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Part II: Santa Monica Leaders Try Lives Without Own Wheels


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

Second of two parts

July 25, 2017 -- The City of Santa Monica has embarked on a series of bold initiatives to wean motorists from their cars. The Lookout asked City leaders to explain how they are integrating these new policies into their own lives.

On Monday, City Manager Rick Cole, Mayor Ted Winterer and Council members Gleam Davis and Sue Himmelrich shared their views ("Santa Monica Leaders Try Lives Without Own Wheels," July 24, 2017).

Today Council members Kevin McKeown, Pam O'Connor and Terry O'Day talk about how they have embraced a lifestyle that does not rely solely on the car (Mayor Pro Tem Tony Vazquez did not respond to the questionnaire).

Council Member Kevin McKeown

"Alternative transportation means choice, and I’m glad to have choices in Santa Monica, and to help provide increasing choices to residents and visitors.

I’ve been riding a bike around Santa Monica since 1976. In my 20s, I thought nothing of slapping my Churchills on the back of my bike, riding down to Sorrento Beach, body-surfing all day, and doing all my errands on the bike on my way home, uphill all the way.

Now, nearing 70, I don’t have quite the same energy, but I still ride several times a week, as residents who’ve seen me roll by can attest. A big benefit of bike-riding in Santa Monica is the human contact that we miss enclosed in our cars.

One of my favorite moments as Mayor was opening our pioneering bike share system. Even though trips to and from home are easier on my own bike, I used Breeze bikes recently on a day when I ran multiple errands while my 16-year-old Prius was in for maintenance, and the convenience was liberating.

Neither of my jobs, days as a public-school technology consultant or nights and weekends as Councilmember, is well-suited to organized carpooling, as my destinations and schedules are varied and unpredictable.

I watch my Vehicle Miles Traveled, though, by combining trips whenever possible, and know when and where NOT to drive so as not to contribute to everyone’s least favorite experience in Santa Monica, traffic congestion.

Our household average gets some help from my wife, who has lived in Santa Monica 33 years and never owned a car (but for the past ten years, as the Beatles said, she’s got a driver and that’s a start).

I greatly prefer our Big Blue Bus to Metro buses, in part because most of my travels are local. As a long-legged walker, I can cover a lot of ground on foot.

Yes, I’ve used the Expo Line (and connections) for longer travel, including City work and personal politics. I took Expo and the Blue Line all the way to Long Beach for a government conference, and Expo and the Red Line to Union Station recently for a meeting of the Feel the Bern Democratic Club.

Like many of us, I still have to rely on my car for much of my travel. I don’t live downtown, or right on a major transit route. What alternative transportation choices mean to me as a Wilmont renter is being able to choose options other than my car, that 10 or 20 percent of the time when I want a happier, more social, less frustrating and more planet-saving experience.

Council Member Terry O'Day

I frequently bike to work along the Expo Bike Path. It’s quiet, safe and pretty, and it’s fun to see other bikes and pedestrians out there. It’s also a primary form of exercise for me.

My daughters and I are typically biking -– especially anytime we are going downtown Santa Monica. We walk to the Got Pet Food store and groomers nearby. When one of our dogs was sick, I put her in a backpack and the girls and I rode her to the vet by bike.

We also like to get dinner or lunch on Main Street at Sunny Blue and we bike there.

We take the Expo to go downtown, like a recent trip to the Natural History Museum for the Butterfly Pavilion

Big Blue Bus is usually for a trip to the airport, or to mid-Wilshire for a show at Wiltern or LACMA. Sometimes the kids will ride BBB home from school with their babysitter.

My oldest daughter will start walking to school this fall, and we are very excited about that.

Council Member Pam O’Connor

I don't have a regular commute. My choice of mode is based on the activities of the day. For work when I have to do field work in far flung areas of the region, I drive my 20-year old car. For late night Council meetings at City Hall I drive. If I'm doing a trip to the supermarket to stock up on things, I drive.

I don't bike but walking is a part of every days' adventures.

If I'm going to Downtown LA, I take Expo Light Rail. That may be complemented by a LADOT Dash bus ride or a ride-hail service (Lyft/Uber). If I'm going to Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM) or Main Street, I take BBB and use one of the real-time apps to track the bus; sometimes I ride-hail to DTSM or Main Street.

If I'm gone for the day and need to take many items with me (iPad, paperwork, etc) I'll take a small rolling case with me. And then I sometime add shopping to purchase smaller items.

Sometimes I run into people I know on the train or bus and we get a chance to catch up. That has happened on Expo, Metro buses in DTLA as well as on BBB in SaMo and the BBB sub-region.

Smartphone apps have made all of this much easier than it had been in decades past when one had to find the various paper bus maps and schedules. I have several transit and map directions apps that I use. Having a TAP (Transit Access Pass) card also makes the fare transaction easier than looking for correct change.

This year I've also taken MetroLink trains, Amtrak, buses in San Diego and the Bay Area's BART, SF Muni and SamTrans (San Mateo), Yolo Bus in Sacramento; subways in NYC, DC, and Chicago. And now that I'm a "senior" I have senior TAP cards for LA, DC, NYC, Bay Area and Chicago.

Last month I took the subway (by myself) in Shanghai. The fare dispensing machine had an English option.

Public transportation is a great way to explore the world! And it's not that I don't like to drive -- I have driven manual transmission cars in Australia and South Africa (other side of the road) as well as through many countries in continental Europe and in big cities like Paris and Rome with their fun traffic circles--but one can't see as much of the world around you when taking on the responsibility of driving a vehicle.


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