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CITY HALL – City Council was critical of a proposal for an $8 million transit center on Fifth Street at Colorado Avenue at their Nov. 25 meeting, saying the location would cause more gridlock in an already congested area Downtown.

The proposal would have added four to six Big Blue Bus berths and an area for commuters to be dropped off on the property, which is adjacent to the terminus station of the incoming Expo Light Rail and across the street from BBB’s existing central depot.

Bikeshare stations and shuttle service would also have been added to the property.

This commuter hub would have opened in 2017, a year after the proposed opening of the light rail.

It would be a short-term hub, with an estimated use of four to 10 years. After its closure, the improvements would, according to city planners, retain $2.6 million worth of value.

This project came before council as a suggestion from City Hall and the Planning Department.

Councilmembers and several members of the public, we’re not impressed with the designs.

Most people were concerned about the traffic choking Fifth Street. Currently, traffic on Fifth sometimes backs up onto the Interstate 10 freeway.

Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica Inc., spoke in opposition to the proposal, as did nearby property owner Scott Schonfeld.

Councilmember Gleam Davis asked city planners if they’d contacted all of the adjacent business owners to see if there might be deals to be worked out for bus depots at other locations. They had not.

Several council members, including Davis and Bob Holbrook (who spent his last night on the dais after 24 years in office) were concerned about the commuter drop-off area, termed a “kiss-and-ride.”

Dropping commuters off, they said, would not be as problematic as picking commuters up. If a train is late or if there’s miscommunication about when exactly someone is getting off the train, the driver would either have to wait and block traffic or circle the block, adding to the gridlock, they said.

Davis and Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day expressed concern that the plans were too bus-oriented. O’Day said that the project “looks extremely single-use,” referring to the buses.

They also felt uneasy about the short-term nature of the project, pointing out that 10 years is a long time, and that there’s nothing stopping the program from going beyond the 10-year mark.

City Manager Rod Gould said that city planners are working on several projects at once and, given the looming Expo start date, they are working on a tight deadline.

Council asked for city planners to come back with new plans, after corresponding with the community, next year.

It should be noted that the property in question abuts the Daily Press office.

dave@www.smdp.com

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