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Calming traffic in a hyper active world...Yeah right.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 12, 2008


Stop signs, road signs, traffic lights, chicanes, speed bumps, speed humps, bulb outs, pop outs, curb extensions, traffic circles, roundabouts, and my favorite "Pedestrian refuges," call them what you will, all are just well intended futilities in the ongoing effort to mitigate and manipulate auto dependency in the overcrowded communities of Southern California.

It's not like I have some ethical or morally based bias against "traffic calming technologies." I don't. Although I will admit to an aversion to cement and asphalt, my basic philosophy holds that less is more and nature always bats last.

The real problem is not traffic speeds, flow patterns, street treatments, lane width, or hardscape placement, the issue has always been about population and the millions of people wanting to get where they are going as fast as possible regardless of speed limits and road alignments. As a native of North San Diego County, it's clear that no amount of traffic calming schemes has been able to calm traffic or reduced congestion in the San Diego region.

This is a population issue, plain and simple. Lot's of people, driving lots of cars, means lot's of traffic. More people, more cars, more pollution. And more calls for "calming."

The quickest way to calm traffic is to reduce traffic. And the only way to reduce traffic is to reducing the number of automobiles laying waste to our communities.

One calming affect would be to get people out of their automobiles and onto bicycles and mass transit. Another way is to encourage walkable communities and an end to designing neighborhoods around asphalt and automobiles. More bike and cyclist traffic will also help slow down speeding motorists.

Comprehensive mass transportation systems is where we need to go. Roundabouts and color coded traffic lanes will not get us there, neither will a lack of vision or disregard for ecological wisdom.

Cities of Southern California must beginning to plan for the transportation needs of the future. Dwindling fossil fuels, dwindling water resource, dwindling open space and increased populations hint of a future that can no longer sustain automobile traffic.

Currently Highway 101 through Leucadia is being targeted by the forces of homogenization and gentrification under the guise of traffic calming and the holy grail of additional parking. If these folks are successful, laid backed Leucadia will get a face lift costing tax payers millions of dollars, and little to show for it once planned developments and densification in Carlsbad erase any benefit these 20th century traffic calming strategies might have held.

Dressing up a highway, although historic on numerous levels, does not make economic sense when ecological constraints and economic realities are requiring Californians to rethink how we get around our overpopulated urban areas. Future focused sustainability depends on it.

Instead of sinking millions of tax dollars into attempts at calming traffic, that money should instead be used to upgrade and expand state and local mass transit systems and pedestrian oriented communities.

Progress anyone?

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