Test trains are taking to the tracks in the lead up to the much-anticipated Metro Expo Line service to Santa Monica. City coffers are also gearing up for the launch, and related activities, with party and PR bills slated to surpass $1 million.
First funding to get approved earlier this month by Santa Monica City Council, was $500,000 for outsourced public relations firm GOOD Worldwide Inc., a California-based company, to execute Expo Light Rail marketing services.
The agreement, “in an amount not to exceed $500,000 for one year, with one additional one-year renewal option in the amount of $250,000, on the same terms and conditions for a total amount not to exceed $750,000 over a two-year period,” was approved March 1.
Second, is the Open Streets Event, encompassing Metro celebrations, scheduled for June 5, 2016. The budget for this event is $357,000 plus a $50,000 in-kind resource match for the Metro grant of $200,000 that will cover some of the event’s cost.
Included is the charge for Community Arts Resources (CARS), a California based company, to produce the June 5 event.
CARS’ newly-negotiated contract (they were already onboard to produce the Santa Monica Festival and have been segwayed), “will result in a two-year amended agreement in an amount not to exceed $257,000, with three additional one year renewal options in the amount of $300,000, on the same terms and conditions for a total amount not to exceed $557,000.”
“This includes five years, four of which will produce the Santa Monica Festival and one year to produce the Open Streets Event,” according to the City.
Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole told The Mirror that the spends are justified when looking at the bigger picture.
“By raising awareness that there are now expanded ways to get around and encouraging residents and commuters to actually try them, we can spur incremental changes [to mobility],” Cole said.
The marketing efforts aim to reach 93,000 residents; 100,000 commuters and a similar number of daily visitors.
“The Expo extension is a $1.5 billion local public investment in improving mobility for Westside and County residents. All the money comes from local taxpayers – none from the Federal government,” the city manager explained.
“Falling gas prices, the expansion of eligibility for driver’s licenses and an improving economy putting more people to work are all combining to increase auto traffic in a county that has the worst congestion in America.
“City Council has been consistently clear that we need to tackle this issue by offering our community mobility choices. There is no cheap or easy fix to reduce traffic. But there are investments we can make to facilitate changes in ‘travel behavior.’ That’s what the marketing effort around the Expo opening and our revamping of our Big Blue Bus routes is designed to foster,” Cole said.
“The arrival of regional rail mobility is the event of the century, at least so far, and we’d be remiss not to make every effort to help residents maximize the opportunities and prepare for the changes that will come with Expo,” explained Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “This will be a time not only to celebrate but to educate, in hopes of encouraging new options for getting around without making traffic worse.”
Through creative communication, the City hopes that more people will try alternative forms of transportation, instead of defaulting to single occupancy car trips, Cole explained.
“‘If you build it, they will ride,’ is not a cost-effective or common sense approach to getting the most benefit out of a $1.5 billion public infrastructure improvement,” he said.
The City’s newly-installed PR team (with combined annual salaries of around $580,000) is spearheading the effort, and will be, according to Cole, “supplemented by the outside resources to run the campaign to mark the opening, the ongoing campaign to influence travel behavior and the event logistics of shutting down major streets to welcome 50-75,000 bicyclists and walkers to an annual event over the next five years.”