Students at Santa Monica College (SMC) return to class on Aug. 28 and officials are aware of the pending traffic crunch.
To help neighbors with the issue, the SMC Police Chief and the Vice President of Student Services will be available to meet with residents during the first week of school during the peak traffic hour of 7 – 8 a.m., on Pearl Street and 20th Street to discuss their concerns.
While officials will be happy to listen, they have taken some preemptive measures to address problems.
“One of the things we do, is we put people at peak times at Pearl and 20th and 17th and Pearl,” said SMC Police Chief Johnnie Adams. “We have people directing traffic but we also have a campaign of sustainability. We’re telling students to use Metro and the school pays for Big Blue Bus for our students to take alternative options. There are a lot of educational campaigns in that regards with our sustainability office.”
According to SMC about 50 percent of the school’s 32,000 students take advantage of the bus system. They have more than 1,000 students using the train and a couple of hundred riding the Breeze Bikeshare program. All told, SMC said almost 70 percent of students arrive without driving themselves.
“We have a free website that staff and students can use to help them find the best commute to campus,” said SMC spokeswoman Grace Smith. “We have two car rideshare companies that have vehicles parked near the man campus and those have heavy usage by staff and students.”
She said the school has a dedicated loading zone to try to disincentive drop-off or pickup on Pearl.
SMC Sustainability Manager Ferris Kawar said despite their success in encouraging alternative transit, there’s still more efficiencies to be found and the education process is never-ending due to the constant presence of new students who haven’t adapted to the restrictions on campus.
“I think we have to get better, even though we are doing pretty darn well, you still have frustration by students who have to drive in circles in the parking lot,” he said. “The parking is really there for people who truly live in a really inconvenient area, like The Valley, that just can’t get here any other way and it’ just not for people who live locally can that reach us by bus or bike.”
He said several big transportation changes have occurred at SMC in recent years including the dedicated loading zone, Expo opening, bike share and ride sharing partnerships. While no large-scale projects are planned for this year, he said effort will be put into promoting the many options now on campus.
“We’ve been ratcheting up the message to students, faculty and staff to get out of their cars and try something new,” he said.
One option is an SMC shuttle for students that encourages drivers to park at their Bundy campus and take the school’s bus to either the main campus, the new Stewart Street building or the performing arts center at the Broad Stage. The new Center for Media and Design campus on Stewart Street will also be accessible by BBB lines 43, 16.
Outreach efforts include electronic message boards providing traffic/parking information, outreach on social media and direct communication to students. However, officials are also prepared for enforcement actions and the SMCPD has asked for additional help
The Santa Monica College Police Department (SMCPD) has increased staff around all of the SMC campuses including the satellite locations on Stewart Street and Bundy.
“We’ve doubled up to control some intersections,” said Adams. “We’ve partnered with SMPD and requested from them to be able to have a motorcycle officer to help us out at certain intersections.”