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Palisades Looks to Shuttle Service to Give Parking Congestion a Lift

August 30, 1987|PHILIPP GOLLNER | Times Staff Writer

Two school-age boys stood between bales of hay and offered free lemonade to passers-by in a effort to lure them to ride a bus through the Pacific Palisades.

"It's kind of boring," Andy Ridgway, 10, said of the volunteer work. "We just call out to people and say . . . 'free lemonade' and 'free shuttle bus.' "

Welcome to mass transit, Pacific Palisades-style.

Brightly colored balloons swayed in the wind and volunteers filled lemonade jugs to capacity Wednesday for the kick-off of the Palisades Community Shuttle Service, a pilot project intended to ease parking congestion in the village's shopping district.

Threat to Ambiance

Community leaders hailed the experimental transit system as a possible solution to a parking shortage that has threatened to undermine the sleepy small-town ambiance of the village.

The shuttle service got off to a slow start on Wednesday morning, but ridership increased Thursday and organizers called the project a success. They are optimistic that the experiment, which ended Friday, will lead to a permanent effort to combat the community's parking woes.

"All of a sudden it (the number of cars in the village) just overflowed and there's no place to put them all," said Joan Graves, chairwoman of the Pacific Palisades Community Council.

"We do not have the parking meters or the parking lots to accommodate them," she said. "It isn't working, so we have to do something."

The experiment involved the use of two donated vans to take shoppers and employees from two parking lots on the edge of the commercial district to seven stops located near retail stores. Shoppers could not miss the stops, which had two hay bales each and banners overhead bearing the shuttle's logo. Youngsters from Pacific Palisades Elementary School volunteered to serve free lemonade to riders.

The vans ran every 15 minutes from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Services Donated

All the services were donated, Graves said. The local YMCA and the Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Conference Center each donated the use of one van, and Corpus Christi Catholic Church donated the use of its parking lot for the three days. The other parking lot was at the Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and El Medio Avenue.

Graves said volunteers from the local Women's Club, Garden Club and the PTA also helped out.

"That really seems to exemplify the home-town community spirit" of the village, said Brett McMichael, a volunteer from the Presbyterian Conference Center. "We can solve things ourselves. We don't always have to go to the federal government for help."

The increased demand for parking is the result of construction of commercial and office buildings in the village in recent years, said Claire Rogger, deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents the area.

The problem has been made worse by the increasing number of store owners and employees whose cars occupy many of the parking spaces daily in the village and on nearby residential streets, said Doug Uhler, a member of the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce's parking committee.

1,500 in Search of Parking

Uhler said 1,500 shop owners and employees look for parking in and around the village each day. He cited a recent study that showed that 95% of the cars parked on one residential street were there all day, indicating that they probably belonged to employees working in the commercial district.

An increasing number of angry homeowners are calling for preferential parking districts that would make parking off limits to non-residents, he said. Such districts would "create a tremendous crunch" although homeowners would be justified in pursuing that option, he said.

Similar shuttle services have been tried with mixed success in Westwood Village, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Although the Westwood shuttles are usually filled to capacity on busy weekend nights, the Santa Monica system has had difficulty attracting riders since its weekend service started a year ago.

City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky two weeks ago proposed two new Westside shuttle services, one for attorneys commuting from Century City to downtown and the other taking shoppers from Century City to Beverly Hills. A council vote on both plans is expected soon.

The idea for a shuttle service in the village was suggested last June by resident Peter Fleming in a letter to the editor published in a local newspaper. Members of the community council later met with Fleming and with local merchants and heads of organizations and came up with the plan for the pilot shuttle program.

"The village will be quieter and nicer" with a shuttle service, Fleming said. "There's everything to gain and nothing to lose."

Fleming said a permanent shuttle system could be in operation in the next two to three months. Graves, however, said that projection is too optimistic. The community will have to explore options other than shuttles, such as parking garages, before a final plan for coping with the parking crisis is completed, she said.

"It would be terrific if we could get it together for the holiday season," Graves said.

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