In Southern California, marking the seasons can be difficult. There’s no significant foliage change and the sharp chill of autumn bottoms out in the mid 60’s. Instead, Santa Monica marks its seasons with a measure that is as intrinsic to the city snow might be to the Northeast: traffic.
The City’s summer traffic pattern has ended with the last Twilight Concert and the fall congestion will begin with back to school traffic when local schools reopen on Tuesday, Aug. 22. In anticipation of the changing conditions officials are making some big requests of local parents, students and non-school drivers: drive carefully, be patient and in a particularly radical request for the region, maybe leave early enough to account for congestion.
“We always remind parents to plan for extra time the first few weeks of school as routines are being established and also watch for our students who walk or ride their bikes to school,” said Gail Pinsker SMMUSD Community & Public Relations Officer. “We hope the community also takes care as school resumes.”
The Santa Monica Police Department is also asking commuters to be aware of the increased traffic but they are prepared to enforce rules the rules if their polite warnings fall on deaf ears.
Police officers will be out in force citywide during the first few weeks to enforce rules for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Lt. Candice Cobarrubias said officers will be watching for all kinds of unsafe behavior including the many kinds of parking violations (blocked driveways, double parking, blocking a bike lane, parking in a red zone) that accompany the school commute. She said pedestrians and bike riders will also be subject to tickets if they create a dangerous situation.
“The rules of the road apply to everyone and we just want to get a message across that we want to be a little bit more considerate and much more vigilant and have a greater sense of awareness where we’re at and when we’re in that place,” she said.
Cobarrubias said distracted driving remains a significant and potentially deadly problem.
“Dropping off your loved one at school is going to take maybe 10 minutes at the most, don’t look at phone, don’t have a text conversation,” she said. “Distracted driving is a huge concern for the police department and it should be a huge concern for the community as it is. Take time to focus on the task at hand. The other thing too as a driver, make sure the pedestrians see you before you make a turn.”
Responsibility for a safe community extends beyond drivers. Cobarrubias said individuals walking, bike, skateboarding or otherwise using the sidewalks need to be aware of the roads.
“We really need to hone it in as a walker or bicycles,” she said. “You have to be very mindful of cars, you can’t think because you’re in a cross walk a car is going to stop or a car is going to see you. Take time to look up. It’s a hard message for parents who are walking their kids because there’s that sense that the car has to stop which is in certain situations is true, but it doesn’t mean the car is the only responsible party on the road.”
She said drivers unconnected to the schools still need to understand the back to school season and engage in safe driving behaviors even if they are not going to or from a school.
“There’s heavy pedestrian, bike, skateboard and activity for first three weeks,” she said. “They need to give themselves extra time and for drivers, because at the end of day they’re the ones who win the battle, they have to make sure they’re seen and they see people. Don’t make any assumptions out there.”
Students willing to take public transit can do so for less than $20. Big Blue Bus has reduced the price of a 30-Day Youth Pass for K-12 students (ages 5-18) to $19. The pass provides youth under the age of 18 with unlimited BBB rides within a consecutive 30 day period. The pass can be loaded onto a Student TAP card (that also offers a discounted $1 rate on Metro), accessed via the Token Transit app on a smartphone or purchased using a paper pass at the Transit store. Visit https://www.bigbluebus.com/Rider-Info/Riding-BBB-to-School.aspx for more information on the BBB options.