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Santa Monica Leaders Try Lives Without Own Wheels

 
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

First of two parts

July 24, 2017 -- Ensnared in relentlessly car-obsessed metro L.A., the City of Santa Monica is in route to a road not yet taken, at least with as much gusto, by any of its neighbors: A future with streets designed for people and mass transit, not vehicles -- a bold move in the post-WWII era.

A tomorrow less dependent on cars has encountered plenty of public push back in Santa Monica, and the reasons are usually pinned to a basic question. How is it possible in real -- not theoretical -- life to survive without a car in this region?

City council members and City Manager Rick Cole (a high-profile proponent of alternative transportation), responding to a Lookout query, explain how they work alternative transit into their lives.

City Manager Rick Cole

Yes, I use bikes. Currently I use Breeze Bike since I broke my chain peddling up the California Incline and haven't had the opportunity to get it fixed (it's not the chain itself, it's the sprocket that holds the gear change mechanism). I bought the yearly $99 pass and find it very convenient to get around. I used it for 22 trips in May and 9 so far this month. There's a bike stand three blocks from my home.

I also have a stop in front of my building for the #9 Big Blue Bus which I take frequently to work (usually two, sometimes three times a week). It takes me from my home to Santa Monica Place, an easy walk to City Hall.

I try to observe Car Free Friday, unless I have trips out of town that aren't conducive to transit. I use the Expo three or four times a month, usually all the way to Downtown LA. In June, I used Expo and the Blue Line to visit the Latin American Art Museum.

Recently I was without my car for over a week while it was in the shop. I was able to commute, shop and do most errands without a problem. The one errand I didn't attempt was going to the cleaners to drop off and pick up the shirts and pants I wear to work.

My church and Montana Avenue are both within walking distance, so I often get to each on foot.

I know there are driver/bike and driver/ped tensions and hazards in town, but my experience has always been positive, except occasional drivers who don't know (or don't care) that they are supposed to stop for pedestrians at intersections.

Council Member Gleam Davis

I work in El Segundo and frequently have to travel to other cities and counties for work. However, about once a week, my schedule allows me to take BBB to work.

Also, if I have to go to downtown LA, Pasadena, or Hollywood, I take Metro. I use Lyft to get around without having to worry about parking. I am not much of a cyclist but I walk quite a bit all over town. I don't keep a regular schedule so every day is different.

Council Member Sue Himmelrich

When both my husband and I are going to our offices, we carpool. He drops me in Koreatown and picks me up at the end of the day. Otherwise I drive. We have a Volt and a Civic CNG and the Volt will go downtown and back on a charge (we put a charger in at our house).

I bike when I don’t have too much to carry and it’s more than a couple of miles. Otherwise, I try to walk unless I’m going to an event that is going too late to safely walk.

I do think all of this is a balancing act, especially since I'm 64 and not as spry as I used to be. But I have walked to the Pier from my home for dinner (though not often) and take the train downtown (which to me means downtown LA) or even to downtown Santa Monica for evenings out.

I want to add that I understand that not everyone can handle the multimodal model -- especially older people and people with disabilities. My husband and I are fortunate to still have all four of our parents and they could not cope with the multimodal model. My mother, for instance, could not walk a couple of blocks to the train or the bus. There were days when I was in chemotherapy when I could not navigate half a block.

Multimodal also means ADA compliant in a nonlegal sense. We need to accommodate the many seniors and others who cannot navigate as adeptly as young people. This is a work in progress but I am dedicated to make this easy for everyone.

Mayor Ted Winterer

My family of four has had only one car for the last 15 years. We have five bikes -- four regular bikes and one cargo bike for hauling loads. I often bike to my day job and regularly use the Big Blue Bus, Breeze and Lyft to get around.

My son can walk to and from school and my daughter regularly uses the BBB to get home from Samohi, tennis lessons or outings in downtown Santa Monica with friends.

Usually every day my wife and I chat in the morning about who may have destinations which need the car and who can get around by other means -- somehow it always works out.

 


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