New MOVE Data Offers Contradictory Insights

The Culver City council meeting of March 27, 2023, saw the presentation of a new study on the MOVE transportation project, looking at how residents experience the reorganization of Culver Boulevard through downtown and up to La Cienega Boulevard.

The MOVE project, which debuted in November of 2021, created a dedicated bus lane and a protected bike lane. Using data from early outreach, the city made changes on how to better process traffic through the plan, and reconfigured the flow through several intersections.

The current survey was focused on how residents felt about the project, rather than the actual timing of traffic or number of people on public transportation, metaphorically comparing apples to oranges.

Results were mixed.

After offering a survey for the general public in February, the city pulled that option, and decided that a different kind of survey would be used to source data on the MOVE project. The firm FM3 Research heard from a majority of residents who felt the project created more traffic, (75%) but also wanted to see it changed rather than ended (47%.)

Rick Sklars, who gave the presentation of the survey data, said that 413 residents were interviewed via telephone, email and text. While 39% of those surveyed said they favored the project, 60% said they opposed. Only 18% said they had used the bus service or the circulator (mini-bus) to travel downtown. Respondents favored the improved bike infrastructure, but overwhelming identified as drivers. While 75% of those interviewed felt that the MOVE project caused “more traffic during rush hour,” only 1% said the city should “bring it back to the way it was before.”

Surprisingly, only 32% felt that the improved emergency vehicle access was a benefit, and 38% felt that the project created a benefit to the Tuesday afternoon Farmer’s Market.

The majority of those questioned thought the project should continue, but with “some changes to address concerns raised by residents and local businesses.”

The stark difference between the ‘mid-point’ survey done in 2021 and the current survey is structural; the previous study measured statistics of traffic and number of users. The FM3 study asked residents how they personally felt impacted by the project.

In November of 2021,  the study offered that “pedestrian traffic is up by 32%, bike trips are up 123%, and there were an average of 146 daily trips on ‘micromobility’ within a quarter of a mile of the measured distance of the project. Bus ridership was up by 23%. The average time of a car trip at ‘peak hours’ during both morning and afternoon commute periods was less than ten minutes, with the September morning clocking in at 5.6 minutes (heading eastbound) and the afternoon at 8.9 minutes (heading westbound.)”

The responses to the survey by FM3 were classified by the age, gender and ethnicity of the participants, and were overwhelmingly about perception rather than data.

With 40 people signed on for public comment at the council meeting, Mayor Albert Vera, Jr. chose to give 20 minute to initial comments, and then take the rest at the end of the agenda.

Thistle Boosinger, who said that as a cyclist, she’d been hit by vehicles four times prior to the MOVE project, spoke from the podium.”Of course the project isn’t perfect yet, because Culver City has been car centric for over 100 years…The bottom line is that bicycle infrastructure has to start somewhere, and from there it can grow and evolve and be perfected until we have a beautiful city where people are encouraged to seek more sustainable options. Car dominant culture will never be dismantled unless we take dramatic steps in transforming our cities and I believe this is the change that we need.”

Local business owner Aidan Nascimento was on both sides of the fence, saying that “Bus lanes are important, and more frequent busses are needed, [but I support ] removing bus lanes. All downtown [businesses] are struggling to recover from COVID, not just us.”
From the dais, only Vice Mayor Yasmine Imani McMorrin cited the grim projections of the United Nation’s IPCC Report, noting that climate change in the next decade looks increasingly devastating, and the need for change is urgent.
The conclusions of the survey – people hate traffic but are not interested in using alternative or public transportation – leaves the city without much inspiration to create any change that will meet the stated sense of dissatisfaction.
Some who participated in the survey said they wanted the project to end, but most simply want to see it improved; there does not seem to be a real public demand to do away with MOVE.
Judith Martin-Straw
The Actors' Gang