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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. 


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…

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As Metro Considers Bike-Share Vendor, Concerns Over Compatibility Arise in Santa Monica

Testing out the "smart-bike" in front of Santa Monica City Hall.

Testing out the “smart-bike” in front of Santa Monica City Hall.

News broke this week that Metro will soon vote on a bike share vendor for the agency’s “Countywide Bikeshare” system, which will start with a 1000-bike pilot program in Downtown L.A.

But that has some leaders concerned in Santa Monica, which will launch a 500-bike bike share system of its own this summer, about whether Metro’s vendor will be compatible with Santa Monica’s, which was originally supposed to be a pilot for the county system.

State Assemblymember Richard Bloom is one of those people concerned that the county system could include multiple, incompatible vendors if there isn’t more coordination.

“I am very concerned that we may be moving towards multiple, incompatible systems. This is frustrating the central feature of bikeshare: a seamless experience for the customer from, station to station, community to community,” he said in a statement released by his office Wednesday. “I will continue to work with stakeholders in an effort to avoid this outcome.”

Bloom, a former Santa Monica City Council member, convened the Regional Bike Share Committee in 2012 shortly after he was elected to the State Assembly to oversee coordination of any such program.

Part of the problem is that the system Santa Monica adopted when the Council unanimously approved a contract with CycleHop for a 500-bike system in November, is a “smart bike” system, which locates all the technology on the individual bikes.

Metro is considering a contract with Bicycle Transit Systems, which uses a “smart dock” model that locates all the technology on a stationary docks.

It wasn’t long after Santa Monica approved a contract with CycleHop — the same vendor that Long Beach recently announced will take over implementation of its stalled system — that Metro began its own Request for Proposal (RFP) process to find a vendor for its Downtown L.A. pilot bike share program, scheduled to come online next year.

When Santa Monica started its bike share RFP process in 2013, it was the only regional city that had secured funding to install bikes, but it had repeatedly delayed approval of a vendor to allow regional partners to catch up.

“It was decided early on, from our very first meetings [of the Regional Bike Share Committee], that consistently, the most important thing was compatibility,” said Cynthia Rose, who heads Santa Monica’s local chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Santa Monica Spoke. She is also an LACBC board member.

The decision was made to move ahead late last year by Santa Monica because the city risked losing the more than $2 million in grants it had been awarded to launch its system.

Rose noted that Santa Monica’s contract with CycleHop contains a “me too” clause, “specifically so it was easy to expand regionally.”

Metro declined to comment on the matter because the agency is currently in “a procurement blackout period,” and are not allowed to discuss the upcoming decision.

However, not everyone is worried about potentially incompatible systems.

“I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to have multiple bike-share systems up and running in a place as large as L.A. County,” said Joe Linton, editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles.  Read more…

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Save the Date: “Live.Ride.Share,” Los Angeles’ First Shared-Use Mobility Conference

Live Ride ShareThe National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has partnered with several local and national nonprofit organizations, including the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), for Live.Ride.Share, Southern California’s first ever shared-use mobility conference on February 23.

The conference, which will be held in Downtown Los Angeles, will focus on the shared transportation and how technology is impacting how we get around.

“With increasing technology, we are finding more creative ways to move around – from peer-to-peer ridesharing to on-demand transit. Never before has the sharing economy been so dynamic, and new forms of transportation mobility are playing a major role,” writes Fernando Cázares, L.A. Regional Coordinator for Urban Solutions & Policy Advocate at NRDC.

“The event will bring together transportation thought leaders, shared use mobility providers such as Lyft and Car2go, stakeholders and decision-makers to focus on how technology-driven mobility and service platforms can reduce congestion, cut household transportation expenses, and open up new approaches to reducing air pollution from the transportation sector, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California,” he writes.

The conference will feature break out discussions on topics, such as what shared-use mobility — and the reduction of parking requirements — could mean for the future of housing construction costs and whether or not Measure R2 should include money for “mobility hubs.”

Some of the other topics on the agenda include:  Read more…

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Three Years Later, Is Santa Monica’s Bike Action Plan Working?

Bike Way Map

In November 2011, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously — and enthusiastically — adopted the Bike Action Plan (BAP), an ambitious 300-page document that seeks to transform the bayside city into one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country.

The BAP, the culmination of years of work by City Planning staff, local bike advocates, and residents, contains in its pages a 20 year vision to bring Santa Monica to the forefront of active transportation. While the BAP contains plans for dozens of miles of bike lanes, sharerows, and other road improvements, it also lays out a robust strategy to increase bike visibility and safety through education.

“People want a little bit of Copenhagen here by the sea,” Lucy Dyke, the City’s deputy director of special projects, told the crowd gathered in November at Santa Monica Spoke’s celebration of the third anniversary of the BAP’s approval.

The goal: to get more people out of their cars and on to bikes — the BAP sets a target of getting Santa Monicans to take 14 to 35 percent of all their trips on bicycles by 2030 — by making active transportation a safe, comfortable, and convenient option in the bayside city.

So, three years later, is the BAP working? The short answer is, yes, but there is more work to be done. Read more…

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Santa Monica Poised to Have First Bike Share System in L.A. County

A map of proposed bike share stations.

A map of proposed bike share stations.

It’s finally happening!

Santa Monica could move forward with plans for a 500-bicycle bike share program at this Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

After more than two years of planning and waiting, the City Council will decide whether to approve a contract with CycleHop, LLC for the purchase and operation of the new system, which would place 65 to 75 stations throughout the the bayside city, in Venice to the south, and West L.A. to the east.

“Bike share is overdue for our region and I’m glad Santa Monica is taking the lead on making bike share happen,” said Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor, who sits on the Metro Board of Directors. “By the time Expo Light Rail opens in 2016 our city’s bike share facilities will be ready.”

The new system, if approved, could be up and running by next summer, according to staff. As proposed, the program would cost the $8.1 million over seven years. Those costs would be defrayed by about $1.5 million generated annually with user fees and advertising/corporate sponsorship fees, according to the staff report.

The proposed fee schedule for Santa Monica's bike share program.

The proposed fee schedule for Santa Monica’s bike share program. (From City staff)

Because Santa Monica’s bike share will likely be incorporated into a regional model in the future, much of the planning is being done in coordination with Metro and the Westide Council of Governments (COG). Back in 2012, it was recently-elected State Assemblymember Richard Bloom — formerly a Santa Monica City Council member — who convened the Regional Bike Share Committee to oversee coordination of any such program.

“Metro considers Santa Monica to be one of its pilot areas for a regional system it hopes to coordinate,” City staff wrote in the report. “Staff is seeking concurrence from Metro on a price and fee structure and parameters for system identity so that the proposed Santa Monica system may merge as smoothly as possible into the regional system as it develops.”

It’s particularly exciting to see this item go before the City Council because, for Santa Monica, it has been a long time coming. And, with Expo Light Rail expected to begin shuttling passengers to Santa Monica in 2016, bike share would help move people to and from the stations without their cars.

The bayside city has already been a regional leader on bike share. Santa Monica voted to 5-to-1 to seek vendors for a bike share program back in 2012 and in 2013, it was the only city that had managed to secure grant money from Metro and the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) – more than $2 million – to launch a program.

The City opted to wait for the region to catch up, since it is vital for the functionality of a regional bike share system that different cities don’t have incompatible systems.

At a Metro Board meeting in October 2013, O’Connor said, “Hopefully, we’re all going to work together, but we can also get something going sub-regionally. Santa Monica shouldn’t have a different bike share system than Los Angeles or Culver City.”

But, according to City staff, any further delay would jeopardize the grant money Santa Monica has secured.

Staff is also recommending that the new bike share program go with a “smart-bike” – manufactured by Social Bicycles (SoBi) – model, instead of a “smart-rack” model.

Smart Bike

“SoBi’s ‘smart-bike’ system (one in which the technology for renting, releasing and locking the bicycles is on the bikes rather than on the racks) was also preferred for its advantage in offering a lower per-station capital cost than was anticipated because it does not require that a pay kiosk be incorporated into each station,” according to the staff report.

“Instead, each bike is capable of accepting payments and releasing the bike-locking mechanism independently via a mobile, web and administrative software that interacts with the smart-bike hardware,” the report reads.