We were delighted by the response to our May 22nd Global Citizens Club meeting focusing on Santa Barbara’s Transportation Future. With attendance reaching almost 100 people, it clearly demonstrated the historically vigorous community interest in finding transportation solutions that will work well for everyone and strategies for investing in new modes to quickly transition to a clean, green and sustainable future.
This meeting was part of our 2019 series on “Greening our Infrastructure” and focused on the Transportation sector. In June, we will examine longstanding issues concerning the local housing crunch and consider concepts for creating a “green” and vibrant downtown corridor while retaining Santa Barbara’s historic charm. Later in the year, we will tackle the question, “How do we repurpose stranded fossil fuel infrastructure in the transition to 100% renewable energy?” For the Santa Barbara area, the most visible asset in this category are the Oil Platforms that dot our coast.
After an initial “cocktail party” meet & greet atmosphere, thanks to the El Encanto Hotel’s wonderful cash bar and passed appetizers, the main event got underway. First, introductions and acknowledgements were offered by Academy Chief of Staff Kristy Jansen, followed by an opening statement by President and Founder of the Academy, Rinaldo Brutoco, who then moderated the panel discussion consisting of dedicated professionals and experts in the transportation field.
Leading off the evening was a presentation by Robin O’Hara, the Executive Officer at Los Angeles Metro and Head of Customer Experience for the TAP Smart Card Program. Via Zoom remote software, Robin gave us a rundown on L.A. Metro’s recent implementation of a Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platform on TAP to facilitate seamless travel across L.A. County. As part of the implementation, Robin integrated L.A. Metro’s new Bikeshare program into the regional MaaS program and is working to integrate an additional 15 programs into TAP.
Next to speak was Mark Bradley, President of COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation), a local non-profit providing advocacy, education and outreach services to improve transportation options in the SB and Ventura regions through promotion of rail, bus, bike and pedestrian access. Since Mark is also a transportation modelling consultant for cities around the world, he introduced some interesting comparisons between our transportation system and the more advanced model developed in Copenhagen, Denmark. For example, in Copenhagen, the “biking capital of the world”, 75% of the populace travels via bike, walking or mass transit, compared to only 17% in Santa Barbara (recently ranked as the top biking city in California!). Mark also touched upon COAST’s “Vision Zero Santa Barbara” program, a road safety policy geared to reduce and ultimately eliminate traffic fatalities and major injuries.
The next speaker was Ernesto Paredes, Executive Director of Easy Lift Transportation, a non-profit community organization and local institution that helps transport people with limited means or who cannot drive due to age, infirmity or mobility issues, to places they need to go – like the drugstore, market or doctor’s office. Ernesto, who has worked for Easy Lift for 22 years, is very passionate about his work and gave some fantastic insights into how serving this vulnerable population operates in our overall transportation picture. Because affordable micro-transport provides the independence vital to maintaining a quality of life for riders, Ernesto is dedicated to expanding the Easy Lift’s service to meet the needs of our growing elderly and disabled population. His vast experience with point-to-point, non-scheduled micro-transit service also provides great insight into public-private partnerships and other forms of micro-transit that could serve as additional transit modes for getting around town.
Gregg Hart, our 2nd District Supervisor for Santa Barbara County – and longtime local transportation policy leader, who served as the original manager and more recently the Deputy Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Association Government (SBCAG) Traffic Solutions program, finished the panel statements by detailing the efforts taken by Santa Barbara County to improve our local transportation infrastructure, highlighting areas of success, and explaining some of the nuanced issues that local government is working on to make transportation work better for more people.
The evening then ended with lively participation from the audience, with many interesting comments and questions on improving the “first and last mile” transportation experience for Santa Barbara residents.
Please also take some time to read our prior blogs regarding their experiences and observations using public transportation to help lower their carbon impact and support our community!