SMCLC leads community effort stating City action is needed now in implementing a new traffic impact methodology
October 25, 2007
Dear City Council,
As our own estimable Police Chief, Tim Jackman, remarked in a recent interview, "We've had several fatal accidents Downtown. The traffic issues are huge. Congestion is a big deal . . . ."
He's right and you have the opportunity to do something about it. Our city does not have an accurate measure of our existing traffic congestion or an accurate measure of future congestion based on all of the ongoing and proposed development in Santa Monica.
Over the past several years there have been many, many discussions about when to implement a new traffic impact methodology and what that methodology should be. The time has come to move past the debate and into the action phase now that our land-use and circulation goals have been articulated in the LUCE process.
In March 2005, you held a "think tank" session which included some leading traffic experts. At that time there was general agreement that our current traffic impact methodology is flawed and insufficient because: (1) it only measures the level of service at certain intersections and only at peak hours, instead of measuring city-wide traffic congestion at all hours; and (2) it is not designed to accurately predict cumulative future traffic impacts citywide resulting from all ongoing and proposed new development.
Last year SMCLC, the Planning Commission, and the Santa Monica Task Force on the Environment all asked the City Council to allocate the resources to allow city staff to expedite study of alternate traffic impact methodologies and to begin collecting baseline traffic and congestion data for the city. SMCLC also asked the city to jointly apply with SMCLC for an innovative CALTRANS grant to do this. Instead, the city applied for the funds on its own and was turned down last month. By contrast, Los Angeles secured two transportation grants of over $200,000 each when it partnered with nonprofit community groups. $200,000 is the amount that SMCLC estimates it will cost Santa Monica to get a master traffic congestion system up and running.
PRIORITY FUNDING REQUEST:
We now urge you to approve and properly fund this project as an urgent priority as part of the LUCE process for the following reasons:
(1) The city presently has sufficient information gathered in the LUCE process to understand residents' goals for land use and circulation. Traffic-weary residents are feeling a growing sense of urgency about this issue, expressed most recently at the city transportation workshop on October 6th.
(2) The current traffic impact 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 existing or future traffic impacts. It evaluates only isolated street intersections (often using data that is several years old).
(3) The best traffic impact methodology for Santa Monica is a complicated issue. The city will need to commit sufficient funds to hire outside consultants who are expert in the field to assess which traffic impact methodology should be selected, what data should be included in our citywide traffic database, and how it will be updated. At a minimum, we believe this database should map all trips generated in and out of Santa Monica 24/7, and it should distinguish between residential and visitor traffic (workers and tourists).
(4) Generating a new, citywide model is vital in order to better mitigate traffic congestion and to make responsible future land-use decisions. It should not be lagging behind our master land-use planning or ongoing development decisions. It should be integral to them.
(5) This funding and implementation request has been pending a long time and our city has sufficient funding resources to do this. SMCLC and every neighborhood group have expressed their concern repeatedly to our city government over traffic congestion and the need for a more accurate method of measuring traffic impacts, including in discussions with the city manager over budget priorities.
With a comprehensive and accurate traffic database we can better mitigate traffic congestion and we can better plan for future development, understanding what the likely traffic impacts would be throughout our city. Without this, future growth could result in intolerable traffic congestion for residents and unacceptable environmental impacts.
We urge you to commit the funds and hire traffic engineering consultants to create a master citywide grid traffic system.
Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City
Friends of Sunset Park Board of Directors (FOSP)
North of Montana Association Board of Directors (NOMA)
Ocean Park Association Board of Directors (OPA)
Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA)
Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition Board of Directors (Wilmont)
The Village Trailer Park Neighborhood Homeowners Association (VTPNHA)
Cherie and Peter Altshuler
Norma and Steve Austin
Bob and Joan Benedretti
Gary L. Bostwick
Henry D. Dickinson Jr.
Thomas and Marilyn Elias
Jen and Tim Lynch
Joseph A. Pertel
Robert S. Richards
Christopher and Laura Thixton
Lamont Ewell, City Manager
Eileen Fogarty, Planning Director
Task Force on the Environment