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Mende Smith is a car-free Santa Monican who understands the role active transportation can play in solving the city’s mobility challenges. To improve safety, she expressed support for finishing the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway, reallocating road space away from cars, and lowering speed limits within city limits to 25 miles per hour. To reduce reliance on cars, Smith is in favor of revisiting and perhaps lowering the city’s off-street parking requirements. She also articulated a number of ideas to encourage more bicycling, most notably working to offer free rides on the city’s Breeze bike share system to residents. We’d like to see her flesh out some of her proposals a little more, particularly with respect to safe and convenient first mile/last mile options to and from transit. We also have some concerns in Smith’s previous vocalization of support for Measure LV. Nonetheless, Mende Smith has expressed a solid mindset and vision to ensure Santa Monica remains a regional leader on clean and innovative mobility.

Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: B+

(See below for full candidate questionnaire response)

1. What is your opinion on the state of the mobility options available in Santa Monica? Is the City doing enough to enable safe and convenient travel for those of your constituents who walk, bike, or take public transit?

I do not own a car. I am able to sustain a healthy lifestyle on foot and or my bike, and my partner has a vehicle we use for distances. I have a Metro Pass. I work and play locally. All of these lifestyle choices are good for urbanites.

The Big Blue Bus has been a great program for creating more climate-friendly transit, trying to burn clean while moving commuters and all that is fine. The Expo was another great addition to the city, but I think that the only way to discourage all-day traffic here is to hike the parking fees through the roof and pivot our tourists toward public transportation.  I dig the public bikes – but the ratios for our bike lanes could use revitalization.  

2. With so many residents and workers riding bikes in the city, what additional efforts should Santa Monica undertake to improve safety and convenience of bicycling?

Maybe it’s possible there is a way to make the breeze bikes free for residents if registered by address? If elected to CC, I will happily take on the project to enable fewer car-centric plans and advocate for pedestrian / bike-friendly alternatives. Also, we can reduce speed limit to 25 mph in the city limits to encourage commuter safety. Mayor Cuomo did this in NYC and reduced the in-city accidents overnight as a part of Vision Zero.

3. With the arrival of Expo light rail to Santa Monica, there has been much discussion about the best way to provide access for residents and visitors to the stations. How do you think first mile/last mile connections – the ability to walk, bike, or take transit between one’s residence and the stations – can be improved?

The transit stations have parking lots. Shuttling options in major cities have had some success, though the age of commuters is a factor in SM – younger workers prefer their own vehicles to bussing and many say they would rather ride skateboards than wait for shuttles. It is possible that all-day rates and/or day passes can be issued to employees in the city, and extending incentives to businesses offering the bus or bike solution is another way to encourage alternative transportation for weekday-only travelers.

4. Santa Monica has championed multimodal transportation with initiatives like GoSaMo, policies like “no net new car trips” within the Land Use and Circulation Element of the General Plan, and comprehensive policy documents like the Bike and Pedestrian Action Plans. However, the city’s zoning requirements maintain high off-street parking requirements for new construction, even near high-quality transit. Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that parking requirements encourage more people to drive. How can the city reconcile these contradictory positions? Will you champion reduced parking requirements or even parking maximums for new development projects?

It is ridiculous to offer the high-off street parking in SM. If we are truly committed to a greener plan in our city, we can scratch the car-centric and revisit the drawing board. There are bike-friendly communities teeming from Seattle to Portland with plans already in motion that are green. I am certain we can get a look at some of the plans working in nearby Urbania to sway the locals to a newer standard of living one development at a time.

5. The Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway was one of the city’s first major multimodal routes, but it remains incomplete. Have you ridden or walked the Greenway? What still needs to be done, in your opinion, to make walking and bicycling on Michigan safer and more pleasant? Would you consider removing or relocating on-street parking in some places to create a protected cycletrack along the route?

Absolutely. Relocating and rebuilding is the best way to make this project fly.  I would opt for every city employee to hop on one of the bikes and cycle it to experience firsthand what improvements can be made. Funds were allocated to finish the project, so let’s finish the project. If healthier lifestyles are all we can hope offer our locals here by the beach, I say we get to work improving the Greenway – and expanding it to capacity.

6. Santa Monica launched L.A. County’s first public bike share system, Breeze, last November. Since then, it has seen steady growth and recently hit the milestone of having 30,000 active users. How can the system be improved? Would you be willing to commit to increasing the number of bikes in the system by 50 percent over the next year? And would you be willing to commit to increasing the number of hubs or relocating underperforming hubs to serve high-use areas of the city?

As I already mentioned above, I think a public bike pass is a great option for locals exclusively. Increasing our cycletrack reduces our car-centric grid. Reducing our car lanes will encourage more residents and local tourists to get outside and move.  If we can make Bike hubs, transit stations, pedestrian-friendly areas and thoroughfares work efficiently in a beachside community, who knows how healthy our city will be in the next 20 years?