Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How many lanes are enough?

Seems the Highway and Transportation departments of various states think the way to reduce traffic congestion is to add more lanes. This is like selling cars below cost, and hoping to make it back on volume. California is the worst offender in this type of thinking. Until states understand that lane discipline, and driver education is the way to solve some of the traffic problems we deal with across the country, the problem will go on, and continue to get worse. I asked a police officer once what was the difference between two signs seen on California roads, when one said, "Slower Traffic Keep Right" and "Keep Right Except To Pass"? And the officer said, "nothing". There lies our problem in California and any other state that post the different signs. It's the mind set that causes the problem. We can fix many of this Country's traffic problems with signage, education, training, and enforcement. (Wishful thinking in a perfect world).

But the future doesn't look very good. A couple of years ago the city of Anaheim, CA and CalTrans allowed the building of a "New" Mercedes-Benz dealership on the shoulder of Route 91 East bound between Imperial and Weir Canyon Rd. Some of the worst traffic slow downs in Orange County, CA happen every afternoon on this stretch of highway, now it will never get better. Because some group of State Highway officials and politicians couldn't see past their noses. When I first saw the "Coming Soon" sign I thought it was joke to get the State or County off their butts to buy this property from the Dealership in the hope they could widen the highway there someday. Imagine my shock when they actually broke ground and then built the new business next to the breakdown lane on the 91 East??? New Yorkers and drivers in Boston, LA, Chicago and others are used to businesses and buildings just a few feet from the travel lanes. But why make it that way, when you don't have to, worse still when you shouldn't. Forty years ago when I first came to drive in California from the Northeast Corridor, I thought I had found Heaven on Earth. Beautiful roads, great weather, traffic flowed, cars were loved, honored and taken care of. What made it go so bad, so soon. (Thanks Jerry Brown). The trouble with California is it forgot the "CAR" made it great. Cars and the Automotive Industry came to California and both grew in harmony with each other. Then some group of Tree Huggers deemed the Automobile the "Big Bad Wolf", and ordered it killed off, and all the Industries that came with it, the jobs, and the money pumped into the economy of the state would all soon be gone. Imagine for a minute if the Mayor of Las Vegas, the Honorable Oscar Goodman said Gambling was bad for the city, then the city council and the voters outlawed Gambling. How long do you think any business would last in that city? How long would there be jobs, schools, new construction, cheap buffets? There would be no reason for SEMA to stay in Las Vegas, and it could move back to Anaheim, CA (the Anti Car City of California).

This is not to say you can't change things for the better, but it really does need to be for the better. The Mayor of Los Angeles, CA a couple of years ago after the Media breakfast of the LA Auto Show asked the former head of GM to build an automobile plant in his city. There was an awkward moment of silence, then a few hundred of the worlds most respected automotive journalist broke into laughter and applause thinking the Mayor was making a joke. After a few seconds when we all realized the Mayor was serious, then the joke was someone on the Mayor's staff didn't give him the memo about how California doesn't want Automobile Industries in California. Except for neat, clean and green design studios. Thank goodness not all California cites are anti automobile like Anaheim is, and there is a problem with the automobile population and the State of California for sure. But can't we all just get along? It didn't help in Monterey, CA at Pebble Beach last August when the Govenator said how much he liked the new "Greener" Bentley, and that everyone in CA should buy one. He completely overlooked the Fisker and Tesla that are more US and California born than the German owned, British built Bentley. Cars and related industries need to be in California if it is to ever become profitable again and be a place where people can come have a job, drive to work, raise a family. Newport Rhode Island managed to survive and rebuild itself after if chased away everything near and dear. The US Navy's Atlantic Fleet, the Folk and Jazz Festivals. Then the State went through one of the longest union labor strikes in US History, the bankruptcy of the Credit Unions Insurer, (and the forced closing of said Credit Unions). The "Worlds"longest building construction project maybe in the last three hundred years. But Rhode Island isn't as Big as Orange County, CA which makes recovery much easier. But take the Disney Parks from Anaheim, and Orlando, take NASCAR from North Carolina, and Seafood out of Boston and see how long the economy of those locations survive. When you have something that isn't broke, don't fix it. The answer to the traffic problem in California is not more lanes of travel. Less cars, better driver training, education, and properly designed and maintained streets and highways is. Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way California. To all the politicians in California that can't seem to get out of the left lane, "Keep Right, Except To Pass".

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