Trendspotting: Traffic Calming Programs: 3.30
Hey, Antonio, can we do something about this?
It is a given fact that traffic in LA is a waking nightmare. Necessity being the mother of invention, Angelenos have invented a number of great ways to manage traffic: carpool lanes, on-ramp signals, traffic information systems, etc. But this yen for traffic improvements has also spawned some rather loathsome accoutrements. For example. . .
The other day, I was complaining to Famke about what a crappy job they did on the recent Outpost Drive repairs, which lasted for approximately seventy-four years.
Click for Map of [2762-2799] Outpost Dr Los Angeles, CA 90068, US
ATLAS: Ugh. This road is, like, worse than when they started working on it.
FAMKE: Well, that was the plan.
ATLAS: What do you mean?
FAMKE: I know a guy who was an engineer on the project and basically, they were just repairing water pipes and a few really rough sections. The people in the neighborhood didn't want them to smooth it out, cuz the bumps slow down cars.
ATLAS: So instead of bumps*, they have potholes as their traffic calming program?
*bumps are used to slow down traffic on busy residential streets-- and every once in awhile, they're called 'humps', which still makes me giggle when I drive over them.
Really, it doesn't matter if Famke's story is true or not. The crazy part is that it might be. That road crews might've intentionally left a street in such poor repair that cars would be forced to slow down while driving on it shows that 'traffic calming' is out of control.
It's a problem in my neighborhood [Venice], too. Take the streets behind the Costco on Washington Blvd. just east of Lincoln. They've reconstructed the streets there so that it is impossible to get back into the middle of that neighborhood without going down to Lincoln or up Washington quite a ways. Supposedly, it's to 'calm'/shield these backstreets from the traffic generated by Costco. But people don't go through those neighborhoods unless they live there since the larger streets like Lincoln are usually faster if they're going any sort of distance, anyway. So the only thing this 'traffic calming' program really does is make it a pain in the a$$ to get to and from Costco for nearby residents.
I understand that most neighborhoods usually have input on the types of calming programs that are installed, but local neighborhoods have an important bias-- they just want to avoid as much traffic on their streets as possible. But in taking such a narrow view, they may be distorting traffic patterns on a citywide scale. Bastards.
The point is, traffic controls aren't all good. Usually, they're a nice investment, paying for themselves in saving productivity and preventing grief. But there's only so much these programs can do-- and over-doing them is worse than not doing them at all.
It's time to get smart about traffic. It's time to build more mass transit.