The SMCDFC (Santa Monica Coalition for a Driver Friendly City) group, known largely for opposing new developments in the city on the basis of traffic concerns, has rallied with other groups in an unprecedented boycott today. The coalition managed to gather almost the entire population of Santa Monicans that have complained about traffic, either at public meetings, or in letters to the editor in local papers, in a traffic boycott. Individuals that signed the SMCDFC pledge, have agreed to not drive anywhere today, except in absolute emergencies (or picking up friends or loved ones from LAX). Though it is expected only a fraction of those who signed the pledge will stick to it.
The SMCDFC steering committee has put out a statement today sharply critical of city policy, and outraged at "...the daily traffic nightmare, and unrelenting wave of apocalyptic destruction that new development is having on our former beachside hamlet community."
In the parking front, the Trader Joe's parking lot appears as though it will not need an orange vested traffic wrangler at all today. Not since the 1979 oil crisis has the Santa Monica Trader Joes parking lot had entire rear sections of the lot unoccupied. The store manager has called today "a parking lot miracle". And despite the reduced parking demand, she said sales were "largely unaffected". An outcome believed to be the result of people living within a quarter mile radius walking to the store instead of driving 3 blocks, and increased ridership on the #7 bus line.
Talking to a few bike riders around town, there was a palpable celebratory enthusiasm. Many streets normally congested with drivers upset at life while behind the wheel, and who ordinarily might honk or yell at those on bikes, were no where to be found. Talking to some of the drivers still out and about, some were in shock, and wished that everyday could be like this.
Final figures of just how many participated in the boycott is not yet known. However as I rode around to various neighborhoods, it was apparent that while many were in fact still driving, simply removing a modest percentage of the most frustrated drivers is sufficient to alleviate the typical gridlock hotspots. I think the lesson we can take away from all of this, is that if the people who complain about being stuck in traffic, simply take the logical step to boycott traffic all together, their chief complaint ceases to exist.