The city of Santa Monica is currently in the running for more than $3.6 million of state grant money to fund three major street safety and mobility improvement projects.
Last month, the city applied for the funding through Caltrans’ statewide Active Transportation Program (ATP) for a new mobility hub and learning campus at 17th Street Expo station, significant safety improvements on a busy stretch of Pico near Santa Monica College, and a “Safe Routes for Seniors” program modeled on the city’s successful Safe Routes to School program.
ATP funds let cities and other local agencies leverage local dollars for state and federal money, helping those local dollars go much further.
Metro’s Call for Projects and ATP are “the two big games in town for transportation funding in southern California,” said Francie Stefan, Santa Monica’s mobility manager.
This round of ATP funding will be the third in the program’s short history. In the past, Stefan noted, Santa Monica has gotten ATP funding for improvements around the Downtown Santa Monica Expo station and funding for the Safe Routes to School program, which helps young Santa Monicans get to school safely on foot or on bike.
“The proposed projects advance Council’s Strategic Goal to create a new model for mobility, and support wellbeing with a focus on active living for all ages,” city officials wrote in a memo.
Perhaps the most visible of the projects proposed in Santa Monica’s grant applications would be a bike center, mobility hub, and learning campus at 17th Street and Colorado, the western terminus of the Expo bike path.
“The 17th Street mobility hub is scoped to do a couple of things. One is to create 200 secure bike parking spaces,” Stefan said. “The other is to create lockers, showers, and changing areas, but also to have a staffed information area so people who need transportation information can go there and figure out transfers and other things.”
The hub, which would be located on a Metro-owned adjacent to the Expo station and about a mile from the Santa Monica College campus, would be about 4,700 square feet and also include bike repair, a service shop, lockers, ADA accessible bathrooms with shower, a bicycle training classroom, and storage/utility space.
“To support the ongoing operations cost, we will propose locally-funded, some additional retail, for example, a coffee shop,” said Stefan.
Its location would also ideal, said Stefan, since it is so close to the college, the Expo line station, and the end of the regional bike path.
This project is the one with the highest price tag of the three proposals. The city is hoping for $2.25 million in ATP funds and would have to match that with $562,500 of local money. The city would also look to transportation impact fees — levied on developers building new projects in town — for an additional $937,500 for expenses that can’t be funded by the ATP grant.
Perhaps the most innovative project the city is applying for is funding for a Safe Routes for Seniors program, which, Stefan said, came out of the city’s recently adopted Pedestrian Action Plan.
In the 265-page plan, city officials lay out a 15-year vision for reducing major traffic crashes to zero, a planning principle known as Vision Zero. And a major part of that plan is engaging with the people in the community who are most vulnerable.
“Seniors are disproportionately represented in crashes in the city,” said Stefan. According to the Pedestrian Action Plan, while people over the age of 65 represent about 15 percent of the population, about 85 percent of the collisions in which they are involved result in serious injury or death.
And while about 70 percent of all collisions “involve a violation on the part of the driver of a passenger car,” according to the Pedestrian Action Plan, Safe Routes for Seniors aims to reduce the number of Santa Monica’s elderly residents who are seriously injured or even killed while walking, rolling, or otherwise getting around on the sidewalks.
“It’s really about well-being and it’s really about long-term aging in place,” said Stefan, noting that seniors receive myriad benefits from feeling like they can move freely around in their community, including “increased health, increased sense of freedom and access.”
So, what would Safe Routes for Seniors do to help make that happen?
“Some people select out of walking because it feels uncomfortable and they don’t have people to walk with. So, one of the components is really encouraging people to walk in groups and alone by providing information about shortest routes, safest routes, different opportunities to walk together, and trying these things out,” Stefan said.
“There’s also an education side. Seniors know where the intersections aren’t working for them, so providing seniors with the information about how to advocate for the things they need in the street,” she said. “How can they let folks know that the crossing time is too short for them? How can they let people know there’s a destination they want to go to that doesn’t feel accessible?”
Santa Monica is hoping to secure $400,000 for this program, matching it with $100,000 in Proposition C local return money.
The third project Santa Monica hopes to secure ATP funding for would mean making the stretch of Pico between 17th and Cloverfield safer.
“The Pedestrian Action Plan had done a look at the highest demand intersections in the city and along the college and along this segment of Pico was one of the higher-demand areas city-wide and it was concurrent with where we were seeing more crashes,” she said.
As a result, this stretch was identified as a high priority investment area and listed as needing improvements in the first five years of the Pedestrian Action Plan’s timeframe.
The city is seeking $960,000 in ATP funding and plans to match that with $460,000 in local funds, secured through fees paid by developers of new projects.
The improvements would include bulb-outs, additional striping, and other means of making it safer to cross the street at the five intersections along this stretch of Pico.
While Santa Monica will find out whether any of their applications will receive funding by November, the actual money doesn’t become available until 2019.
“We’ve gotten funds in all the ATP cycles,” said Stefan. She’s optimistic that Santa Monica will be awarded at least some of the $3.6 million the city has applied for this time around.