One of the central efforts for the club is the City of Santa Monica Project. The idea behind this project is to create a Local Sustainable Transport System
This project has shown and continues to show Southern California and a much wider community how transportation can be sustained beyond our dependence on foreign oil. The City has some great activists, city staff, and local representatives working together to bring this about.
Since the start of this project in 2004 the City has been given a Bicycle Friendly City Bronze Level award. The level of bicycle ridership has more than tripled. It hosts an internationally recognized sustainable transportation exposition, the Alt Car Expo. It has one of the cleanest most sustainable city fleets. It has one of the best electric vehicle charging infrastructure programs. It has one of the highest concentrations of Electric Vehicles, Hydrogen fueled vehicles and natural gas vehicles of any city in the country. It has a light rail under construction and a subway on its way to being implemented.
The Sustainable Transport Club was one of the pieces that created these results. There are many people and many groups who worked on getting all of this done. The Club became a way for each of these to be connected to the rest. That connection helped move all of this forward faster and more effectively. Here are some of the steps the Club took.
Sustainable Transport Club
Santa Monica Solution
Creating a Local
Sustainable Transport System
The first step was to create a local base of support for the work. This included advocates as well as a broader mailing list of less active supporters. The mailing list represents a constituency within the city that staff and representatives are concerned about. It gives credibility and weight to the advocacy.
This step was expanded into a regional network that stretches from Santa Barbara to Orange County and out to Pasadena. The network is supported by the Club Newsletter. That network also involved working together at various events around the region which built up our sense of having a sustainable transport community. The network is a tool to promote cooperation, communication and competition within the region. Competition drives one area to try to match and exceed the results of its neighbors and that speed things up well.
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Local Base of Support
Another step was to create public outreach and education efforts. This started small with one table at several events. As the network grew we brought other advocates together to create transportation sections at numerous events. Several of these were called Sustainable Transport Villages with thanks to Kaci Palmieri and the other Earthday organizers. The ones in Santa Monica resulted in working with Rick Sikes from the City. He brought in vehicles and had staff help get things going.
We reached out to our fellow organizers in Santa Barbara (foremost amongst which were Arjun Sarkar and Sage Davis) and participated with them. One of the main things we did was to bring vehicles up from Santa Monica to help expand the range being shown. Again Rick Sikes was in the thick of it. Between the Villages and the contact with Santa Barbara we were soon helping Rick and Christine Dzilvelis to get the Alt Car Expo off the ground in 2006.
The Club continues to support the Alt Car Expo which is doing a great job of getting the information out about alternative transportation. We have thousands of people each year helping us move closer to Sustainable transportation through this event.
Outreach and Education
Advocacy means writing letters and speaking at meetings on specific subjects. The Club has a great group of people who do this work in several cities and we had some of the best working on the Santa Monica Project.
One thing that our advocacy enabled was to get resolutions passed to support various bicycle, biodiesel and electric vehicle activities. Special thanks are due to Councilmembers Kevin McKeown, Ken Genser, and Richard Bloom for helping make that happen. That included one of the first free parking ordinances for electric vehicles. Council resolutions are one of ways that staff can be empowered to take steps to support our efforts.
That advocacy allowed us to open communications with the City planning department. They were interested in our input on such matters as bicycle parking and bike lanes. It was good to start that dialogue and to find ways to help the staff do the best possible job.
The next big step happened when the City started to revise their General Plan. The General Plan for a City is a set of goals, objectives and priorities that determines what staff is supposed to do in the absence of specific resolutions from the City council. It is a blue print of sorts that helps set activities and budgets.
A General Plan is made up of various components. The part that has a direct focus on transportation is called the Land Use and Circulation Element or the LUCE for short. If the LUCE supports sustainable transport then the staff can do the work without having to get council approval for every step.
Creating the revised LUCE involved a process with many meetings. The Club and its associated advocates turned out in good numbers for almost all of these meetings. We hardly ever missed an opportunity to include bicycle, pedestrian and electric vehicle needs in the discussion. The net result is one of the more sustainably oriented LUCE documents created up to that date.
General Plan Update
One of the Planning staff people, Lucy Dyke, recently confirmed that the content was continually scrutinized to make sure that the concerns expressed by our group were included in the final document.
The follow on results have been pursued by our people and a new wave of advocates. This has resulted in an updated Bicycle Plan as well as the SM Bike activities which are documented in part at the following locations:
It has also resulted in significant electric vehicle charger installation, updated free EV parking, and expedited permitting for charger installation. The over the counter permit fee is one of the lowest in the State for both EVs and Solar Systems. All of which was in place long before the state recommendations in these areas.
This gives you a good picture of the work and the results from our efforts. Anyone interested in doing similar things in their community can get in touch to learn more about how to get this done. Signing up for the newsletter is a good way to get more information.
Get In Touch to Do More of the Same
One thing about the work in Santa Monica is that it was a long time in the making. The City government was a conservative group through the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. That was changed by people like Danny Zane in the early 80’s followed by Ken Genser and Kelly Olsen in the late 80 and early 90’s. These people brought the idea of sustainability into play in the City. Their influence allowed the city to hire staff with an orientation toward this work. It allowed Craig Perkins to become the head of the Environmental Services and he in turn made hiring Rick Sikes possible. Another key staff group was in the Planning Department. Hiring Eileen Fogarty as planning director was a huge help as was having her good people on staff including Michelle, Lucy Dyke and Beth Rolandson.
The point being that there is a process of developing the ground work for this sort of activity. There was twenty years of work prior to the start of our project that made our results possible. This work put the right people on staff and the right people on the council. Without that we would have had to start at a more basic level to get our city going.
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Medium Speed Electric Vehicle Initiative
The City of Santa Monica Project also resulted in creating other efforts. One such effort was the Medium Speed Electric Vehicle Coalition, which advocated for safety regulations appropriate for 35 mph vehicles.
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Copyright 2013 Russell Sydney, All rights reserved.