community,” said McKeown, who is the only Council member who backs initiative. “RIFT gives us that brake pedal. I think they could work together.

“There is a possibility that we create a baby that grows out of control,” McKeown said referring to LUCE.

Tumlin warned that Santa Monica’s efforts -- no mater how successful -- will not be enough to address the “huge” problem of traffic congestion.

“Regardless of what Santa Monica does here, the regional traffic problem is always going to be bigger than what Santa Monica has control over,” said Tumlin, a principal at Nelson/Nygaard Associates.

“The primary traffic problem is regional, rather than local,” Tumlin said.


“This document as a whole is inspiring.” Herb Katz


"I think they (RIFT and LUCE) could work together." Kevin McKeown


“The primary traffic problem is regional, rather than local.” Jeffrey Tumlin


Lookout Logo footer image
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.
Footer Email icon