After more than a year and a half of debate, shuttle service in downtown Pacific Palisades officially began this week, with one of two 18-passenger, city-owned buses carting shoppers and business owners around a small section of the community.
The shuttle is a big deal to Palisadians, who timed the official launch to coincide with the annual appearance of Santa Claus in the affluent Westside community. It may be one small loop for the shuttle drivers, but it's one giant leap for the business community.
"To the extent that we can end a serious parking problem by just getting people to park a shuttle distance away, it's going to make the Palisades a much nicer place to live and work," said Peter Fleming, a town council member who suggested the shuttle. "If we can just get a shuttle for the elderly and the kids in town, then it will be that much greater."
The shuttle was conceived as a response to complaints about parking problems in the Palisades village, an area that stretches roughly from El Medio Avenue to Carey Street along both sides of Sunset Boulevard. The plan for the shuttle was modified over several months and was finally approved by the Los Angeles City Council in April.
The city's Transportation and Traffic Committee allocated $150,000 for the first year of the shuttle, with a 2-year option to continue funding. The shuttle will make stops at three park-and-ride lots in the Palisades and at various business locations. The buses, which bear the name DASH and also operate in downtown Los Angeles, Westwood and Venice, will run in the Palisades from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Rides cost 25 cents. The loop takes about 15 minutes, and the park-and-ride facilities are at Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church, the Palisades Lutheran Church and Kehillath Israel synagogue.
The shuttle was launched amid much hoopla last week, with speakers from the city and the community singing the service's praises from a balloon-covered stage in the Palisades village. The ceremony brought the unlikely pairing of Councilman Marvin Braude and Palisades Honorary Mayor Rita Moreno for a series of photo opportunities next to a new, gleaming white DASH bus.
"I'm not paying (to ride the shuttle), I'm a star," Moreno joked as she obliged photographers with her best stage smile. Later, three women dressed as elves squeezed into the shuttle's entrance for another round of pictures.
Most of the businesses in the area, such as Hughes market, Gelsons market and the Palisades Post Office, are considering giving their estimated 400 employees incentives, such as picking up the tab for the bus rides, to use the shuttle. The buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts. The shuttle is being operated under a contract with Diversified Paratransit.
"This is yet another example of how we can get together and get something done," Braude said at the shuttle launching. "There's still lots of experimentation ahead. The shuttle's route is not fixed in concrete. If it needs to be changed, it can be changed."
Fleming, who spread the idea for the shuttle through a letter to a local newspaper, said he expects the concept of community shuttle buses to catch hold throughout Los Angeles.
"It would be great if we could have hundreds of shuttles all over the city," he said. "If we can take steps to reduce the amount of traffic congestion and relieve parking problems, then Los Angeles could be a truly great place to live."
THE SHUTTLE AT A GLANCE
Officials have allocated $150,000 for the first year of the shuttle, with a 2-year option to continue funding. The two DASH buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts. Stops: The shuttle will make stops at park-and-ride lots located at Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church, the Palisades Lutheran Church and Kehillath Israel synagogue. It will also stop at various business locations.
Hours: From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Cost: 25 cents.