Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Great Buy-In

Have you ever sat motionless in Laguna traffic wondering where the guy in front of you is from? You might have thought if he wasn’t driving a car Laguna’s streets would be a little less crowded, or you thought “he’s one of those 6 million summer visitors.” Well here is a surprise, moving-citation data from the LB Police Department shows the guy in front of you is 94% likely to be from California, 43% likely from Laguna or our closest 5 neighbor cities, and 26% likely to be a Laguna resident. So don’t blame traffic on visiting Oklahoma drivers, the problem is us.

Naturally most people get around Laguna by driving because the alternatives to driving are oh so “inconvenient”. How inconvenient is sitting in traffic motionless? Let me deliver the final clue now, ever consider yourself as part of the problem? If your answer feels like a confession that’s good, press on.

So how did we arrive here today with a transport system that shows it’s inadequacies despite years and years of refinements, paid consultants and re-designs? Since the 1950’s Laguna Beach like so many other cities around the nation has experienced an erosion of city infrastructure caused by the automobile. Erosion begins with little bites first: one-way streets, bigger intersections, road widening, straightened roads, faster speeds, greater LOS (an engineering term I call Level of Suffering). Then come the desperate bites swallowed whole: the by-pass road, the expressway, the toll road, the mega-transfer lot and the smartcard-activated  underground robot parking garage (made in Germany).

Building automobile infrastructure is in direct opposition to what I’ll call “transit infrastructure”, bus lanes, crosswalks, bike-paths, and pedestrian sidewalks. The preponderance for automobiles causes a dynamic effect, the more space provided cars in cities, the greater becomes the need for cars.  Still more space is allocated for them, both when they are moving and when they are idle. Laguna has not been immune from automobile infrastructure, look at an aerial photograph of the Art Festival grounds and you will be astonished to see 80% of the livable space is paved over for parking spaces and Laguna Canyon Road. The actual Festival Buildings  are packed into the remaining 20%.

Irvine development is planning 5000 more homes near the Great Mall. Guess what those folks drive to the beach? Automobile erosion no longer works as a single mobility solution for us, Laguna needs a new attrition plan for the private automobile and working alternatives. Complete Street Policy is a solution with a working track record, every person you see walking, biking or busing means one less car on the road and another free parking space. If you recognize that further automobile erosion is unworkable in Laguna Beach, you are ready to complete the streets. The Task Force for Complete Streets meets the second Tuesday of each month at 5:00, Senior Center. Come join the discussion.

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