I agree that density favors alternative transportation, and that development near the light rail reduces the traffic increase (“Favoring density isn’t being dense,” Your Column Here, Feb. 22-23). But in spite of the adjacent light rail station, the environmental impact report projects 7,000 new car trips a day. This implies serious planning assumption errors, and does not meet the Land Use & Circulation Element requirements of no new peak traffic. … Olympic is already seriously congested during peak traffic. Ideally, the Hines project would be a place where workers could also afford to live, thus generating a minimum of traffic. But the concern is that the workers cannot afford market-rate housing, thus the extra traffic. These should be better matched.
The mass transit network must be in place before developments are completed. Having the light rail station built before the Hines project is complete is not enough. For while the new light rail will help reduce east-west traffic, it has little impact on traffic from the San Fernando Valley. Until that is solved, cars will still be used for many commute destinations. In the meantime, it will be hard to get in and out of Santa Monica.
The choice of walking or bicycling depends on both physical capability and safety based on traffic protection, lighting and weather conditions. As for mass transit, proximity to point of origin and destination is but one consideration. Others include cost, frequency, and travel time to destination. The Big Blue Bus got rid of transfers and operates several bus lines every half hour during midday. Neither is conducive to increased mass transit use.
By comparison, San Francisco encourages mass transit with free transfers, excellent frequency and area coverage. BART differs from our light rail in two significant ways: no grade crossings for faster and safer trips, and lots of parking at most stations to funnel people to the trains. Without these, our light rail will be less useful for Santa Monicans, unfortunately, as the light rail should be accessible to all.
Why do parking requirements favor large development? For years, even small condo and apartment buildings provided parking for their tenants. On-site residential parking gets cars off the streets, benefiting visitors and businesses, or makes room for bike lanes. Even if cars are not used for commuting, people still need cars for vacations, the handicapped, and various errands. Many evening events require cars, when public transportation is less available or non-existent.
At some point in the future, we may have a great public transportation system throughout the Los Angeles basin, greatly reducing car commutes. But that time is not now, and we need traffic solutions now, not 30 years from now. Isn’t the low-key beach life why visitors come to Santa Monica? As long as there is a disparity between housing costs and wages, I don’t see new development improving traffic. And how much development do we have natural resources for?