Candidate Questionnaire: John Stephens
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?
By 2050, I'd like to see Costa Mesa completely connected with protected bike lanes and walking paths akin to Davis, California where I went to Law School. Davis was built with bike and pedestrian safety in mind and Costa Mesa needs to make the investment to retrofit our infrastructure, but it will be worth it. I would also like to see alternative means of transit such as an Electric Trolley and to have Costa Mesa connected to a Metro grid through the tracks near Anduril's property. By 2050, there should be fairly universal use of EV and autonomous cars. Therefore, there will need to be ample charging stations and perhaps other infrastructure developments to accommodate autonomous cars.
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?
More protected bike lanes. Traffic calming measures and narrowing of driving lanes. Plant more trees. Design of streets with safety as a priority as opposed to speed. Clearly mark and enforce speed limits.
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?
In some circumstances, speed humps are appropriate like on Wilson, St. Clair and Country Club. We have also had good results with traffic calming such a planters and bulb outs like on 19th Street and Broadway. Sometimes the best approach is to close streets such as in the Freedom Homes or on Swan Drive off of Placentia. It's important to listen to the residents and work on a solution that is best for the specific street.
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. The best way is to encourage "live, work, play" developments. For instance, where I work at the Met, there are many employees who live in the South Coast Metro area and walk to work. There are some areas of the City such as where I live in Mesa Verde that are too far from commercial centers for most people to consider alternative transit. Incorporating some of the responses above, I favor safe bike routes and an Electric Trolley to facilitate moving people throughout the City without the need of cars.
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?
I think it's about right for the current year, given our other budgetary priorities and constraints as well as the bandwidth of our Public Works department. It is a great development that we hired an Active Transportation Coordinator. This helps not only with respect to CIP projects that are designated as Active Transportation projects, but also incorporating active transportation planning into our more routine Public Works projects such as street resurfacing.
Should children be encouraged to walk, bicycle or take transit to school? Why or why not?
Yes. When I was in Elementary School (in the 1970s), I always rode my bike to school. I lived about a mile from my grammar school. All my friends also rode bikes. The bike racks were filled to the brim each day. I could ride a wheelie hundreds of yards and jump my bike over all kinds of stuff. Parenting was a lot more permissive in those days. We didn't have any of the safety measures that exist today. No helmets or pads. No bike lanes. But it was fun and good exercise. Also, it gave us a sense of freedom and independence. I'd like to see us get back to that, but of course with contemporary safety features available today to avoid injury.
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?
Ebikes are great, but they can be dangerous due to the high speeds. I support safety education and enforcement as necessary to preserve public safety.
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?
Some of this is covered above. I favor an Electric Trolley system over a street car because of the cost of the street car infrastructure and the adaptability of a trolley system. I support buses and a connection in Costa Mesa to the Metro system.