City planners are studying the possibility of turning parts of seven major Downtown thoroughfares into one-way streets.
As a part of the Downtown Specific Plan, which will dictate land-uses in the area, city officials commissioned a study of some changes to traffic patterns, including making Fourth and Fifth streets one-way.
Studies showed that this change alone wouldn’t be worth it.
But in December, City Council agreed to have city planners study an entire one-way network Downtown.
With the construction of the Colorado Esplanade — which will make the connection between the terminus station of the incoming Expo Light Rail, Downtown, and the Santa Monica Pier more pedestrian-friendly — Colorado Avenue is already slated to go one way westbound from Fifth Street to Ocean Avenue.
City planners are now considering adding six other streets to the mix.
Second and Fifth streets would run one way northbound from Colorado to Wilshire Boulevard. Fourth Street would run southbound from Wilshire to Colorado.
Broadway would run eastbound from Ocean to Lincoln Boulevard while Santa Monica Boulevard would run one way in the opposite direction. Arizona Avenue would run eastbound from Ocean Avenue to Seventh Street.
These streets would be one-way for cars and bikes but some would remain two-way for Big Blue Buses.
This is only for study at this point, and the results will be presented to council alongside options for no one-way streets (aside from Colorado Avenue) and the Fourth and Fifth street one-way couplet, which city planners now know is not particularly helpful for traffic flow.
When city officials presented the idea to Downtown Santa Monica Inc., the public-private company that manages the Downtown for City Hall, many flinched.
“So this is terrifying at first blush,” Downtown President and CEO Kathleen Rawson said.
She expressed concern about the impacts that dedicated bus lanes would have on pedestrians as well as the impacts that the one-way streets would have on neighborhoods outside of Downtown. Further, she warned that Santa Monica is bad at wayfinding, which, she said, would be very important given all the proposed changes.
“I know we have to do something about traffic Downtown,” Rawson said. “Everybody knows that. I think we’re open to understanding what some of these might mean but I think the more complicated we make it, the worse it’s going to be. So if buses are allowed to go one way but cars get to go the other way and the same with bicycles, I think we have to make it simple in order to have any effectiveness.”
Downtown Boardmember Patricia Hoffman echoed Rawson’s concerns about the bus lanes.
“I think that when people see that a street is posted as a one-way street they’re not expecting head-on traffic in any way,” she said, “even if there is some modest barrier between the two.”
City planners mentioned that Spring Street, in Downtown Los Angeles, has a similar one-way street that allows buses to go both ways.
One-way streets could improve traffic speeds Downtown and alleviate some of the back-up that occurs around the parking structures, city planners said.
Years ago, Santa Monica had a few one-way streets Downtown and city planners said that will be taken into consideration when the study is performed.