|Nissan Leaf electric vehicle charging up in Santa Monica, California.|
San Francisco Airport
The last trip to the Left Coast took me first from Washington Dulles International Airport on Virgin America (the best domestic airline in my humble opinion) to San Francisco International Airport's spectacular new Terminal 2, where I was greeted by a Google representative at something called a Chrome Zone pop-up shop. He explained to me that as a promotion, Google was renting out their new Chromebook laptop to Virgin America customers. The Chromebook could either be used while waiting in the terminal for a connecting flight or on a flight to another airport with a similar pop-up shop where it could be returned.
SFO's new terminal was built using green materials and has the distinction as being the first U.S. airport to achieve LEED Gold status. There are composting and recycling bins placed throughout the terminal so it is easy for passengers to do the right thing.
The next stop after a four hour layover at SFO, was San Diego. While in S.D. we visited the new LEED Silver certified mixed used development called Pacific Station in downtown Encinitas. Pacific Station includes town homes, lofts, flats, office space and retail including a Whole Foods Market. It is public transit accessible too, located across the street from the Encinitas bus depot and only two blocks from the Encinitas rail station, serving the North County Transit District's (NCTD) COASTER commuter train that takes passengers up to Oceanside or down to downtown San Diego with stops in between. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train to San Diego south and north to San Luis Obispo via Los Angeles does not stop in Encinitas, so you have to board the train either at Solana Beach or Oceanside.
Southern California is car crazy. The region epitomizes America's excessive obsession with the automobile over other forms of transportation such as walking, biking and riding mass transit. But to stereotype Southern California as nothing more than freeways and traffic is to ignore the real efforts being made to encourage alternative forms of transportation. There are some shining examples of this transformation in downtown San Diego.
The Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge is one of the longest self-anchored pedestrian bridges in the world. The bridge crosses over the train and trolley tracks and connects pedestrians to the Convention Center and Petco Park, the home of the Padres baseball club. It is an architectural marvel and shows San Diego's commitment to constructing a pedestrian friendly community.
And for nearly 31 years the shiny red San Diego Trolley light rail system has become as synonymous with San Diego as San Francisco's famous cable cars. The three main lines cover 53.5 miles and average more than 91,000 daily boardings, making it the 5th busiest light rail system in the country. The Orange Line, pictured below, makes stops at central locations like the Convention Center, Gaslamp Quarter and Seaport Village. Click here for information on the renovation and expansion plans in the works as the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) continues its important investments to provide San Diegans with a world-class public transportation system for the 21st Century. Next time you visit San Diego, give the trolley a try!
|San Diego trolley at Gaslamp Quarter stop.|
Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train is a relaxing, scenic and low-cost alternative to the stress and gridlock of driving up the 405 freeway from San Diego to Los Angeles. I rode the Pacific Surfliner from Solana Beach station to L.A.'s Union Station to visit friends.
When I arrived in the City of Angels, I picked up the L.A. Weekly newspaper and was pleasantly surprised to see a full page ad selling the new 2012 Fisker Karma luxury electric vehicle. L.A. Car Guy is a family of dealerships that has made a genuine effort to go green. LAcarGUY recently became the first car dealer in the United States to offer public charging stations at its dealerships. Owner Mike Sullivan has also set up a green Web site to educate car buyers about environmentally friendly cars like hybrids and EVs and why going green when purchasing a vehicle is good for the environment and the pocketbook.
From the pages of the L.A. Weekly to a real world example in Santa Monica, where I witnessed an all-electric Nissan Leaf charging up at one of the seven new public charging stations in the city of Santa Monica. This charging station is located at Montana Avenue and 11th Street. The charging station is built by ClipperCreek and managed by EV Connect. There is also an old-school Magne Charge charging station that only works with the retired Toyota RAV4 EV from 1997-2003.
And Santa Monica's serious commitment to electric vehicles extends beyond public charging infrastructure to city-owned vehicles, like this all-electric Park Operations community maintenance truck, pictured above.
Santa Monica is also leading the way in transforming into a bicycle-friendly community. The latest development is the opening of the Santa Monica Bike Center, strategically located near the terminus of the future Expo light rail line extension. The Santa Monica Bike Center provides residents with secure bicycle parking, showers, lockers, bike rentals, bicycle and segway sharing programs, guided bike and segway tours, bike education, bike commuter retail products, bike valet, and self-service repair station. The Bike@Work bike sharing program costs $45 per year to borrow a bike from the Bike Center to run errands, go shopping, ride to a meeting, or get some exercise in downtown S.M. The program is not available on weekends or holidays.
|Santa Monica Bike Center|
Once you get on that bike, Santa Monica makes it easy to pedal around the city. The popular Strand bicycle path runs along the beach next to the Pacific Ocean from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. The bike path is generally crowded with tourists on the weekends, but is worth the ride for the awesome views of the beach, ocean, mountains and Santa Monica Pier.
Beyond green cars and biking, the greater L.A. area offers amazing hiking trails that are easily accessible from the city. Temescal Canyon is a valley lying in the Los Angeles County portion of the Santa Monica Mountains. The hike up to the top provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the Los Angeles basin. On clear days you can see the downtown L.A. skyline and as far as Long Beach and beyond.
L.A. is a sprawling urban jungle that is unique in that within the city and county limits, there are so many excellent hiking trails that provide an easy respite from the constant traffic, smog and stress of the city. High above the city, the hiking trails of the Santa Monica Mountains are an oasis of peace and quiet, clean air and spectacular natural surroundings. Not many cities offer the year-round warm and dry weather and close proximity to so many amazing hiking trails.
Tinseltown's unique proximity to so many excellent hiking trails with breathtaking vistas reminds residents and visitors alike why it is so important to preserve the fragile ecological balance of the planet so future generations can enjoy the same natural surroundings and climate we too often take for granted.
Here are more pictures of California's green progress.
And here is video of the San Diego Orange Line trolley arriving at Gaslamp Quarter station and view of trolley traffic from Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge.