Santa Monicans React to Controversy Over Narrowed Ocean Park Blvd.

Alert Reader Johnathon Weiss pointed me to a story in the Santa Monica Daily Press, and posted on the Times' LA Now Blog, about the impact the narrowing of Ocean Park Boulevard on traffic and safety in Santa Monica. In 2007, after a series of crashes involving cars and pedestrians, the city of Santa Monica decided to narrow the four lane.  The Daily Press explains:

Responding to concerns over safety on a 12-block stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard after several pedestrians were struck over the past few years, City Hall launched a pilot project in which they condensed the busy corridor from Lincoln to Cloverfield boulevards from two lanes in each direction to one, hoping to calm the speed of traffic and eliminate some of the dangers posed in the previous configuration.

Nearly two years and several community workshops later, the project is still in its pilot phase, partly the result of an understaffed Transportation Management Division that lost two planners whose positions have yet to be filled. 

The Daily Press takes a neutral view on the controversy between motorists who complain about the traffic congestion and residents who view the 2007 narrowing of Ocean Park as a needed safety improvement.  If you read the article you'll see a rather dispassionate article examining both sides of the issue.  Given that, you might expect a rather even-handed evaluation from the Times.  You'd be wrong.

First, the headline of the LA Now post is, "Traffic is snarled on narrowed Ocean Park Boulevard," and second it only takes one quote from the Daily Press article.  Typically, it's the most inflammatory and pro-car one that you could imagine.

Lloyd Saunders remembers when Ocean Park Boulevard was his go-to route, driving on the neighborhood's main drag daily to reach any points east and west. Today, the 30-year Santa Monica resident avoids it at all costs, opting for other streets because of "bottleneck traffic" that he blames on the current configuration, which city officials changed from four lanes to two in December 2007. "It's hard to get onto Ocean Park because there's just a stream of cars," he said. "It's the sign of the times, there's so many darn people here (in the city) now."

Fortunately, the story does have a temporary happy ending as we wait for the final word from Santa Monica on whether to keep the configuration.  If you read the comments section of the LA Now, article; you'll find that as of this writing they couldn't find one person to back the position that there's something wrong with taking away a travel lane to slow traffic and increase bicycle and pedestrian access.