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A Timely Proposal: A Vital Project:

The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City proposes taking $200,000 (8 percent of the surplus budget funds) for an outside study of one of Santa Monica’s most fundamental problems – massive traffic congestion.

The city’s current traffic impact methodology is seriously outmoded and flawed. We propose using this money to replace its outdated methodology with one that is newer and more accurate. Without this, as new development projects come on line, it will become even more difficult to traverse our city and reach destinations within our city in reasonable time. As it is now, it is hard to imagine how it could worsen, since we’re at or almost at gridlock in certain sections of our city.

The current methodology that Santa Monica’s consultants use for Environmental Impact Report traffic studies is not working because it is not intended to help planners deal with traffic impacts. It evaluates only isolated street intersections (often using data that is several years old). Consequently, any mitigations recommended to increase capacity frequently cannot work because there are no more effective mitigation options available. All the simple things to do have already been done.

Last March, the city took an important first step of hearing from traffic experts about alternative traffic impact methodologies which are far better. They are more effective because they map traffic on an area-wide grid basis to establish the traffic trends. This means that planners could use the model for long-term planning in order to understand the true traffic impacts of proposed projects. This new methodology would aid decision-makers in approving or disapproving a specific project, and if approved, determine the appropriate size, density, and location. It would also help to determine whether more effective mitigations exist, not just to an intersection, but to the entire impacted area. Such mitigations could include such things as one-way streets, over and underpasses, reverse lanes (time of day), shuttle buses, etc.

We have a wonderful opportunity now, with these surplus funds, to fund a study of a better traffic impact methodology for our city’s future. It will help our city revise the circulation element of its General Plan so that it actually will work for our city’s future growth and it will also promote accurate, long-range planning to reduce future traffic impacts.

For these reasons, SMCLC has asked the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Irvine, one of the leaders in the field (which presented its ideas to the city last year), to submit a proposal under separate cover for a new traffic impact methodology for Santa Monica which will help us solve our growing traffic congestion, encourage continued use of our local resources and businesses, and ultimately serve as a model for other cities.

We urge the city to take this important step as part of the General Plan update.

The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City

February 4, 2006

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