Two wheel vehicles relieve congestion by using smaller lanes and sharing lanes with larger vehicles. Gridlock for an automobile still permits two wheel vehicles to operate effectively. Two wheel rides can maintain full speed when given bicycle lanes and can still move effectively without such lanes, all be it at slightly lower speeds.
The congestion relief is most evident on roads like Broadway here in Santa Monica. The two auto lanes combined with effective turning lanes allows for smooth efficient auto travel and allows room for safe bicycle lanes. With such bicycle lanes fully subscribed the road would be able to carry large numbers of commuters – more than comparable roads with four automobile lanes under gridlock conditions.
A quality matrix of such roads that were strategically positioned would provide a safe way for people to shift into two-wheeled transport. These would be most suitable when they are linked to a similar system in adjacent cities. The low cost of creating such a system of bicycle lanes would make this a very effective alternative to expensive auto based solutions. In order to realize the effectiveness of this solution it would be necessary to provide a full program to support the use of the two wheel vehicles some of the elements of which are discussed in the accompanying reports.
Further congestion relief can be realized by integrating the two wheel solutions into mass transit effectively. People can get to express bus stations (and rail stations when they get here) on two wheels more easily and quickly than on short bus trips that involve route changes. This does require accommodation including safe storage and the ability to take the bicycles etc. on the mass transit easily.
On the surface, these do not provide congestion relief to any significant extent. They do however have less obvious advantages. Mini-compacts have the advantage of providing higher density parking at mass transit connections. Another advantage being that they produce less pollution when stuck in gridlock.
A unique advantage to the Santa Monica area comes from the neighborhood electric vehicles or NEVs. These vehicles are limited to a top speed of 25 mph by law. These can move through neighborhoods effectively but at lower speeds than other commuter vehicles. They are also silent with zero emissions. These would help solve the issues of commuters moving north and south through streets in areas like those between Pico and Ocean Park.
All the vehicles described are far more efficient in their use of foreign oil to get people from point “A” to point “B” than our current fleet. This is can be seen from the mileage they get as follows:
Ø Mini Compacts and hybrids – from 40 to 60 mpg
Ø Motor scooters and motorcycles – from 50 to 80 mpg
Ø Plug in Electrics, standard sized – 125 mpg equivalent (reported)
Ø Plug in Electrics, neighbor hood vehicles – 200 mpg equivalent
Ø Plug in Electrics, mopeds and motor scooters – 400 mpg equivalent (tested)
Ø Bicycles – measured in miles per carbohydrate!
The better the mileage the less CO2 and other green house gasses these vehicles are responsible for producing. All of the new vehicle in these groups meet California noise pollution and air quality standards in parts per million so their net pollution will be significantly lower. Plug in vehicles can potentially run on renewable sources of electricity. Even when using the California grid the fuel sources are far cleaner than burning gasoline. That is if you could find a vehicle that gets 400 mpg burning gasoline.
Encouraging Congestion Relieving Vehicles
in Santa Monica
Given that there are clear advantages to the alternatives of two wheel vehicles and mini compacts including electric vehicles the question becomes what can the City do to encourage people to use these?
The members and activist of the Sustainable Transport Club have been engaged in encouraging these alternatives for several years and have distilled the priority items that would foster the use of these vehicles.
Fostering the safety and security for bicycle riders is the key to increasing rider ship. In addition, activities to educate and encourage riders are important.
The safety issues run to having safe parallel routes that permit riding from any part of town to all the major destinations. While there are different levels of safe parallel routes the priority is to get effective bicycle lanes in place. Bicycle routes are almost meaningless if there is no lane in place. Bicycle paths and bicycle boulevards are preferred options when we have the riders to support them.
There has been a good effort to start the bicycle lanes in Santa Monica but they suffer from being disjointed. There are really only two routes that are efficient – Broadway from 6th street to Centinella and San Vicente from 26th to Ocean and California. Unfortunately the San Vicente to Ocean route is primarily suited to recreation use rather than for transportation. That route does not connect destinations of interest to very many bicycle commuters. All other routes either lack connections that work or are plagued by stop signs at almost every intersection.
Security for Bicycles means having good parking and places to lock bikes up. Having descent locking locations like the one at Co-opportunity is the base line for this. If bicycles were to be parked for long periods (over two hours), it would be preferred to have either attended parking or bicycle lockers that prevent parts theft.
With these conditions in mind we suggest the following items be included in the budgeting for next year.
1, Finish the bicycle lanes so they are connected (including at least one that connects to Ocean through downtown) and reach all major destinations – downtown, the ocean, the schools, the main shops, the larger concentrations of jobs,
2, Connect these lanes to the lanes in adjacent communities (Venice, Mar Vista, West LA, Westwood etc.)
3, Have major bike lanes that give bicycles priority at intersections that is equal to cars – this includes giving bicyclists a fast and easy way to request a traffic light change (like the buttons that pedestrians get).
4, Get good signs for the bike lanes including signs directing people to where the lanes are located.
5, Get secure sidewalk parking locations throughout the city
6, Get bicycle parking downtown that is overseen by existing parking attendants for added security
7, Include bicycle access as a priority in all construction and road projects
While these items are the pressing priorities there are many other items to consider including those in the Bicycle Master Plan. Updating and implementing this plan is definitely important to this process. Updating that would include additional workshops like the bicycle workshop held in 2005.
In addition to these items it would be appropriate for staff to be able to support outreach and education efforts. At the very least this would include producing safety pamphlets and bicycle route maps to be distributed through local stores. That effort could also support bicycle activities such as mass rides and meet-ups as well as helping people keep their bikes running (emergency flat repair locations at all City parks for example)
Here are some specific things that can be done to encourage both mini compact usage and electric vehicles.
Mini Compact Parking
1, Create regulations that define the spaces their layout and enforcement guidelines
2, Create regulations that allow three mini compacts to share two regular parking spaces including ones with meters
3, Identify locations where red curb areas can be combined with a regular parking space to create two mini compact spaces
4, Identify parking structure locations where parking spaces can be converted to mini-compact spaces that will increase total density and provide premium parking to encourage mini compacts
5, Convert as many potential locations into actual parking as possible and put up signage to encourage and support all of the above
Electric Vehicles Use:
1, Retrofitting all existing charging stations to include standard 110 and 220 outlets
2, Provide standard 110 and 220 outlets for charging EV's at all City of Santa Monica building, schools, parks, public parking structures and related facilities for staff as well as visitors
3, Have staff develop and implement a plan to support additional charging stations at all places of employment and for all residences particularly Condo's and apartments
4, Develop and implement a plan to encourage use of NEV's and electric powered two wheel vehicles that includes infrastructure and public awareness- promotion campaign - possibly tax credits or rebates.
5, Change parking regulations so that all zero emission vehicles can park for free at all meters and city owned garages.
In addition we support and encourage anything that can be done to bring renewable fuel sources into the City. This is primarily focused on making Bio Diesel available as a solution that is viable right now. It also includes advancing ethanol usage as it is coming closer to being a viable renewable fuel. Participation in research on biomass conversion into other bio-fuels is also encouraged including producing methane and hydrogen on a renewable and energy efficient basis.
Sustainable Transportation Coordinator
We recommend that the city create a full time coordinator to take on the priority work identified above. In addition, this person will help create and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive plan to build a sustainable system of transportation for the community. The full plan will be developed to integrate all the aspects of sustainable transport into a comprehensive system. These elements include but are not limited to:
Reducing the Need for Travel
Human Powered Transport (bicycles, pedestrians etc.)
Neighborhood Transport Vehicles
The plan will identify everything needed to support and foster the use of all these options. It will layout the ways that various City departments need to participate and work together to make sustainable transport a priority in all their activities. It will line up all the budgetary items needed to implement the plan. It will identify all the regulatory changes needed at the local level as well as legislative issues at the county state and federal level that need to be addressed.
The position would be assigned to the appropriate department and work with an advisory committee to establish priorities and direction. That advisory committee would include the appropriate City management, City board members (at least a Planning Commission liaison) as well as at least three sustainable transport advocates from within the community.
The position is given the title of coordinator, as the work is primarily to help all the various parts of the City staff understand how their roles interconnect in building this system. The person will help staff understand how they can incorporate building the sustainable transport system into their ongoing work. The position would also monitor the progress of each department and provide reporting to the appropriate management channels.
This effort will include making it a priority to create a comprehensive solution and not a piece meal solution. An example of how the piecemeal approach has become a problem is the disjointed nature of the bike paths. The paths have gaps that stop two blocks from important destinations like the 17th Street path that stops at Michigan within sight of SMC but with two dangerous blocks left to get there.
This staff person will also work to coordinating the development of similar activity in areas adjacent to Santa Monica. This will result in developing sustainable transport connections to all surrounding destinations including but not limited to:
UCLA, Century City, Culver City, Marina Del Rey and LAX Airport.
The coordination will also assure the integration of all sustainable elements into the access of high-speed mass transit including both trains and express buses for access to communities beyond our immediate neighbors. This means working with city and county officials to coordinate planning and projects.
This project will take five to seven years to complete. It can start with a half time consulting effort that will initiate this effort and get the input necessary to layout the details of the overall plan and the steps that will be needed to complete it. This will result in a better identification of the actions needed over the duration of the project.