City Hall wants those who plan to attend the nocturnal art event Glow this Saturday to leave their cars at home and take public transit, bike or walk to Downtown since several streets will be closed and the demand for parking in structures around the Third Street Promenade will most likely be high. When Glow was first held in 2008, those trying to leave were faced with bumper-to-bumper traffic in Downtown. Buses were delayed for several hours and frustrations were high — as were some of those who attended the event (attention people, this is not a rave). Santa Monica’s City Hall estimates as many as 200,00 showed up for the party.
This year, Glow is expected to be more subdued with a stronger focus on the art. More time was dedicated to planning the event and crowd control, however, it seems City Hall failed in one key area: public transit. According to the Big Blue Bus, all routes into Downtown will stop short. Bus drivers are ordered to turn around at 11th Street to avoid heading into Downtown and getting stuck in traffic, causing drastic delays. Metro bus lines will also be altered.
While walking roughly 11 blocks doesn’t seem like that far of a trek, we have to wonder why a dedicated lane was not created for buses and emergency vehicles to travel into Downtown. We got our answer. It was too expensive. Big Blue Bus officials presented a plan to City Hall in which Colorado Avenue would be turned into a bus-only lane, mimicking the future Exposition Light Rail Line. The plan was to have buses converge on Colorado around the Water Garden. Many city departments were said to be in favor of the idea and excited about the opportunity to test out Colorado, which will be altered when the light rail line comes to town.
Apparently the police department and ultimately the City Manager’s Office felt the plan would be too expensive. When BBB officials offered to start the dedicated bus lane at Lincoln Boulevard, they were told it was still too expensive to have officers stand guard at intersections.
We say put your money where your mouth is, City Hall. City officials love to talk about how Santa Monica is at the forefront of sustainability, but when it comes to encouraging people to ride the Big Blue Bus to Glow there just isn’t enough money to go around. This decision to stop buses at 11th Street comes as City Hall celebrates Sustainability Week and the release of its Sustainability Report Card, a chance for city officials to brag about being green.
We just can’t accept the “it’s too expensive” excuse when City Hall goes out of its way, and spends more money than it has to on some purchases, just so it can get the greenest products possible. We support those decisions and can’t believe there isn’t enough money to extend bus service during Glow. This is the type of event that draws dedicated drivers to take the bus, a novelty that gets those who are public transit resistant an excuse to take a chance and ride. If people find out that they cannot get to their final destination on the bus, it reinforces their belief that public transit isn’t reliable, isn’t beneficial and that driving is their best bet, even if they have to circle city streets in the hunt for a spot.
And what about those who are not physically able to get to the pier on foot: the disabled, the elderly and families with small children.
We commend City Hall for its sustainable practices and for putting on an event like Glow that celebrates the arts and could possibly spark consumer spending at a time when businesses are struggling. However, we feel City Hall dropped the ball when it comes to the BBB detour. If you want to encourage people to take public transit, you have to make it as convenient as possible and we just don’t think City Hall made the effort.