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Eyes on the Street: Santa Monica Gets Creative with Its Crosswalks

Image: Santa Monica Donwtown Neighborhood Association/Twitter.

Creativity at Ocean and Broadway in Downtown Santa Monica. Image: Santa Monica Downtown Neighborhood Association/Facebook.

Last night, the City of Santa Monica painted the first of its “creative crosswalks” designed to improve both safety and fun for people walking across the street. Last night’s painting was at the intersection of Ocean and Broadway. A second installation is planned for Arizona and Second Street tonight.

“Creative crosswalks can create a sense of surprise and delight that adds to the experience of walking in Downtown,” said Francie Stefan (Santa Monica’s mobility manager) to Santa Monica Next when the program was announced last July.

Santa Monica has been making strides toward designing safer, more comfortable streets, including recently adopting a pedestrian action plan that includes a Vision Zero statement, affirming their commitment to reducing the number of traffic-related deaths and serious injuries to zero. Read more…

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The California Incline Is Open Again, and a Safer Place for All Road Users

(This story first appeared at Santa Monica Next.)

woman and cyclist

The new Incline features marked paths for pedestrians and cyclists, with a narrow buffer between them. All pictures : Saul Rubin

For motorists, the California Incline was always a glorious and scenic way to journey between Pacific Coast Highway and the bluffs of Santa Monica along Ocean Avenue.

Bicyclists and pedestrians who traveled the Incline, however, may not have such fond memories.

The old Santa Monica sign still shines brightly from the new Incline.

The old Santa Monica sign still shines brightly from the new Incline.

The narrow, crumbling sidewalk that ran alongside the road made for a treacherous, crowded passage. Cyclists and pedestrians often had to move off the sidewalk and onto the roadway in order to pass each other.

The rush of speeding cars just a few feet away made it difficult to relax and enjoy the stunning beach views on the horizon.

That all changed on Thursday as city officials unveiled a new and improved California Incline with great fanfare, one they promoted as being more safe and inviting for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The changes were part of a $17 million seismic upgrade for the Incline, which was closed in April of 2015 and eventually demolished to make way for the new span.

The four-foot-wide sidewalk that was once a crumbling lifeline for walkers and cyclists on the old Incline is gone. It’s been replaced by a much wider, smoothly-paved road with clearly marked lanes for bikes and people.

And pedestrians and cyclists are now shielded from passing cars by a concrete barrier.

These changes were welcome news to the scattering of pedestrians and cyclists who sampled the new Incline on Thursday after it opened to the public.  But some wondered whether the new designs went far enough. Read more…

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Venice Opens First Official Breeze Bike Share Hub

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Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez (left) and L.A. Councilmember Mike Bonin (right) install the first physical Breeze Bike Share station in Venice. Photos courtesy of Councilmember Bonin’s office.

Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin joined Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez early Monday morning to officially install the first of five Breeze Bike Share hubs in Venice.

The new station, which is located at 5th Street and Rose, is the first physical station of Santa Monica’s 500-bike, 80-station Breeze Bike Share system in the city of Los Angeles, though Breeze riders have been able to drop bikes off at virtual hubs for several months now.

“The best way to reduce traffic is to make it easier to get around without a car, and these five new bike-share stations will connect communities on the Westside with convenient access to Breeze bikes.” said Bonin.

Celebrating the opening of the 5th Street and Rose Breeze Bike Share station in Venice.

Celebrating the opening of the 5th Street and Rose Breeze Bike Share station in Venice.

“While Metro’s bike-share program won’t reach Venice until Spring of next year, I am thrilled that our partnership with Santa Monica lets our side of town get access to bike share months before Metro’s program reaches the Westside. This is an exciting day for Venice and the people who love this neighborhood,” he said.

Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez said, “Expanding Breeze Bike stations into Venice will take riders farther and reduce car trips. More stations adds to the convenience of the system and will get more people onto two wheels.”

The station at 5th and Rose is the first of five physical Breeze Bike Share stations that will be installed in Venice.

According to Bonin’s Facebook page, the other stations will be located at Rose/Ocean Front Walk (on the boardwalk across from Venice Ale House), Ocean Front Walk/Park Ave (two stations, one on the boardwalk and one on the walk street), California/Abbot Kinney (in the street), and Venice/Abbot Kinney (southeast corner, adjacent to the palm trees).

The new stations are the most recent visible indication that bike-share is going region wide.  Read more…

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Santa Monica’s Breeze Bike Share Nears 30,000 Active Users

Councilmembers Kevin McKeown, Ted Winterer, and Gleam Davis join Assemblymember Richard Bloom to cut the ribbon in November, officially opening the Breeze Bike Share system to the public. Photo via city of Santa Monica.

Councilmembers Kevin McKeown, Ted Winterer, Tony Vaquez. and Gleam Davis join Assemblymember Richard Bloom, community activists, and city staff to cut the ribbon in November, officially opening the Breeze Bike Share system to the public. Photo via city of Santa Monica.

Eight months after Santa Monica launched the first public bike-share program in L.A. County, the system is working.

According to a report delivered to the City Council Tuesday night, Breeze Bike Share is nearing 30,000 “active subscribers” and has been used for roughly 170,000 trips since the system launched in November.

“[Breeze Bike Share is a] key component of our overall mobility strategy for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce vehicle trips, to improve mobility options for all residents, employees, and visitors to Santa Monica and to really serve as a last mile-first mile connection to the Expo line and other transportation options here in the city,” Kyle Kozar, Santa Monica’s bike-share coordinator, told the Council Tuesday night.

He noted that the first year of the system’s operation would help establish a baseline going forward.

Kozar noted that Santa Monica residents “ride bike-share more than any other geographic group.”

From Kozar's report Tuesday, a graph showing the breakdown of Breeze users according to area of residence.

From Kozar’s report Tuesday, a graph showing the breakdown of Breeze users according to area of residence.

Currently, Santa Monica residents make up 18 percent of the system’s subscribers, but they account for almost half (44 percent) of the trips made.

Users coming from other parts of L.A. County make up a little more than a third (34 percent) of subscribers and account for 23 percent of the trips taken while visitors from outside of L.A. County make up 47 percent of the subscribers and take 33 percent of the trips.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown saw this as a sign of success since he believed it demonstrated that people in Santa Monica who may not have ridden before have begun riding bikes as a result of bike-share.

And there are plans to make the system more accessible to the city’s lower-income residents.

McKeown announced that the city and Breeze will be partnering with Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the city’s single largest provider of affordable housing, to offer a special $60/year membership for residents of CCSM buildings and a program that would let them seek up to 90 percent reimbursement.

Breeze Bike Share is restructuring its fee schedule starting on August 1, which will have the effect of making the system overall less expensive for those who have monthly or annual plans.

Screenshot 2016-07-27 at 2.22.59 PMThe current price menu has two tiers of plans: basic and premium. A basic plan, which costs $20 a month, $119 a year for nonresidents, or $79 a year for residents, includes 30 minutes a day of ride time. A premium plan, which costs $25 a month, $149 a year for nonresidents, and $99 a year for residents, includes 60 minutes of ride time. The student plan currently costs $47 for a sixth-month term and also includes 60 minutes of ride time. The pay-as-you-go rate is currently $6 an hour.

The new pricing structure, which was approved by the City Council on June 14, replaces those with four pricing options: $99 a year, $25 a month, $7 a month for students, or $7 an hour for pay-as-you-go users. The annual and monthly passes include 90 minutes of ride time and the student membership no longer needs to be bought for a six-month period at a time.

The changes reflect overall price reductions for all but the pay-as-you-go, which will see an increase of a $1 an hour.

According to Kozar’s report, overwhelmingly users opt for the pay-as-you-go option, whether they are from out of town or locals.  Read more…

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Bike-Share Updates: DTLA, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and California

It has been a week since Metro Bike Share opened in downtown Los Angeles. The system is currently open only to members, who must pre-register online. So I figured it’s time to take a ride and assess how bike-share is doing in various incarnations around the L.A. basin, including West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and downtown Los Angeles.

West Hollywood councilmember Linsey Horvath demonstrates a WeHo Pedals bike. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Lindsey Horvath (right) demonstrates a WeHo Pedals bike. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

West Hollywood – WeHo Pedals

WeHo Pedals, the city of West Hollywood’s smart-bike bike-share system, is set to soft launch on Tuesday, August 9. The initial phase will be a pilot with just four stations:

  • West Hollywood City Hall, 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard
  • West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard
  • Santa Monica Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Formosa Avenue at N. Crescent Heights Boulevard (location updated per WeHo)
  • Santa Monica Boulevard between Holloway Drive and N. Olive Drive

The city of West Hollywood will host a community preview event on August 9 from noon to 2 p.m. at West Hollywood City Hall.

The full system, tentatively set to launch with a ribbon-cutting on August 30, will feature 150 bikes, twenty bike-share stations, and a supporting website and app. Docking stations are less critical for smart-bike systems, as bikes can be locked up and retrieved anywhere inside system boundaries.

WeHo Pedals will be operated by CycleHop, the same vendor as Santa Monica’s Breeze, Beverly Hills Bike Share, Long Beach Bike Share, and a planned UCLA bike-share system due this fall. If all goes well, the Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and UCLA systems will be seamlessly integrated under the banner of a “Westside Regional Bike Share” program.

The WeHo Pedals website is not live yet, but for more information see the city’s bike-share page.

Santa Monica – Breeze

Santa Monica’s Breeze bike-share recently approved a new simplified pricing structure which takes effect August 1. It is not a radical departure from previous rates, but monthly and annual members get a bit more bike for their buck. The changes also make student passes easier and hourly passes a little more expensive. Overall the new pricing seems to support more everyday use for people who spend a lot of time in Santa Monica.

I would like to see more in the way of unlimited rides, similar to a gym membership, a bus pass, or for that matter a freeway. Unlimited duration riding is available in many cities. It encourages more bicycling, but it is perhaps hard on the fiscal bottom line for bike-share providers. Hopefully these systems are socking away bundles of cash that they can use to expand geographically, which would probably be even better than expanding temporally.

Details on the new Breeze pricing at Santa Monica Next.

Downtown L.A. – Metro Bike Share

It’s still very early, but I’ve been seeing lots of Metro Bike Share bikes at docks, but relatively few people riding bike-share on downtown streets. In fact, I have yet to see another person riding one of these bikes since last Thursday’s opening kickoff, but I am not downtown every day. When I’ve ridden Metro Bike Share, pedestrians and drivers have been curious and asked me about how to “rent” bikes. Read more…

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Open Thread: Coast, Santa Monica’s First Open Streets Event

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Santa Monica’s first open streets event closed off two miles of streets to cars. Photos by Jason Islas/SBLA

Santa Monica closed off two miles of streets to motor vehicles on Sunday for its first-ever open streets event, Coast.

The route started at the newly-opened Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station. From there to the Pier was a designated pedestrian zone. The path continued north along Ocean Avenue to Wilshire and south along Main Street until Marine Avenue, the city’s southern border.

Santa Monica kicked off the event with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Colorado Esplanade, the stretch of Colorado Avenue from the Expo line station in downtown Santa Monica to the Pier which the city just improved with wider sidewalks, better street furniture and landscaping, and a separated cycle track.

Coast was the shortest open streets event in L.A. County to date, but that didn’t detour people from turning out. By the time I left the event — shortly after 1 p.m. — the streets were full of people.

As Gary Kavanagh noted on Twitter, the length of the route seemed to actually encourage more people to walk and that people on foot. He also noted that it made for a slower-paced event compared to other open streets events, like CicLAvia.

Santa Monica used the opportunity to highlight a number of goings on in the city, including the new GoSaMo initiative, which is designed to educate and encourage people to consider their mobility options before just jumping in the car.

The route was dotted with several “zones,” at which the city and its various partners highlighted the work they were doing. At the Mobility Zone, for example, visitors could learn about Santa Monica’s bike center, Santa Monica Spoke, Breeze Bike Share, Climate Action Santa Monica, railLA, and the Big Blue Bus, to name a few participants. Click on the map below to see a larger version.

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There was also a City Zone outside of city hall, where visitors could meet with their City Council members and state representatives, as well as learn about the new Downtown Specific Plan that Santa Monica is currently working on, in order to bring the zoning in the downtown up to date.

Especially on Main Street, local businesses touted their services as visitors gathered at local cafes and restaurants and took advantage of temporary seating that was set up in parking spots along the route.

There was also mobile entertainment that include Samba dancers who made their way up and down the route, stilt walkers, and rollerskaters.

It was a successful event overall, even though it definitely had a distinctly different vibe from a typical CicLAvia. It was the first open streets event I attended without my bike, but that didn’t prevent me from being able to enjoy the entire length of it.

One of Santa Monica’s City Council members has already voiced her opinion that the city should definitely do this again.

So, did you make it out to Coast? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below. More pictures after the jump. Read more…

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Santa Monica Really Wants to Make It Easy for You to Go Multimodal

As part of the GoSaMo campaign, local businesses will be encouraged to put decals in their store windows to show customers and passersby the nearest transit option (all images courtesy of the city of Santa Monica).

As part of the GoSaMo campaign, local businesses will be encouraged to put decals in their store windows to show customers and passersby the nearest transit option (all images courtesy of the city of Santa Monica).

Santa Monica is an embarrassment of riches in many ways. That is especially true when it comes to alternatives to driving everywhere.

And now, the city wants to make it as easy as possible for you to discover how you can go multimodal and take advantage of Santa Monica’s growing network of transportation options.

“It was our goal to make integration between our existing transportation networks seamless with the arrival of Expo,” Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez said in a press release issued Wednesday announcing the launch of the city’s “GoSaMo” initiative.

05096_GoSaMo_Web_Map-02

Maps on the GoSaMo website show visitors what is in the vicinity of the Expo stations and how long it takes to get to the various local businesses by bus, bike, or walking.

“To really address mobility, it had to be about so much more than Expo. We want to make Santa Monica the leading example of pedestrian and transit-oriented lifestyles in Southern California,” he said.

GoSaMo is a multipronged approach designed to get people educated about and interested in the variety of transportation options available to them in the city of Santa Monica.

The launch of the initiative is happening concurrently with perhaps one of the biggest changes to transportation on the Westside since the I-10 freeway opened about a half-century ago: the grand opening of the Expo line extension to Downtown Santa Monica.

The 6.6-mile extension of the light rail, which opens on May 20, will bring passenger trains back to the Westside for the first time since 1953 and there has been plenty of attention paid to the historic moment.

While Expo is the single biggest change to Westside transportation in recent years, GoSaMo is about making sure people are aware of all the other options available to them as well:

“GoSaMo highlights and raises awareness about Santa Monica’s expanded mobility options—three Expo Light Rail stations, six new Big Blue Bus routes on top of its seven Rapid Bus lines, 75 Breeze Bike Share stations, 107 miles of bikeways, 12 new all-way [scramble] crosswalks, new Zipcar additions, and the Colorado Esplanade opening on June 5th in conjunction with the city’s first open streets event, Coast — presented by Metro,” staff said.

Santa Monica’s Strategic Planning and Transportation Manager Francie Stefan put it succinctly at a morning meeting with community members Wednesday: “It’s about options,” she said.  Read more…

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Santa Monica’s First Open Streets Festival Set for June 5

(There are six more open streets festivals coming up April through June 2016. See this earlier CicLAvia article for listings for Lawndale, Southeast Cities, Downey, and two San Gabriel Valley events!)

A map of the route for Santa Monica's planned June 5 open streets event.

A map of the route for Santa Monica’s planned June 5 open streets event.

Santa Monica is preparing for its first open streets event, during which a 1.7 mile route along Ocean Avenue, Main Street, and Colorado Avenue will be closed to motorized vehicles, to celebrate the opening of Expo.

The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 5, about two weeks after Expo phase 2’s May 20 scheduled opening date. The details, including the event’s name, are still being hashed out, according to staff who spoke to Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.’s access, circulation, and parking committee Tuesday morning. Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. is the nonprofit that works with the city to manage services and operations in Santa Monica’s downtown core.

Officials said the event is “a celebration of the arrival of Expo and an opportunity to experience the streets in a new and inviting way without autos.”

Officials are also billing the event as “an opportunity to make new connections with neighbors and the businesses along the route and beyond.”

The theme for the event “is mobility, sustainability and culture and attendees will learn how to access the train without a car and will be encouraged to explore all the city has to offer in the downtown area,” officials said.

Above is a picture of the route. It covers the stretch of Main Street from the city’s southern border (Marine Street) to Colorado Avenue, where it will connect with the Expo light rail station and what will then be the newly completed Colorado Esplanade. There, the route zigzags onto Ocean Avenue, where it connects with the Santa Monica Pier– which will also be closed to motorized vehicles as it usually is during summer weekends–and continues north to Wilshire.

It is a much shorter route than is common among other open streets events like CicLAvia. In fact, it is about half the length of Pasadena’s open streets event last June, which currently holds the record as the shortest such event at 3.5 miles.  Read more…

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L.A. and Santa Monica Finalize Terms For Venice Bike-Share Stations

Hulu and CycleHop are businesses that made Breeze bike-share happen.

Breeze bike-share expansion took a couple of steps forward this week. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, The Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee approved terms for five Breeze bike-share stations to be located in the L.A. City neighborhood of Venice. Full details are available in the staff report [PDF] for council file 16-0176.

The Santa Monica City Council approved a similar agreement earlier this week. At that meeting, the Santa Monica City Council approved the five-station expansion into Venice. As part of that decision, the Santa Monica approved adding up to an additional 15 stations in the future. There are still a few more approvals necessary, including the full L.A. City Council and the Coastal Commission, but it appears that Breeze bike-share is on track for welcome near-Santa Monica expansion.

The five planned Venice locations are expected to be:

  • Venice Boulevard at Abbot Kinney Boulevard
  • California Avenue at Abbot Kinney Boulevard
  • Windward Plaza (where Windward Avenue ends at Venice Beach)
  • Ocean Front Walk at Rose Avenue
  • Rose Avenue at 5th Street

These locations may change somewhat as final approvals and permitting processes get underway.

In other L.A. County bike-share news:  Read more…

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Expo to Hit Another Major Milestone Next Week

Expo trains testing in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via Expo Construction Authority report.

Expo trains testing in Downtown Santa Monica. Photo via Expo Construction Authority report [PDF].

Next week, the Expo Construction Authority — which oversees construction of the Exposition Light Rail project — is anticipating handing over the Phase II right-of-way to Metro, which will begin regular train testing or “pre-revenue” service, according to a report to the Expo Construction Authority Board [PDF]. (Note: An earlier version said the report was the Metro Board. The article has been updated to show that the report was actually made to the Expo Construction Authority Board.).

The Expo bike way in Santa Monica's formerly industrial Bergamot Area. Photo via Expo Construction Authority report.

The Expo bike way in Santa Monica’s formerly industrial Bergamot Area. Photo via Expo Construction Authority report.

The report also says that Expo Phase II will open to Downtown Santa Monica in late April or early May 2016, connecting that beachside city to Culver City, USC, L.A. Trade Tech College, and Downtown L.A.

Recently, the Expo Construction Authority announced that the from December 14 to December 18, it would be conducting headway tests — running trains at normal frequencies– from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

As for the Expo bikeway: “Paving, irrigation and lighting systems work is near completion and final inspections are ongoing,” the report says, though there is no mention of whether it will open ahead of the train.

Pre-revenue service is “intended to simulate actual service with trains running on a regular schedule, but with no customers on board,” according to The Source’s description of Expo Phase I’s pre-revenue service test period.  Read more…