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Pasadena Stresses Commuter Plans to Ease Traffic

June 29, 1989|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — The city is blocking the lease of offices in two large buildings while it decides if plans devised by the developers will do enough to induce the tenants' employees to walk, ride a bicycle, take a bus or join a car pool to get to work.

Meanwhile, the city is planning to require its own 2,000 employees to stop driving to work by themselves or pay $25 a month for parking. The city also plans to offer free bus passes, cash and other incentives to lure workers away from commuting alone.

And in another program aimed at easing traffic congestion, the city Board of Directors voted this week to allocate $30,000 to join with the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce in starting an organization of employers in the Civic Center area to cooperate on ride-sharing programs.

David Barnhart, city engineer and transportation manager, said the city is trying to curb the growth of automobile traffic with a variety of strategies. He said city traffic studies show that traffic volume in the central part of Pasadena has increased 25% in the past 10 years.

When the 210 Freeway was built through Pasadena in the early 1970s, he said, the state estimated that traffic volume would reach 153,000 vehicles a day by 1990. But the freeway was carrying 175,000 cars a day in 1984 and 221,000 in 1987, nearly a 26% increase in just three years.

Because of the congestion on the freeway, Barnhart said, motorists sometimes avoid it by taking surface streets, adding to Pasadena's congestion.

The newest effort by the city to ease congestion is the creation of a transportation plan for city employees that will go into effect in October. The plan will apply to at least 400 to 500 management employees initially, but the city hopes to include the remainder of the work force after negotiating with unions.

Pasadena's new program for city employees is a response to the South Coast Air Quality Management District regulations requiring organizations with more than 100 employees to file ride-sharing plans by January. But the Pasadena plan goes beyond the minimum AQMD requirements and is intended as a model for other employers, Barnhart said.

He added that it is important for the city to gain participation by employees because, "we can't ask a private employer to do something we're not willing to do ourselves."

The city's program to limit commuter traffic began in 1986 with the adoption of a trip reduction ordinance requiring the preparation of ride-sharing plans for new or substantially expanded office, industrial, medical and retail buildings.

Douglas C. Reilly, city transit/commuter services coordinator, said the city has tried to impose its requirements without inflicting economic hardship. The city allowed the eight-story office tower at Plaza Las Fuentes on Los Robles Avenue and the 11-story office building at 301 N. Lake Ave. to accept one tenant each, but is barring further occupancy until transportation plans are adopted. Reilly said that developers of both projects have submitted revised transportation proposals that are being reviewed and could be approved soon.

Officials of the Operating Engineers Trust Funds, developer of the office building at 301 N. Lake Ave., and at Maguire Thomas Partners, developer of Plaza Las Fuentes, said they have not been inconvenienced yet because they do not have other tenants waiting to move in immediately.

The new 13-story Gateway Plaza, an office building at Lake Avenue and the 210 Freeway, has received approval for a plan that calls for hiring a full-time transportation coordinator to serve tenants, reserving special parking areas for van pools and car pools, providing a bike rack for commuter cyclists and promoting public transportation to workers in the building. The company estimates it will cost $100,000 to implement the plan.

The city's plan will cost more than $1 million a year, but about 75% of the amount will come from imposing charges for parking. Employees now park free.

Parking Incentives

Solo drivers who use city parking facilities would pay $45 a month for parking but would receive a $20 transportation allowance, meaning a net cost of $25 a month. Each employee in a two-person car pool would pay $10 a month for parking, and those in a car pool of three or more persons would park free, pocketing the transportation allowance.

The plan calls for the city to develop a system to arrange ride-sharing, offer free fuel to van-pool and car-pool vehicles, provide free monthly bus passes, and make arrangements with a health club for bicycle commuters to have a place to shower and change clothes. Persons who walk to work would be eligible to receive $200 a year in cash or gift certificates.

The city, which found that employees who must bring their children to child-care facilities are more reluctant to car pool, will pay them up to $40 a month if they join car pools and drop off their children on the way to work.

Emergency Rides

As an additional inducement, commuters who share rides or take public transit to work would be guaranteed a ride home in a city car or taxi if they become ill or have a family emergency.

The plan also calls for the city to provide a shuttle-bus service for employees who live near their jobs and to shift about 10% of the work force to a four-day workweek.

Barnhart said the city plans to participate in a Transportation Management Assn. for the Civic Center area. The city and the Chamber of Commerce will each contribute $30,000 and apply for a matching $60,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation to create the association to share information and resources with employers in the central business area.

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