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Santa Monica Considers Expanding TDM Policies With Stronger Measures & Including New Residential

Santa Monica From Above

This Wednesday,  the Santa Monica Planning Commission was presented with and spoke on the latest draft proposals for the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) portion of the pending zoning code .  The zoning code is currently being overhauled to meet goals and guidelines in the Land Use & Circulation Element. In short, TDM measures are polices that act as deliberate carrots and sticks to reduce car trips, or average vehicle ridership (AVR).

Our Santa Monica weekly column is supported by Bike Center in Santa Monica.

As someone approaching transportation subjects from outside a formal degree in transportation planning, I sympathize with people who have a tough time following this typically acronym heavy area of public and private policy. I watched remotely via the City TV website and it was tempting to go sleep at a few moments.

The staff report begins with background on some of existing TDM policies adopted in 1991. A number of businesses in the city currently participate in these programs, including my own employer in the Bergamot district. The current measures are fairly week. During Wednesday's meeting commissioner Richard McKinnon commented several times that they are too easy to opt out of. McKinnon also called into question the model for producing the ridership value, which exempts electric vehicles, done in part to encourage their use and goals toward local air quality improvement.

For Santa Monica to reach the traffic reduction goals, including "No Net New Evening Peak Period Vehicle Trips" in the LUCE plan; whether or not a car is running an internal combustion engine or drawing power from the grid for an electric motor is irrelevant. Electric vehicles still cause traffic, along with most of the other ills outside tailpipe emissions caused by cars and engineering for cars in urban areas.

The really big change being considered is that the city is finally considering requiring transportation demand measures for residential development and units. This could include things like unbundling of residential parking rates in apartments and mixed use, transit passes, additional bike provisions.

My own favorite TDM policy is parking cash-out, a concept that was championed by Donald Shoup, and which is required by the state of California (but without a state level enforcement mechanism) for certain businesses which lease parking.

To have the cash value of parking added to your paycheck for not driving is an incredible incentive, and also more fair, since a business providing "free" parking to employees that the company actually pays for is a special benefit. Santa Monica, unlike most municipalities does try to get companies to comply, but I know my employer did not until I raised it to our HR.

Ensuring every business that is obligated to provide parking cash out does, and securing participation from those which may not be obligated under the conditions in the law, should be at the top of the list. Considering the value I've gotten back on my pay check for parking cash-out over the past 5 years or so, I have to thank Donald Shoup personally for helping to pay for my new touring bike.

I'm glad to see Santa Monica aggressively pursing various TDM options, but I couldn't help but notice a distinctly fewer number of residents commenting as compared with developments perceived as potential traffic doom. Transportation demand management can be an important tool in mitigating traffic impacts in the city, the big topic that seems to rile so many, but perhaps it needs a better sales-pitch to get more of the public engaged on supporting these ideas. A name less obtuse and government speak sounding than transportation demand management (I really tire of saying that) and going a little softer on the acronyms per minute might be a start.

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