Wednesday, November 12, 2008

RIFT is History -- Now what?

One of my big problems with Prop T, was that it was the wrong strategy to solve the problem. I don't think we should be focused on not allowing traffic to get less horrific than it would otherwise be, (as Prop T supporters admitted was the goal) but instead we should be focused on real traffic reduction strategies, with a goal of reducing overall traffic in the city by 25%, all this without arbitrarily limiting the cap on any one kind of development.

I will repaste here, a link to traffic reduction strategy completed for the City of Pasadena by my friends at Nelson/Nygaard.
This is 12-step strategy for traffic reduction that incorporates the most important lessons learned from the case studies of cities that have already reduced traffic, and from a large body of transportation research literature. Over the next few weeks, I will elaborate on several of these steps. This will be a lot of postings, but real traffic reduction is complex issue, and the solution will not be a simple one, despite what Prop T supporters would have you believe.

As I understand from my traffic planner friends the city need not implement all of these recommendations to achieve benefit from them, however some of them do work synergistically with one another. And in order to achieve a real reduction in existing vehicle trips during the evening peak hour, at least one of the strategies -- congestion pricing -- is almost certainly essential

One of the other keys, as I pointed out in my blog is that pass-through trips, with neither origin nor destination in Santa Monica probably accounts for at least some share of peak hour trips on Santa Monica city streets. Even if all Santa Monica residents and workers stopped driving completely, there would still be cars on Santa Monica city streets. If, through a variety of programs, Santa Monica reduces local trips, this will reduce delays for pass-through traffic. Cutting through Santa Monica on city streets will become more attractive, and it is very likely that therefore more pass-through traffic would be induced. To fully counteract this "rebound effect", congestion pricing is the only remedy known to be effective. This does not mean that the other strategies recommended here cannot be helpful or should not be pursued.

Here are the 12 strategies:

1) Charge the right price for curb parking. Charge the lowest price that will leave one or two vacant spaces on each block -- that is, performance-based pricing. This will eliminate the traffic congestion caused by drivers cruising for parking.
2) Return the meter revenue to the neighborhoods that generate it. Revenue return will make performance-based prices for curb parking politically popular.

  • Create additional commercial parking benefit districts,
  • Establish Residential Parking Benefit Districts.

3) Invest a portion of parking revenues in transportation demand management programs.
4) Provide Universal Transit Passes.
5) Require the unbundling of parking costs.

  • Unbundle parking costs from housing costs.
  • Unbundle parking costs from commercial leases.
  • Unbundle parking costs from the costs of other goods and services, with selected exceptions.

6) Require Parking Cash-Out.
7) Strengthen transportation demand management requirements.
8) Improve transit.
9) Improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities and programs.
10) Remove minimum parking requirements for off-street parking.
11) Set maximum parking requirements.
12) Establish congestion pricing. (This one needs a change in state law)

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Real Message from the Rejection of Proposition T

The Blame Game has begun. With the rejection Proposition T, RIFT supporters have unleashed a barrage of explanations and recriminations. These mostly deal with the money spent by “out of state” developers. We’ve also been reminded that virtually half of Santa Monicans supported the measure.

Supporters of Prop T seemed to miss the message imbedded in the vote.

This was not a close election. By example, I would point out that the gap between the two presidential candidates was 7%, and no one is arguing that it was a nail biter. The margin of victory of Prop T was 12%. This was a fairly sound rejection of the measure. While Prop T supporters argue that 16,000 folks voted for it, it should be noted that 20,000 residents voted against it.

Yet, I read and hear that this election was bought and paid for by “greedy” developers who subverted the residents’ wishes. The suggestion by the Prop T proponents that these 20,000 voters were somehow duped or misled is naive. That their vote somehow distorts the “residents,” wishes or that they are somehow less representative of the "community" is insulting. Prior to the election, I was told more than once by Prop T proponents that Santa Monicans are smart, that they would “see-through the developer mis-information.” So either, all of a sudden we’ve gotten dumb, or 20,000 Santa Monicans thought Prop T was not good policy. If the Prop T supporters don’t at least consider this in their post-election introspection than they are deceiving themselves.

Even the Santa Monica Mirror, hardly a tool of the development community rejected Prop T in its endorsements. The paper argued, as have many others, that the City has undertaken a public planning process, albeit a slow one, resulting in a plan known as LUCE, as imperfect it is, that ought to be respected. It is neither a top down document, nor is it the product of a handful of community advocates, but one with a whole host of authors , contributors and critics.

Clearly Santa Monica is not a monolithic community. It does not have one resident constituency, but many. It is a constituency that will continue to evolve in unpredictable directions. LUCE is a document that is full of compromises reflecting the heterogeneity of opinion to be found in this wonderful city. This election seems to me to be an acknowledgement of those differences and shows respect for this multi-year process. That’s the message I think we should be taking from last Tuesday’s Election Day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Way to Go Santa Monica!!

Well, we dodged a big one last night. Proposition T was defeated by a 12% majority. That strikes me as a victory for the LUCE process, and a defeat of ad hoc planning by a strident minority. Over the next few weeks I will transform this blog into one that advocates on urban design and planning issues in the city, but for now, I will just enjoy. Congratulations to all who worked against this measure, to our re-elected council members, and to everyone who voted for Measure R, an important part of this overall effort.

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