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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.

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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…

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Bike-Share Has Arrived: Santa Monica Breeze Opens!

Santa Monica's Breeze Bike-Share system opened earlier today. Photos by Joe Linton

Santa Monica’s Breeze Bike-Share system opened earlier today. Photos by Joe Linton

The first public bike-share system in Los Angeles County opened today to much fanfare. Santa Monica’s Breeze bike-share features 500 bicycles at 75 stations throughout the city of Santa Monica, plus four in adjacent Venice. The system is run by CycleHop under a contract with the city of Santa Monica. System start-up funding came from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Metro, and Caltrans, plus an annual $675,000 sponsorship for at least five years from the Santa Monica-based entertainment company Hulu. Bicycles are available for rent hourly, monthly, or annually.

Breez bike-share rates - image via Breeze

Breeze bike-share rates – image via Breeze. They are currently offering a $99/year “founding member” rate, as well.

Enjoy the following photo tour of the first morning of L.A. County’s first bike-share system.  Read more…

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Santa Monica Could Tap Hulu as “Presenting Sponsor” for Breeze Bike Share

Update: Hulu bike-share sponsorship was approved by the Santa Monica City Council at its October 13 meeting. 

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The Santa Monica-based online entertainment company, Hulu, may become the “presenting sponsor” of Santa Monica’s Breeze Bike Share, L.A. County’s first public bike-share system.

The City Council will vote tonight (Tuesday) on whether to sign a five-year contract for the media company to sponsor Santa Monica’s new bike-share system, coming fully online next month, to the tune of $675,000 a year.

In exchange for the annual payment, Hulu’s logo would placed on the baskets and skirt guards of Breeze’s 500 bike-share bicycles but the logo can’t be affixed to any of the 80 hubs or bike-share stations, per the City Council’s wishes, according to city staff.

Officials believe that Hulu, as a growing online media company, is an ideal candidate to sponsor the first bike-share system in L.A. County, especially since it is happening in “Silicon Beach.”

“With more than 500 employees in the Santa Monica workforce, Hulu represents the innovative companies that have earned Santa Monica its ‘Silicon Beach’ moniker,” according to the staff report. “As such, Hulu’s profile allies with the City’s 21st century objectives for the City’s bike share enterprise, which will introduce technologically superior ‘smart bikes’ into the Los Angeles region.”

As of press time, Hulu officials could not be reached for comment.

Breeze uses a “smart-bike” system instead of a “smart-hub” system, which means that the main computer is built in to the bike rather than in the stationary hub. That gives riders the freedom to tether the bike nearby if a hub is full rather than seeking out another hub with open slots.

When the City Council approved a contract with CycleHop last November, the Council also directed staff to seek out a possible corporate sponsor for a minimum $250,000 annual sponsorship.

Hulu’s contribution goes above and beyond the base amount sought by the Council. Hulu’s sponsorship won’t change the existing fee structure, at least for now, according to city officials.

“Our structure is still very competitive in the market, but we will keep an eye on it,” officials said. “First priority would be to determine a stronger income-qualified program similar to Chicago or Philadelphia.”

Read more…

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Reps Pelosi and Lieu Tout ‘Grow America’ Transportation Bill

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi speaking on federal transportation funding at this morning's event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi speaking on federal transportation funding at this morning’s event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Elected officials, labor leaders, and Metro’s CEO assembled this morning to call on Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill. In order to highlight the ways that transportation infrastructure funding benefits communities, the press event showcased the bluff-top construction site of the city of Santa Monica’s California Incline retrofit project.

House Minority Leader Representative Nancy Pelosi, Representative Ted Lieu, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown, AFL CIO Executive Secretary Rusty Hicks, ‎Building and Construction Trades Council President Ron Miller, and Metro CEO Phil Washington all expressed support for the Grow America Act.

Many Americans think that gas taxes cover the costs of transportation infrastructure. In truth, gas taxes have not kept up with inflation. For many years, transportation-dedicated revenue has fallen way short of transportation expenditures.

This has resulted in ongoing debates over how to pay for transportation infrastructure. The Grow America Act is President Obama’s proposal, favored by Democrats. Grow America would pay for six years of federal transportation funding by closing loopholes that allow American corporations to skirt taxes on overseas profits. Republicans are less interested in trimming corporate profits, and more inclined to fund transportation by trimming pensions. Today, Pelosi characterized the plan to trim pension funding as “a non-starter” and, in response to questions, expressed her support for raising the gas tax, though that too is likely a non-starter.

Though Lieu and Pelosi are pressing for the six-year Grow America Act, this week the House of Representatives passed its stopgap five-month measure that would keep federal transportation funds solvent through December 2015. Senate committees are hammering out their likely-longer-term versions.

CEO Washington and Mayor McKeown stressed that short term funding is not enough for local cities and agencies Read more…

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“An Exemplary Model”: An Interview with Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole, Part III

City Manager Rick Cole talks about his new job on CityTV.

City Manager Rick Cole talks about his new job on Santa Monica’s CityTV.

Santa Monica Next sat down to talk with Rick Cole, who took the reins as Santa Monica’s city manager on June 29 after leaving his post at L.A. City Hall as deputy mayor in charge of budget and innovation. The Pasadena native and 30-year veteran of local and regional politics spoke with us about his goals at his new position in Santa Monica. This is part three of a three-part interview. Click here for Part I: “A City on the Beach” and here for Part II: “Courage, Tenacity, and Imagination”

Santa Monica Next: Your predecessor, Rod Gould, when we interviewed him before he retired, he spoke about what he saw as a challenge in Santa Monica: what he called the “politics of abundance.” Many of the arguments in the city were because Santa Monica has so much and could say no to investment where other communities who don’t have those resources wouldn’t see as much controversy over these issues. Do you feel that this abundance of resources is a double-edged sword?

Rick Cole: I think that unfortunately, that came off as something of a complaint. And, I understand the frustration that Rod seemed to express with that observation. I experienced it in my own household because, like most parents, I have done everything I can to spare my children the rigors of my own childhood and to give them the benefits of every opportunity to enrich their lives that I could have possibly sacrificed to afford.

Inevitably, they take for granted those advantages and they assume that a certain level of material comfort is their birthright. But, what an extraordinary privilege it is for us to have these resources. As John Kennedy once said long ago, speaking personally as well as for the country, “To those whom much is given, much is asked.”

I think that’s an exciting part of Santa Monica: the opportunity for us to be models of utilizing the enormous benefits that we have in this time and this place to show a responsible way of stewarding them for future generations and for those who don’t have those same advantages.

That’s certainly what I’ve tried to model for my three teenagers. You know, with all its challenges, it’s incredibly rewarding. If we look around the world, if the city of Santa Monica, with all of our educational and financial resources, can’t be an exemplary model, then what hope is there for Jakarta or Johannesburg or Manila or Kinshasa or, for that matter, Shanghai and Shenzen?

It’s an enormous privilege, I think, to be given, in my faith tradition, from the hand of God, health and material advantages that we can put to the service of others in greater need. It’s a remarkable time to be alive and if we want our great grandchildren to have those same benefits and privileges, then we have to work very hard to lay that foundation.

SMN: One last question. Where do you fit into all of this in Santa Monica? Have you thought about what you want your legacy to be?  Read more…

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“Courage, Tenacity, and Imagination”: An Interview with Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole, Part II

City Hall

Santa Monica Next sat down to talk with Rick Cole, who took the reins as Santa Monica’s city manager on June 29 after leaving his post at L.A. City Hall as deputy mayor in charge of budget and innovation. The Pasadena native and 30-year veteran of local and regional politics spoke with us about his goals at his new position in Santa Monica. This is part two of a three-part interview. Read Part I: “A City on the Beach” and Part III: “An Exemplary Model” here.

Santa Monica Next: We are at an event right now that exemplifies the sort of innovation that comes out of dynamic urban environments, Hack the Drought, which is bringing people together to find solutions to a major problem. You’ve been a major proponent of Open Data and using technology to better the work of government. Do you see yourself bringing that to Santa Monica?

Rick Cole: That was one of the strong appeals of Santa Monica to me. I’m not what anyone would call a technophile and I’m certainly not a digital native, but technology is driving the planet today and unless we embrace its positive possibilities, we’ll be overwhelmed by its negative externalities.

The vitality of Silicon Beach needs to be harnessed to a higher civic purpose and city government and civic life need to embrace the potential of both data — to better understand our real challenges versus anecdotal — and the power of virtual communication to amplify the opportunity for face-to-face democracy.

Santa Monica has the human and the financial resources to show a much more benign potential for technology than the darker scenarios that we are, I think, all petrified of and have brought us both Edward Snowden and a recoiling by people against invasions of their sense of privacy.

Technology is an incredibly powerful tool and either we’ll use it for incredibly positive things or it will become our master. I’d much prefer the former.

SMN: Do you think we really get a choice of either/or?

RC: No, it’s not either/or. I’m saying, technology is really transforming our lives so we have to grapple with it. There have always been Luddites and, in a Romantic sense, it’s easy to identify with simpler times. But, without losing our souls, we need to engage with these new tools precisely in order to guide them to more positive outcomes because they are going to drive outcomes and we can’t simply resist them. We need to shape them.

SMN: For example, this Hack the Drought event today is designed around the idea of using technology to help address the drought, arguably one of the biggest problems we are facing.

RC: It’s been the central frustration of my 30 years in the public sector that some of the smartest people in the world employ sophisticated tools, whether it’s technology, communication or organizational, cultural intention, to create incredibly powerful companies and institutions. And, the public sector has been so slow to innovate and so resistant to change and so wedded to 150-year-old models.

Almost everything single thing the city of Santa Monica does — its fire department, its police department, its library, its water service, its bus company — was the product of radical innovation and political struggle. None of them simply fell out of the sky. People saw a tremendous need to help people get around the city, to keep them safe from fire and flood, to protect them from predators. All of the [services] we take for granted came from people who were passionate reformers and who were willing to create something entirely different than what existed before. They had the courage and the tenacity and the imagination to shape these remarkable institutions we now take for granted.

Take the library. Thirty years ago, a library was judged on how many books circulated in a month or a year. That didn’t tell you everything a library did because often times, kids would come in and get help for their school or even discover something that might have turned into a lifelong love or career just by connecting with a librarian, but the number of books circulated was a great analog that distilled how much activity was taking place inside the four walls of the building.

Today, that’s not a very helpful statistic, which raises the question, what should we be measuring? And, what is a library? And, what is its purpose? Is it to warehouse books? Or is it what Benjamin Franklin conceived of when libraries did not exist and someone had to invent them?

Benjamin Franklin assembled America’s first library and it lent more than books. In fact, it lent out scientific instruments like test tubes and microscopes and telescopes because, like books, those were tools that were out of reach of ordinary working people. By pooling resources, the library opened the door to learning and advancement and personal growth and community civic capital that was impossible [for] individuals [to be] able to afford… on their own.

In the 21st century, libraries, just like fire departments and bus companies, have to reinvent themselves for grappling with the emerging opportunities and challenges of the city today. We can’t be wedded to models that are out of date.

The proof of that is to look at the L.A. Times, which, when I was growing up, was the most powerful institution in Southern California, by far more important than Los Angeles City Hall. Today, it continues to shrink. It plays an important role, but people of my generation are the last that will fish a newspaper out of their driveway. The generations to come are simply going to get their news and their worldview from other media.

The public sector also needs to be on the cutting edge, lest we fall behind and the world overtakes us far sooner than we ever imagined.  Read more…

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“A City on the Beach”: An Interview with Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole, Part I

SaMo Rick

Santa Monica Next sat down to talk with Rick Cole, who took the reins as Santa Monica’s city manager on June 29 after leaving his post at L.A. City Hall as deputy mayor in charge of budget and innovation. The Pasadena native and 30-year veteran of local and regional politics spoke with us about his goals at his new position in Santa Monica. This is part one of a three-part interview.

Santa Monica Next: Where do you see Santa Monica’s place in the region as a whole?

Rick Cole: It’s a City on the Beach in the same way that our Pilgrim Fathers saw Massachusetts as a City on a Hill. It is perfectly placed to be a model for others to be inspired by and, in many cases, to emulate.

The inspiration is more important than the emulation because Santa Monica needs to continue to have its own, distinctive character that comes from its history and its geography on the beach. So, you want Santa Monica to continue to be unique, but you also want other people to be inspired by its uniqueness to capitalize on their own potential for uniqueness. You want a constellation of cities and neighborhoods across Los Angeles that are as good at being what they are as Santa Monica is at being what it can be.

SMN: It’s arguably a city with one of the most civically-engaged populations in the region, which can sometimes lead to some very heated debate in the public forum.

I actually enjoy civic engagement. I wouldn’t go to Santa Monica, I wouldn’t have come from Pasadena and Ventura, if I didn’t believe deeply in democracy and in something I learned a long time ago, that people who care have way more in common with each other despite their vigorous philosophical difference than they do with people who, for whatever reason, don’t care.

The Greeks had a word for someone who was not engaged in public life. If you look in the dictionary, it’s “idiot.” The original definition that the Greeks attached to the word “idiot” was someone who was so self-obsessed that they had no realization of the significance and value of public life.

I welcome public discourse, but I think that in Santa Monica, in Washington D.C. or anywhere in between, we do need to keep a modicum of civil discourse for democracy to work. When it becomes poisonous, democracy is at its worst.

SMN: How can a city bridge local government and people who have lost faith in the process? Is it about seeking consensus?

I think it begins with, not seeking consensus, but seeking common ground. And I know that sounds a little like I’m making a fine distinction there, but I think it’s a profound. Consensus is often a kind of watered-down middle ground in which people agree on what they can accept, not necessarily what they want. Finding common ground is different. It often is better than the polarized positions that people cling to.

The wisest counsel I ever heard on this was from a guy named Carl Guardino, who has been a remarkably successful civic leader for decades in the Silicon Valley. He said, in his experience, communities pretty much agree on the most important issues in their town. And there is 80 percent agreement on what can be done to address them. Then, there is 20 percent of real, principled debate. His formula for success is, if a community can focus 80 percent of its energy on getting accomplished what it agrees on, it will be a success, leaving aside 20 percent to vigorously debate things there isn’t agreement on. Read more…