The phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do,” comes to mind. No, I haven’t started reading the bible (although it may do me some good), just my e-mail. Diana Gordon, co-chair of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC), emailed me a press release last week.
It stated, “It turns out that all employees who work for the City government are given free parking in Santa Monica and the majority drive to and park in the downtown area. This is at the very time that City Hall is waging a campaign to limit driving and parking for residents everywhere in the City, especially downtown.”
“And it gets worse. As the City has ratcheted up its campaign aimed at driving, each year even fewer City employees are taking public transit, biking and carpooling. That’s right – for every year since 2008, City employees’ use of alternatives to single occupancy cars, such as public transportation, bicycling and car-pooling (which was already low) has ‘experienced a steady decline.’”
City employee use of alternative transportation has declined 22-percent since 2008 while use of private vehicles has increased. Some 2,200 City employees aren’t the only folks getting free parking. So do consultants, contractors, temporary hires, volunteers, freelancers and others working for the City or in town on City business.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) requires the City to meet an average vehicle ridership (AVR) of 1.5 employees per vehicle. If the AVR were to fall below 1.5 next year, charging employees for parking or increasing incentives to use alternate modes of transportation could be deployed.
As part of the development agreement approval process, City Hall requires a Traffic Management Demand (TDM) Plan to reduce a project’s potential traffic impacts. These programs, aimed primarily at single-occupancy private vehicles, promise to mitigate any traffic increases generated by the new development.
If the City can’t even regulate its own employee traffic, how can it regulate private development? It can’t. As past history has revealed, staff frequently fails to follow up and see if approved private developer TDMs and other requirements have been implemented or are even effective.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with the City picking up the parking tab for those who work for it. But, what I find to be infuriating and the height of hypocrisy is while the City issues parking passes like they were penny candies, policymakers and politicians alike are insisting that the rest of us “Don’t drive our car,” and instead, “walk, take the bus, get on a bicycle.”
And, they’re not just telling us not to drive, they’ve been deliberately making it more difficult and frustrating for us to use personal vehicles by physically altering the roadway – reducing traffic lanes and lane width, placing medians and islands down the center of major streets and boulevards that make it harder to see what’s on the road, installing curb bump-outs that impair turns onto side streets (for cars and bicycles alike), installing roundabouts, removing dedicated turn lanes to obtain space for rarely used bicycle lanes, ad infinitum.
Add to that the deliberate mis-coordination of traffic signals to slow and congest traffic instead of keeping it moving, installing “stop” signs in an attempt to control speeding, increasing parking meter rates and operating times and reducing parking requirements for certain types of new developments and it’s easy to see why Santa Monica has some of the most congested traffic in the country.
SMCLC hit the nail directly on the head when they declared that it was not blaming City employees who work hard. They were calling out the rank hypocrisy in City Hall’s planning process.
“But when the City tells us that ‘getting people out of their single occupancy vehicles is key;’ when they reduce driving lanes; refuse to provide parking at Expo stops; make street parking more expensive and difficult to find, then residents are being treated one way while the City treats itself differently,” their release states.
“If City staff cannot find and use realistic transit alternatives, the City should acknowledge the same truth for residents.” SMCLC urged that traffic planners, politicians and policymakers “get its house in order.” Amen.
Tomorrow night, Feb. 2, The Wilshire/Montana (Wilmont) Neighborhood Coalition will hold its monthly public meeting at the Montana Avenue Branch Library (17th St. and Montana Ave.) from 6:45 – 9 p.m.
The guest presenter will be Beth Rolandson, principal transportation planner with the Planning and Community Development Division. She’ll present the new Pedestrian Action Plan (PAP) for the City.
On Nov. 16, 2015, I wrote about the 219 page (Is nothing ever short and concise in City Hall?) draft PAP, and was sharply critical of it. Since then, it’s being revised to better address traffic enforcement and other issues glossed over in the original draft.
This is a great opportunity to ask questions. I’d be especially interested in hearing the City’s excuses for decades of bad planning, traffic mismanagement and putting social engineering (rainbow chasing) before progress and common sense.
Last November I opined, “It’s obvious this is another attempt to further slow traffic speeds, increase congestion, make motorists more frustrated and further diminish the ability for most of us to get around in a timely manner. But, hasn’t City Hall been trying to force us out of our cars since the ‘Traffic Calming’ days of the 1980’s – without success?”
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org