Plans to redesign Lincoln Boulevard¬†received an overwhelmingly positive response this week when presented to the Planning Commission at their Sept. 2 meeting.
The Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor (LiNC) plan calls for substantial upgrades to 17 blocks of the road stretching from the I-10 freeway to Ozone Avenue. The plan includes economic updates, reconfiguration of the street, reclamation of unused curb cuts and improvements to the sidewalks.
Several members of the Lincoln Boulevard Task Force, a volunteer association of residents that have long been involved in proposed upgrades, praised the status of the LiNC.
“It’s really gratifying to see the city is listening to grassroots resident groups,” Swanson said.
He said many of the staff recommendations originated from resident input and several speakers referenced the plan’s incorporation of resident feedback.
Several themes emerged from the conversation.
Both members of the public and members of the commission, said the goal is to improve the area, not to push out existing businesses.
“I wouldn’t want to see down to earth businesses that we really need replaced by a totally corporate presence,” said Gloria Garvin.
A second theme focused on a proposal to create a dedicated bus lane during peak hours.
Staff said some details of the proposal were still to be discussed including the legality of allowing bikes in those lanes and decisions about what kind of bus operations can use the lanes.
Tim McCormick with the Big Blue Bus said bus routes adapted based on need and capacity.
“The routes that travel long distances, to the south and to the east, where a lot of lower income housing is, are bringing workers here and are the routes that are growing fastest so that’s Lincoln and Pico,” he said.
He said bus ridership will increase as routes become more efficient compared to cars. “It’s not unrealistic to expect five to ten percent a year growth and if we got the bus lanes, it could be transformational,” he said.
When asked to elaborate, he said improving transit times is the most important prompt for bus ridership.
“When we can actually move faster than cars, like the train does, you start to attract the kind of ridership that the train does. It’s not going to be an overnight process. We’ve all seen with the orange line out in the valley that rubber wheels vs. steel wheels is not the issue. It’s travel speed. Everyone when they put the orange line in said it’s not a train, it’s not going to work, nobody’s going to take it because people don’t like busses, it’s not that people don’t like busses, it’s that people don’t like traffic, they want to move fast and trains move fast and that’s the issue.”
He said a dedicated bus lane could cut 15 to 20 minutes off the trip to the airport and once the bus consistently outpaces cars, it will begin to draw additional passengers.
“If you can get to the airport 20 minutes faster, I won’t have to ask you if you think it’s a good idea,” he said. “You’ll all be on it because it’s the fastest way to get there and that’s what I mean by transformational.”
Medians were the third topic. While the Commission supported the plans that call for some kind of median, they asked staff to carefully evaluate the impact of medians on not only Lincoln, but the side streets.
“Concerns have been raised by members of the public that the addition of medians would impact the flow of traffic on side streets,” said Commissioner Jason Parry.
Staff said their analysis showed the majority of turns on smaller streets were likely to be residents of the neighborhood, not traffic attempting cross town trips. As such, medians were not likely to cause significant traffic on side streets and those that needed to make turns could be accommodated by allowing U-turns.
“Se tried to be cautions and be respectful of peoples’ neighborhood streets but also understanding if we included the opportunity for U-turns and placed medians close enough to other neighborhood streets, that the impacts would be minimized,” said Peter James, Special Projects and Communications Administrator at City of Santa Monica.
He said medians were installed on Wilshire with no measureable negative impact. While the Wilshire data was encouraging, staff said Lincoln was really a unique situation. Other streets are configured with a grid pattern but Lincoln has multiple off-set streets and angled approaches from side streets. Those features require specialized solutions and staff said the decisions about where to place bulb-outs, medians and other features was driven largely by the physical restraints of the street.
James said Santa Monica’s plans were about more than just travel and the LiNC reflected a bigger vision.
“Our charge is to make Lincoln better for cars and for transit yes, but also to make it better for the neighborhoods, better for people, better for the businesses, better for the livelihoods of the 50,000 people that travel across it every day,” he said.
The plan will be discussed by council for the first time at the end of November, is expected to return to Planning Commission in January of 2016 and could be adopted in March/April of 2016.