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Santa Monica calls for Car Free Fridays to encourage transit, walking, biking

Members of the Metro board of directors take a sneak peek ride from the Culver City to Downtown Santa Monica Stations on the new Expo Line extension on Monday morning, May 9, 2016.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
FILE: The downtown Santa Monica station on the Expo Line is the western end of a new extension from downtown Los Angeles that opened earlier this year.

It's never been easier to get around without a car in Santa Monica, now that there's the new Expo Line extension, pedestrian improvements, Big Blue Bus service and a shiny new bike-share system.

So the city is taking a challenge to the streets, asking those who live, work and play in the beach city to give up their car for one day a week.

Santa Monica launches "Car Free Friday" tomorrow, with hopes people will take up the carless challenge permanently.

"Fridays are more of a casual day, people have fewer meetings, and so it’s a great day to get out there, get on your bike, use the bus, use the Expo Line, as you head into the weekend," said city spokeswoman Constance Farrell.

Officials have worked with businesses and large employers in the city to encourage their employees to take part and they've launched a social media campaign to encourage participants to document their experience using the hashtag #CarFreeFriday.

Farrell said she hopes to expose a new audience to the expanding variety of mobility options in the city.

"I think people get into a routine," she said. "Just trying it on Car Free Friday hopefully will get people to try it for other days."

Downtown Santa Monica has long battled traffic congestion. But according to City Manager Rick Cole, it's gotten worse in recent months. 

"Our traffic professionals say they've never seen this number of people and volume of traffic," Cole said on his blog in August.

Improvements made to the beach promenade for the Expo extension opening and introducing bike sharing may all be contributing to the increase in crowds. So the campaign to encourage going car-free is part of a larger plan to mitigate traffic impacts in the city.

The new Expo Line extension, which opened May 20, has brought renewed interest and access to the city with the first rail connection to downtown Los Angeles in 50 years.

A recent survey of Expo Line riders conducted by Metro found about two-thirds were new to the train and about half of those used to drive alone.

If you're planning to join Car Free Friday, let us know what challenges you face in giving up your car. We'll be updating this story with social media posts from #CarFreeFriday so don't forget to use the hashtag if you are participating and copy us @KPCC.