It looks like Lincoln Boulevard will soon join The Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plans, Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (MANGo), Downtown Transit Mall and the new Big Blue Bus stops on Santa Monica’s ever growing list of transportation planning misfiles.

The Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor Plan or “The Linc” promises both “short- and long-term enhancements” to the public right of way on Lincoln Boulevard between the I-10 Freeway and the city limits at Ozone Avenue.

Check out this verbiage from the Planning Department’s Linc webpage. “Utilizing a strategy that balances tactical urbanism and the desire for ‘Pop-Up Placemaking’ with long-range capital improvements, the Plan also incorporates a layer of policy and program level recommendations for creating a more functional, aesthetically pleasing pedestrian experience that is supported and/or managed by the local business community and property owners.” Sheeez!

Lincoln needs work. The street is a drab and unexciting collection of auto repair shops, filling stations, used car lots, utilitarian retail stores, inexpensive motels, a school, a couple of fast-food outlets and open strip malls, one with a struggling supermarket. The street could use some gussying up.

Residents formed a task force and initiated a street art project that has brightened many of the drab buildings and created an exciting visual element. They’re advocating for landscaping, sidewalk and walking improvements, new street lighting and street furniture. However, the potential to muck up traffic flow on Lincoln should have everybody worried. Lincoln is the primary artery between the freeway and Santa Monica’s downtown with all points south.

Nearly a decade ago, City council approved exclusive peak use bicycle lanes on Lincoln. They were never implemented pending the installation of similar lanes in Venice and Marina del Rey. Aside from eight to ten Number 3/Rapid 3 buses an hour, the lanes will sit empty, except for a couple dozen bicycle riders, while forty to fifty thousand vehicles daily would crowd into the remaining two traffic lanes.

In addition, city planners want physical medians down the center of Lincoln. Whether they be landscaped planters or traffic barriers at crosswalks has yet to be determined. Planners are studying four new crosswalks at currently unsignalized side streets, which, if implemented, will further impede already poor traffic flow.

A clue on how planners operate is perfectly exemplified by this poll on their Linc webpage: “Which of these options for medians on Lincoln Blvd do you prefer? Minimal medians (about 1000 feet) with most left turn opportunities preserved, maximized medians (about 2000 feet) with some left turns restricted at Cedar, Maple, Hill, Pier and Wilson Streets, Something in between?” So, what option is missing?

How about, “No medians?” Their poll is classic planning manipulation. They eliminate obvious options so the process serves what “they” want, not the public’s preference. You just know at the public scoping meetings, when queried, the planner in charge will step away from his/her drawing board and announce to the assembly that nobody said they didn’t want medians.

In 2005, Pico area neighbors requested street enhancements on 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and the I-10 Freeway. They asked for shade trees, improved sidewalks and new street lighting. City Hall returned with a series of proposals for removing scarce parking spots on Cloverfield Boulevard for tree wells, a crosswalk on 20th Street at Virginia Avenue, removal of traffic lanes on 20th to be replaced by dedicated bicycle lanes, planted medians, islands and other impairments as requested by those sitting on City Council at the time.

Neighbors worried that impeding the traffic flow on the heavily traveled 20th and Cloverfield thoroughfares (which are gateways to Santa Monica College and the freeway) would cause drivers to divert onto adjoining residential side streets to avoid gridlock. When I inquired what staff’s traffic studies revealed about the extent of the diversion, I was told that the transportation planners didn’t know because it wasn’t researched!

After eight years of fighting and fussing with City Hall, Pico residents finally got what they wanted without all the traffic reforms proposed by politicians and the rainbow chasers in transportation planning.

Flawed traffic pattern alterations on Lincoln will likely cause motorists to shortcut through residential streets, looking for a route with less congestion. Once again, will the planners throw the bullpucky and say, “It shouldn’t be a problem” like they told Pico residents during the 20th/Cloverfield redo or will they do their jobs and do the research?

Back on Lincoln planners hope to, “weave together phased physical design improvements to the streetscape and right-of-way with policy and program level recommendations for balancing vehicle flow and demand” says Linc’s webpage. Good.

Transportation planners envision “a mixed-mode and livable street environment for pedestrians, transit and vehicles, the ability for bicycles to coexist with other modes on this busy boulevard has also been explored.” Enhancing transit ridership and efficiency is another goal. Peak hour dedicated bus lanes will,” planners say, “increase Big Blue Bus ridership, as well as corridor travel times for transit users.” Yep, all this to save one minute of bus travel time by forcing more cars into less space. Brilliant!

Planners hope to “eliminate conflicts between vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Increase the number of crossings to promote pedestrian and bicycle movements across the boulevard and into the neighborhoods.” How can they accomplish all of this and still “maintain and improve vehicle flow for the 40,000-50,000 motorists who use Lincoln Blvd. as the city’s primary north/south commuting corridor?”

Sounds like a load to me.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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