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Council Poised to Approve $1.25 million Contract to "Advance Mobility Goals"

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By Jorge Casuso

March 18, 2022 -- As the economy recovers and gas prices rise, the City Council is poised to renew a contract next week to manage a program that encourages commuters to ditch their cars.

The proposed $1.25 million five-year contract with Los Angeles-based Steer, which was the lone bidder, is expected to be approved on consent by the Council Tuesday.

Steer would manage Santa Monica’s Transportation Management Organization (TMO), which the company has run since 2016, when the Expo Light Rail line arrived in Santa Monica.

"With the reopening of the State’s economy, local and regional traffic volumes are reaching pre-pandemic levels," staff wrote in its report to the Council.

"A robust regional transportation network coupled with education and outreach is essential to providing equitable and inclusive multi-modal transportation access for the City’s diverse workforce."

After the program was launched six years ago, large employers saw the number of workers commuting to work alone drop.

Bolstered by the arrival of the Expo line and the introduction of shared use mobility, on-demand transit services and corporate shuttles, the number of lone commuters dropped from 63 to 42 percent by the fourth year.

But during the pandemic the numbers rose, in some cases dramatically, among large employers who continued to work in person.

Providence Saint John's Hospital saw the number of lone commuters rise from 53 percent in 2019 to 68 percent in 2020, while at Pacific Park it rose from 30 to 48 percent.

The Whole Foods chain at 22nd Street and Wilshire Boulevard saw the number of lone commuters skyrocket -- fom 43 percent in 2019 to 80 percent in 2020.

"There has been a marked increase in drive alone trips by employers with staff who commuted in 2020," staff said, adding that the trend is changing.

"As employers and employees establish return to work and hybrid work patterns and employees grapple with increasing gas prices, the TMO will be instrumental in facilitating a return to sustainable and affordable commute behaviors."

TMOs, which are spreading across the region, provide "educational programming, workplace events, trainings and technical assistance helping reduce commuting trips," staff said.

They monitor the number of employees arriving at work compared to the number of vehicles and set goals to reduce the number of commuters arriving at work alone.

Since 2016, Steer has worked with 150 local employers, trained 80 Employee Transportation Coordinators and distributed over 1,000 TAP cards for public transit, staff said.

"Steer is currently providing TMO services for a significant number of jurisdictions in Southern California," staff said.

"With 90 percent of Santa Monica’s workforce living outside of the City boundaries, Steer is uniquely situated to leverage their regional perspective."

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