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SGV Connect 122: Damien Interviews Steve Mateer

Damien Newton  0:14  

This is Damien with SGV Connect. I'm talking with Steve Mateer, from the city of Glendora. We haven't covered Glendora very much recently, which is our fault, because there's some great projects that are going on there. I shared it with Steve earlier that internally, when we were talking about what we wanted to cover this year, we wanted to cover fun things going on in some of the San Gabriel Valley cities that we haven't talked about as much. And Joe Linton, the Streetsblog editor said there's some cool stuff in Glendora. So Steve, that sets a high bar. There's cool stuff in Glendora. What can you tell us what's going on?

Steve Mateer  0:46  

Yeah, I'll try to live up to that reputation. Thank you so much for having me. It's really an honor and a pleasure to be on. In Glendora, we have some pretty exciting things going on. Our transportation division, we oversee the city's public transit service. And we also do our bike and pedestrian program, and our TDM program for the city. So we have a pretty big portfolio for a small group. On the transit side, really exciting are two things. We've recently purchased two electric buses, that we're working into our service right now. It's really exciting. We're one of the first small cities to do that. And that's something we're looking forward to with the A LIne opening up. And as part of that, we're also in the midst of our first ever short range transit plan, which we'll be looking at. Do our bus routes serve the most people possible? Are we getting people to where they need to go? With the A Line coming in? How can we orient service to that? And then how do we better sell ourselves? You know, it's a small city small service, there's probably a lot more we can do to get our word out there. On the bike and pedestrian side, which is probably our most active side, we've had a number of initiatives. Our main one is called the Glendora People Mover Project, that's a 10 mile build out of bike, biking, walking trails, or paths throughout the city, mostly along our flood control channels, and around the future A Line station. So that includes, couple miles of class one trails, and about, you know, three to four miles of first last mile improvements in the city. To date, we've secured about $13 million out of $21 million to complete that. So we're well on our way to getting that done. Most recently, we completed our Slow Street Project, which is we closed Street in our downtown, and we repurposed it for pedestrian plaza, so that now there's games, mini golf, there's actually a fire pit in the street, if you can believe it. And we have shade sails and really great gathering place in our downtown. And that was also an extension of our work installing our parklets during COVID. So, we've really tried to link also the economic development piece of transportation together to support those initiatives. And then on the TDM side, we recently... our council recently approved our streets ordinance. So are we're now we're calling it our Safe Streets ordinance where we are able to have a more rational approach to deploying demonstration temporary projects traffic calming throughout the city. So that's kind of a brief overview of, you know, the work we've been doing.

Damien Newton  3:39  

in my notes, there were three things that I was going to bring up if you didn't bring them up. One was the bus electrification, which is not something that we've talked a lot about at Streetsblog, except for the San Gabriel Valley because Foothill Transit was aggressive and aggressive as an early adopter. And we see a lot of agencies, the smaller community agencies in the Foothill service area also picking up e-buses. And I wonder if that's because the one of the reasons is just because it's something that's seems more possible for agencies here than in other places because they see a larger one doing it or if it's because the infrastructure  is there for E buses in ways that it's not in areas that aren't, you know, the larger cities of the world. 

Steve Mateer  4:24  

 So we're, it's being a smaller city. We're the technology for us is probably about five years behind rear foot Hilda's. You know, we don't buy 3540 foot, you know, buses that metro or Foothill bias, we're looking more at like 30 to 20 feet, or 20 foot buses. So there's really not a lot to choose from, and that's something that we're going through. We went through about four rounds of procurement, just to get to where we are today with the two buses that we bought, and that's just because the markets just not mature. You have a lot of startups that come in and out or they pivot to school buses, which there's just a lot more money and a much more robust demand for that. I would say the small cities, a lot of just a push from the Air Resources Board to go to zero emission. But we wanted to be a leader, one because we're one of the only ones in the San Gabriel Valley to provide fixed route and dial ride. So not only do we have to do it, but it's the right thing to do. And also, our council has been very proactive, and encouraging us to be a leader. And so that does include working very closely with Foothill, and learning, learning from them on what's worked and what hasn't worked.

Damien Newton  5:41  

One of the other things I really wanted to talk about a little bit about was the slow streets or safe streets now as you call it program. In Los Angeles, where I live, I was my local slow streets coordinator, and we got the A frames and all of that pretty early. And it was a sort of a nightmare to try to maintain that. And then last summer, they put in some permanent infrastructure, just some bollards and that sort of stuff. But it's been a big difference in our neighborhood. Is this is similar sort of story with with Glendora, it started out as sort of a pandemic era program and now  because it was popular and successful. As I always said, I didn't understand why LA didn't jump on this and do it everywhere. Because the thing had motherhood and apple pie approval ratings. You couldn't get 75% of my neighborhood to agree that like children have rights, but we were over 80% "this is a great program." Was this the same sort of thing there where you guys tried something in the pandemic to address what was going on and provide some options. It was like, "wow, this is popular and really good. So let's, let's expand it and make it permanent."

Steve Mateer  6:51  

Yeah, that's pretty much what happened. We, we actually did a parklet and bike lane demo, during one of our Christmas parades in 2019. And I remember the time one of the restaurant owners told me, "Okay, I'll let you do this for one day. But I don't want to talk to you about this again, like we're not doing a parklet you're not taking parking in front of me." I said, "Okay, you know, thank you for the open mindedness and letting us try it. You know, we heard you loud and clear." You know, no one knew that, you know, three, four months later, we'd be in the pandemic, and, you know, not being able to eat inside. And, you know, we the city responded very quickly, our we got our very rudimentary parklets up in about a month, that was our Public Works and economic development team did an excellent job of, you know, just kind of just doing it right, there wasn't really a lot of like, let's think about it, it was just we know, we need to do this, let's help them. And as a result of that, that same business owner was like, you know, that saved my business. And you know, that, once we went from temporary to permanent, we actually had the opposite problem where we didn't, we, we almost didn't build the park was big enough for restaurants, or we didn't do enough, you know, everyone wanted a parklet, essentially, or a big one. And it was really kind of a great problem to have, and that, you know, we had this demand for it and this recognition of, "okay, well, we can try to wait a few parking spaces in front, but we're gonna get a lot more business a lot more activity in our village," and that really colored discussion around closing the street in our downtown. And also, when we did eighth month demonstration of a bike lane where we reduce lanes; there wasn't really a lot of outcry about it, it was, you know, "okay, you can do this just make it look pretty." It was really great to have, you know, see that transformation that people were very open minded, and were willing to look at things differently. And that  really doing those demonstration projects really changed the conversation in Glendora.

Damien Newton  9:08  

You were talking about the 10 mile, I believe, "bike movement project". (It's actually called the People Movement Project) But the first thing I did not have this in my notes is how many miles of like square miles is the city. So just to get an idea, like an eight to 10 mile project to the city of LA is cool, but not transformative. But it this sounds like transformative for people that are trying to traverse the city.

Steve Mateer  9:35  

That's a great, I think we're probably four or five miles across and then four or five, you know, I'd say...

Damien Newton  9:45  

Looking at the map, it looked like it was about that. So eight to 10 miles is a significant project..

Steve Mateer  9:50  

The flood control channels, you know, they bisect the community, you know, North, Central and In the southern part of the city, so when we develop those, that's going to be incredible east-west connection, you know, to Azusa to Covina, to Charter Oak. And that will allow people to go from those communities or Glendora or up to the Angeles National Forests. So you can ride your bike, you could hike all the way up, you know, once this is done, you know, to these various trail points. And that's just really exciting, to be able to connect that way. And then with the A Line coming in, again, we're going to be connecting our village, which sits about a half a mile north of the A Line station, with a raised protected bike lane a round about Dutch Intersection. And then on Foothill Boulevard, we're also going to be going down to, you know, a consistent one lane each direction with a protected bike lane and some crossing improvements. It's just really exciting to see that, you know, Glendora which is small and you know, not necessarily, you know, what I think everyone thinks of when they think of bike and pedestrian improvements...we've really taken a leadership on that. And our council has been notched, open minded, they're really been leading us on that and really said, Yeah, go for it, you know, "design for the highest use design for what I call the eight to 80 cities." If you can design it for an eight year old and an eight year old, you've done a good job. And that's what we're trying to aim for.

Damien Newton  11:32  

This wasn't on my list, but you mentioned it. So let's talk a little bit the A Line is coming. You don't have a station directly in your downtown, as you mentioned, but you do have one that's pretty close to the city center. Outside of the obvious transportation benefits, do you see the proximity of having that having other benefits for the city? Housing or anything else such as transit density bonuses that are now apply any of those sorts of things that would benefit the city in the long run other than obvious benefit of having a train station next door?

Steve Mateer  12:02  

Yeah, I think there's a lot of recognition that cities that have invested in their station area, get the benefit of the of the train those that haven't. Unfortunately, see a lot of the negatives that come with it. And I think here, we've really said this is going to be an asset for the community. So what can we do to build on that? And so, we have the transportation side that we're working on. Our Planning Division, applied for and got a transit oriented communities grant from Metro to study exactly what you just talked about, you know, what are the development opportunities? What are the housing options? Can we include affordable housing? What would that look like? You know, we've engaged with Metro on looking at what can our parking lot and ride be converted to housing at some point. So what does that look like? And, you know, so there's a lot of energy and interest in how can you know, our village, (which was a great village, for those listeners who've never been, it's worth coming out and checking out) can we extend that further south? Can we make it to build upon the great things that we have here? And do more of it with some new development coming in?

Damien Newton  13:18  

Right, well, that that exhausts in my question list. You covered all of it in the intro. So this is when I say, "is there anything else that you would like to talk about before we also say, other than that, is there anything that you would like to talk about or hit on that we haven't really discussed in in any depth yet, in this interview?

Steve Mateer  13:47  

You know, I think one of the things that we've also tried to be very intentional about is how we have engaged with our residents. And you know, what we've done when we've gone out and built these projects ourselves. For example, when we're designing our flood control channel, we've worked directly, we've actually had Active SGV, be part of our project team. You know, we really want to have that community buy in. Active SGV has an incredible reach to the community, they can get to people that we struggled to reacH. Cities that just do a traditional, you know, social media post or a press release, don't really get to people that work different hours or just generally have trouble getting to public meetings. They've been such an asset and helping us get the word out to reach residents on the project. Having their partnership along with this, it's just helped us tremendously. They've also helped us...I think, with every demonstration project we've done, they've helped uss. They're out there with us, laying out the tape together; put the planters in. and you know. One of my favorite things we've done was when we were removing the the demo the demonstration bike lane...they're out there with us with a blowtorch trying melt off the tape that had almost become paint on the street. And it's just been such a great partnership, with them to really change the conversation about transportation and what it can mean in a community like Glendora. The other thing I'm really proud of is the city, probably in contrast, every other city, we actually own our parklets in the downtown in our downtown. The way that we've managed it is through reuse agreement with each restaurant, but for the assembly;again, we worked, we worked with us to Active SGV and we actually hire the SGV Conservation Corps to assemble the parklets with us. And again, that was very intentional in that we wanted to bring in individuals who need job training are part of a great group like the SGV Conservation Corps to learn how to assemble a parklet what are these parklets? How can you translate that to future jobs? That was something that I'm just particularly proud of that we're able to do. And then also to have it be supporting such a great, you know, a great project that helped our village.

Damien Newton  16:24  

All right, well, we are running up against what I always joke is our artificially created time limit because the internet, everything is as big as we want it to be. But thank you so much for your time today. Certainly there's a lot of things for us to keep our eye on going forward. Every from thing from the A Line to seeing how safe and slow streets are whichever you were calling it safe streets now how that how that continues to progress. So thank you very much for your time today. And we'll check back in again soon.

Steve Mateer  16:52  

Great. Thank you Damien. I appreciate it.