Candidate Questionnaire: Arlis Reynolds

City Council District 5

What is your vision for Costa Mesa’s transportation infrastructure in 2050? If elected, what will you do to prepare Costa Mesa for that future?

Costa Mesa will be a walkable city, with walk and bike scores of 100! We are all already frustrated by the number of cars in the city, so by 2050 we will have completed a significant mode-shift that ended our reliance on cars and enabled many different and more efficient options to get around the city or in/out of the city. We will have clean and stylish buses with frequent routes through residential and retail areas, light rail stations with connections to cities up and down the coast, several shuttle loops that connect residents to key destinations throughout the city; car-share facilities for short term rentals when needed; and wide sidewalks and separated bike lanes for people walking and biking. In addition to the many new transportation options, people will not have to travel so far for their regular chores and activities. Key amenities--including parks, groceries, coffee shops, and other recreation/restaurants/retail--will be within a 15-minute walk of most people’s homes, eliminating the need for larger transportation infrastructure.

We are already taking steps toward this goal of a walkable, 15-minute city. To prepare Costa Mesa for this future, I will (1) continue to work with our staff, community advocates, and transportation/planning experts to develop the vision and community buy-in for a walkable Costa Mesa, (2) update our circulation element and mold our transportation planning and budgets to accommodate all transportation modes, (3) advocate for regional transit planning and investment, (4) work to update our planning and zoning codes to support walkable development, (5) establish local shuttle routes to key destinations around the city, and (6) continue to engage our youngest residents into a healthy culture of walking and biking.

2

According to recent estimates released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, from 2020 to 2021, motor vehicle fatalities rose 10.5%, bicyclist fatalities rose 5%, and pedestrian fatalities rose 13% (https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/early-estimate-2021-traffic-fatalities).  If elected, what will you do to address these worrying trends?

I will build on the work of my first term to establish council priorities, increase staffing and funding, and engage our community in advocacy for safe streets. We must acknowledge that speeding, reckless driving, and other street dangers is a top public safety issue in Costa Mesa, and we must commit ourselves to a “Vision Zero” goal to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries in our city. Too often, cities don’t respond to safety concerns until after a death or severe injury. We must be proactive to prevent deaths and injuries in our city.

I will continue to (1) prioritize safe streets in our council strategic plan and budgets, (2) advocate for more rapid implementation of our Active Transportation and Pedestrian Master Plans, and Safe Routes to School, (3) advocate for reduced speed limits in neighborhoods and around schools, (4) increase funding for safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes, (5) support education and engagement activities to encourage driver awareness and safe driving, biking, and walking, and (6) support enforcement against speeding and other reckless driving.

3

Many Costa Mesa residents complain of cut-through traffic and speeding on the streets near their homes. How do you think Costa Mesa should address these complaints?

Residents are absolutely right to make these complaints--they do not feel safe with the car speeds in their neighborhoods; they worry about deaths, injuries, and near-misses in front of their homes; and they are rightly annoyed by the noise impacts of all those vehicles. Every resident should feel safe and comfortable in their neighborhood, and our neighborhood should be places where neighbors can mingle in the streets, where kids can run and play, and even where a street pickup or pickleball game might pop up.  

We need to be able to respond to these resident concerns quickly and effectively. To do so, we are developing a toolkit of effective traffic calming measures that we can quickly deploy to reduce vehicle speeds while developing more comprehensive or permanent improvements (e.g., chicanes, roundabouts, and barriers) to reduce cut-throughs and speeds. I would like to develop a “Slow Streets” program with streamlined implementation to achieve safer neighborhoods more quickly, more efficiently, and on a broader scale.

4

Nationally, about a third of all car trips are two miles or less. Do you think Costa Mesa should encourage more people to make these short trips on foot, by bike or via transit, and if so, how would you pursue that goal?

Yes, absolutely, and I have championed these efforts throughout my first term. Many people will naturally walk, bike, and transit more when those options are safe, comfortable, convenient, and pleasant--so we must continue to invest in safe and walk/bike-friendly infrastructure. If we build it, they will come!

I have also hosted community walks and bike rides to encourage people who are interested in walking and biking more to do so in a fun way and to explore ways to get to different places in the city by foot or bike. My first series of community bike rides showed residents how to bike to all the parts in the city; we’ve biked to donut shops, coffee shops, murals, and destinations like the South Coast Plaza, the Segerstrom Center, and the Santa Ana River trails. On these rides, we’ve discovered new routes as well as new restaurants and businesses. 

In addition to infrastructure and community engagement, I will support more walk/bike-friendly wayfinding signage to show walk/bike routes to parks, schools, the library, and other destinations; school- and community-based programs to encourage walking and biking; and updated building and zoning codes that encourage key neighborhood amenities like coffee and donut shops to locate closer to residential areas. We need a coffee shop on every corner!

5

This year, the City hired a new Active Transportation Coordinator and devoted approximately $3,150,000 of the Capital Improvement Budget to active transportation projects.  Do you think the City is spending too much or too little on active transportation? Why?

We were at the right level for the 2022/23 budget and should increase our staffing and budgets in future years to support more rapid implementation of our Active Transportation Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, Safe Routes to School, and other traffic calming and slow streets projects. These increased investments in active transportation address a critical public safety issue in Costa Mesa, reduce congestion and improve mobility in the city by providing more transportation options, and allow us to be more efficient and creative with our public space. Investments in active transportation also support our local economy (people walking and biking are more likely to shop local), improve community health and resilience (communities with more walking and biking are healthier and more connected), and support key climate and emissions reduction goals (by reducing use of vehicles).

6

Should children be encouraged to walk, bicycle or take transit to school? Why or why not?

Absolutely, AND we need to make sure we have the sidewalk, crosswalk, and street infrastructure and other support for children and their families to walk/bike/skate/scoot/bus to school safely. Benefits for the students include opportunities for physical activity, improved overall learning, and developing confidence and independence. (It also gives students stories to tell their future grandchildren about their arduous trek to school.) Benefits for the rest of us include reduced traffic congestion associated dangers near school zones as more students walking/biking/busing means fewer cars in the drop-off lines.

7

Electric bicycles (or ebikes) have surged in popularity during the pandemic, bringing new bicyclists of all ages onto our streets. What, if anything, should the City do to respond to this trend?

Costa Mesa should encourage the purchase and use of e-bikes (especially purchases from our local bike shops), and we must partner that encouragement with (1) robust and accessible bike and driver safety education programs, (2) safe biking infrastructure, and (3) enforcement programs to reduce reckless driving. Most e-bike trips (e.g., student biking to school or sports practice) means one less car trip, and fewer cars on the road benefit all of us. However, many of our young e-bike riders have not yet learned the rules of the road, and most bike riders of all ages have never been trained in safe biking rules. We need to work collaboratively with our schools, bike shops, and community organizations to provide bike safety training for riders of all ages. We need to support that education with quality and comprehensive safe biking infrastructure, including protected bike lanes, safe intersections, reduced speed limits near schools, and visible bike lane signage. Finally, we need to reduce reckless driving on our streets. Too many drivers speed in neighborhood streets, roll through stop signs, and drive while distracted--exasperating road safety issues. We have made progress on all these fronts, and I am collaborating with school, business, and community leaders to re-establish bike-safety “rodeos” at our elementary schools and to introduce bike safety programs at the middle and high-school level as well as for the public. Our council committed $100k in our most recent budget to support these safety education efforts, in addition to the more than $3m for continued active transportation infrastructure improvements.

7

What role do you think public transportation will play in in the future of Costa Mesa and Orange County, as a whole? What are your thoughts on buses, light rail, micro transit, street cars, or similar modes in Orange County?

I’ve had the benefit of experiencing a comprehensive and convenient public transit network (buses + subway) when living in Cambridge/Boston for college and while traveling. A well-functioning public transit system that is clean, convenient, and connected and that allows you to get where you want to go without a car faster and cheaper than with a car is both possible (I lived it!) and a great amenity for any city. Such a system reduces our dependence on cars (e.g., perhaps allowing a family to reduce from three cars to two or two to one) and helps those who cannot drive (e.g., teenagers, seniors, or a person with a disability) gain independence and move around more freely.

We are far from that reality in Costa Mesa and Orange County--but we have great opportunities to increase public transit within the city and connect to existing transportation hubs like the OC Metrolink train stations (fastest way to LA) and John Wayne Airport. As a city, we should be working at both the local and regional level to encourage increased use of public transit and expand the reach and frequency of public transit options. We can encourage use of public transit through special events (e.g., shuttles to the OC Fair, Fish Fry, or Concerts in the Park) and special routes (e.g., a city loop or beach buses that transport people between Costa Mesa and various beaches).